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Attention Book Nerds: My Top Books of 2013

I’ve made no secret about the fact that I love to read. My Kindle is loaded with more than 1200 books- both read and unread. I tend to stick to the romance category- romantic comedy, romantic suspense, and anything with a super hot hero or a cowboy. Yum. Matt totally rolls his eyes and laughs at my love affair with fictional cowboys. I read somewhere around 300 books this year and I definitely found some favorites that I will read again. In honor of the end of the year, here is my list of my favorite books of 2013. Some are part of series that blew me away and some are stand alone reads. Please note- some of these might not have been released in 2013 but since I read them in 2013 I am including them in my favorites. **None of the links in this post are affiliate**

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 1. Incidental Happenstance–  Neither was looking for it. Neither was expecting it. But sometimes, life has other plans…One year after the loss of her fiancé, Tia Hastings needed to find a way to start over. She had to figure out how to be single again, but she had no idea how to do it. Last Stop was a tiny pub with no significance—she chose it to be anonymous, to watch the interactions between the sexes so she could figure out how to start her life over… Dylan Miller was a megastar. It was impossible for him to move amongst the general population without being recognized, but he longed to simply blend into a crowd. He donned a disguise and wandered into Last Stop, a dark little hole-in-the-wall where he was sure no one would know him…When their worlds collide, Tia and Dylan discover something neither of them thought possible—love. But when a fallen star sees Dylan as her ticket back to the top and will stop at nothing to make him hers, Tia wonders if she’s out of her league; and out of time to rescue the love she thought she’d never find again…Is it fate? Coincidence? Or both?

 I loved this book so much. It was the perfect mix of emotional and sappy without being gag-me sweet. Plus it has a hot rock star and who can resist that? The sequel was just released in November and I bought it but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. 

 2. Accidental Texting– Morgan Edwards has been through a lot: being left at the altar by a man trying to use her, losing her mother to Cancer, and now she’s trying to keep her mom’s dream alive by running the Victorian inn they spent years restoring together. Her world is such a mess that she has no time for distractions. But when it feels like things are hopeless, an accidental text message manages to pull her out of this pit of despair and infuse a little excitement into her life. Sean Wilder has it all: fame, fortune, and a very long list of ladies who’ve shared his bed. But what he finds in the girl he accidentally texts is entirely unexpected. Too accustomed to a world where everyone has an ulterior motive, he’s taken aback by Morgan’s honesty, her sincerity, and her struggle to do everything on her own despite the incredibly tough spot she’s in. While similar life experiences draw them to one another, can they fit together when Morgan finds out Sean’s true identity? And can she find a way to fit next to him in the spotlight?

 I almost didn’t buy this book because the cover just didn’t do anything for me but it was on sale and I gave it a chance. I’m so glad I did. It was a great story about a movie star who falls in love with a regular girl who has some secrets. 

 3. The Darkest of Shadows– Some secrets are better kept in the darkest recesses of our mind. Lilly’s past is one big secret; one big terrifying reality that threatens to drag her into the blackest depths of insanity.The only way for her to escape was to leave it all behind. A new path. A new country. A new job. A new life. But would it be enough? Especially when the rest of the world continued to encroach on her protected little bubble of existence.It took Lawrence Monterey one chance meeting to know that there was something special about Lilly. Something worth the trouble, and the heartache, of fighting through her past to find out who she really was. He had the money, the power and the patience, to make sure that Lilly came through the darkness, and became his in every way. Tragedy can break people, but love can bring them back from the brink, and just possibly build a stronger wall between life, and that dangerous darkness that threatens to end the pain of living. Would Lilly’s past break her? Or would Lawrence lead her out of the darkness and back into the light?

 This is probably one of the most emotional books I read this year. If you don’t like books that will make you cry then you will want to skip this one. It is a wonderfully written story that had me in tears several times. 

 4. Love & Skate– On the rink she’s tough, she’s a leader, she’s fast and she’s the epitome of a rebellious girl. But Nellie’s been hurt, only once, but it was enough to make her look at life through different eyes and off the rink she’s a timid girl who loves with no pretenses. A long time ago Owen Black was betrayed by the girl he thought he loved and the guy he called his best friend. The anguish set off a domino effect of negativity in his life and he never has fully recovered. He meets Nellie Forrester and thinks he can let it go for her. 

But how can you love someone when the wounds from your past are still wide open?

 I adore this book. It’s the first one in a series and I think it’s probably one of my favorite series ever. The series revolves around a family of brothers- each brother’s story takes place in a different book and they are all amazing! 

 5. Come Away With Me– Being confronted on the beach by a sexy stranger wasn’t part of Natalie Conner’s plans for a peaceful morning taking photos. And why on earth would he think she’s taking pictures of him, anyway? Who is he? One thing’s for sure, he’s hot, and incredibly romantic, feeding Natalie’s wounded soul. Luke Williams just wants the world to give him a break, so seeing yet another camera aimed at his face has him ready to pounce on the beauty behind the lens. When he finds out she has no idea who he is, he’s intrigued and more than a little tempted by her. Natalie has a body made for sex, a sassy mouth and Luke can’t get enough of her, but he’s not ready to tell her who he really his. Natalie is a no nonsense girl who doesn’t do well with lies and secrets. What will happen to this new relationship when she discovers what Luke’s hiding?

 This is book one in a series and words cannot express how much I love this series. It’s amazing. The male leads are HOT and the chicks are feisty- you know I love that. The stories are well written and revolve around a family. I love it when you see all the same characters in each of the books. These are funny, hot, and just amazing. 

 6. Wait For You– Traveling thousands of miles from home to enter college is the only way nineteen-year-old Avery Morgansten can escape what happened at that fateful Halloween party five years ago—an event that forever changed her life. What she never planned on was capturing the attention of the one guy who could shatter the precarious future she’s building for herself. Cameron Hamilton is six feet, three inches of swoon-worthy hotness, com-plete with a pair of striking blue eyes and a remarkable ability to make Avery want things she believed had been irrevocably stolen from her. Getting involved with him is dangerous. Yet ignoring the simmering tension that sparks between them—and brings out a side of her she never knew existed—is impossible. But when Avery starts receiving threatening e-mails and phone calls, she’s forced to face a past she wants to keep buried and acknowledge that someone is refusing to allow her to let go of that night when everything changed. If the devastating truth comes out, will she resurface with one less scar? And will Cam be there to help her?

 I love this book. I just finished reading the second one in the series which is a companion book that shows the story from Cameron’s point of view. I was worried I wouldn’t like it from his point of view but it was fantastic! 

 7. Only For You– All Everleigh Carsen wanted to do was complete her final semester at Hensley University and begin the life she planned. When a wave of violent crime seizes campus, Everleigh is persuaded by her best friend to attend a school sponsored self-defense seminar, where she meets volunteer instructor, Hunter Charles. After Everleigh’s biting sarcasm induces Hunter to eject her from class, an explosive relationship is born. Everleigh is determined to forget the striking man, but fate—that fickle shrew— continuously intervenes. Unable to escape him, she casts Hunter as her prime adversary. The only complication…Hunter is resolutely pursuing his vindication…by any means necessary. Verbal warfare ensues, and despite Everleigh’s ingenious efforts, in Hunter, she has finally found her equal. Only For You is a compelling tale of friendship, desire, and redemption—brimming with witty characters, intelligent dialogue, unexpected twists, profound sorrow, unfettered hope, and love’s unassailable perseverance. Only For You is a blend of comedy, mystery, and romance, which offers laughter, suspense, tears, love and friendship. 

 This was probably in my top 3 favorites of the year. I just read the sequel, Pieces For You,  and it was even better than the first one. The male characters are the hot, alpha male types who jump off the page. And the female leads are feisty and funny! 

 8. Carter Reed– Emma decided to skip the gym and went home early. It was the last easy decision she made because she found her roommate being raped by the boyfriend. She had two choices. Call the cops and be killed by his family’s mafia connections or kill him first and hope to survive. There was no choice to her. She killed the bastard first and went to the one person who could protect her. Carter Reed. He’s a weapon for the rivaling mafia family, but he’s also Emma’s secret. Not only was he best friends with her brother, but she’s the reason he became that weapon in the first place. 

 This book is so not for the faint of heart, y’all, but it was so good! If you love hot, alpha, protective males who will do anything to keep their women safe- then you will love this book. 

 9. Fallen Crest High– Mason and Logan Kade are two brothers who did their own thing. They were rich and expected to attend her school, Fallen Crest Academy. They chose public school and now Samantha has to live with them. The problem is that she doesn’t care at all: about them, about her friends, about her cheating boyfriend, or even about her parent’s divorce. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe change is a good thing. 

 This book is from the young adult genre but I don’t think it’s one I would want my young adult reading. It’s a different kind of love story that continues in a sequel with the third book set to be released next week. I was unsure about it at first but it ended up being a favorite of mine. The characters are very real and raw and the story is compelling. 

 10. Shark Bait– Previously homeschooled Camie Ramsey is being shoved into the shark-infested waters of public high school, where even helium filled, penguin bespeckled arm floaties likely won’t help keep her inexperienced, fifteen-year old head above water in that rip current of hormones and emotions. Camie’s worldly wisdom might be severely lacking (i.e., the closest she’s come to being kissed was sitting too close to the TV whilst Jake Ryan leaned in to give Samantha that fateful 16th birthday kiss), but she does understand her only hope for survival is if she’s thrown some kind of “social” life preserver before she sinks like a freaking rock. However, what will her fate be when she endeavors to flag down the only lifeguard on duty, the enormously popular and ridiculously beautiful Tristan Daniels? The most sought after and virtually most unattainable guy in school who not only makes Camie’s heart flatline on a recurring basis, he’s also the one guy who seemingly doesn’t know she exists. Feeling like an inept piece of chum that could ultimately be swallowed by Jaws, can Camie get Tristan to rescue her from floundering in the treacherous deep, or is she destined to be Shark Bait?

 This was another gem I found in the young adult genre but it was so good. The book was hysterically funny and emotional all at the same time, which is a combo I cannot resist. The series is called the Grab Your Pole series, who can resist that? The second book was just as good and I’m about to start reading the third one

 I had such a hard time narrowing my favorites down to 10 because there were so many I loved. I shared a few more favorites in another post earlier in November so check that out for some more of my favorite reads. 

**None of the links in this post are affiliate nor am I being compensated in any way. I just love these books and wanted to share them**

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Featured On Remodelaholic Today

I was featured on Remodelaholic!

 

 

Hey y’all! Merry Christmas Eve. I’m busy wrapping gifts, baking cookies, and spiking the eggnog today but I wanted to take a minute and let you know some exciting news. Today my staircase banister gel stain redo is being featured on Remodelaholic. I was super honored to be asked by Lorene and Cassity for the feature. Out of all my remodel projects from this summer I’m most proud of the kitchen cabinets and the staircase redo. Lots of work and huge reward! 

 

If you have a few minutes, hop over and check out my feature. It’s not the same post just re-posted, I wrote a new post for the feature. Enjoy!

 

I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas and enjoy some time with your families. I’m taking a little break for the next couple of days but I have a couple of posts scheduled for your viewing entertainment. 

 

**Don’t forget to check out how Matt made our life so much better by choosing a new career path HERE.

 

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Some Monday Randoms

*I cannot believe we are only 2 days away from Christmas. How did this happen? We have been busy this holiday season but not too busy to actually enjoy it, which is a nice change from years past. I love coming down the stairs throughout the day and seeing the Christmas tree and my Christmas village all lit up. It makes me smile and that’s a big deal for me because, as my regular readers already know, I usually battle some serious depression issues during the fall/winter months. Matt and I have had some of the best nights just sitting around with a glass of wine watching our favorite Christmas movies after the kids go to bed. It’s been a season full of bone deep contentment for me- and I’m grateful.

 

 

 

*I’m working on my 2014 resolutions already. I actually managed to do most of my 2013 ones so now I feel pressure to pick things that I will really accomplish in 2014. Being an overachiever sucks sometimes. I’m not sure what I want to accomplish though. I feel pretty great with where our life is right now and I’m happy. So what would I want to change? I’m still debating.

 

*A couple of weeks ago, I got to spend Saturday evening babysitting my adorable nephew. He is just so sweet and so cute. He’s a little over a year younger than Zoey but spending the evening with him really hit home that I don’t have any babies or toddlers anymore. My kids are big now. It was sad in a bittersweet nostalgic kind of way. We are 100% absolutely positively done having kids and I’m fine with that decision. But snuggling a sleepy, cuddly, toddler did give me a little pain in my heart. 

 

 

 

* Today is the first day of the big kids winter break. I am so ready for it. I’m ready for 2 weeks of no schedules, no rushing around to pick kids up and drop kids off, no homework to worry about…I am so ready. Even though it means 2 weeks of having all 5 kids in the house, probably fighting over the television and xbox, I am still so ready. We’ll see if I’m singing the same tune on January 5th. I may be in the padded room by then. 

 

*I went to Wal*Mart last Friday to do 2 weeks worth of groceries in one trip so I don’t have to go back until the new year. I was twitching and foaming at the mouth by the time I left. Do you know how much food it takes to feed all of us for 2 weeks? I was in Wal*Mart for 3 hours, spent almost $500, and had 2 carts full to the top with food. Also- it took another 3 hours for my eye to stop twitching when I got home. 

 

 

 

*Posts around here may be slightly sporadic around here for the next couple of weeks while I spend time with family and friends for the holiday. But rest assured- come January I will be back in full force with some new stuff. I can’t believe it’s about to be 2014. I’ll be posting regular pics on Instagram if you’re following along. 

 

*Do you know what you would do if you had to change careers unexpectedly? Find out what my brother-in-law did HERE

 

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The Humiliating Sports Moments Of My Youth

I love sports. This is not news, right? I love all sports and I always have. Matt and I encourage our kids to try all kinds of sports and activities in life so they can find the things they really have passion for. Just as my mom did for me as a child. She always told us to try new things and give them a chance. So I did. 

 

Sometimes with disastrous results….and unfortunately for me my mom is neither senile nor shy so she takes great pleasure in recounting these mishaps to my kids. She even has some pictures to really give the kids a visual of some of my mortifying childhood moments. And there were many of them. And unfortunately most did not occur until my teen years. People ask me now why I am never embarrassed to share some of the things I share on this blog…like the time I hurled on the mailman, or the time I flashed the mailman, or when I peed myself in Target. Well, like I tell them, I used up my lifetime quota of humiliation before I hit the age of 18 so nothing can possibly bother me now. 

 

We spent the weekend with my parents not long ago and my mom spent the whole time sharing stories of my embarrassing endeavors with my kids. In retrospect some of the stories are hilarious, although they sure didn’t seem like it at the time. You know how much I like to share my humiliation with y’all so today I thought I’d give you a glimpse into the mortification that was my youth. Enjoy.

 

 

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Putt-Putt Golf: Sounds like a simple enough fun activity, right? A rite of childhood, if you will. That might be true but it didn’t end well for me. A friend had a huge party one weekend while her parents were out of town. It was going fine until someone spiked the punch. Now, as I mentioned before, I was a soccer player and therefore subject to random substance abuse tests which means I was not a drinker. And I drank a lot of punch that day, y’all. What happened next was not pretty. Somehow we ended up at a local putt-putt park. After hours. I think we jumped the fence, I don’t remember. I was almost knocked unconscious by the stupid windmill on the last hole. In my defense, a friend dared my inebriated self to climb the windmill. Clearly, not my fault. I woke up the next day with a massive hangover and a bruise the size of Iowa on my face. I had a hard time explaining both.

 

Cross Country: We used to run cross country to get in shape for soccer season but I hated it. I am not a runner for the sake of running. Put a soccer ball in front of me and I can run for miles. But just running to run…not so much. I get bored and then I get distracted. I was halfway through a course, running with a small group of team mates, when I got distracted by something out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t see the tree root in the ground until I tripped over it, fell down the hill, and landed in a lake. I had to walk all the way back soaking wet and limping because I lost a shoe. Seriously.

 

Bowling: I’ve never seen the appeal of bowling. I just don’t think it’s fun. But I got talked into it a few times as a teen and it never ended well. I was always in last place and almost all of my turns ended in gutter balls. I’ve only ever had one strike and I was super excited. Too bad it wasn’t in my own lane. But I’m totally counting it. 

 

Track: I’m still not sure how I got talked into trying out for track. Again, not a runner. But one of the coaches was a hottie and he needed someone to do hurdles. I knew it was a mistake but I did it anyway. Have you ever seen the horses who shy away from the jump at the last second and screech to a halt inches before the rail? Guess what? Humans can do that too but stopping that quickly isn’t as easy as it looks. You know what else? Hurdles hurt when they hit you in the stomach and flip you over head first. 

 

Golf: Based on my experience during putt putt golf, I’m sure you can imagine how badly real golf turned out for me. No need to recount the entire humiliating experience but I will tell you that those golf carts are super sensitive sometimes. And also, just as an FYI- those really serious guys on the golf course don’t like it when you run them over with a golf cart. They get very snippy when their cardigans come untied around their necks. 

 

Powder Puff Football: I love football as y’all know. So when our school had the annual powder puff football tournament I was all in. Unfortunately nobody told me it was flag football, not tackle football. I took out a cheerleader. It was ugly.

 

I wish those were all my moments but that’s just a small sample. I didn’t even tell you about the time I was in a three-legged race that ended in an emergency room visit and a partner with a broken leg. I swear I didn’t see the tree, I really didn’t. 

 

Matt says I’m special. Clearly he means gifted.

 

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Creating Life Satisfaction Through A Career Change

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 It took my husband Matt a long time to decide what he wanted to do in life. He was not one of those people who go into college with an absolute career path already laid out in front of him. He changed his major at least 5 times and took as many elective classes as he could fit into his schedule. He graduated  over 14 years ago with a degree that was intended to be a stepping stone to law school.

 

Then life happened and law school got put on hold while we figured out how to be parents to a severely neglected 4 week old baby entrusted to our care.  Matt took a job driving a delivery van for a florist. It wasn’t his life’s passion but it paid the bills. He worked for an incredibly amazing man who we now consider family, and he had regular set hours of work which was important as I was also working full time in a demanding career.   

 

After a couple of years at his job, Matt began to want more. He wanted to feel passion in a career but he knew that he did not want to continue on to law school as he had originally planned. He also knew that he was not going to be able to find his dream job with the degree that he already had so he began researching going back to college for a second degree. By this time we had added a couple more children to our family and I was staying at home to raise our family. It was the perfect time for Matt to decide where his passion was and to follow it to a new career path.    He enrolled in college in an accelerated business program and threw himself into his courses. He studied night and day for 2 years to obtain his degree while also working a full time job. Matt knew that the business degree he was working so hard for was the key to a better life for our family and also essential for his own fulfillment in life. He didn’t want to be one of those people who trudge off to work every day to a job he hates just to pay the bills. He wanted to have passion for what he was doing and he wanted to look forward to new challenges in his career. The day Matt graduated was one of the best days. Our family came from near and far to celebrate his achievement and success. One of the best parts for me personally was seeing our oldest son, who was not quite 4 yet, watching his dad with pride.   

 

 

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Matt was fortunate enough to be offered an amazing job right after he graduated. It required us relocating a few hours away and starting a new life but that was a small price to pay for the opportunity to watch Matt find his passion.  Nine years later and he is still with the same company. He’s been promoted several times and has landed in a position where he can see himself staying for a very long time. I can see the passion in his face and hear it in his voice when he talks about his day and, as a wife, I know that career satisfaction helps translate into life satisfaction. Matt is so much happier now that he has found his passion and he looks forward to the challenges that come with his job. 

 

Whether you’re seeking further success in your current role or a new opportunity, Kaplan University can help you prepare for the exciting possibilities ahead.*

 

As an accredited university built on more than 75 years of experience,† Kaplan University offers a wide range of career-focused programs designed to develop the skills and knowledge leading employers seek. Our focus: to offer you the most direct educational path to achieve your goals.

 

Are you ready for a change?  Learn more at kaplanuniversity.edu

 

* Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement.

 

† Kaplan University is regionally accredited. Please visit http://www.kaplanuniversity.edu/about/accreditation-licensing.aspx# for additional information about institutional and programmatic accreditation.

 

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