Month: December 2018

2018 End of Year Book Survey

Posted December 27, 2018 by Jana in About Me / 8 Comments

I love doing Jamie’s End of Year Book Survey every year! It helps me look back and remember all the wonderful (and terrible) books I’ve read throughout the year!

2018 Reading Stats

Number of books you read: 40
Number of re-reads: 1
Most read genre: Adult contemporary romance (I read 10 of them).

Best In Books

1. Best books you read in 2018:
New Adult Contemporary Romance: I Temporarily Do by Ellie Cahill
Young Adult Contemporary Romance: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett and Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Fantasy: A Tale of Beauty and Beast by Melanie Cellier

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t:
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. I didn’t love it at all, which was really sad for me.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read:
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch really surprised me because it made me fall in love with YA contemporary again after thinking I had grown too old for it.

4. Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did):
Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

5. Best series you started in 2018. Best sequel of 2018. Best series ender of 2018.
Started: Beyond the Four Kingdoms series by Melanie Cellier
Sequel: A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron
Ender: I didn’t finish any series this year.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2018:
Ellie Cahill and Christina Lauren.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone:
I tend to not enjoy women’s fiction at all, but I made an allowance for Tracey Garvis Graves’s The Girl He Used to Know and I loved it!

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year:
The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron. The audio was fantastic!

9. Book you read in 2018 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
I Temporarily Do by Ellie Cahill.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2018:
Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan.

11. Most memorable character of 2018:
Beckett of I Temporarily Do by Ellie Cahill.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2018:
A Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier.

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2018:
This year wasn’t filled with insanely amazing books for me, but I’ll forever be grateful to Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch for making me love YA contemporary again.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2018 to finally read:
The Thief by MEgan Whalen Turner. I’d been wanting to for so long, and I finally did!

15. Favorite quote from a book you read in 2018:
“When I looked up at the stars, I saw us. You were the stars and I was the dark sky behind you”
“Without dark sky you couldn’t see the stars”
“I knew I was useful” he says
“You’re essential”
Jenn Bennett, Starry Eyes

16. Shortest and longest books you read in 2018:
Shortest: A Kiss In the Snow by Susan Mallery, 57 pages.
Longest: The Book of Mormon, 531 pages.

17. Book that shocked you the most:
Everless by Sara Holland made me so unbelievably mad, which really shocked me.

18. OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship!):
YA: Zorie and Lennon from Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
New Adult: Emmy and Beckett from I Temporarily Do by Ellie Cahill
Adult: Josh and Hazel from Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year:
The twin sister bond between princesses Lily and Sophie in A Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier.

20. Favorite book you read in 2018 from an author you’ve read previously:
Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

21. Best book you read in 2018 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else:
Roomies by Christina Lauren

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2018:
Beckett from I Temporarily Do by Ellie Cahill

23. Best 2018 debut you read:
YA: A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan.

24. Most vivid setting you read this year:
The setting for the Princess Tourney in A Dance of Silver and Shadow by Melanie Cellier.

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read:
I Temporarily Do by Ellie Cahillhad me giddy.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2018:
I do my best to avoid crying with books, and I succeeded this year!

27. Hidden gem of the year:
A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan.

28. Book that crushed your soul:
Well, just because I hated it… Everless by Sara Holland

29. Most unique book you read in 2018:
The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron was an awesome steampunk with minimal romantic intrigue, so it was unique for me!

30. Book that made you the maddest (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it):
Everless by Sara Holland almost made me throw the book in rage.

My Blogging/Bookish Life

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2018:
*hides face in shame* I never ventured out of my safe place.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2018:
I really don’t feel strongly about any of my reviews…

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog:
This was the year I took over Top Ten Tuesday when we at The Broke & the Bookish shut down, so I’d say I’m the most proud of what I’ve done with the meme. We’ve had some really fun discussions on all of those posts!

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.):
I went to the Utah Reader’s Luncheon in October, which was a lot of fun.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2018:
I got to read the book I was a “content expert” for, and saw my little tidbits of information make it into the story. That was absolutely surreal for me!

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year:
I’ve been in a major reading slump for a long time, so finding books I love has been very hard. I’ve watched a lot more Netlfix because of it. lol.

7. Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views):
Comments: Top Ten Books My Mom Loves (80)

8. Post you wished got a little more love:
All my reviews, pretty much. lol

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.):
I’m in a rut, guys.

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year:
I completed my Goodreads goal of reading 40 books.
I posted more posts to my blog this year than last year.

Looking Ahead

1. One book you didn’t get to in 2018 but will be your number 1 priority in 2019:
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas.

2. Book you are most anticipating in 2019 (non-debut):
King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

3. 2019 debut you are most anticipating:
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

4. Sequel you are most anticipating in 2019:
I’ve been shying away from series a lot over the last couple of years, so I honestly can’t think of any (although I know there must be some)!

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2019?
Get out of this reading slump and really love everything I read. I need to DNF more!

Did you participate in Jamie’s End of the Year Book Survey this year?
If so, post a link in the comments so I can come visit!
If not, pick a few of her questions and answer in the comments!


Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brought Last Night

Posted December 24, 2018 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 9 Comments

Merry Christmas!! I wish you the very best day with those you love. I hope there’s good food, yummy books, hot chocolate, cookies, fuzzy blankets, snow, music, lights… you get the picture. I wish you all my favorite things about Christmas.

Today’s topic is easy so we can get back to family time ASAP. What books do you hope Santa brought you last night? Or… what books DID he bring you? Or… what books do you plan to spend your gift cards on?? Does anyone else find gift cards stressful? It’s so much easier to be handed a book than it is to be given money to buy one. The pressure is too intense for me! Anyway, let’s fill up our TBRs with everyone else’s wished for books today!

Moonlight Sins by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Moonlight Seduction by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West
The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright by Tessa Dare
Say You’re Sorry by Melinda Leigh
The Out of Office Girl by Nicola Doherty
Mister Romance by Leisa Rayven
Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
Save the Date by Carrie Aarons


How the Dukes Stole Christmas by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, & Joanna Shupe | Book Review

Posted December 24, 2018 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 0 Comments

How the Dukes Stole Christmas by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, & Joanna Shupe | Book ReviewHow the Dukes Stole Christmas by Joanna Shupe, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Tessa Dare
Published by Avon on October 15, 2018
Genres: Historical Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 392
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
Christmas magic is in the air... From the ballrooms of London, to abandoned Scottish castles, to the snowy streets of Gilded Age New York, four bestselling authors whip up some unforgettable romance...with a little help from some enchanted shortbread.

"Meet Me in Mayfair" by Tessa Dare
Louisa Ward needs a Christmas miracle. Unless she catches a wealthy husband at the ball tonight, the horrid, heartless Duke of Thorndale will evict her family from their beloved Mayfair home. But when her friend begs to switch dance cards, Louisa finds herself waltzing with the enemy: the horrid, heartless--and unexpectedly handsome--Thorndale himself. Now the duke's holding her future in his hands...and he's not letting go.

"The Duke of Christmas Present" by Sarah MacLean
Rich and ruthless, Eben, Duke of Allryd, has no time for holidays. Holidays are for whimsy and charm--the only two things his money cannot buy. Lady Jacqueline Mosby is full of both, even now, twelve years after she left to see the world. When Jacqueline returns for a single Christmas, Eben can't resist the woman he never stopped loving...or the future that had once been in reach. It will take a miracle to convince her to stay...but if ever there were a time for miracles, it's Christmas...

"Heiress Alone" by Sophie Jordan
When Annis Bannister's family leaves her behind in the rush to escape an impending snowstorm, she finds herself stranded in the Highlands, left to fend off brigands terrorizing the countryside, robbing homes locked up for winter. Her only hope falls on her neighbor, a surly hermit duke who unravels her with a look, then a kiss ... until she fears the danger to her heart outweighs the danger of brigands and snowstorms.

"Christmas in Central Park" by Joanna Shupe
Women all over America devour Mrs. Walker's weekly column for recipes and advice. No one knows Rose, the column's author, can't even boil water. When the paper's owner, Duke Havemeyer, insists she host a Christmas party, Rose must scramble to find a husband, an empty mansion, and a cook. But Duke is not a man easily fooled and she fears her perfect plan is failing--especially when Duke's attentions make her feel anything but professional. To save her career will she give up her chance at love?

I actually picked this up because I love Tessa Dare so much and make sure I read everything she writes. I’ve also been interested in Sarah MacLean, though, and have enjoyed Sophie Jordan’s YA books so I had a feeling this was going to be good! I really love historical romance, and when Christmas is thrown into the mix it’s even better. This was a wonderful set of novellas that I really loved for the most part!

My thoughts on “Meet Me In Mayfair” by Tessa Dare:
This was a very fun story about a girl trying to save her beloved home from the duke who is planning to take it away from her. I liked the chemistry between Louisa and the Duke of Thorndale. There was also a TOn of Christmas in this. They spend an entire night exploring the town of Mayfair in the snow getting to know one another and falling in love. It’s very sweet and the snow made it so magical. The writing was great, and I loved the banter between the characters that I’ve come to expect from Tessa Dare.

My thoughts on “The Duke of Christmas Present” by Sarah MacLean:
This was my first story written by Sarah McLean! Jacqueline and Eben have quite the history, and she’s back home for Christmas after twelve years of being gone. I really loved the flashback scenes interspersed throughout the present day scenes, and I thought the author did a wonderful job of really developing the story despite its short length. I felt like I got a fully fleshed out novel with the backstory, the baggage that each of the characters carry, and all the feelings and emotions as they figure out their past and their future. Eben is very tender, and Jacqueline is very weary. The story was filled with Christmas spirit, and quite a bit of steam as well! It was very fun to read.

My thoughts on “Heiress Alone” by Sophie Jordan:
This one was a bit rocky for me because I didn’t love the Scottish-style dialogue of some of the characters. I love books that are set in the Highlands, but I honestly could not figure out what was being said at times without actually reading parts out loud. It took some getting used to. And what family accidentally leaves a member behind!? And then there’s this plot line that deals with magical/bewitched shortbread… it was kinda weird. I didn’t really like the love story or the main characters. I liked the service staff, but the main couple was meh. I did love the castle setting and the added mystery with the scary brigands!

My thoughts on “Christmas in Central Park” by Joanna Shupe:
This was my least favorite of the novellas in the book, and I found it hard to get through. I liked the less commonly seen setting (New York City) and the idea of the story, but something was missing for me and I’m not sure what it was. I did have a problem with the dialogue. A character will slip from perfectly proper word choices and not using any contractions to sounding like a character from modern time partway through a paragraph. Characters would go from sounding like an overly proper robot to a silly teen outside the movie theater in the blink of an eye. It just didn’t work for me, and kept undermining my efforts to try and convince myself this was a historical romance. I also didn’t feel that this story particularly complimented the other stories, which felt more traditional and historical than this one. Oh well. You can’t win them all! I did like the Christmas party!

All in all, I really loved Tessa Dare’s novella, am excited to read more from Sarah MacLean, think it’s worth looking into more of Sophie Jordan’s adult books, and might possibly try another Joanna Shupe because she deserves a second chance. I love the Christmassy feels from all of them, some were just better than others.


Tracey Garvis Graves’s Christmas Traditions | Author Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

Posted December 23, 2018 by Jana in Giveaway, Guest Post / 3 Comments

It’s no secret among my friends and family that fall is my all-time favorite season. There’s just so much to love about it: the cooler temperatures, the vivid colors of the falling autumn leaves, pumpkin spice everything, and my favorite cardigan sweaters and boots. But those who know me well also know that winter is my second-favorite season, and there are so many things I enjoy about that time of year, especially the holidays.

I have always loved Christmastime and when I was a child my fervent wish was that every Christmas would be a white one. Living in Iowa, you’d think it was a given that the ground would be covered in snow, but that was not always the case. Now, as an adult, I still wish for a white Christmas and watch the weather forecast closely in the days leading up to Christmas Eve.

In my family, Christmas Eve was always the night we celebrated the most. We hosted a family gathering and then spent Christmas Day in a more leisurely, look-what-Santa-brought-eating-leftovers kind of way. About seven or eight years ago, I took over the hosting of our family on Christmas Eve. My dad and stepmom still host Thanksgiving and Easter at their house, but Christmas Eve is all mine. It felt like a right of passage and it made my favorite holiday even more special to me.

We have traditions that we’ve been following since I started hosting and I have no desire to change them anytime soon. Around Thanksgiving, I start baking the cookies I’ll want on hand for the holiday season. I always make gingersnaps, chocolate crinkles, peanut butter blossoms, sugar cookie cutouts, and some sort of almond bark-covered truffle. I put them in the freezer and on Christmas Eve morning, I pull out the ones I’ve been saving for our holiday celebration and arrange them on my Christmas platters.

Our dinner menu features a surf and turf double entrée. My dad always makes his prime rib and I’m in charge of the seafood. One of the things I love about our menu is that we all cook together at my house. Dad brings the beef and I’m in charge of preparing the king crab legs. I make sure to have appetizers on hand when my siblings and their families arrive so no one goes hungry while we’re putting the main meal together. We often round out the meal with a potato casserole of some kind, a vegetable such as asparagus, and a heaping basket of garlic bread.

I always set the dining room table on the morning of Christmas Eve. I have special green chargers to go under the dinner plates, cloth napkins, reindeer napkin rings, amber water goblets, and candles everywhere. Right before we eat, I often find myself standing in the dining room with the lights down low, basking in the candlelight and enjoying how pretty everything looks.

Once dinner is over, we move to the family room where we let the kids open their gifts one at a time. Once they’re done, we send them to the basement to hang out while the adults take turns opening their gifts. And when the gifts are all opened and the room is a sea of wrapping paper and bows, we make coffee and dig into those cookie platters! It’s a wonderful way to end the evening and I look forward to it every year.

I’m already looking ahead to December, and I might even have a to-do list started. Now bring on the snow. I’m already pining for that white Christmas.

Merry Christmas Giveaway from Tracey Garvis Graves!

Your choice of a copy of On the Island (her debut) or The Girl He Used to Know (her upcoming 2019 release). Such a hard decision because they are both SO GOOD!
This giveaway is open internationally.

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves
Published by Penguin on August 16, 2012
Genres: Adult Fiction — Contemporary, Romance, Survival
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When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family – and a stack of overdue assignments — instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter.

Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
Publishing by St. Martin’s Press on April 2, 2019
Genres: Adult/Womens Fiction – Romance, Contemporary
Add to Goodreads

Annika (rhymes with Monica) Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people’s behavior confusing, she’d rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.

Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game–and his heart–to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.

Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She’s living the life she wanted as a librarian. He’s a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins.

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The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer | Book Review

Posted December 22, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer | Book ReviewThe Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer
Published by Laurel Leaf on October 11, 2005
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought on Amazon Marketplace
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
I’m Kate Bjorkman. I don’t like romance novels. They’re full of three-paragraph kisses describing people’s tongues and spittle. But what do you do if you’ve lived a real romance with a great-looking guy (Richard) and he loves you as much as you love him? I know what I did. I wrote this romance novel about myself, using the Romance Writer’s Phrase Book. I also used stuff my English teacher taught me about writing. He said a story must have conflict. No problem there. My life was one big conflict last Christmas. I didn’t make anything up. This is the honest truth and I want truth even in romance. I’m betting you’ll want the same.

This book review was originally posted here on 12/3/12, but the book is absolutely adorable and so underrated that I had to share my review again! It’s everything I look for in a cozy Christmas read. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Kate Bjorkman, aka Boo, is the author and narrator of this book, and she is hilarious. We’ve got a story within a story, as we read both about Kate’s experiences as well as her writing process. Kate’s a bit of an ugly duckling, with coke bottle glasses and boots with fruit on them and stubbly legs. Plus, she’s 6 feet tall and not the smoothest talker out there. It’s Christmastime, and her brother, sister-in-law, her brother’s best friend, and a girl named Fleur all come home from college to celebrate with the positively perfect Bjorkman family. Of course, she has had a crush on her brother’s best friend, Richard, and spends the bulk of the book hopelessly pining after him. Her inner dialogue and her antics had me giggling with delight. 

2. Every so often, we get to a point in the book where we can read Kate’s revision notes. In these notes, she either talks about how she hates what she just wrote, how she needs to add or take away experiences she talked about, or her frustrations as an author trying to come up with the right words and presentation. I really loved this portion of the book, because we get to learn a lot about Kate here.

3. I loved every character in this book, and that rarely happens. Richard is adorable. Fleur is the kind of person you want to hate because she’s absolutely perfect, but can’t hate because she’s absolutely perfect. You know what I mean? I love her bother and sister-in-law and their cute newlywed spats and romance. Her parents are awesome.

4. This book is so witty! I loved the funny things the characters said to each other, plus reading Kate make fun of romance novels was great. The Romance Writer’s Phrase Book, which she quotes a lot is just amazingly hilarious. I wish this book really existed! Rather than having real chapter headings (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.), Kate wrote things like, “I really love those awesome 3-paragraph kisses in romance novels, and Chapter 4 is where mine happens.” That’s not a direct quote, but you get the idea.

5. I loved the wonderful word choices and love of language that the author exhibited in this book. It’s young adult, of course, but I had to pull out a dictionary to define some of the words! I loved that!

6. This book is dated. 90’s references are everywhere. Embrace them, because they are stupendous.

7. CHRISTMAS! This book is so sparkly and Christmasy, and perfect. Kate’s family has this huge traditional Swedish Christmas with lots of yummy food, decorations, great music playing all the time, a TON of snow, Christmas tree shopping and trimming, etc. I am so in the mood for Christmas right now.

Rather than continuing with my review, I thought I could explain my love of this book best just by giving you a taste of it for yourself. It’s wonderful, a new favorite, and I will be recommending this to everyone. I don’t re-read books, but this one deserves it. Anyway, read the quotes!

Richard Bradshaw filled the doorway.

Okay, a flourish of trumpets here. The hero has arrived. And because he was my hero long before I began writing this novel, ever since I can remember, in fact, my face grew hot.  He was four years older now, of course, and shorter than I remembered, but I wasn’t six feet tall four years ago either.  His eyes – I need the help of The Romance Writers Phrasebook Guide to describe those eyes:

–unfathomable in their murky depths? 
No!
–shades of amber and green?
 Maybe.
–dark gray-green-flecked eyes?
 I don’t know. Maybe.
–hooded like those of a hawk? Absolutely not! The hell with it. They were warm eyes. They were Richard’s eyes. I wouldn’t care if they were cone-shaped.

 

That was me, Kate Bjorkman, a potential Ph. D. candidate, and fairly rational young woman–that’s what my dad always said, even-tempered: “If I could only have one daughter, then Kate was the perfect one to have,” he’d say. And my mother agreed. The only bad thing about me was my eyes: blind as Milton without those glasses. But that morning, January 2, I was deranged. I knew it, I guess, but I couldn’t stop it. Didn’t want to. It wasn’t until I sat in a booth at Bridgeman’s that I realized I was wearing flannel pajamas and had no money.

See? Don’t you want to buy this one now? :)  

 


Christmas Cookies for Harker’s Favorite Book Characters | Blogger Guest Post

Posted December 21, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 0 Comments

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is all the delicious food that seems seasonally appropriate: breakfast on Christmas morning, the side dishes at Christmas lunch/dinner and, of course, the Christmas cookies!

There are also all the great books that end up on my wish list. When thinking about the books I’ve loved in the past year and the ones I want to receive for the holidays, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of cookies I would make for the characters. Below are some of my favorite cookies matched with some of my favorite characters from recent reads.

Molasses Cookies – Victor Vale and Sydney Clarke: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Growing up, my grandmother would make molasses cookies every year. There were a select few cookie cutters that she used and the best part was not only choosing what shape to use, but the colored sugar to use for each (red or green were our go-to choices, but you can customize them to your tastes).

There’s a deep, rich flavor to these cookies, something that I think Victor would appreciate because they’re not sweet like you might consider when you think of typical cookies. Sydney might make them for him and add the sugar in various colors for the hit of sweetness to a) brighten up their lives and b) add a little sweetness because lord knows the Victor/Sydney/Mitch family needs some in Vicious.

Snickerdoodles – Charlie and Nick: Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Snickerdoodles are one of my favorite cookies. While you can make them on your own, once the dough is ready, it can be a nice kind of activity to do with someone you like, whether family or, in Charlie and Nick’s case, someone you love. Rolling the balls of dough, patting them into the cinnamon sugar mix, and eating the freshest, most delicious cookies right out of the oven? It’s a perfect winter-y thing to do that makes your heart and your stomach happy. The Betty Crocker recipe is the classic one my family has used for decades and I would recommend is wholeheartedly.

Black & White Cookies – Rose Marshall: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Rose Marshall is a road ghost who has been hitchhiking and guiding souls since her death 60+ years ago. Her one port of call in this “afterlife” is the Last Chance Diner. I’m not sure that holidays mean a whole lot when you’re dead, but I think Emma, the owner of the diner, might serve these cookies to the supernatural beings that frequent her establishment. There are some rules for ghosts like Rose regarding being able to accept food (it has to be freely given by the living). Emma, though not technically alive, counts as someone that can give Rose her favorite burger & malted or, at special times, something sweet like these black-and-white cookie. That hit of chocolate on one side blends well with the vanilla frosting on the other. Why Christmas? Because frosting cookies feels like that extra something that really brings things over the top as a treat. You could also flavor the vanilla or chocolate side with peppermint extract (rather than the typically called for lemon) as a seasonal flavor if you like.

Santa’s Trash Cookie – Arthur and Ben: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Combining all the best flavors, especially salty/sweet, these Santa’s Trash Cookies from Delish would be perfect for the main characters of What If It’s Us, especially if they’re made huge like Arthur’s favorite double chocolate chip cookie from Levain Bakery. A bit of a wild combination of flavor and textures including chocolate chips, potato chips, and pretzels, but one that embraces its range and delivers a yummy cookie that this romcom couple can eat while in for the afternoon together or for a party with Arthur’s friends from his hometown and Ben’s from NYC.

Stroopwafel – Nina Zenik: Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I tried these cookies for the first time this year and fell in love with the sweetness of the caramel and the chewiness of the dough. These are so delicious and, come on, how could a waffle cookie not be perfect for Nina Zenik, Heartrender and Queen of Waffles? Now I haven’t had one fresh, but I think that making these and having them fresh from the waffle iron would be a soothing treat on a cold winter’s day. If I’ve learned anything from Great British Bake Off, though, it’s that you have to be careful with the caramel that is sandwiched between the waffle cookies. Lol Easy to muck up, but very much worth it, whether you’re a waffle loving Grisha in Six of Crows or someone who needs a perk up like our girl Nina in Crooked Kingdom.

(Note: this recipe uses metric measurements, which should be considered for those readers who are in the US and may be unfamiliar with certain terms)

Visit Harker at The Hermit Librarian!


Bookish Christmas Gift Recommendations from Literary Book Gifts | Small Business Owner Guest Post

Posted December 20, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 0 Comments

Today’s guest post is by Melissa, owner of Literary Book Gifts. She’s here to offer a few bookish gift suggestions! Perhaps you’ll consider spending your Christmas present money here!

With the holidays in full swing it can sometimes be a challenge to set some time aside to rest, relax, and have a cup of warm cocoa by the fire with a good book. You may already have your presents wrapped and arranged nicely in the living room, fun wrapping paper, ribbons, lively hangtags with quotes saying things like ‘Ho Ho Ho’ and ‘Merrrrry Christmas’ and all.

Gift giving is an activity not only for the receiver but for the gift giver. I personally love looking shopping online or through department stores not with myself in mind, but with a certain someone else whom I am trying to find the perfect present for. It’s not everyday that it’s a loved one’s birthday, special event, or holiday where I get to pick out a unique and meaningful present to give just to them.

I started an online store of book related tees and totes to offer a some unique gift options for the reader, writer, or book lover in your life. Without further ado I’d like to talk a little about some of the most popular items in the collection as well as a few of my select favorites.

The great thing of the designs in this collection is that you will not find the same shirt or bag anywhere else. Since the shirts are available in multiple color options, it’s really unlikely that you will run into someone with the same shirt.

The Pride and Prejudice T-Shirt is definitely one of the most popular choices. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s romance tale is still poignantly relevant even today. It showcases the title of the novel, and author Jane Austen in fancy writing. There is an image of a man leaning down and gently kissing a lady’s hand. This shirt is in a women’s cut but is also available in a unisex style as well.

Herman Melville’s classic adventure novel is undeniably stillwidely popular to this day. This Moby Dick T-Shirt is best suited for those who like to spend their summers voyaging on the open seas. Or for those who simply like reading about such adventures from the comfort of their living rooms. In a white print on dark shirt color choices, this shirt makes a great gift for any fan of whales or of the iconic Moby Dick himself.

One of my favorites in the collection is the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Tote Bag. Lewis Carroll’s novel and subsequent sequel of Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There offer us some of the most eccentric and hilarious characters and scenes in literature. Tote bags are great for their ability to carry books, lots of books, around everywhere you go. I like this bag in particular because of how it turned out with the typography framing the image so it looks just like the book cover of a vintage novel.

Melissa Chan loves bookish items and is the designer at Literary Book Gifts. There are a wide range of t-shirts and tote bags to choose from for writers and readers alike. If you are an author who is planning a book launch and is looking for a giveaway prize please get in touch, I’d love to offer any of the shirts as the prize to help generate interest for your novel.

If you find anything you like, whether it is for the holidays or for a special present use the code ThatArtsyReaderGirl20 to receive 20% off any order! This coupon code does not expire.


Jenn Bennett: Christmas Ornament Hoarder | Author Guest Post

Posted December 19, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 0 Comments

I adore Christmas. I love snow and twinkle-y lights, and hearing holiday songs on the radio. I love warm gingerbread cookies, Advent calendars filled with German chocolate, and crying while watching It’s A Wonderful Life. But one of my favorite things about the holidays is putting up my Christmas tree.

Thing is, I have a lot of Christmas ornaments. I’m talking hundreds. Possibly a thousand? Let’s just say too many. Some of them are nostalgic, and a few of them are from my childhood. I’m American, but my father was in the U.S. Army, so I was born in Germany and lived in Europe for several years; I still have an ornament that I begged my mother to buy when we were on vacation in Rotterdam. Many of my ornaments are vintage or they look vintage—like my blown glass movie-theatre popcorn bucket, atomic robots, and sushi plate. There are even a few bizarre ones: shrunken head, oyster-shell mermaid, Crazy Cat Lady. (Keep Christmas weird!)

I never meant to accumulate so many, but one Wizard of Oz flying monkey led to another, and now I’m knee-deep in glitter, baubles, and tin soldiers. I promised my husband I wouldn’t buy another ornament—not a one—so I suppose I’ll need to cherish what I have. I mean, I really don’t need that 1940s one-eyed turkey, or that hand-painted Dracula ornament from Etsy. Right…?

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 16, 2019
Add to Goodreads • Pre-Order from Amazon

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.


Jenn Bennett is an award-winning author of several young adult books, including: ALEX, APPROXIMATELY; STARRY EYES; and SERIOUS MOONLIGHT. She also writes romance and fantasy for adults. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, won the RITA® Award, and been included on Publishers Weekly Best Books annual list. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two dogs. Visit her at www.jennbennett.net.

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Top Ten Books On My Winter 2018/2019 To-Read List

Posted December 17, 2018 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 32 Comments

It’s time for another seasonal TBR TTT! I love these topics, and I know you do too. I’m fully immersed in Christmas novels right now, but I know I’ll be itching for a change of pace by the middle of next week. There’s so much I want to read! I’m excited to see what’s on your list as well. I’m limiting my list to books that are either out already or will be coming out this winter. I’ve got a TON of ARCs that come out in the spring and summer, but that’s no fun to talk about right now when they’re not easily accessible soon!

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
A contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast! So excited!

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
I love books about fae, and I never stop hearing about this one.

The Beholder by Anna Bright
An Odyssey retelling sounds cool, even though I’ve never read The Odyssey. lol. But I love fantasies on the high seas and look at that cover!

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
SO EXCITED to read more from the author of The Hating Game, which I adored!

Once Upon a River by Dianne Setterfield
“Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric”

Come Find Me by Megan Miranda
“…a captivating thriller about two teens who connect when each discovers a mysterious radio frequency, which suggests their family tragedies are mysteriously connected.”

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren
Because why not?? I love this author duo!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
I’ve always wanted to read a book by Kate Morton, and this one sounds great! I’m starting to really love historical mysteries.

The Governess Game by Tessa Dare
I’m excited for her newest book! She’s one of my favorite authors.

An Age of License: A Travelogue by Lucy Kinsley
A graphic novel travelogue!! I just got this from my secret sister and cannot WAIT to read it!

Which books are you excited to read this winter?


A Found Family for Christmas by Katie Ruggle | Author Guest Post

Posted December 16, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 0 Comments

In Rocky Mountain Cowboy Christmas, I combine two of my favorite themes: found families and gift giving. Growing up, Camille’s tiny family never celebrated holidays, and she continued this tradition—or lack of traditions—as a solitary adult. When she’s drawn into Steve’s life, however, she’s dropped right in the middle of celebration central—after all, Steve and his family own a Christmas tree ranch. There’s no avoiding the holiday spirit, and Camille quickly finds that she doesn’t want to.

I love writing about found families, lonely people finding each other, fitting together perfectly without having to change who they are. Borderline hermit Camille only had her grandma, who died years ago. Steve’s affectionate, rambunctious family is overwhelming to her at first, but they also represent everything she didn’t realize she longed for. As they welcome her into the fold and introduce her to their holiday traditions, she finds—to her surprise—that she fits right in like the missing puzzle piece.

Camille’s not the only one benefiting, however. As she grows closer to Steve and his children, all of their lives become richer. They start new traditions that include Camille. Not only do Steve and his children fill the hole in her life, but she fills the empty spot in their hearts, as well.

Gift-giving is one of those traditions that Camille never fully experienced before being included in the Springfield family’s Christmas, and the present exchange was one of my favorite scenes to write. The gifts people give each other are such a wonderful physical expression of their connections. Camille and everyone in her new family paid attention to each other, so they knew exactly what to make or buy. The thought behind each present was a gift in itself, making the receiver feel seen, understood, and loved.

Christmas isn’t the only time of year when people are lonely and family issues cause stress, of course, but the holidays seem to intensify these things. In the same way, finding a new family during this time of year makes everything extra sweet.

New families, new homes, new loves…these are the best Christmas gifts.

Rocky Mountain Cowboy Christmas by Katie Ruggle
Series: Rocky Mountain Cowboys #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on September 25, 2018
Genres: Adult Fiction — Christmas, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Add to Goodreads • Amazon • B&N • Book Depository

In the heart of the Rockies
In the arms of a cowboy
One white Christmas can change everything.

When firefighter and single dad Steve Springfield moved his four kids to a Colorado Christmas tree ranch, he intended for it to be a safe haven. But he never expected danger to follow them to his childhood home…

Or that he would come face-to-face with the one girl he could never forget.

Folk artist Camille Brandt lives a quiet life. As the town’s resident eccentric, she’s used to being lonely–until Steve freaking Springfield changes everything. Brave and kind, he’s always had a piece of her heart, and it doesn’t take long before she’s in danger of falling for him and his rambunctious kids. But as mysterious fires break out across the sleepy Colorado town, Steve and Camille will have to fight if they want their happy family to survive until Christmas…

About Katie Ruggle

A fan of the old adage “write what you know”, Katie Ruggle lived in an off-grid, solar- and wind-powered house in the Rocky Mountains until her family lured her back to Minnesota. When she’s not writing, Katie rides horses, shoots guns (not while riding, although that would be awesome), cross-country skis (badly) and travels to warm places where she can scuba dive. A graduate of the Police Academy, Katie received her ice-rescue certification and can attest that the reservoirs in the Colorado mountains really are that cold. A fan of anything that makes her feel like a bad-ass, she has trained in Krav Maga, boxing and gymnastics.

You can connect with Katie at KatieRuggle.com, www.facebook.com/katierugglebooks, or on Twitter @KatieRuggle.

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