A Polish Christmas by Ksenia Winnicki | Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

December 11, 2017 Giveaway, Guest Post 0

Celebrate the Christmas season with That Artsy Reader Girl and her bookish friends! 

Celebrate #ChristmasWithJanaInstagram ✦ Twitter Event Schedule

I love Ksenia so much! She was the very first publicist who took a chance on little old me and sent me my very first ARC (Of Poseidon by Anna Banks) and put me on my very first official blog tour (again, for Of Poseidon). After she left Macmillan I continued to work with her while she was at ABRAMS, Tor, and Simon & Schuster. Now she’s living her dream and writing, and I can’t wait to see where life takes her next! I love hearing about her Polish heritage, so we’re all in for a huge treat today to read about how she celebrates Christmas.

A Polish Christmas

by Ksenia Winnicki

Ksenia in the kitchen cooking yummies.

I love Christmas! Let’s just get that out of the way. I love the decorations, I love the music, and I love decorating a Christmas Tree. But one of the main things I get really excited for is the FOOD! Growing up Polish, I was always surrounded by Polish food anyway, but for some reason, the Polish food at Christmas was just extra special.

But before I start rambling on about the delicious food, let me take a step back and tell you a bit more about a few Polish Christmas traditions. Poland is a Catholic country, and so Christmas is a very big deal. In our Polish household, the main festivities happen on December 24, Christmas Eve, aka Wigilia.

Below, is a list of some of the Polish Christmas traditions and superstitions (including some that my family and I keep):

The first person to enter the household on Christmas Eve has to be a man, otherwise it will bring bad luck. Because my husband and I rent an apartment from my parents in the same building here in Queens, when my mom wants us to pick something up from downstairs that day, she will insist that it be Josh, not me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

During the day, you’re supposed to be fasting, in preparation for the Christmas supper. With all the other preparations going on during the day, I do in fact forget to eat anyway.

Christmas Eve table setting.

When setting the table, you are to leave one place setting for an extra guest, whether that guest be someone unexpected who is in search of a place to stay that night, or for someone that has departed. The table also has some hay hidden underneath the tablecloth. My mom brought some with her from Bethlehem when my parents visited one year, so we’ve been using that batch of hay for a few years now.

Christmas supper is supposed to begin when you see the first star light up in the sky. My parents and I do not hold to this tradition, but I know a close friend of mine did when she was growing up.

Right before sitting down to eat, there are two very important things that must happen.

Oplatek (picture from wikipedia)

The first one, is that we all take an opłatek (a thin wafer with a religious Christmas image), and go around the room to each person, breaking off a piece of that opłatek from one another, and exchanging good wishes for the upcoming year. There are some dipped in honey, but that is saved for after the meal, so that you may also have a sweet year, too. In addition to the wafer, we all take a bunch of change, and exchange the coins with one another. That way, at the end, you have coins from everyone else. And you are to tuck those coins away and not spend it, in order to ensure prosperity for the coming year.

Midnight Mass is especially a big occasion. For YEARS growing up, my parents and the family friends we spent Christmas with together talked about going to Midnight Mass. My friend and I always took bets on how many bottles of wine our parents would drink instead. One year, finally, one year when I was in college, we all went to Midnight Mass. It was loud! It was boisterous! It’s a whole church filled with Polish people who have been drinking and have been merry all day and night. It’s quite a sight (and sound)!

At midnight, the superstition is that animals begin talking. We sadly, never got to hear any of our cats and dogs speak, because we were either in bed by then or completely did not notice the time go by, and so we had no idea what wisdom our cats and dogs might have given out! Along that same line, my mom’s father (back in Poland) would go out to the barn to share an opłatek with the horses and cows and other farm animals.

Ksenia’s Pierogi

All about the food: In addition to fasting during the day, there is to be no meat. So all the dishes for Wigilia are vegetarian and of the fish-based variety. Any food that has meat can be eaten on Christmas Day. Supposedly, there are to be twelve dishes, because of the twelve apostles. We do not hold to that tradition. For food we traditionally have red borscht with mushroom dumplings, pierogi (with cheese and potato), stuffed cabbage (with rice and mushroom), and carp. My mom likes to make kompot, a sweet and juicy beverage from pears and other dried fruit; for the longest time she would make kutia, this Polish-style pudding with poppy seed and other grains, but then she gave up when she noticed none of us ate it! Over the last several years, I’ve taken up the mantle of hosting Christmas Eve, as well as cooking the majority of the dishes. If you know me, I don’t cook. So instead, I spend the two days prior to Christmas Eve making and cooking stuffed cabbage, pierogi, uszka (the dumplings for the borscht), and some cookies and pies.

Ksenia’s Polish cookbooks.

I’ve accumulated some Polish cookbooks in the last few years, but when it comes to the pierogi, I make sure to follow my grandmother’s recipe!

After the meal, we will sit down for some light desserts, some Polish Christmas carol singing, and then we open our gifts. Depending on how long everyone stays, our Christmas Eve can last long past midnight.

So those are some of the Polish Christmas traditions from my Polish household. Josh is a real trooper and has adapted quite well. ;) I do insist that he works from home on those days I’m cooking for fear of burning down the house.

The one thing I hate is how quickly it all goes by; I wish I could make Christmas Eve last longer!

So to celebrate in the spirit of the season and this post, I have three Polish-themed books to give away! They are:

 

The Dragon of Krakow and other Polish Stories by Richard Monte: A short but great collection of Polish legends featuring a dragon, a mermaid, and more!

Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak: One of my favorite real Polish heroes is a bear (yes, a bear), a soldier of the Polish II Corps who fought in WWII. His name is Corporal Wojtek, and his story is pretty much amazing and unbelievable.

Push Not the River by James Conroyd Martin: Polish Historical Fiction! This is an epic saga that takes place during the late 1700s, when Poland is being partitioned by Russia, Prussia, and Austria. The story is based off the diaries of a real noblewoman. There’s romance, scheming, politics and more! I read this like ten years ago and have been meaning to revisit. It’s the first in a trilogy!

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Hope you’ve all enjoyed this small peek into my Polish heritage! Happy Holidays everyone!!!!!

Follow Ksenia: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

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The Debut Dish: Laura Creedle (+ Giveaway)

December 10, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 4

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This final issue of 2017 The Debut Dish features Laura Creedle (The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily).

Sign up for the 2018 Debut Author Challenge!


The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle
December 26, 2017 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

When Lily Michaels-Ryan ditches her ADHD meds and lands in detention with Abelard, who has Asperger’s, she’s intrigued—Abelard seems thirty seconds behind, while she feels thirty seconds ahead. It doesn’t hurt that he’s brilliant and beautiful.

When Abelard posts a quote from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise online, their mutual affinity for ancient love letters connects them. The two fall for each other. Hard. But is it enough to bridge their differences in person?

This hilarious, heartbreaking story of human connection between two neurodivergent teens creates characters that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Neurodivergent smart romance. ADHD, ASD.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
When Abelard finally texts Lily, he sends her quotes from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise. He knows she’s read it. He texts, “I have wit enough to write a letter and hope that you would permit my absent self to entertain you.” Lily figures out it’s from the book. She sends her sister Iris running through the house to find their dad’s copy of the book. She finds the perfect quote to text back, and their romance begins in a flush of word-borne feels.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Home. My agent sent me an e-mail with two words: call me. My editor, Margaret Raymo wanted to pre-empt. It didn’t take long to say yes.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Phish food by Ben and Jerry’s. It’s like candy and ice-cream and marshmallow rolled into one caloric explosion of deliciousness. Plus, it has fish shaped chocolates. Who doesn’t love non-aquatic food shaped like fish?

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A magnetic Sylvia Plath finger puppet. When my brother found out my novel was going to be published, he sent me a box of literary finger puppets. Dickens is on the side of the fridge. I’ve lost the rest.

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The Christmas Cabin by J.L. Jarvis | Book Review

December 10, 2017 Adult Fiction, Book Review 1 ★★★★

The Christmas Cabin by J.L. Jarvis | Book ReviewThe Christmas Cabin by J.L. Jarvis
Published by Bookbinder Press on November 1, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Holiday, Romance
Pages: 206
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
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4 Stars
Lawyer Abbie Harper rents a cabin for her own perfect Christmas. On Christmas Eve, she leaves the stress of her New York job and drives to the mountains, settling in for seven glorious days of peace on earth and good will toward men—so long as they steer clear of her.

Forest Ranger Jack Whelan is no good at relationships. He manages just fine by holding fast to one rule: Don’t let anyone get close. Then Abbie Harper rents his cabin. As a light snow falls, the furnace breaks down, and Jack is called in for repairs. When the storm picks up, they’re stranded together, turning their ordered lives upside down like a snow globe.

Two snowbound strangers who think they know what they want will find out what they need—at The Christmas Cabin.

I don’t know why, but I LOVE stories that include two people being snowbound together in some remote location. I love it even more if it takes place during Christmas. Abbie’s job is taking over her life, so she decides to rent a cabin in the mountains to get away from it all. She brings enough food, Christmas movies, and an ereader full of good books (my kind of girl) with the plan of relaxing and enjoying the snow and scenic views. When she arrives she finds that the heat is not working and has to contact the owner of the cabin (multiple times) to come fix it. What starts out as a strictly business-type relationship quickly gets friendly as the snow falls and Jack is unable to leave the cabin. He takes the couch, she the bed, and the magic begins.

I liked both characters a lot, but Jack was definitely my favorite. He’s sweet, gentlemanly, giving (he saves people for a living), and romantic. Abbie is quirky enough to grab a tree branch from outside, stick it in a jar of water, and use it as her Christmas tree. She’s got this terribly irrational fear of dogs (the coyote howls in the distance render her practically immovable), but Jack is understanding and accommodating. He brings her earplugs, the cutie, and then freaks out when he knocks on the door and she doesn’t answer. Surely she must be dead. They form this really sweet, caring relationship that I just loved. And YAY all sexytimes happen behind doors, which I really appreciate in a Christmas romance.

I loved the writing. The author wrote some amazingly festive and beautiful Christmas scenes, and really got me into the Christmas spirit. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, happy holiday romance!

This review was originally posted on December 21, 2016
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Brookie Cowles’s 2017 Book Gift Guide | Author Guest Post

December 9, 2017 Book Spotlight, Guest Post 0

Celebrate the Christmas season with That Artsy Reader Girl and her bookish friends! 

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Today I’m welcoming author and Etsy shop owner, Brookie Cowles, to the blog to offer her advice on the best books to gift to others this year! She’s got a little something for everyone.

Brookie’s 2017 Book Gift Guide

I want to thank Jana for letting me guest post on her blog! This is such a fun idea. I love books, obviously, so of course I have a list of books I want for Christmas. Along with that, I have a list of books I’d give for Christmas. Better yet, I have suggestions for every one! Let’s get started!

Children’s Picture Book

 

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore has been around for a while. In fact, it even has an Academy Award winning animated short film based off it. But it’s not a super popular book and I think it needs to be. This book it amazing and touching.

Middle Grade

 

A Wrinkle in Time is a classic book. Think, one of the first Science Fiction books for middle grade. Adventure, science, time travel, and more. A good pick for any middle grader (especially since there is a movie in the works).

For Lovers of Literary, Women’s, or Historical Fiction

 

In Lilac Girls, we go on a journey through the eyes of three different women: A Polish girl in a concentration camp, a German doctor at a concentration camp, and an American girl in New York. We watch how World War II affected all three girls.

Non-Fiction

 

The Power of Habit is an AMAZING book. If you read it solely for the stories, you won’t be disappointed. I am not a huge non-fiction lover and this one gets me every time. I can listen to it over and over. Oh, yes, I love this on audiobook. Definitely a win for the non-fiction lover AND the audiobook lover.

For the Young Adult Lover

*YA is my favorite genre, so I have a few suggestions

Science Fiction

 

Illuminae will take you on a thrilling ride through space, zombies, and AI take-overs. It will leave you questioning who gets to decide when someone needs to die? Or what happens when someone you love is no longer the same?

Fantasy

 

My Lady Jane is my Fantasy pick for the year. This book is cynical, it’s comical, it’s well written, and adorable. The authors took a tragic story, made it funny, and changed the outcome.

 

 

I couldn’t just pick one fantasy book. Caraval is a lovely, thrilling adventure through a dream like place where you don’t know what’s real or not. I loved the imagery from the book and I can’t wait for book two in 2018.

Historical

 

Salt to the Sea is told in four person Point-of-view. We follow four teenagers as they travel to freedom during World War II. The pacing is quick and the characters are interesting and well written. This is a great book for any reader.

Romance

 

About Last Summer is a cute, clean, flirty, story about last year’s Drama Camp romance. ADORABLE!

Series

 

The Conspiracy of Us Trilogy ended this year! Which makes it the perfect series to give to your avid reader. This contemporary book takes on an ancient rumor about Alexander the Great and his life. Avery West is thrust into a life full of secrets, symbols, and wealth. When she puts those together, just maybe she can solve the centuries old mystery. But can she do it before THEY get her?

For the Romance Lover (me!)

*Again… lots of recommendations!

YA Romance

 

Asking me to pick a favorite YA romance is like asking me to pick my favorite flavor of ice cream. There are so many I read just this year that I love. But At First Blush is one I would give to the YA Romance reader. Make-up, boy band, youtube, and more. Such a fun read.

Adult Romance – Sweet

 

The Sherrifs of Savage Wells is a mix between Annie Get your Gun and Calamity Jane. And the banter between the characters is to die for. Or swoon for. That’s what I did

Adult Romance – Mild

 

Love at First Ink is the first book that came to my mind for this category. This book made me laugh out loud… literally. And cringe, and swoon, and want to cry. It is lovely.

Adult Romance – Hot

 

The Hating Game is definitely my pick for the romance reader. This book has everything you want in a book. Saucy characters, angsty romance, a bid for the same position at work, and a good telling off by the miniature-sized female.

*This book contains a lot of language and detailed scenes.

Christmas Romance

 

RaeAnne Thayne has a few Christmas themed sweet romances. Christmas In Snowflake Canyon is one of my favorites. Spoiled rich girl, jaded war veteran, and community service. *swoon*

There you have it. My picks for every type of reader. Make the holidays even better by giving a book.

Merry Christmas,
Brookie Cowles
Brookiecowles.com

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Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan | Book Review & Giveaway

December 8, 2017 Adult Fiction, Book Review, Giveaway 10 ★★★★

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan | Book Review & GiveawayMiracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan
Series: From Manhattan with Love #3
Published by HQN Books on November 29, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Holiday, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
It will take a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this perfectly festive fairy tale of New York!

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she's given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn't expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife's death looming, he's isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn't appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?

Sarah Morgan is one of my very favorite authors, and I can definitely always count on her to get me into the Christmas spirit. I’ve read and loved many of her Christmas romances, so I was very eager to read Miracle on 5th Avenue as well. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Miracle on 5th Avenue is the first book in the From Manhattan with Love series that I’ve read, but I did not feel like I was missing out on any information. It reads perfectly fine as a standalone, but will make you want to grab the other books in the series as well. 

2. I love that one of the main character, Lucas, is an author. He’s on deadline and he’s writing a book that millions of people are eagerly anticipating. Any book that includes other books is always a double win for me. I enjoyed reading about his writing process and the writer’s block and how he comes up with his stories. He writes crime novels, and he’s inspired to model a character after Eva, our heroine.

3. Speaking of Lucas, I loved him even though he’s not super lovable. Readers only see his bad side for a little while. He’s grumpy and stressed and pretty irritating. But then he becomes inspired by Eva, his creative juices start flowing, and when she becomes more to him than a character in his book he becomes caring and sweet. I loved seeing him open up about his past. As he did, so did Eva.

4. Eva is a Christmas fanatic just like me, so we got along very well. While grumpy Lucas worked upstairs in his fortress of solitude, she decorated a tree in his living room and cooked up a storm of so many yummy sounding foods all while singing her heart out. She’s so much like me. And she drove him nuts in an endearing kind of way. Her cheery disposition melted the ice man, and things got cute, if not a little bumpy along the way.

5. This book is so festive, which I’m finding is rare among this year’s “Christmas” book releases. I’ve read quite a few recent releases from this year and last year, and I finally found one that was Christmasy enough for me. Thanks for doing it again, Sarah! FINALLY.

6. I love Sarah’s writing and her ability to create characters that make their way into your heart, her ability to write emotions that you can feel, and her ability to always put a smile on your face. 

All in all, Miracle On 5th Avenue was another win for me! I really loved it and am excited to continue the series. I love New York City, so it’s kind of like Sarah wrote me my own series! Definitely pick this up if you’re looking for a little Christmas cheer and some really fun characters.

In honor of A Bookish Little Christmas, Sarah has offered up a signed copy of Miracle On 5th Avenue to one of my readers! I am so unbelievably jealous of whoever wins! I’d love a signed Sarah Morgan book! Enter to win below!

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Sarah’s Christmas Top Ten | Blogger Guest Post

December 7, 2017 Guest Post 1

Celebrate the Christmas season with That Artsy Reader Girl and her bookish friends! 

Celebrate #ChristmasWithJanaInstagram ✦ Twitter Event Schedule

Today we have the pleasure of hearing from Sarah, the lovely book blogger behind What Sarah Read! I really love Sarah’s blog and consider her to be a friend, so I’m delighted to be hosting such a special piece of her heart today! She’s currently running a Christmas Event, Home for the Holidays, on her blog right now so go visit her there for more festive holiday posts!


I’m so thrilled to be on Jana’s blog today as part of her amazing Bookish Little Christmas! I’ve been a big fan of her holiday feature for years now and it was a big inspiration behind my own Home for the Holidays feature on my blog. Christmas is one of my very favorite times of the year. There’s so many things I love about the holiday season and today I’m going to be sharing my very own top ten list of my favorite things about Christmas.


I suppose my love for the holiday season all started with my father. He was a single dad and a minister so when the Christmas season officially began that first Sunday in December, it was all holidays all the time. Decorating the church, practicing for the Christmas pageant, holiday parties with families from our church…and it was all capped off by the beautiful candlelit Christmas Eve service he led. The holidays will always remind me of my father and the amazing relationship we had. He passed away nine years ago but I always feel his presence a little bit more during the holidays.


Whether it’s a big Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza in NYC, a botanical garden in coastal Maine covered in thousands of lights or the Boston Public Library illuminated for the holidays, there’s nothing I love more than the beauty and cheer of holiday lights! They always bring a smile to my face.


Anyone who knows me, knows I love sweets and that I love to bake, so when Christmas rolls around I take full advantage of the gift-giving and holiday parties as an opportunity to bake all of the things!!! Cookies, brownies, cupcakes…you name it, I want to bake it.


One of my all-time favorite movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life”! I make sure to watch this movie, along with “A Christmas Story”, every single Christmas Eve and/or Christmas day. I’m a big fan of holiday traditions and watching these movies are one of my very favorite traditions of the season. There’s just something so comforting and familiar about watching a holiday film while cuddled on the couch with loved ones.


If you’ve been reading my blog or following me on Twitter and Instagram for any amount of time, you know that I LOVE living in the Boston area. It’s literally my very favorite city in the entire world and when Christmas rolls around the city goes ALL out. I work right downtown, so I’m lucky enough to see the gorgeous decorations every day. They always put a smile on my face!


For as much as I love the city all decked out for the holidays, there’s nothing I love more than decorating my own home. It’s always a mash-up of decorations that are old and new, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love being surrounded by holiday memories and I have many ornaments that have been on my tree every year since I was a baby. In the past few years I’ve also started building on my Nutcracker collection that my father started for me when I was little.


Speaking of nutcrackers…The Nutcracker Ballet also holds a very special place in my heart. I took ballet when I was little and every year my dance school would put on a huge production of the ballet. I absolutely loved being a part of it and from the very first year I took part, I was hooked. It became part of my holiday traditions ever since then and whenever I think of Christmas, I think of The Nutcracker.


I’ve been such a slacker in the holidays cards department the past couple years, but I’m making a promise to myself to get back in to the swing of things this year. I absolutely love receiving holiday cheer in the mail and I can’t wait to get my address list together so I can start sending some cheer myself.


Office parties, potlucks, ugly sweater parties, secret Santa, Yankee swap…if it’s a party during the holiday season…I’m there! Getting together with friends and celebrating the holidays and the end of the year is such a special time. Looking around the room and seeing all the smiling faces and listening the music in the background just fills me with so much happiness.


Every year, my co-workers and I volunteer for a HUGE charity event for low income families called Christmas at the Castle. The event is held at the Castle at Park Plaza which used to be an armory building in downtown Boston but is now used as conference and event space. Each family gets a food voucher for a Christmas dinner, winter coats for each family member, and toys for each child! I usually post myself at one of the toy tables and help parents pick out the perfect toys for their children. It’s so fun meeting so many new people and to help them have an amazing Christmas.


So, there you have it! My favorite things about Christmas. I hope you enjoyed my top ten list and it got you even more excited for the holiday season! Happy Holidays everyone!

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Happy Holidays from Forever! | Christmas Book Spotlights & Giveaway

December 6, 2017 Book Spotlight, Giveaway 3

Celebrate the Christmas season with That Artsy Reader Girl and her bookish friends! 

Celebrate #ChristmasWithJanaInstagram ✦ Twitter Event Schedule

The lovely people at Forever, the romance imprint of Grand Central Publishing, are here to celebrate the holidays with us today with a pretty amazing prize pack giveaway for three of my readers! Read more about Long, Tall Cowboy Christmas by Carolyn Brown, Back Home at Firefly Lake by Jen Gilroy, Sugarplum Way by Debbie Mason, The Winter Wedding Plan by Oliva Miles, and Maybe This Christmas by Jennifer Snow below, and then enter to win a special Forever tote filled with paperbacks of them all!

Long, Tall Cowboy Christmas (Happy, Texas #2) by Carolyn Brown
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Nash Lamont is a man about as solitary as they come. That’s exactly why ranch life in middle-of-nowhere Happy, Texas suits him. So what the heck is he doing letting a beautiful widow and her three rambunctious children temporarily move in? Before he knows it, they’re stringing Christmas lights and decorating the tree… and he’s having the time of his life. But after everything he’s been through, Nash knows this kind of happiness doesn’t last.

Kasey Dawson thought she’d never get over the death of her husband. Nash, with his strong hands and infinite patience, is stirring something she hasn’t felt in a long time. Kasey knows the sexy cowboy isn’t telling her everything about this past, though. And she refuses to risk heartbreak all over again. But her kids have a plan of their own: Nothing will keep them from having a real family again-even if it takes a little help from Santa himself.

Back Home at Firefly Lake (Firefly Lake #3) by Jen Gilroy
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She has a million reasons to leave.
Can he give her the one she needs to stay?

Cat McGuire’s return to Firefly Lake is turning into much more than she bargained for. Sure, she missed the crisp pine-scented air and the comfort of having her family around her. But being home makes her feel less like the successful single mom she is–and more like the awkward teen who never fit in. It doesn’t help that hockey-pro Luc Simard is back in town, too. Luc was her childhood crush, the hometown hero who never noticed her, and yet somehow he still makes her heart skip a beat.

Luc’s homecoming has been bittersweet. He’s lost his wife and his career, but there’s no better place to start over than Firefly Lake. Coaching the local kids’ hockey team makes him feel alive again, and he thinks his life is complete–until Cat arrives. The shy girl he always wanted to protect is now the gorgeous woman who’s stealing his heart and making him believe in second chances. But how can he convince Cat that Firefly Lake is where she truly belongs?

In the tradition of New York Times bestselling authors Susan Wiggs and RaeAnne Thayne comes an emotional story about finding love in the most unexpected of places from Jen Gilroy.

Sugarplum Way (Harmony Harbor #4) by Debbie Mason
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Romance writer Julia Landon knows how to write a happily-ever-after. Creating one for herself is a whole different story. But after a surprising–and surprisingly passionate–kiss under the mistletoe at Harmony Harbor’s holiday party last year, Julia thought she might have finally found her very own chance at true love. Until she learns her Mr. Tall, Dark, and Broodingly Handsome has sworn off relationships. Well, if she can’t have him in real life, Julia knows just how to get the next best thing….

Aidan’s only priority is to be the best single dad ever. And this year, he plans to make the holidays magical for his little girl, Ella Rose. But visions of stolen kisses under the mistletoe keep dancing in his head, and when he finds out Julia has written him into her latest novel, he can’t help imagining the possibilities of a future together. Little does he know, though, Julia has been keeping a secret that threatens all their dreams. Luckily, ’tis the season for a little Christmas magic.

The Winter Wedding Plan (Misty Point #2) by Olivia Miles
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All she wants for Christmas is a second chance . . .

Charlotte Daniels has made her share of mistakes, but now that she’s a single mom, she vows to do better–and that starts with a new career. Working at her sister’s event-planning company is just the fresh start she needs.

Kate Daniels has finally forgiven Charlotte for her betrayal, but forgetting it is harder. But as the holidays approach and Kate has her own wedding to plan, she has no choice but to turn to Charlotte for help to throw a high-profile client the holiday party of the season.

Charlotte leaps at the chance to redeem herself . . . until this irresistible client asks her to pretend to be his fiancée for the party. She knows their charade won’t come without consequences–not just for her fresh start with Kate, but also for her own daughter.

As Kate’s wedding draws near and Charlotte’s fake romance starts to feel more and more real, will she fall back into the mistakes of her past, or finally prove herself to Kate once and for all?

Maybe This Christmas (Colorado Ice #3) by Jennifer Snow
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All wrapped up . . .

One more game. That’s all that stands between NHL star Asher Westmore and a major career milestone. But then his brother bashes him against the hockey boards, sidelining him for months. Over Christmas holidays, no less. If staying off the ice doesn’t drive him crazy, staying with his family will. The only bright spot amidst the mistletoe and twinkle lights: His best friend, Emma, is a physical therapist. And working out with her improves his body and his spirit.

One last time. Emma Callaway was in trouble the minute she and Asher added benefits to their friendship. How is she supposed to resist a funny, caring guy who makes her toes curl? Her heart was safe while he lived in a different state. Now that he’s back home recuperating, though, it’s only a matter of time before she blurts out her feelings. Emma’s only hope is that with a little holiday magic, she’ll get the best Christmas gift of all.

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Anna Bernard’s Favorite Holiday Movies & TV Episodes | Guest Post

December 5, 2017 Guest Post 2

Celebrate the Christmas season with That Artsy Reader Girl and her bookish friends! 

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I’m excited to welcome Anna Bernard, publicity assistant at Bloomsbury Children’s, to the blog today to talk about her favorite holiday movies and TV specials. I spend the entire month of December watching Christmas movies and TV episodes, so I was delighted when Anna suggested this topic. I had completely forgotten how cute the Veronica Mars episode is, so I’ve got that on my list to re-watch that soon!

Anna’s Favorite Holiday Movies & TV Episodes

Peppermint mochas are wonderful, but they’re not what gets me in the mood for the holidays. A single holiday movie or TV episode, though, gets me pulling up my Spotify playlist “xmasssss” and putting up my ornaments! We all know about classics like Elf and Love Actually—at least, you should *insert side-eye emoji here*–but if you’re looking for supplemental holiday cheer, read on for my favorite movies and TV episodes for the season!

Veronica Mars

 

Though One Angry Veronica’s mystery is not quite as juicy as the previous season’s holiday episode, it is still pretty entertaining to watch Veronica lead a jury through a case in this 12 Angry Men homage. But it’s the last five minutes that make this episode one of my favorites. After hearing a close friend died, Veronica is all alone on New Year’s Eve. I probably shouldn’t spoil the episode entirely, so I’ll just say someone comes to the door, and I start tearing up.

Parks and Rec

 

I totally relate to the Parks Department’s panic over what to get Leslie—the most epic gift-giver ever—for the holidays. They eventually decide on a gingerbread replica of City Hall. When Leslie gets dropped by her campaign managers, though, the office decides to band together and help her campaign in any way they can: a truly great gift.

While You Were Sleeping

 

One Christmas morning, Sandra Bullock rescues a handsome stranger from being run over by the Chicago L Train—and the rest is fate! That is, if you consider fate to be pretending to be a comatose man’s fiancée when his grieving family makes an unfortunate assumption. Sandra Bullock is the queen of holiday movies (Practical Magic is my go-to Halloween watch), and this is no exception. Watching her fall in love with her new-found family is so lovely. Plus, she has these amazing ginormous sweaters, which I totally covet.

The Mindy Project

 

The Mindy Project is AMAZING at holiday episodes, and the Season 2 one might be the best. Back when Danny Castellano wasn’t a horrible jerk, just a curmudgeon-y jerk, he is Mindy’s Secret Santa. Throughout the week, he’s been giving her office supplies like a stapler and gauze, but his final gift shows his thoughtfulness: a choreographed dance to Aaliyah’s “Try Again”! Please view it here.

Gilmore Girls

 

Would this truly be my list if I didn’t include something from Gilmore Girls? Of course not! This is as Christmas-y as Gilmore Girls ever gets, except for Season 7’s Santa’s Secret Stuff, which I don’t like to think about (Season 7 doesn’t exist). Lorelai gifts Luke his iconic blue baseball cap and he makes her a sweet, disgusting Santa burger. And thus, a ship is born.

What are your favorite holiday movies and episodes? I’ve obviously seen a lot, so I need suggestions!

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The Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr | Book Review

December 4, 2017 Adult Fiction, Book Review 1 ★★★

The Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr | Book ReviewThe Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr
Published by Henery Press on November 7, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Holiday, Romance
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: From the author
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3 Stars
Is Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year? New Yorkers Robyn Lane and Sidney Bellows aren’t so sure.

Robyn has always dated struggling creative types. For once, her parents would love her to bring someone with health insurance and a 401(k) to their Chrismukkah celebration. Her actor boyfriend doesn’t qualify. While across town, Sidney’s professional life already belongs to her parents. She’s an attorney at her father’s law firm and she works tirelessly to keep her love life private. If she brings her lawyer boyfriend to their annual Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have the wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.

A mutual friend playfully suggests they trade boyfriends for the holidays. The women share a laugh, but after copious amounts of wine, decide The Boyfriend Swap could be the perfect solution. This way, Robyn can show off her stable attorney boyfriend and Sidney’s high-society family will take no interest in her flakey actor beau.

It’s a brilliant plan—in theory. In practice—not so much. When Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years, and Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe, one thing is certain: The Boyfriend Swap might just change their lives forever.

The Proposal and The Holiday are two of my favorite movies ever, so I was really excited to read Christmas romance that was pitched to me as a combination of both. I think this comparison made me expect too much, though. And that’s nothing against the book, I just think I was wanting a Cameron Diaz and Jude Law kind of romance with the Kate Winslet and Jack Black kind of swoon. All things aside, The Boyfriend Swap had many cute moments, and it was fluffy which is always nice. I do wish there had been more Christmas in it, but I am the queen of Hallmark Christmas movies, so…

Robyn’s boyfriend Perry is described as a “D-list wannabe” actor. He’s a guy that Robyn cannot possibly bring home to her family, so she brings home Sidney’s lawyer boy toy of a boyfriend, Will, to get her family off her back. But… this guy ends up being Robyn’s lifelong crush. I really love the friends to lovers trope as well as the fauxmance trope, so I was definitely curious to see a combination of the two and how that would play out. I really liked both of them, particularly Will, and I think they’re very cute together. I enjoyed reading about their growing up years and the awkward memories they shared. They were definitely the highlight of the book for me.

Perry and Sidney, on the other hand, were a train wreck. In the book’s defense, though, I think they were supposed to be. This couple was so poorly mismatched. Perry is an egotistical jerk and Sidney is unlikeable. However, they were both using each other so I didn’t even feel bad for them. Perry was using Sidney for her father’s show business connections as much as she was using him for his irritating personality.

The Boyfriend Swap is funny. I enjoyed the banter between the characters, and I enjoyed the deeper issues I got to watch them all work through. Everyone learned something, and I’d like to think that everyone came away a better person for it.

So why the low rating? Honestly, I think everything was tainted by the storyline. Both Robyn and Sidney were dating men they were embarrassed by. Even worse, Will and Perry were ok with it and went along with the plan to swap boyfriends during the time of year when you should want to be with those you care about. Even worse than that, one of the guys decided to fall in love with a girl who chose to lie to her entire family about who her boyfriend really was because she was ashamed of him. I would not want to be with someone who thought that kind of deception was ok, even if I was the tool they used to lie to their family with and not the actual person they were ashamed of. Does that make sense? But then again, that guy was dating someone just for the physical relationship and not the connection, so perhaps they’re made for each other. It just felt like a very immature storyline to me, and not very romantic.

This is definitely a case of the “it’s not the book, it’s me” syndrome. The writing is great. The humor is great. The characters were all dynamic and well developed. The story was unique and well thought out, it just wasn’t built upon a foundation that I agreed with. I really wish we had just gotten the basic second chance romance between old friends with Will and Robyn, and that Perry and Sidney and the swapping were left out. But I guess that takes away the uniqueness. I would have still eaten it up, though.

All in all, The Boyfriend Swap had enough cute elements and swoons that I am curious about some of Meredith’s other books, and look forward to picking up Blogger Girl sometime soon.

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Christmas Songs Book Tag 2017

December 3, 2017 Book Tag 4

Celebrate the Christmas season with That Artsy Reader Girl and her bookish friends! 

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Two years ago I created the Christmas Songs Book Tag, and I’ve had a couple requests to host it again this year, so here it is! The goal is to pick a book you’ve read this year that fits the theme of the Christmas song titles.

If you’d like to join the fun, leave a link to your post in the Linky below and I’ll come visit! Since I’ve already done this I’m going to limit my answers to the books I read this year, but you can feel free to choose whichever books you’d like!

 

1. “All I Want for Christmas Is You”: Favorite bookish couple.
Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell from Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

2. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”: Name a book where a character is away from home (school, vacation, etc.).
Hunted by Meagan Spooner.

3. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”: Name your favorite “little” book (children’s book, short story, novella, etc.).
Little Elliot, Big Fun by Mike Curato

4. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town“: What book(s) do you hope Santa brings you this year?
Flame In the Mist by Renee Ahdieh, Air Awakens by Elise Kova, and The Ends of the World by Maggie Hall.

5. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: Which book turned your nose red (made you cry)?
Unless you count crying from boredom (Wintersong by S. Jae Jones and Beautiful Storm by Barbara Freethy) then I’ve got nothing this year!

6. “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: Your favorite book/kind of book to read during the holidays.
I really love reading Christmas romances during this time of year, as well as wintry fantasy novels. So far my favorite Christmas romance has been Miracle on Fifth Avenue by Sarah Morgan.

7. “We Three Kings”: Your favorite trilogy.
Under the Never Sky trilogyMy favorite trilogy… I’m going to have to go with all-time favorite instead of 2017 favorite because I haven’t read any books that are part of a finished trilogy this year. Veronica Rossi’s is one of my very favorites.

8. “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”: A character you would love to be snowed in with.
Joshua Templeman of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. He’s funny, broody, swoony, and he knows how to take care of you if you’re sick.

9. “Last Christmas”: A book that seriously let you down.
The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye (I’m so sorry!!).

10. “White Christmas”: An upcoming release you’re dreaming about.
The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis-Graves. I cannot WAIT for this one. I’m also REALLY excited for the next book in Kerri Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper series. OH. And King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo! And Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson!! So many great books are coming out soon!

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