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I just purchased Jillian Michaels – 30 Day Shred and did my first level 1 workout. Wow! Even with the extra toning and more energy I’m getting from Curves, this workout really makes you work!

I also picked up two books: Winning by Losing: Drop the Weight, Change Your Life and The Biggest Loser Complete Calorie Counter Using the three together, I’m hoping to take my commitment to get in shape and lose weight to the next level.

Jillian’s book is great. She lays out what you need to do in easy to understand terms – and if you’ve watched her coach on the Biggest Loser…you know she can get results! I’ve already used her simple formula to figure out how many calories I need to eat per day, and her easy multiple choice test helped me figure out that I’m a fast oxidizer! She recommends the calorie counter book as a reference when planning meals, so I picked it up last night. It’s not just a list of calories…it breaks down everything into carbs, fat, serving size (yep I’m guilty of eating LARGE servings) calories and more. I’ve never been one to want to count exact calories. Jillian explains that with an eye on what you’re eating and clear goals in mind (plus the commitment to go with them) you can eat what you want, and still get results. I can’t eat HOW I want…that’s got to change, but I don’t have to say goodbye forever to all of my favorite foods.

The first workout was intense. Using the DVD along with the books is going to make a huge difference, I can tell already. After the first 20 minute shred, I feel stretched, tired and pretty sweaty. But I’m looking forward to the next session. I know I can do it, it’s not TOO hard – it’s hard enough to get results. Boy is it hard. There were several places where I just knew I couldn’t do even one more rep…and then Jillian would say, “just two more!” and I powered through (or at least, finished without collapsing). I made it all the way through from warm up to cooldown, and it feels great! I’ve accomplished something.

I chose to begin with the level 1 workout. I also modified a couple things, like the pushups, following the beginner on the DVD as Jillian directed. I look forward to being able to work my way up to doing everything unmodified, and then starting in on the next level workout. Some reviewers suggested trying the hardest workout, or alternating between then, but I think I would just get discouraged if I tried and couldn’t make it through the first time out. This way I can work up to it, knowing I can do the first one until I’m ready to move on. It’s plenty challenging all on it’s own!

I like Jillian as a trainer. She’s no nonsense and tough. She’s in great shape, but she feels like a “real person” – she knows how hard she’s making you work, and talks you through each exercise. I found her workout and book to be highly motivating.

So…this is day 1 of my 30-day shred. Wish me luck!

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Twenty Wishes is another Blossom Street novel by Debbie Macomber. Anne Marie Roche owns the bookstore just down the street from “A Good Yarn” the knitting shop that was our first look at Blossom Street. Anne is a young widow who feels alone and empty, her dreams of true happiness and a child of her own seemingly shattered and impossible.

Rather than spend Valentine’s day alone and sad, Anne and several of her widowed friends get together and have a party of their own. The topic turns to hopes, dreams and wishes for the future, and the women decide to each make a list of 20 wishes. No shopping or to do lists, only wishes – wishes from the heart, things each woman secretly wants to do.

Each list has some some eyebrow raising entries, like buying cowboy boots – but they also reveal hopes long buried, and the pursuit of these wishes leads each woman towards happiness and fulfillment.

Anne’s list takes her down an unexpected path, leading to a life she never expected and a relationship she never thought possible.

I would recommend this book.

Our local library has a great schedule of events setup for this summer, including a Summer Reading Challenge that begins this week. We stopped at the library this morning and signed up both boys for the challenge, and picked up another batch of library books. Each boy has a reading log with their name on it, and they are excited to get started.

Josh already says he wants to read more books than anyone. I think this is going to be a great incentive to get him reading on his own. He’s got a pretty good start, and loves the library, so I’m confident we’ll make progress.

The scheduled events sound really fun too. One week they’ll play outside with bubbles. Another week they’ll make buttons. I think this will be fun for both boys, and give us something close to home to do during the week.

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Another book in the Virgin River series, Paradise Valley is another success by Robyn Carr. Picking up right where the last book left off, the characters that I have come to know and love in Virgin River now face a drastic life change in one of their nearest and dearest, Ricky.

Ricky has been part of the story from the start of the series, we met him when he was just a young teen, being raised by his grandmother, and watched over by Jack and Preacher. Throughout the series we’ve watched his ups and downs, growing pains, and witnessed his jump into adulthood when he held his stillborn son. Now he’s a young marine, and Jack gets the phone call that all parents (even surrogate ones) have nightmares about.

I find myself caught up in the drama, holding my breath to see what will happen next, and completely in love with the close knit town and the way they rally around their own offering as much help and support as they can, no matter what.

This book also continues that romance between retired general Walt and his movie star lady – and it brings back Dan, the mysterious man who has appeared several times over the series. Cheryl too comes back, though not to stay, at least for now. And we are given a glimpse of who she is becoming.

If you’re reading the series, don’t stop now, get this book and keep reading. If you haven’t started yet, I encourage you to pick up the first book and let yourself become part of this wonderful town.

Link: Paradise Valley (Virgin River, Book 7)

Link: Virgin River (Virgin River, Book 1)

Also try the Grace Valley series, also by Robyn Carr.
Link: Deep in the Valley (Grace Valley Trilogy, Book 1)

I’ve been reading like crazy this week – must be all the rain.

Little Bitty Lies: A Novel , by Mary Kay Andrews.
Personal Rating: 4/5 Stars. Fiction
At first glance I thought this book was going to be just another romance novel, but I was wrong. Sure, there’s a hint of romance in it, but the story is about a woman struggling to survive after being abandoned and left penniless by her husband. The characters come to life very quickly, and I found myself shocked and enraged right along with the main character Mary Bliss McGowan as she discovers her husband’s betrayal. I cheered her on as she planned a way out of the nightmare and was on the edge of my seat with anticipation when one little lie spiraled out of control into a wild adventure with unexpected consequences. This book is about best friends, secrets, mothers and daughters and Little Bitty Lies.

Hissy Fit: A Novel , by Mary Kay Andrews
Personal Rating: 4/5 Fiction
Another book by Mary Kay Andrews, I found Hissy Fit quite entertaining. Set in the South, this book tells the story of a interior decorator named Keeley Murdock who thinks she has her life all figured out, until she opens a door at her wedding rehearsal that is, and finds her life turned upside down. Cue the Hissy Fit! Humiliated and needing work to both stay in business and keep her mind busy, Keeley takes on a client who turns out to be smitten with a woman he’s never even met. And if all that isn’t enough, Keeley’s past stands in the way of her (and her father’s) future and she’s forced to go in search of the truth. This book is well written and fun to read. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in a story full of fun and mystery, romance and Southern charm.

Savannah Breeze: A Novel , by Mary Kay Andrews
Personal Rating: 4/5 Fiction
Sequel to Savannah Blues, this book is another delightful southern tale following the lives of BeBe Loudermilk, and her best friend Weezie. Fooled by a man and left homeless, BeBe must figure out where he’s gone and how to catch him before he strikes again – all while trying to restore an old beach side inn and generate some income to put a roof back over her head. Plus there’s Harry. Harry is a mystery all by himself and BeBe can’t decide if she wants to strangle him or kiss him. I’d recommend this book as great summer reading, even if you can’t get to the beach! Pull up a beach towel, slather on some sunscreen and hang on for this crazy tale of betrayal, revenge and finding love in unexpected places.

And now for a change of pace, I’ll be trying out Emily Griffin’s Something Borrowed

I have to admit I was not sure about this book when I first picked it up. But I like knitting, and I loved Debbie Macomber’s Shop on Blossom Street series. I was impressed with the writing style. It was easy and unforced, and made me feel as if I could walk into that knitting shop and know everyone there. I wanted to taste Dakota’s cookies, and walk through the rows of colorful wool imagining my next project.

I found the story line believable. A single mom raising a daughter in New York, with the real challenges that come with impending teen-hood, owning a small business, and renewed contact with people from your past. The dynamic between the women was great to “watch.” Each unique and viewing knitting from a different perspective, they became more than businesswoman and customers, they became friends, family.

I was caught off guard by the ending. It was unexpected, yet believable at the same time. It was gut wrenching, terrible and sad. I normally hate sad endings, but I couldn’t give up on this one. I had to see it through. And though it was sad, I’m glad I finished. Even in it’s sad ending, the story was rich and beautiful. I’m now looking forward to the sequel, which takes place 10 years later, and hope to be reunited with some old friends, see the life after tragedy, and meet the young girl turned woman and find out if she’s still baking mouth watering treats and charming all she meets.

I give this book a 4/5 rating and would recommend it anyone  who has faced the challenges of life and was grateful for the support and understanding of the women around her.

Link: Kate Jacobs: The Friday Night Knitting Club – Shelfari

Payback” by Fern Michaels, is the second book in the Sisterhood series.

In this second book, the sisters are together again ready to right another wrong. The story is Julia’s mission to bring her husband, who infected her with AIDS, to justice – sisterhood style. Under Charles’ watchful eye Julia and the rest of the sisters come up with a fitting punishment an enact their justice while trying not to get caught.

As with the first book, I love the idea of this story. I cheer the girls on as they hatch their plans and wish I had my own secret computer command center! I get a bit irritated when the sisters peck at each other, especially when the motivation seems a bit of a stretch. I feel like they should be pulling together just a bit more with a successful mission under their belts, and the very real danger of being discovered threatening them all.

The dialogue and editing were a bit better with the second book, and the characters overall are a bit more believable. I would have liked to see more development in the “how” of the story, rather than just having Charles magically make things work all the time, but I think that’s just the mystery and crime novel lover in me. I gave this book three stars, and would recommend it to anyone who likes the idea of a sisterhood of women banding together to bring justice to those that deserve it.

Link: Fern Michaels: Payback – Shelfari.

Weekend Warriors by Fern Michaels, is the first book in the sisterhood series.

The ongoing theme in this series is a group of women taking justice into their own hands and getting vengeance for crimes left unpunished by the justice system. These ladies take the punishments the rest of us can only dream about for the most evil of criminals, and make them a reality.

In the first book, the women come together after tragedy strikes the family of a high power defense attorney in D.C. The women come from vastly different background, but have one thing in common: They’ve been left to fend for themselves when the legal system wouldn’t or couldn’t bring justice in their case. With a second chance at finding some peace within their reach, the women unite under the watchful eye of Charles, a retired MI6 agent, and become the Sisterhood.

Each woman (plus Charles) brings her own story and talents to the group making the seemingly impossible, possible. Katheryn, a widowed truck driver, gets her revenge in this first story of the sisterhood. With the mission’s success comes a strong bond between all of the women and at the end of the story the ground work is laid for the next mission.

I found myself impressed with the plot and eagerly read as the story unfolded. However, there were two disappointments for me with this book specifically. The first was the editing. There were many places where the editing completely failed, and the wrong word, or incorrect punctuation interrupted the flow of thought. The other problem was the dialog, I don’t know if it’s just me being picky, but I found the dialog to be a bit over the top. It didn’t seem to flow as a real conversation would in many places, and seemed forced some of the time. Overall, I would recommend this book because the plot and character development is good and makes up for the rest.

Link: Fern Michaels: Weekend Warriors – Shelfari.

Yep, snow. I guess winter isn’t ready to give way to spring just yet. Our warm and sunny weather just didn’t last. Saturday the wind and snow returned. Today most of the snow has melted off, but it continues to come down in soft fluffy flakes. According to the news, the cold isn’t over yet, we might just see a few inches build up before it is done.

It’s freezing outside, but thankfully it’s nice and warm inside. Perfect book reading weather! Hopefully I can get both of my little ones down for a nap this afternoon and curl up with a cup of tea and a new book. I think I’ll start Robyn Carr’s “A Virgin River Christmas” it is the fourth book in the Virgin River series, and the first three were incredibly good.

I read, a LOT, and I like a variety of authors and genres. Keeping track of what I’ve read and what I want to read amid the sea of new books and old ones “reprinted” to look new, proves very tricky.

In my travels around the internet, I found a free bookshelf program, called Shelfari, and fell in love. Being free is a big plus, but it also has all the features I’ve been needing for so long. It pulls book info from Amazon, keeps track of all the books you enter by author, genre, title and if you’ve read or plan to read the book.

I like the added ability to make private notes, or public reviews, and a star rating system. I even managed to get Mom hooked on it, which is great! Not only are we now both more organized, our book sharing is much more efficient, and we won’t constantly end up with duplicate books, or wondering who has read what. My next project is to get the rest of the family hooked and using the wish list feature…that’ll help with the Christmas shopping!

Link: Shelfari

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