Month: December 2013

Some Kind of Wonderful by Beth Ciotta | Mini Book Review

Posted December 14, 2013 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 7 Comments

Some Kind of Wonderful by Beth Ciotta | Mini Book ReviewSome Kind of Wonderful by Beth Ciotta
Series: Cupcake Lovers #3.5
Published by St Martin's Press on October 22, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 83
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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1.5 Stars

Growing up in Sugar Creek, Maya Templeton and Zachary Cole were best friends. After high school, each went out into the world in search of adventure. Maya moved to Florida to explore her passion for baking and pastry-making, eventually establishing her own business: Cupcakes & Dreamscapes. Zach joined the military and became a Marine Scout Sniper. Now, after years apart, they’re both going home for the holidays. They don’t seem to have much in common anymore. In fact, Zach seems to have the hots for Maya’s business partner. But when the two get stranded together during a blizzard, they are forced to reexamine their connection. Are Maya and Zach better off “just friends”—just as they were when they were young? Or could it be that true love was there all along?

I had high hopes for Some Kind of Wonderful. I always love stories where two childhood best friends come together and discover there’s a lot more than friendship hiding there. I just wish I had been given the opportunity to get to know these two characters better. Both of them fell flat for me. I never learned much about Zach’s time in the military and I did not hear much about Maya’s pastry shop. I felt like a lot of time was spent on the confusion they felt regarding their feelings for each other. Now, I realized partway through that this is book 3.5 in a series. It could be I would have known the characters better, at least Maya anyway.

The pacing was very fast. Conflicts got resolved too quickly, the romance happened too quickly, and things just seemed very unrealistic. I’ve come to expect this from novellas, but I guess I was hoping this one would be different. I do love when characters are forced together by some exterior force. In this case, a ghost blizzard snuck up on them and left them stranded in a secluded cabin. This gave them the opportunity to talk. Their conversations were not incredibly noteworthy, though. And I really did not like ghost aspect. It kind of cheapened and cheese-ified the story for me. Honestly, I would probably pass on this one if I could do things over. I’ve read better Christmas romances.

1.5 Stars

Christmas in The Netherlands | Guest Post by Daisy

Posted December 13, 2013 by Jana in Guest Post / 3 Comments

Hi all! Thanks so much to Jana for asking me to be part of her Christmas event! :) I love the season!

Let me introduce myself: I’m Daisy from Between the Pages and The Broke and the Bookish, and I call Nijmegen, a city in the Netherlands my home. Which is useful information considering Jana asked me to talk about how we celebrate Christmas here ;)

We actually have two gift giving events in December here. One is Christmas and another is Sinterklaas (which another Dutch Blogger, Debby @ Snuggly Oranges, explains in this post), Sinterklaas is celebrated on December 5th every year and there are actually a lot of Dutch people who don’t exchange gifts for Christmas. But because my brother was REALLY afraid of Zwarte Piet (Sinterklaas’ helper), we’ve always celebrated Christmas and got gifts from Santa, which always sorta made us the odd one out, but I totally love it!

I actually only found out last year that you guys in the US only have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, here in The Netherlands we have the first day of Christmas and second day of Christmas and both are national holidays. Which comes in handy if more than one set of parents is expecting you for a Christmas dinner ;) I’d always thought it was the same worldwide!

chrismastreeI love Christmas. It’s my absolute favourite holiday and I was really annoyed when I had to work the night shift on Christmas Eve last year. I just love the feeling of sitting around with the family, exchanging gifts, having a pretty Christmas tree in the house with all the little lights and eating lots of yummy food. Cause let’s be honest, there’s always a lot of food going around. So by the end of the second day of Christmas, I’ve usually gone into a serious food coma. One thing that also happens here is that on the second day of Christmas, people go to clubs or bars after dinner to party. I’ve never really been a fan, cause after all the food and lazing around I don’t really want to stand around and put ut with drunk people, but a lot of people like it.

I’m one of those people who want everything to be special for Christmas. I can spend ages planning my outfits (I LOVE putting on a pretty dress for Christmas!) and what to eat if we’re making something (though ‘gourmetten’ is really popular in Holland as well, which is basically sitting around the table with a grill in the middle and everyone can put whatever tiny piece of meat they want to eat on it) and definitely what books to bring with me to read in between all the food and gifts and games and such! Some perfect Christmas reads for me were Anna and the French Kiss and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I will forever link both books to Christmas and love them even more for it!

I guess that when it comes down to it, Christmas for me in the Netherlands isn’t all that different from the rest of the world: it’s filled with family time, lots of food, good books and just the Christmas spirit of being nice to each other. I love how everyone is cheerful and dressed nicely and just relaxing!

I’m getting all warm and fuzzy feelings just writing about this! I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas in advance! And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to light all the candles in my home and feel cozy and Christmas-y :)

 

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Merry Christmas Books to All! | A Christmas Book Guide for All Ages

Posted December 11, 2013 by Jana in Book Spotlight, Bookish Little Christmas / 5 Comments

I think it has become rather apparent that I LOVE Christmas books! In my opinion, nobody should go through the Christmas season without reading a Christmas book. It just should not ever happen! So, I have put together a list of some book recommendations for people of all ages. There’s something here for everyone!

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kidsbooks

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Christmas from Heaven: The True Story of the Berlin Candy Bomber by Tom Brokaw
Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell
The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat by Brigid Clark and Chris Noel

middles

midgrades
Kat McGee and the School of Christmas Spirit
by Rebecca Munsterer
Christmas in Camelot (Magic Tree House No. 29) by Mary Pope Osborne
The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittney Ryan
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

yas

yabooks
Let It Snow
by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Decked with Holly by Marni Bates
The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer

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nabooks
Snowed Over
by Angie Stanton
Cross Country Christmas by Tiffany King
Christmas Catch by Chelsea M. Cameron

adults

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Starry Night
by Debbie Macomber
Marian’s Christmas Wish by Carla Kelly
Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan

So, there you have it! I have reviews up on the blog for most of these books, so if you want more information feel free to browse my review indexes. Do you have any other recommendations? Good Christmas books can be hard to come by, but I can never read too many!


Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR

Posted December 9, 2013 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 46 Comments

 

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at the other blog I write for, The Broke and the Bookish.

I am SO excited about this week’s topic! There are so many amazing books coming out this winter, and I’m pretty sure I will not be able to read them all in time! If only I could skip school and just read forever. That would be the life. I’m guest posting over at The Bookish Owl on Friday, and I’ll be talking all about my December TBR there, so I’m going to limit my choices here to books I’m hoping to read during winter 2014! There are so many choices, that limiting this list to just a measly ten is going to be a major feat.

Books1Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

books22
Sleep No More
by Aprilynne Pike
Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Books3
Panic
by Lauren Oliver
Something Real by Heather Demetrios

Books4
Unforgotten
by Jessica Brody
Infinite by Jodi Meadows

Books5
NIL
by Lynne Matson
Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

So, what books are you looking forward to this winter? Have you read any of these? Do you know of any others I should add to my TBR?

(Oh, and I know some of these come out in the spring/summer. I have ARCs of them all (except Infinite, which comes out next month), so I went by what I have rather than release dates.)


A Little Christmas Love Story Love | Guest Post by Kaley

Posted December 9, 2013 by Jana in Guest Post / 3 Comments

Today, I have a treat for you! I’m so excited to have Kaley from Books etc. on the blog today to talk about Christmas love stories of all kinds! I LOVE Christmas romance novels and movies, so this post is right up my alley. She makes some great recommendations for titles I’ve already gone out and purchased.

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KaleyTreeI adore Christmas. To me it means family, friends, snow (I’m Canadian so Christmas isn’t Christmas without the white stuff), decorations, lots of food and gift giving, and tons of holiday themed television, movies, and books.

I like all sorts of Christmas movies and TV shows. There are the classics I like to watch every year – Ruldolph, Frosty, Miracle on 34th Street (I own the new one but the original is delightful). I also love The Santa Clause (the first is the best but as of last year I now own the trilogy) and The Polar Express. I love Elf and thought Bad Santa was amusing. What I really love, though, are the romancey Christmas movies. I’m a sucker for them. Not surprisingly, Love Actually is my favourite with The Holiday running a close second. Then there are the really cheesy made for TV movies. I love love love these. Think movies like All She Wants for Christmas, Mrs. Miracle (which is based on a romance novel), Santa Baby (let’s not talk about the weirdness of Santa Baby 2), Eve’s Christmas, Borrowed Hearts, His and Her Christmas…I could go on and on! These movies are perfect for nights when you want to curl up with a blanket, a big mug of hot chocolate, and Christmas goodies. Bonus points if you have a fireplace, too!

Every year I try to read as many Christmas books as I can. Back when I was in university, I loved Christmas because it meant a total break from school before the second semester started in January. I used this time for pleasure reading to devour all the Christmas books my mom had picked up from the library. Since I’m the faster reader, I would fly through the anthologies and tell her which order she should actually read the stories in. These days I’m finding it harder to read a ton of Christmas books since I’m a blogger and have so many other books I need to read and review. When I can fit in a holiday book, I always go for the romances. Romances that take place in a small town are even better! I also always hope that the story will actually take place over Christmas…I’m always disappointed when I get a book I’m expecting to be all Christmas all the time and then the holiday is hardly mentioned.  I like that a lot of authors will write anthologies because they’re quick bursts of all sorts of different characters and lifestyles. One of my favourite anthologies is A Season to Remember by Sheila O’Flannagan because all the characters are staying at the same inn in Ireland over Christmas and their stories are interconnected. A favourite from last year has gotten a makeover with a new publisher this year (and a gorgeous new cover). One Sweet Christmas by Darlene Fredette was just that – sweet! Author Talli Roland has some fabulous Christmas novellas (Mistletoe in Manhattan is so fun) and Sarah Pekkanen also wrote a novella, All is Bright, that is a great atypical romantic read. I haven’t yet read any Christmas books this year but I’m hoping to change that soon!

KaleyCookiesSo what makes me love the romance aspect of all these movies and books? I think it’s because I have such a romantic notion of Christmas itself. I don’t have a huge family so I don’t have the crazy logistics to worry about…all I have to do is get myself from my home to my mom’s. Bonus: the boyfriend and I are from the same town so we don’t even have that “whose family will we see when?” stress. I love all the family time I get with my bitty family. I love that my hometown is in northernish Ontario and we almost always get a white Christmas. I love that my sister will make gingerbread cookies with me even though she doesn’t like them because we have so much fun decorating them. I love our unique Christmas tree topper (it’s a penguin!) and all the baking my grandma used to do (health issues for the two of us has meant a smaller amount of goodies in the past couple of years, sadly). I like traditions when it comes to Christmas and I find that the romances play into that, even if they’re not actually traditional. There’s just something about these stories and movies that leave me feeling warm and fuzzy, which is exactly how Christmas makes me feel.

Now that I’ve shared my holiday reading and watching habits, what about you? What are your favourite Christmas movies? Do you devour Christmas stories, too?

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season filled with all of your favourite things! Merry Christmas :)

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Find Kaley on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads! She’s really fun, so you definitely should.


Mistletoe in Manhattan by Talli Roland | Mini Book Review

Posted December 8, 2013 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

Mistletoe in Manhattan by Talli Roland | Mini Book ReviewMistletoe in Manhattan by Talli Roland
Published by Notting Hill Press on November 3, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas
Pages: 60
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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3 Stars

As Little Missington's first Christmas baby in fifty years and the daughter of 'Christmas When You Like It' party-planners, Holly West has been surrounded by the holiday spirit since birth. Trouble is, she's not exactly filled with festive cheer. In fact, Holly can't wait to ditch the tinsel and Santa suits for champagne and celebs, and become a party-planner to the stars.

When British film star Dean Layton hires her parents' company to throw his holiday bash in Manhattan, Holly jumps at the chance to help, confident she can handle a little Christmas in exchange for access to Dean's exclusive world.

But New York and Dean's over-the-top demands are more than Holly bargained for. Can Holly deck the halls and make it a party to be proud of, or will this Christmas be one she'll never forget . . . even if she wants to?

Holly works for her parents’ year-round Christmas event service. Naturally, she is pretty tired of the holiday. I would be too if I were immersed in it all year long! When she receives a call from the office of a British celebrity who has moved to New York City, she knows this is her big break. She wants to get out of the small family company and make it big on her own. She jumps at the chance to go to New York and plan a huge British Christmas party.

When she gets to New York, she begins to realize what celebrities are really like. She is being demanded to deliver extravagant things at the very last minute. She has to work with a very snooty assistant. She begins to lose sight of her family and what is really important. Enter, Alex. He is the bartender at the hotel and helps her plan the party in a strange city, and pretty much saves her butt. He also provides her with experiences that make her realize her current life is pretty good on its own.

Mistletoe in Manhattan is a very quick, sweet Christmas read. I felt like there were SO many details, that the book would have been stronger if it were longer. The romance was a very tiny part of the story, which was disappointing. I did like the underlying message and the dose of Christmas in New York City, though. Definitely read this one if you need a quick pick-me-up, and wish you were celebrating Christmas in NYC like I do!

3 Stars

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally | Book Review + Giveaway

Posted December 5, 2013 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult Fiction / 7 Comments

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally | Book Review + GiveawayRacing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks #4
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on December 3, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

They’re from two different worlds.

He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boys. Especially boys like Jack Goodwin—cocky, popular and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries.

With her dream of becoming a horse jockey, Savannah isn’t exactly one to follow the rules either. She’s not going to let someone tell her a girl isn’t tough enough to race. Sure, it’s dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack…

This is the second book I’ve read in the Hundred Oaks series. I read Stealing Parker last year, and did not fall in love with it like I had hoped. I was really drawn to Racing Savannah, because of the horses. I’ve never been a horse person, but I loved the idea of a racetrack romance. After all, I’ve always had a thing for cowboys! I ended up liking Racing Savannah much more than Stealing Parker, and am glad I gave this series another shot! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I really loved the setting of Racing Savannah. I loved the stables, the racetrack, the horses. The author did a great job painting a picture of the farm and the horse racing. I actually really liked the horse races. They were exciting! When I was little I always wanted to ride horses, so this aspect of the story made me really happy. The horse that Savannah spent most of her time with, Star, had a sweet personality and I loved the time she spent with him.

2. The characters were fun, but I particularly liked one of the secondary characters, Rory. He also works on the farm, and is Savannah’s wacky friend. He writes questionable screenplays, and has the hots for Vanessa. I love these two. Vanessa is sweet and such a good friend to Savannah. I actually liked their romance more than Savannah and Jack’s, just because there was much less drama. I liked Savannah ok, but she was nothing special. I liked that, despite her family’s lack of money, her time on the farm inspired her to make more out of her life. I liked watching her fight for her future. I did get annoyed at her judgmental attitude. I liked Jack, but did not really like him in the role of owner of the farm. He’s just a little too young to be running things, and making such big decisions. And really, could Jack have been more perfect? I was constantly questioning him, because I could not find one thing wrong with him (except that he was a bit too scared of his parents). I liked both his and Savannah’s families, but I think Savannah’s dad was my favorite. I liked how much he cared about her, and what a sweet father-daughter relationship they have.

3. I’ve never been a fan of the clash between classes kind of storyline. I felt like there was too much emphasis placed on rich people vs. poor people. Savannah’s dad was worried he would lose his job if Savannah dated Jack. Cindy, Savannah’s dad’s pregnant girlfriend, was scared to ask for time off because she would be fired for being sick. Jack was worried his parents would be mad if he dated Savannah. She was referred to as not being girlfriend material. Savannah had a really bad attitude towards rich people, figuring that they were all heartless people who only cared about getting more money. It just frustrated me. Is this still a valid concern in this day and age? I know this was a problem in the olden days, but I thought it had mostly died out. I don’t understand why money makes a difference.

All in all, I enjoyed Racing Savannah and am happy I read it! The horses made the story unique and enjoyable, and the romances were sweet. Even though I liked Vanessa and Rory’s story a bit more, I did like reading about Savannah’s life-changing decisions and her romance with Jack. There were some pretty sexy scenes, so I would not really recommend this for younger young adults, but it’s a fun new contemporary romance that I’m sure many readers will love. I have not read all of the Hundred Oaks series, but I could tell from some of the names dropped that characters in the previous books check in and let you know what’s going on with them now. I always love it when authors do this, so I’m sure fans of the series will be happy to see them.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to see the boots? Here’s the link! I think they are adorable.

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Thanks for visiting my stop along the Racing Savannah tour, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!
If you are interested in following the tour, you can find the schedule here.

3 Stars

The October Christmas: Christmas in the Philippines | Guest Post by Kayla

Posted December 4, 2013 by Jana in Guest Post / 2 Comments

It’s my pleasure to welcome Kayla of The Bookish Owl to the blog today to celebrate Christmas with us, Filipino style! Kayla is here to tell us all about what Christmas is like at her home in the Philippines. I absolutely love learning about Christmas traditions, especially ones from cultures and countries I am not familiar with!

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KaylaFamily
A typical Filipino Christmas starts around October and ends on February of the next year. Why? Well, we don’t really celebrate Halloween. The spookiest holiday is a Western tradition and while there may be a few parties, it’s not that big of a deal in my country. By October, all the Christmas decorations are up and my wish list has been sent out to my relatives.

PutoBungbong
Puto Bungbong

The best thing about Christmas in the Philippines is the food. Noche Buena (Noh-cheh-Bo-we-na) is the traditional Christmas Eve dinner, a very large event within my family. There’s ham, a staple in our Christmas diet, and round fruits like oranges and grapes as it is believed that they bring good luck to you during the coming year. It’s a family feast filled with relatives asking if you have a boyfriend and awkward conversations with that cousin you haven’t seen in months. There’s also Puto Bungbong (Poo-toh-boong-boong), a Filipino street food of steamed purple rice topped with coconut, margarine and brown sugar.

However, before the Noche Buena, we dress up in our best clothes and hear Mass. I live in a small town where my parents practically know everyone and we always have to spend at least half an hour after the Mass ends just to be able to greet all the people they know. My brothers and I are forced to mano po (Ma-noh-poh) to each and everyone of them. Most of the time, I don’t mind but it grates on your nerves when they start asking you about boyfriends. Oh, the awkwardness of family. By the way, mano po is a traditional gesture made by youngsters to the elders wherein we put the backs of their right hands to our foreheads as a sign of us receiving blessing from them. It’s a sign of respect and even though it gets tiring after a while, it feels nice to uphold Filipino beliefs and customs.

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Baby Claus

Christmas in the Philippines revolves around three things; Family, Food and Faith. These 3 F’s make up our identities as Filipinos and this won’t change even with the storm surge that occurred last November. A lot of you know about Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda that recently hit the Visayas region of our country. I’m sure you have seen the devastation it wrought; people are homeless, without food to eat and the dead are piled up because the cemeteries are destroyed. Families can’t find missing loved ones as some bodies were swept out to the sea or are covered by debris. The typhoon has killed an estimated 2500 people and the earthquake that came before that killed around 200. Philippines experience about 20 typhoons in a year that do a lot of damage to our country but even with all the calamities, the tragedies and the disasters that afflict us, I know that Filipinos will continue to smile and to rebuild their lives.

For us, that is the true essence of Christmas;
finding that one speck of happiness in a dismal world.

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Thank you so much for sharing your Christmas with us, Kayla! And thank you for such a sweet, heartfelt post. I think you’ve taught us a wonderful lesson: the meaning of Christmas is finding happiness in a world where things might not be going the way we hoped, or they way we needed them to go. I know I appreciate the reminder, myself.

If you would like to get to know Kayla more, visit her blog, her YouTube channel, or find her on Twitter!

So, what’s Christmas like at your home?


Deck the Blog for A Bookish Little Christmas with That Artsy Reader Girl!

Posted December 2, 2013 by Jana in Blog Event, Bookish Little Christmas / 3 Comments

BookishLittleChristmas

December is here, and That Artsy Reader Girl has donned her Santa hat for a month of celebration! This BLC Logo uses designs by Icons by http://dryicons.com.

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Bookish Little Christmas with That Artsy Reader Girl! By now, I’m sure many of you know how much I love Christmas. I love decorating, I love baking, I love the buzz at the stores, the carols, and the lights. I love this season of giving and love. I love the cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies, and the Christmas romance novels. Give it all to me!

Throughout the entire month of December, I will be sharing Christmas book reviews, giveaways, features, and guest posts from my very wonderful friends! Grab yourself some hot cocoa, and get ready for a fun and festive month here on the blog!

Would you like to participate? I’ve always got room for more friends! Just let me know, and I will fit you into the schedule. :) And be sure to send me links of any Christmas posts you come across (or write yourself). I’d be happy to help spread the word, or just come and bring some Christmas cheer. And I hope YOU will stop by lots this month, mainly because I love your face, but also because it’s going to be so much fun and I’d hate for you to miss out!

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