Monday, September 26, 2011
On Friday at 5:00 I submitted my final, ready-to-file Daubert motion and all its exhibits to the paralegal to file along with the others. Two minutes later, JP and the kids were in front of my office for Landon's Big Brother Night Out. (One of the many, many times I'm quite grateful for the blackberry I have handcuffed to my wrist; I could never have left the office with a filing due that night, but I knew everyone else was busy with finishing touches on their own motions and I could disappear for 2 hours without anyone even noticing.) This night had been planned since August when Landon's soccer team secured discount tickets to the UT women's NCAA soccer game that night, and JP and I wanted to take Landon out for a special night with just us. Except the plan changed when Landon looked horrified when we told him Claire was going to stay home, so we got to save some money and bring the Biscuit along. We ate at a yummy Italian restaurant downtown and then watched the soccer game while the sun set just behind the skyline view. It was lovely, even if I had to check my blackberry a lot, and even though I ended up working from 8-12 after the kids went to bed.
But on Saturday I didn't work at all. After Landon's soccer game we drove to San Antonio to visit my four grandparents at their swanky army retirement community. It was wonderful to see them, as always, and the kids had a big time running down their long hallways and opening the impromptu presents that always pop up on a visit to the great-grands. On Saturday night JP and I watched Thor, which was as complex a plot as we could handle at the time (and even then I had to wikipedia the story because of a "wait, what? who is the bad guy here? moment" near the end).
And then came Sunday, my very favorite day- the day that makes the whole previous week worthwhile and the whole next week possible. We went on a long family walk and then took a group field trip to the grocery store. By 3:00 I had a 4 lb. pot roast in the oven, braising in a magic mixture of red wine, beef broth, roasted sweet onions and carrots, and fresh rosemary and thyme. I had little tupperware containers of fresh cut fruit, diced rotisserie chicken, and cubed cheese, all labeled and dated and lined up in neat rows in the fridge, alongside the similarly labeled little yogurts, bags of baby carrots, and dinosaur shaped PBJs. The radio was on. JP was mowing. Both kids (and dogs) were sleeping. I made chocolate chip cookie dough, and then, upon realizing the oven was occupied for the next 3 hours for my pot roast, ate the dough with a spoon, standing by myself in the kitchen. I felt blissfully domestic and happy. After a delicious dinner, I headed out to use up a massage JP had purchased for me for Christmas. The therapist spend the entire time on my neck, jaw, shoulders, and upper chest, and kept saying "ooh, you've got a lot going on there..." I feel so much better today. No tingling, no numbness, and no morning headache. I really need to do more massages. Well, it would probably be better if I got into a routine of stretching or working out or meditating or Something, but since I know I won't do that, massages are the next best option.
My other bit of relief is a full four months away, but I'm so, so excited about it. At 2 a.m. last Sunday I booked our first family ski trip for January 2012! We haven't taken a family vacation since August 2010 when I was on maternity leave, and skiing is JP and my favorite thing in the whole world, so we're really excited to take the kids along this time. I used all the airline miles I earned through my business travel in August to book 3 tickets (free!), negotiated an awesome rate for a vrbo 2 bed/2 bath ski in-ski out condo, got my sister to book us a family discount rental car, found a 34% off discount code for lift tickets, and now I'm bidding on kids ski clothes on ebay. Claire will go to kidscamp (complete with adorable ice-block slide), Landon goes to ski school (part-day, combined with kidscamp), and JP and I get to SKI (well, snowboard for him). At night we'll cook dinner in the condo and play games and watch movies... I'm pretty sure it's going to be the best 5 days of the whole previous year. We need this, a lot, and I'm going to repeat that to myself every time I feel like I should direct those funds to our student loan money pit. I describe my life as a balance, and it usually is, but that balance is not achieved on an hourly, daily, or even weekly basis. Sometimes it's a week off after a few months of stress and I Can't Wait. I may just hang a shingle in a ski town and never come back.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I have been caught in a 72-hour non-stop Daubert drafting vortex. There has been no sleep, a bit of stress, and a LOT of writing (followed by deleting, followed by more writing, followed by searching for better cases to cite, followed by some re-writing...). But the brief is done, the partners have approved, and the client just told me I get a gold star.
I really like gold stars.
Completely unrelated, I came home today to an adorable, squealing, pigtailed Little Bear who RAN into my arms when I walked in the door. The pigtails were new, courtesy of Ms. Natalie, and I was both charmed and suddenly awash in insecurity over the fact that I don't know how to do hair. Something new to research, I suppose.
A picture of the pigtailed Bear was necessary, of course:
Oh, this girl. This girl, who suddenly looks like such a little Girl (where is my chubby baby Biscuit?), she just kills me. In the most awesome, fabulous, oh-my-god-I-love-you-so-much it hurts kind of way.
Monday, September 19, 2011
- I billed 8.5 hours yesterday to research and write a complicated, frighteningly important Daubert motion (i.e. winning the motion = tens of millions of dollars excluded from expert report and testimony). I worked at the office from 8 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. It is creepy to be the only light on in a whole building. A security guy walked by around 1 a.m. and scared the ever living hell out of me.
- I slept for 3.5 hours and then work-dreamt an idea on how to better organize my motion. I flew out of bed, took a 2 minute shower, and am now mired in the middle of my re-write. I'm feeling optimistic though, at least when I'm not overwhelmed by the cases and deposition transcripts surrounding me on all sides of my desk.
- At one point this morning JP--a JP who knew I got less than 4 hours of sleep and planned to sleep in this morning--popped his head in the bathroom with, "did you say you could take the kids this morning?" And my head exploded with, "NO OF COURSE I DIDN'T SAY THAT! I'M SUPPOSED TO BE SLEEPING RIGHT NOW! GET UP EARLIER WHEN YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE KIDS SO YOU DON'T ASK ME EVERY FREAKING TIME IF I CAN DO IT BECAUSE I'M GOING TO SAY NO AND IT'S IRRITATING TO HAVE TO." But I translated my #%*@#$(! to a simple "No." and he said "Okay, love you." and left with them. Sometimes I think that impulse to translate all the yelling to the simple answer is the basis of a successful marriage. Not that yelling doesn't ever have its place.
- In a fit of madness last week I ordered a pair of moccasins online. I haven't decided if I can pull them off, but ohmygod they are so comfortable. Never in my adult life have I owned a pair of shoes with nothing to offer except comfort. Usually, when I see other people in Comfortable Shoes it makes me wince (oh man are there some ugly ones out there; wide straps are never good people, never). They look like a pair of grandpa slippers, and they might be ugly, but they swaddle my feet in softness and light. The box remains under my desk with its return mailing slip hanging out the side. For $40 I really should keep them, even if I never wear them out of the house, but a little part of me feels like grandpa moccasins are just one step away from crocs and that's a cliff I can't jump off.
- We just got an invitation to JP's cousin's wedding in Florida. We have a legitimate conflict, which is good, because a wedding is probably an inappropriate venue to see his parents for the first time in 18 months. Though I'm sad to lose out on a chance to put Landon in a mini suit and Claire in a fancy party dress.
Alright, back to Westlaw, Daubert, and legal masterpiece-in-progress.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
The biggest source of change has been the hiring of our new very part-time nanny, Natalie. I will admit outright that I struggled with the idea of having to pay yet another person to take care of my kids because we couldn't. It wasn't a problem with bringing someone new (the right someone new) into our lives. I've said many times before and still truly believe, that the relationships our kids have had with their non-parent caregivers have been a very positive thing for them, and I think the consistency and general structure of daycare has reaped benefits for all of us. No, it was the idea that we work so much that 45 hours a week of outside-the-home care wasn't enough coverage. Hiring someone else was a public admission of that and that was hard.
But it has been WONDERFUL. Here's what finally made me do it: crying on the side of the road, as described in Part Bacon, and having 4 cross-country trips scheduled for the month of August with a husband who works nearly an hour away from home and daycare. And here's what made me okay with it: it doesn't mean we spend less time with our kids, in fact, we spend more, and it makes us both more comfortable with the hours we spend apart. Natalie picks up the kids early, at 4:00, and JP and I still get home around the same time (but we get to leave about 30 mins later because we don't lose the time going to/from daycare). What really matters to us- our time with the kids, our family dinners, our group reading before bed- that has not changed. What has changed is that I can drop the kids off at 7:30 a.m. on a day JP and I both have early calls and know they'll be home again in 8.5 hours rather than 11. I can walk in the door at 6:15 to find all the lights on, the dogs fed, the daycare food containers washed (my personal least favorite task), and dinner warming in the oven (Natalie doesn't cook for us, but I cook extra on the weekends and save the pre-made dishes for her days). Which means that by 6:20 I can be in casual clothes on the floor playing with the kids while dinner finishes up, instead of doing all the above, and that is a really wonderful thing. And there is no way JP could have single-parented it for those 4 weeks I was traveling without Natalie, particularly since traffic is so unpredictable between his workplace and our home.
I think Natalie was a fated addition to our village. I had emailed Landon and Claire's daycare teachers in late July describing our need for help 7-10 hours a week and asked if they had any leads on where we could find such a person. I got an email back from Claire's teacher within a few hours saying she had just the candidate! The lead teacher of the toddler room (who taught Landon) was going back to college full-time and was looking for a very part time job after class. She knew both kids, was obviously comfortable with the daycare pick-up system, and had been with the daycare for 4 years so I didn't really need to do background checks. We had her over to the house and hired her immediately. The arrangement was we'd have her pick up the kids 3 times a week at 4:00 and pay her to stay until 7:00, though we planned to be home closer to 6. I had a bullet point list of tasks I wanted her to do (there's only about 4, but I like both details and lists and I thought it was best to be clear), guidelines for the kids, list of acceptable snacks, contact info, etc. - a fully inclusive Lag Liv kid care packet. We purchased and installed her own set of car seats and gave her a key. Everything ran great for 4 weeks, and we even had her get Claire one day at 2:30 when she wasn't feeling well (paying her extra, of course), and let me tell you, in a town without on-call grandparents, that is a wonderful thing.
Sometime around the first week of September, after I'd gone a whole 7 days without flying somewhere, I started thinking 3 days a week was one too many, but I didn't want to take pay away from Natalie that we had promised and I really didn't want her to feel she needed to look for a different job. So I asked her how the balance of school and work was going and she mentioned school was taking up a bit more time than she anticipated. I asked if her 2 days a week would be better and she jumped on it, so now she's 2 days a week with the option of 3 days when we need it. That works better for us, financially and personally, and she comes every Monday and Wednesday. The addition of another $4,500/year in childcare costs on top of the $25,000/year we already pay daycare sucks, but those late afternoons when I know Natalie already has the kids at home are SO much better. I can finish what I'm working on instead of frantically shutting down my computer and jamming every paper on my desk into my laptop bag, and I can know the kids are at the park or playing outside or reading books on their own couch and it makes me happy. Not as happy as if I were doing those things with them at 4 p.m., but I'm not and I can't, so at least they get to do them. And I'm glad that we still have to do daycare pick-up 2-3 days a week. I enjoy the interaction with the kids' teachers and Landon loves showing us various masterpieces around the classroom. All-in-all it's been an amazing change. On average we only have Natalie in the house about 5 hours a week, but the effect is much greater than that.
So that's my positive update. It's still hard. I still miss being able to call JP in the middle of the day to get him to bring something up to daycare or pick up something from the store. He misses seeing the kids as much as he used to. Mornings can be a bit crazy and days when JP and I both have matching deadlines are rough. But we've adjusted. We do all shopping, cooking, and laundry on the weekends. When the kids nap on Sunday I turn the radio on in the kitchen and bake and clean up a storm. I chop, sort, and date all the fresh lunch components (deli meat, cheese, fruit, veggies) in small tupperware containers, so each night during the week I can just throw in one of everything in the lunch boxes. I've come to really enjoy those Sunday afternoons, with the music on and the post-nap kids and dogs all over the place at my feet. We've been going on walks every night as a family (dogs included), which is nice talking time, and we've pushed the kids bedtimes back to 7:45 to give us time to do it. JP and I still work almost every night at the kitchen table at 8:00. We rarely watch TV anymore and we need to cancel our Netflix account, but last night we cuddled on the couch and read together and it was good. Really good. The first definition of "tenable" is the ability to be maintained and I think that is where we are right now. It goes up and down, but for right now today, for our jobs and general situation and making the best of everything that we can, this is tenable.
Monday, September 12, 2011
But lately I haven't been able to properly keep up with this blog either, so in order to avoid another 6 day gap between postings, I offer you a Monday selection of mini blog entries. Because half-formed thoughts are all I've got right now. Well that and 3 separate to-do lists for 3 separate cases that all just keep growing...
Bleet 1: By kicking the ball a whole TWO times in his first game, Landon has surpassed his mother's soccer career.
Isn't he adorable? Such focus! Such concentration! The next picture I took was of him standing alone in the middle of the field picking his nose, but we'll keep this post about the glory and success of his first tournament. It was darn cute to see.
Bleet 2: The Bear has decided her blankie is the most special thing in the whole world and it must be attached to her at all times.
She's had this blanket in her crib since she was born (she's wrapped in it in her announcement), but she woke up on Saturday and suddenly it became vital to her very existence. On the upside, it's adorable to watch her stalk around the house with it. Landon never had a chosen lovey, so Claire's attachment to this thing is a whole new experience. Plus, it's one my grandma knit by hand, so it's both special and easily reproduced. I'm talking to my grandma today about creating back-up #1 to slip into regular rotation with the original.
Bleet 3: Breaking Bad is the best part of my Sunday night. From 9-10 p.m. I'm cuddled on the couch with JP on my left and glass of red wine on the little table to my right. JP started me on that show, back at season 1, episode 1, and while I used to watch from the kitchen while I was working, it has now become a sacred tradition. There is no talking, no computer, and only intermittent checking and typing on the blackberry. It is SO good. And I love Jesse Pinkman. I just had to get that out there.
Bleet 4: Today is terrible, work-wise. It's busy and crazy and stressful and I knew the moment I woke up and blearily checked my blackberry that it would be this way. I think of work clothes as armor and high heels as my sword. They won't help me write this memo any faster, but even knowing what I'd be facing today, I did feel a little fabulous walking in to my office, hot tea in hand, wearing a black pencil skirt and 3 inch heels. And skirts ward off the impulse to curl up under my desk in the fetal position and cry! Little victories.
Friday, September 9, 2011
You turned 15 months old on Sunday, and since I failed to write to you on your 1st birthday (in my defense, please see the ridiculously time consuming rainbow cupcakes I made for you; that was 5 layers of LOVE right there- love with homemade frosting), I thought I would address this one. Because to fail to record your awesomeness right now would be a tragedy to my future muddled memory. You are fabulous Little Bear, 24.5 pounds and 31 inches of smiling, clapping, absolutely fearless fabulous.
You have surprised us from day 1 with how easy you've made parenting. I think that's going to change soon (I'm not criticizing, but while your brother has mild preferences, you already have OPINIONS, strong ones), but you breezed through your 15 months as by the book, or ahead of the book, as possible. You slept 8 hours at night at about 5 weeks, you slept 12 hours at night by 12. You took to table food immediately and you completely dropped bottles one day before your 1st birthday. Since then, you have drunk all your whole milk from sippy cups, you eat everything we do (including the exotic and spicy; it's possible you eat a wider range of foods than I do), you run, you put yourself to sleep, you follow directions, you understand everything, you communicate better than half the opposing counsel I work with, you assume dominance of kids far bigger than you, and you wave cheerfully to everyone we meet. And then, in true Claire form, you wave bye bye and blow them kisses as soon as you're done with them- which, as was evidenced at this morning's 15-month check-up, is frequently before they are done with you.
Bear, you are a Force. As your besotted father frequently says, you are me in mini form. I take that as a great compliment. But along with your dominant side, you are still our wonderfully sweet and smiley baby. You hug (on request and on your own volition), you give kisses, you cuddle, you dance, you SMILE, and you love a party. You and I take a bath together every night, and in between bouts of splashing and carefully and methodically reorganizing the bath toys, you will suddenly sit on my tummy and lay yourself down on my chest, pressing your cheek against my skim, and wrapping your arms around my side in a tight hug. Then you sigh and close your eyes, sometimes just for a second before popping back up again, but Claire, in those moments, I love you so much it actually hurts.
Your brother remains completely enamored with you, and you rule that relationship. He delights in your every achievement, and there is nothing that makes him happier than trying to get you to like something he does. Any time he gets a special treat he asks to give you some, and if he's allowed to share, he gets so excited when you love it too.
I think I'll close by describing one of my favorite things you do. It's when you see your daddy or me at the end of the day and you go a little crazy Bear. You let out this high pitched squeal, your hands fly up in the air, you run as fast towards us as your deliciously chubby legs can carry you, and you chant "MamamamaMAMMEEEEEEE" (or, "DadadadaDEEEEEEE") the whole way. It is awesome.
As are you.
We love you so much baby girl,
Monday, September 5, 2011
That shouldn't be a noteworthy statement, but the 7 hours we spent outside today adds up to more hours than I think I've been outside since May. In fact, yesterday was probably the first time Claire ever played in our front yard- it's been over 100 since she started walking. (Pardon the dead grass; with the drought, green grass didn't seem very important, so we stopped watering months ago.) But it looks like our record-breaking "70 days over 100" streak is finally over. Even now at 2:00 it's only 88 with sapphire blue skies and a strong breeze.
It would be perfection but for the raging wildfires and enormous grey clouds of smoke to the east and north of us. As I told JP this morning, while we were watching the kids play at a nearby park, I feel guilty being so happy about the gorgeous weather when there's people 20 miles away losing everything. We've donated to the Texas Wildfire Relief fund, but when I watch this video on CNN, that doesn't seem like nearly enough. Steiner Ranch, where this video was taken (and where these pictures are from), is where JP coached his swim lessons for a year. The neighborhood is much like the one we live in, just a few miles north. I can't imagine losing everything in my home. The only good thing so far is that there haven't been any (or many, it's conflicting) reported injuries. But the high winds today aren't helping a 0% contained fire. When we went to bed at 11:30 last night the fire in Bastrop (40 miles away) was 16 miles long and 3 miles wide. So scary.
Landon asked about the "fire smell" when we went outside this morning, and he's been very curious about all the water planes and helicopters flying over us. We've talked about the wildfires generally, he's a pretty unflappable kid, but I didn't want something to scare him when he thought about it later. We talked about our fire detectors, where we'd go if there was a fire, and where the people who have fires are going to sleep tonight (he was most concerned about that). The biggest struggle has been explaining why they're still burning. Landon can't understand a world where firefighters aren't highly efficient superheroes, so I'm having to doge a lot of questions about WHY the firefighters haven't fixed the fires yet.
In other news, Saturday was our 6-year wedding anniversary, and the day before marked 10 years from our first date (and 3 years since I started at the firm, though that anniversary is less notable). For our anniversary we went to a swimming letterwinner's tailgate on campus. We didn't go to the game; mostly because I hate football and think those games last longer than anyone should be expected to stand in the sun (they stop that clock all the damn time, I used to get so mad at it in college), but also because we had the two kids with us and we didn't have tickets. The tailgate was fun though!
Afterward, JP surprised me by arranging for a babysitter so we could go out for a fancy dinner. It was lovely. I got all fancied up with a short black wrap dress and 4" black lizard pumps (heels so borderline hooker-esque that not even I have attempted to wear them to work, though they are from Ann Taylor and I feel like everything from that store has a "you can wear this to the office" guarantee; maybe that's why these were on clearance? regardless, JP was a fan). Halfway through dinner, as were laughing at something our crazy Clairebear had done that morning, I looked up at my husband and took a moment to reflect on how happy and how lucky I am that I get to spend every day with my favorite person on the planet. He must have been thinking the same because he randomly said, "you know, you're my favorite." I didn't even need to ask favorite what-- it's just favorite anything. I feel the exact same way.
I need to get back to work - laboring on labor day - but keep the people of central Texas in your thoughts. Rain seems like an impossibility after this many months without, but miracles happen.
Friday, September 2, 2011
My baby boy started soccer yesterday.
Or rather this giant, grown-up KID started soccer yesterday. My baby Landon wasn't there.
This is our first foray into the world of organized sports and it has already been a learning experience for me (what? you need equipment? aren't kids expensive enough without extra accessories?!). I was not one for the land sports. I endured a season each of soccer and tee-ball at ages 5 and 6 before finding swimming (thank God). The most I ever moved in tee-ball was when a bee stung me on third base, and when I asked my dad whether he thought Landon would be a better soccer player than me, my proud, loving father replied:
If he stands on the field and moves three steps in any direction he has already surpassed his Mom’s soccer skills! If he actually kicks the ball in any direction he is ready to go Pro relative to his Mom. Turns out his Mom was literally a fish out of water on the soccer fields.
JP was a soccer star through high school (as he was at every other sport), so Landon has that going for him. Plus, the point of this season is just to see how he interacts with these older kids (thanks to his July 15 birthday and the July 31 league cut-off, he is the youngest kid on his team by 5 months) that he'll likely be starting kindergarten with next year. And to have fun and eat game day orange slices, of course.
We told him to listen to his coach and he did so with gravity and a serious intent. His sister on the other hand, flagrantly violated all the rules and took off with an orange cone (several orange cones, actually). She also kept running in to the playing field, utterly unconcerned about the bigger kids speeding past her.
JP and I are the only dual-parent working couple on our little team, so that's interesting. All of my friends in Austin work, all of my friends at work work (obviously), and all of my mom friends at daycare work, so I've actually never been around the SAHM set. They all know each other. I was on the outside, and I'm not even sure how that happened because I was in shorts and a tank top with no blackberry in sight! JP and I both made it to this first practice, but I had resigned myself to the fact our nanny would be taking Landon to the others (we'd be at all the games, I swear). I'm realizing this whole working parent thing is about to get a whole lot harder as our kids get bigger and busier.
But then the practice time got moved back an hour to 6:00 and I was more relieved than I expected to know I could make them all. Because while I think it's perfectly okay that we're not at every practice, I'm glad we don't have to do that quite yet. Watching a pack of 4-year-olds try to dribble a soccer ball around an orange cone that a 1-year-old sibling spectator is trying to steal is a pretty awesome way to spend 45 minutes of your Thursday evening. Almost as awesome as tucking your personal 4-year-old in bed later that night (with his "things that protect my legs," aka shin guards, tucked in bed with him) and being able to answer yes every time he asks, "did you see me kick the ball?!" With all my travel lately, it was nice to just be there, chasing after my cone-stealing baby and proudly watching my big kid listen very carefully to his first coach.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
The paperbacks came back on the scene because I went to a party at a friend's parents' house in Houston in June and her mother and older sister are apparently big readers of my blog, and are particular fans of the RRA posts. In fact, when I walked in the door and the mom said something about regency romance, her dad turned and said (rather accusingly, I must say ;), "YOU'RE the blogger?!" That I am, and thus a 45 minute discussion of corsets and heaving bosoms was launched. I was sent back to Austin with a paper bag full of books- books I forgot about for several weeks and rediscovered while packing for my first trip to Palo Alto. I packed a couple books in my suitcase and all were read when I touched back in Austin 4 days later. After a 5-month foray into the world of vampires and magic, I was re-hooked on regular old historical romance (if you can call it historical, which most of the time, you can't).
My other reading/RRA story came on the plane ride home from my second Palo Alto trip. I'd finished the 2 books I brought with me and had left my kindle at home (poor thing is feeling very unloved right now), so for the first time in years I went to buy a book in a bookstore. Happily, I found the sequel to one of the books loaned to me by my friend's mom. I started it as the plane took off and read the last page as the plane landed. The woman next to me looked over, and then smacked her husband, loudly whispering, "honey, HONEY, look! that young lady right there started a book and FINISHED IT on our flight! HONEY!!" I wasn't sure what to do- she wasn't talking to me, but she was obviously talking about me, and I felt like I should explain the book was called "A Wedding Wager" and was a terribly light piece of literary fluff even by my low standards. In the end I just smiled and tucked it back in my laptop bag. After a very difficult and stressful trip, it was nice to feel good at something, even if it's just speed reading about earls and the woman who love them. I smiled my whole way off the plane (right until I hit the wall of 110 degree hit at the door of the plane, I'm really not sure I can live here much longer).
Now, on to a list of books I've read in the last few months, with added commentary because I can't help it (and I just entered my time for the month and feel I can afford to waste 0.5 hours):
- Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole. Starting with "A Hunger Like No Other" and currently ending with #9 "Dreams of a Dark Warrior," I had so much fun with this series. It's a modern paranormal romancy actiony hybrid. I think #3 (Bowen & Mari) and #5 (Cade & Holly) were my favorites.
- McCarrick Brothers triology by Kresley Cole (If You Deceive, If You Desire, If You Dare). Recommended by a friend, these books are about 3 Scottish brothers in 1850. #3 was by far my favorite, but I liked them all. Then amazon pointed me to her Immortals After Dark series and I was lost there for about a month- I do love a long series.
- The Demonica series by Larissa Ione. I know I wrote about this before, but it remains a favorite and I re-read all of the books since I last wrote about them. Then I read "Eternal Rider," the first book in her spin-off Lords of Deliverance series, and LOVED it. The next Deliverance book comes out in November and I can't wait.
- My Unfair Lady and Lady of the Storm by Kathryne Kennedy. I really like her books. The kindle versions are inexpensive, so I'm not sure how popular she is, but I think her stories and writing are fantastic. Lady of the Storm is the second book in a new series that starts with The Fire Lord's Lover. If she keeps it up, this is going to be one of my favorite series, I just wish she'd write them faster.
- Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward. Another one I've talked about before, but I've re-read a bunch and really do enjoy the stories. Her writing frequently annoys the crap out of me (it's the fake tough guy talk), but I love the caracters and their interractions. However, I really disliked her latest one, Lover Unleashed. The main character was nothing like she seemed from the previous books, and even if I liked this new version of her (she was tolerable), she barely got any screen time! At this point I'm reading the series solely because my two favorite characters (Blay and Quinn) haven't had ther stories told yet and I live for the snippets relating to them.
- The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt. Part of the set loaned to me by my friend's mom, this was my first regency romance in months and it sucked me right back in. I liked the flip of a strong, independently wealthy woman with a lower class male character.
- Whitney, My Love, Until You, Something Wonderful, and Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught. How did I not know about this author? My mom friend/blog reader loaned me Whitney, My Love, saying simpy, "just read it." I started it in Palo Alto, got no sleep, and then immediately bought 3 more of her books. I wouldn't recommend reading them in a row because she only really writes one kind of male and female character, but I still found them so fun and so good, and with the tiny print and more substantive plot lines (not like non-fiction substantive, you won't learn any history from this book, but more weighty than A Wedding Wager, for instance), they took me longer to read than most of these others. Kingdon of Dreams is my favoritre, but I also adored Something Wonderful (and Whitney and Until You... they're good, is what I'm saying).
- Shanna and A Rose in Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Shanna was the first romance novel I ever read and I fell in love. I read it about 25 times before leaving my parent's house and, after basking in fond memories, read it again a few months ago. As it turns out, Shanna is maybe the most annoying heroine ever written, but Woodiwiss did better with Erienne in Rose in Winter.