Category: Book Spotlight

Ten Books I Loved Before I Became a Book Blogger

Posted June 22, 2018 by Jana in About Me, Book Spotlight / 9 Comments

 

A long time ago… in this galaxy… way back in the dino days, before Moby Dick was a minnow (can you tell I’m feeling old today? It’s my birthday!)… I wasn’t a book blogger. I know. It’s kind of hard for me to believe it, too, because I have been eating, breathing, and sleeping books since June of 2010 (I started The Broke and the Bookish with Jamie). About a year and a half later, That Artsy Reader Girl was born, and I’ve made a pretty cozy place for myself here in my corner of the Internet. Blogging has been a huge blessing for me, and has given me the opportunity to read so many amazing books, but some long-time favorites rekindled my love of reading way before I started writing. Since I never wrote full reviews for any of these books, I thought it’d be fun to share some of them with you today!

1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Twilight is the book that made me discover there was a young adult section in the bookstore. I had NO idea! I’m not even kidding. I grew up reading romance novels, and never knew there was a genre devoted to me. But oh, I loved Edward. :) Oh, and random fact… this is actually the first book I added to Goodreads when I joined. Crazy!

2. Pretend You Don’t See Her by Mary Higgins-Clark
This was first mystery novel! My mom has always really loved Mary Higgins-Clark, and started me on her books when I was a teenager. I became an instant fan, and will read anything she writes. I still can’t believe she’s still pumping books out at her age. It’s super impressive.

3. Catherine and the Pirate by Karen Hawkins
Did anyone else read the Avon True Romance series? There were, I think, 12 books aimed towards young adults in this series, all written by well-known authors like Meg Cabot, Beverly Jenkins, etc. This one was my first and favorite, though. I found it in my high school’s library when we had to write a book report (I can’t believe I chose this book for a book report. lol)  and thus began my love of pirate romances. I swear, I live for a really good historical romance featuring pirates and pirate ships.

4. The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks
I really loved this story, even though it made me cry because Nicholas Sparks likes to kill people. I’ll never read another book of his again for that reason, but I did really connect with this story. Even though I can cry about it right now if I think about it enough.

5. With Every Breath by Lynn Kurland
This was my very first time travel book! I LOVE Lynn’s romances. They are soooooo sweet, and so amazing. I just love Scotland, too, and most of her books take place there.

6. The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum 
This is a very fun trilogy that I found after reading Twilight and wanting something similar. The Hourglass Door features time travel and Da Vinci and a cute Italian boy. I loved it more than Twilight.

7. Kiss and Tell by Suzanne Brockman 
This book starts when a woman gets kissed by a mysterious man in a Zorro mask on New Year’s Eve. Who is he!?!?! Oh, I loved this book. The other two books in this trilogy and wonderful, too.

8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I was pretty scared of this book. It took me forever to be ok with it, and my mom thought I was insane for wanting it. I loved it. Seriously, this solidified my love of YA novels. And I kind of love that I read it before it was cool and before the movies and the hype. The second book, Catching Fire, wasn’t even out yet!

9. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
I found Shiver in the hopes of finding something like Twilight. I was skeptical, though, because I was team Edward and not Jacob, so why on Earth would I like a book about werewolves? I loved Maggie’s writing, though, and the story was so perfect.

10. Austenland by Shannon Hale
Yes, I reviewed this here (my first review ever, actually!), but I actually had to re-read the book in order to remember it enough to write a review. So it counts. It’s still one of my favorite books, even though the movie leaves much to be desired.

Which books did you read and love before you became a book blogger? 


My YA Prom | #YAPromtoRemember Mood Board

Posted June 7, 2018 by Jana in Book Spotlight, Mood Board / 1 Comment

In celebration of Sandy Hall’s A Prom to Remember (4/24/18), my friends at Macmillan Children’s Publishing are throwing a YA Prom and everyone is invited to attend! I was super excited to participate when one of the publicists from Mac Kids Books reached out and invited me to share a mood board of what my YA prom would look like. Check it out and then read more about the book below!


My high school Prom kind of sucked. lol. I’d much rather go to the Prom I’ve dreamed up! This plum purple dress I’ve found reminds me a lot of a pastel lavender dress that Kate Middleton wore to the BAFTA Brits To Watch Event in 2011. I think it’s so elegant, and I love the color. It looks way more comfortable than the satin, multi-layer gown with a petticoat that I wore to my Prom. I’d keep things simple and classy with a silver cubic zirconia tennis necklace with matching bracelet and earrings.

My date is James, a.k.a. Red, from Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker. What a likeable, happy, artistic, charismatic, and hilarious guy. I love his philosophy, which is basically this: you can be sad and you can mourn what you’ve lost, but the memories you created before that loss are yours forever. Never discount the happy times in life, just because they ended unhappily. Anyway, I’ve been binging NBC’s Timeless and LOVE it. Matt Lanter reminds me so much of what I picture James, so I went and found a pic of teenaged Matt. He was swoony then, too! I would have had a major crush on this face in high school.

The corsage is simple and elegant, with rose gold colored roses. James would pick me up for the dance in his shiny royal blue C5 Corvette (the car everyone dreamed of my senior year of high school, 2005), and he’d whisk me off to this super elegant ballroom to dance the night away. You can’t see it, but there’s a garden courtyard outside where he’d kiss me under the stars.


A Prom to Remember by Sandy Hall
Published by Swoon Reads on April 24, 2018
Genres: Contemporary. Young Adult
Amazon • Add to Goodreads

Seven seniors, seven problems, one senior prom.

Cora: Head of the Prom Committee (and basically every other club in school). Has been dating Perfect Boyfriend Jamie™ for approximately forever, and has NO IDEA how to break up with him….

Paisley: Sarcastic feminist who wants nothing to do with prom. Has somehow managed to nominate her anxiety-ridden best friend for prom king…

Henry: Quiet ballplayer who hates social situations. Invited to prom by the most popular girl in school. SEND HELP!

Otis: Charming, popular, and one half of one of the cutest couples in his class. Doesn’t know how to tell his boyfriend that he’s not quite ready for a post-prom hotel room experience…

Lizzie: A little bit shy, and a lot excited to finally get out of her comfort zone and go to prom. With a boy. Whose name she doesn’t know.

Cameron: Loner with two jobs and zero friends. Is so done with high school and this whole town: the only thing he still wants to do is meet the mysterious girl who’s been leaving him notes…

Jacinta: Unnamed Nerd Girl #3. Determined to become the star of her own life, starting with prom. Now if only she could find a date….

A Prom to Remember, the newest book from Sandy Hall (author of A Little Something Different) is a funny and cinematic look at the biggest dance of every high schooler’s life.

Who would be your date to YA prom?


First Look: Beneath by Maureen A. Miller

Posted March 8, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Spotlight / 1 Comment

First Look: Beneath by Maureen A. Miller

Today we’re getting a first look at Maureen Miller’s upcoming YA book, Beneath. I’m super excited about this book because yay survival stories! Read a little bit about it, check out the excerpt, and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

Beneath by Maureen A. Miller
Self published on March 26, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Survival, Young Adult
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An overnight fishing trip on the Atlantic Ocean…

It was Stella Gullaksen’s final break before starting her freshman year at college. Joining her best friend, Jill, and Jill’s family aboard the STARKISSED, Stella wakes to a violent storm that capsizes the boat over a hundred miles off the New Jersey shore.

As the waves haul her under Stella knows that she is going to die. Instead, an unusual current drags her deep into the underwater canyons of the Atlantic Ocean. Powerless against the raging waters, she is suddenly sucked into a ventilated cave. One by one, Jill and her family also emerge in the sunken cavern.

With only a faulty diving flashlight to keep oblivion at bay Stella and her best friend’s brother, Colin, search the cave in hope of finding a way back to the surface. What they discover, however, is that they are not alone. There are other survivors in this subterranean grotto–survivors spanning decades of maritime disasters.

Will this discovery prove salvation, or have they all been condemned to the same fate? A grim finale at the bottom of the sea?

On an alliance forged by friendship and attraction, Stella and Colin battle to escape the danger that lies beneath.


Excerpt of Beneath by Maureen A. Miller

Colin moved, shaking Stella from her daydream.

“Come on. Stay close,” he instructed.

Close. There was no problem with that command. There was no way she was being left behind in this subterranean abyss.

As they started forward, her toe clipped Colin’s heel causing her to stumble and plant a palm on his back for support.

“A little too close,” Colin muttered over his shoulder.

Stella’s hand snapped back. It wasn’t the first time she had inadvertently touched her best friend’s older brother.

In high school, she had taken many fishing trips with the Wexlers. It was common for them to spend the night out at sea so that Jill’s dad could reach the best fishing spot. The cabin was tight on the STARKISSED, and normally Colin would sleep on the bench seat beside the kitchen table while the three females monopolized the v-shaped bed.

On one occasion she, Jill, and Anne Wexler retired into the cabin for the night, while Colin and his father remained up on deck. Stella and Jill took the bunk on one side of the V, and Anne slept on the other. At some point the boat pitched slightly on a wave and Stella rolled off her tight perch into the gap between the mattresses. Expecting to hit the floor she instead landed on something pliant. Something strong. Something that smelled like the sea and Irish Spring.

Stella was a junior at the time. She had already been kissed and maybe pawed a little, but she still had very little knowledge of what a man felt like. Now she was pinned to a wide chest with her legs twined between his. Planting her palms on the carpet, she clambered for balance. Heat rushed to her cheeks and it seemed every move she made to dislodge herself only made matters worse.

Colin didn’t say a word. Powerful arms hefted her back onto the mattress and just like that, his silhouette climbed through the hatch and back onto the deck.

Ever since that incident she had a tough time looking him in the eye. It wasn’t just because of the awkwardness of the situation. The truth she concealed was that she had a big-time crush on her best friend’s brother.


About Maureen A. Miller

USA TODAY bestselling author, Maureen A. Miller worked in the software industry for fifteen years. She crawled around plant floors in a hard hat and safety glasses hooking up computers to behemoth manufacturing machines. The job required extensive travel. The best form of escapism during those lengthy airport layovers became writing.

Maureen’s first novel, WIDOW’S TALE, earned her a Golden Heart nomination in Romantic Suspense. After that she became hooked to the genre. In fact, she was so hooked she is the founder of the JUST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE website.

Recently, Maureen branched out into the Young Adult Science Fiction market with the popular BEYOND Series. To her it was still Romantic Suspense…just on another planet!

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Eagerly Anticipated 2018 Young Adult Debut Books (So Far!)

Posted December 28, 2017 by Jana in Book Spotlight, Debut Author Challenge / 2 Comments

I did a Top Ten Tuesday post earlier this week all about the 2018 books I’m most excited to read, but excluded debuts because I wanted to devote an entire post to those! And in honor of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge that starts on Monday (shameless plug), I thought I’d get you excited for all the debuts so you’ll sign up for the challenge to win prizes and show these new authors all the love! I’m going to share the books I’m excited about in order of their upcoming publication date. Obviously I’ll be adding more to my TBR as the year progresses. Some of the 2018 debuts haven’t even been announced yet, and some don’t yet have release dates!

January

Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely
January 2, 2018

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Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great….

In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer
January 9, 2018
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Sixteen-year-old Talia was born to a life of certainty and luxury, destined to become Empress of half the world. But when an ambitious rival seizes power, she and her mother are banished to a nowhere province on the far edge of the Northern Sea.

It is here, in the drafty halls of the Ruen-Dahr, that Talia discovers family secrets, a melancholy boy with a troubling vision of her future, and a relic that holds the power of an ancient Star. On these shores, the eerie melody of the sea is stronger than ever, revealing long-forgotten tales of the Goddess Rahn. The more dark truths that Talia unravels about the gods’ history—and her own—the more the waves call to her, and it may be her destiny to answer.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
January 20, 2018
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Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

February

American Panda by Glorio Chao
February 6, 2018
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An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her clas

smate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

The Queen’s Rising (Untitled Trilogy #1)
by Rebecca Ross
February 6, 2018
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When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell
February 6, 2018
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Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

Ink, Iron, and Glass (Ink, Iron, and Glass #1) by Gwendolyn Clare
February 20, 2018
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Can she write a world gone wrong?

A certain pen, a certain book, and a certain person can craft entirely new worlds through a branch of science called scriptology. Elsa comes from one such world that was written into creation by her mother—a noted scriptologist.

But when her home is attacked and her mother abducted, Elsa must cross into the real world and use her own scriptology gifts to find her. In an alternative 19th-century Italy, Elsa finds a secret society of pazzerellones—young people with a gift for mechanics, alchemy or scriptology—and meets Leo, a gorgeous mechanist with a smart mouth and a tragic past. She recruits the help of these fellow geniuses just as an assassin arrives on their doorstep.

In this thrilling debut, worlds collide as Elsa unveils a deep political conspiracy seeking to unlock the most dangerous weapon ever created—and only she can stop it.

March

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
March 6, 2018
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Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

He will not consume
my every thought.
I am a painter.
I will paint.

Joy McCullough’s bold novel in verse is a portrait of an artist as a young woman, filled with the soaring highs of creative inspiration and the devastating setbacks of a system built to break her. McCullough weaves Artemisia’s heartbreaking story with the stories of the ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, who become not only the subjects of two of Artemisia’s most famous paintings but sources of strength as she battles to paint a woman’s timeless truth in the face of unspeakable and all-too-familiar violence.

I will show you
what a woman can do.

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
March 6, 2018
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Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

April

The Diminished (Untitled Duology #1) by Kaitlyn Sage Patterson
April 10, 2018
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In the Alskad Empire, nearly all are born with a twin, two halves to form one whole…yet some face the world alone.

The singleborn

A rare few are singleborn in each generation, and therefore given the right to rule by the gods and goddesses. Bo Trousillion is one of these few, born into the royal line and destined to rule. Though he has been chosen to succeed his great-aunt, Queen Runa, as the leader of the Alskad Empire, Bo has never felt equal to the grand future before him.

The diminished

When one twin dies, the other usually follows, unable to face the world without their other half. Those who survive are considered diminished, doomed to succumb to the violent grief that inevitably destroys everyone whose twin has died. Such is the fate of Vi Abernathy, whose twin sister died in infancy. Raised by the anchorites of the temple after her family cast her off, Vi has spent her whole life scheming for a way to escape and live out what’s left of her life in peace.

As their sixteenth birthdays approach, Bo and Vi face very different futures—one a life of luxury as the heir to the throne, the other years of backbreaking work as a temple servant. But a long-held secret and the fate of the empire are destined to bring them together in a way they never could have imagined.

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
April 24, 2018
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Seventeen-year-old Eelyn’s world is war. Raised to fight alongside her Aska clansmen in a generations-old blood feud against the Riki, her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki if she wants to make it back to the fjord after the thaw. But when she begins to see herself in the people she’s been taught to hate, the world Eelyn once knew begins to crumble. And after the village is raided by a ruthless clan many believe to be a myth, Eelyn is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend who has tried more than once to kill her. Together, they must end the blood feud between their clans or watch their people be slaughtered.

A lush, Viking-age inspired fantasy about loyalty, forgiveness, and the definition of family.

June

Sweet Black Waves (Sweet Black Waves #1) by Kristina Pérez
June 5, 2018
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Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans ofGraceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

Love Scene, Take Two
June 12, 2018
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Teddy Sharp is kinda famous, and if his latest audition for the lead in the newest YA blockbuster works out, he’ll be REALLY famous. But even being kinda famous doesn’t keep your flights from being cancelled.

Stranded in a small North Carolina airport, he figures his weekend is ruined, until Bennett Caldwell, the author of the very book series he just auditioned for, takes pity on him and invites him to stay at her family’s lake house. Bennett is unlike any girl Teddy’s ever met before, and somehow they just seem to click. But the internet is full of juicy gossip about Teddy’s last relationship… gossip that Bennett might not be prepared to handle.

July

Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge by Lisa Jensen
July 10, 2018
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Filled with magic and fierce emotion, Lisa Jensen’s multilayered novel will make you question all you think you know about beauty, beastliness, and happily ever after.

They say Château Beaumont is cursed. But servant-girl Lucie can’t believe such foolishness about handsome Jean-Loup Christian Henri LeNoir, Chevalier de Beaumont, master of the estate. But when the chevalier’s cruelty is revealed, Lucie vows to see him suffer. A wisewoman grants her wish, with a spell that transforms Jean-Loup into monstrous-looking Beast, reflecting the monster he is inside. But Beast is nothing like the chevalier. Jean-Loup would never patiently tend his roses; Jean-Loup would never attempt poetry; Jean-Loup would never express remorse for the wrong done to Lucie. Gradually, Lucie realizes that Beast is an entirely different creature from the handsome chevalier, with a heart more human than Jean-Loup’s ever was. Lucie dares to hope that noble Beast has permanently replaced the cruel Jean-Loup — until an innocent beauty arrives at Beast’s château with the power to break the spell.

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning
July 31, 2018
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Everyone knows what happens in the end.
A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss.
But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends.
One feared, one royal, and one already dead.

Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.

The rise of Hans Christian Andersen’s iconic villainess is a heart-wrenching story of friendship, betrayal, and a girl pushed beyond her limits—to become a monster.

Have you signed up for the Debut Author Challenge?
Which debuts are you most excited about?


Brookie Cowles’s 2017 Book Gift Guide | Author Guest Post

Posted December 9, 2017 by Jana in Book Spotlight, Guest Post / 2 Comments

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


Happy Holidays from Forever! | Christmas Book Spotlights & Giveaway

Posted December 6, 2017 by Jana in Book Spotlight, Giveaway / 5 Comments

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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2017 Christmas Novels | New Release Book List

Posted December 1, 2017 by Jana in Book Spotlight, Bookish News / 4 Comments

 

Looking for something to read this holiday season? I’ve got you covered! Here’s a list of brand new Christmas novels that are out this year to help you get in the festive spirit. This list is broken up by age group, and then alphabetized. The links will take you to Goodreads to read more about each title. If I’ve missed any that you’re really excited about, let me know in the comments! And seriously, where are all the YA Christmas books? Pretty sure we’re lacking a little…

Adult:

A Chance This Christmas by Joanne Rock
A Christmas Affair by Jodi Thomas
A Christmas to Remember by Lisa Kleypas, et al.
A Cosy, Candlelit Christmas (An Unforgettable Christmas #2) by Tilly Tennant
An Ex for Christmas by Lauren Layne
A Lot Like Christmas: Stories by Connie Willis
A Hummingbird Christmas by Karen Foley
Approximately Yours (North Pole, Minnesota #3) by Julie Hammerle
At the Christmas Wedding by Caroline Linden, Katharine Ashe, and Maya Rodale
A Scottish Lord for Christmas by Lauren Smith (12/5)
A Season of Love: A Christmas Anthology by Carla Kelly
A Season of You by Emma Douglas
A Snow Country Christmas by Linda Lael Miller

A Very Cowboy Christmas (Smokin’ Hot Cowboys) by Kim Redford
A Very Merry Princess by Susan Mallery
A Vicarage Christmas by Kate Hewitt
Becoming Bella by Sarah Hegger
Chasing Christmas Eve (Heartbreaker Bay #4) by Jill Shalvis
Christmas at Hope Cottage by Lily Graham
Christmas at Mistletoe Cove by Holly Martin
Christmas At the Candied Apple Cafe by Katherine Garbera
Christmas at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer
Christmas In a Cowboy’s Arms by Leigh Greenwood
Christmas In Icicle Falls (Life In Icicle Falls #11) by Sheila Roberts
Christmas In Kilts by Various (anthology)
Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles by Phillipa Ashley

Christmas Promises at the Little Wedding Shop by Jane Linfoot
Christmastime Cowboy by Maisey Yates
Close to Heaven (Colorado High Country #5) by Pamela Clare
Coming Home to the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson
Cowboy, It’s Cold Outside (Twilight, Texas #8) by Lori Wilde
Deck the Halls (Darling, VT #3.5) by Dolla Alward
His Mistletoe Wager by Virginia Heath
Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey
Holiday Spice by Samantha Chase
Holiday Wishes
(Heartbreaker Bay #4.5) by Jill Shalvis
Home for Christmas by Holly Chamberlin
Homicide for the Holidays (Viv and Charlie Mystery #2) by Cheryl Honigford
Hope for Christmas by Stacy Finz
Hope at Christmas by Nancy Naigle

Hot Winter Nights by Various (anthology)
How the Finch Stole Christmas! by Donna Andrews
Lady Osbaldestone’s Christmas Goose by Stephanie Laurens
Last Christmas In Paris: A Novel of World War I by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Long, Tall Cowboy Christmas by Carolyn Brown
Maybe This Christmas (Colorado Ice #3) by Jennifer Snow
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Carla Burgess
Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber
Miracle At Christmas by Debbie Mason (12/19)
Miss Christmas by Gigi Garrett
Moonlight Over Manhattan (From Manhattan With Love #6) by Sarah Morgan

Once Upon a Christms Eve by Elizabeth Hoyt (12/5)
One Day In December by Shari Low
Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
Slay Bells Ring by (Caprice De Luca Home Staging Mystery #7) by Karen Rose Smith
Snowbound With an Heiress by Jennifer Faye
Snowflakes, Iced Cakes, and Second Chances by Sue Watson
Sugar Pine Trail (Haven Point #7) by RaeAnne Thayne
Tangled Up In Tinsel by Candis Terry
The Beachside Christmas (Beachside Bay #3) by Karen Clarke
The Best Little Christmas Shop by Maxine Morrey
The Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr

The Christmas Cowboy Hero by Donna Grant
The Christmas Room by Catherine Anderson
The Deal of a Lifetime by Frederik Backman
The Holiday Cruise by Victoria Cooke
The Inn at Blue Hollow Falls (Blue Hollow Falls #1.5) by Donna Kauffman
The Lady In Red by Kelly Bowen (12/5)
The Rancher’s Christmas Song (Cowboys of Cold Creek #16) by RaeAnne Thayne
We’ll Always Have Christmas by Jenny Hale
Winter Solstice by Erin Hilderbrand
With This Christmas Ring by Manda Collins
Wyoming Winter (Wyoming Men #7) by Diana Palmer

 

Children/Middle Grade:

Aglow: A Christmas Fable by Bruce Ashkenas
Carols and Crushes: A Wish Novel by Natalie Blitt
Father Christmas and Me
by Matt Haig
Ghosts of Greenglass House
(Greenglass House #2) by Kate Milford
Janie Gets a Genie for Christmas by David Blaze
Nutcracked by Susan Adrian
The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig
The Nutcracker Mice by Kristin Kladstrup
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Top Elf by Caleb Zane Huett

 

Picture Books:

A Christmas for Bear by Kady MacDonald Denton
A Christmas Wish: A Peter Rabbit Tale by Beatrix Potter
Alfred: A Christmas Tree Destined to Shine by Caroline Wilson Ellison
A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman
Baseball Bats for Christmas
by Michael Kusugak
Jingle Bells
by Susan Jeffers
Merry Christmas from the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Merry Christmas, Peanut! by Terry Border
Ninja Claus by Aree Chung

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht
Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares
Redrick Raccoon and the Christmas Mystery by Karen H. Monteith
Rory the Dinosaur Needs a Christmas Tree by Liz Climo
Santa’s Countdown to Christmas by Kim Thompson
Santa Rex by Molly Idle
The 12 Sleighs of Christmas by Sherri Duskey Rinker
The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen
The Santa Thief by Alane Adams

The Secret of the Santa Box by Christopher Fenoglio
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Emma Randall
River Rose and the Magical Christmas by Kelly Clarkson
You Are My Merry by Marianne Richmond (paperback release)

 

Young Adult:

My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff
Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm
The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

 

Which books are you excited to read this year?
Which ones have you already read and loved?

 

 


Never Apart by Romily Bernard | Blog Tour Book Spotlight (+ Giveaway)

Posted October 16, 2017 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Spotlight, Giveaway / 3 Comments

Never Apart by Romily Bernard | Blog Tour Book Spotlight (+ Giveaway)

Never Apart by Romily Bernard | Blog Tour Book Spotlight (+ Giveaway)Never Apart by Romily Bernard
Published by Entangled Teen on October 3, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Thriller, Time Travel
Pages: 400
Amazon Amazon UK Barnes & Noble iBooks Book Depository Add to Goodreads
How many times would you die for love?

What if you had to relive the same five days over and over?

And what if at the end of it, your boyfriend is killed…

And you have to watch. Every time.

You don’t know why you’re stuck in this nightmare.

But you do know that these are the rules you now live by:

Wake Up.

Run.

Die.

Repeat.

Now, the only way to escape this loop is to attempt something crazy. Something dangerous. Something completely unexpected. This time…you’re not going to run.

Combining heart-pounding romance and a thrilling mystery Never Apart is a stunning story you won’t soon forget.

About Romily Bernard

Romily Bernard graduated from Georgia State University with a literature degree. Since then, she’s worked as a riding instructor, cell-phone salesperson, personal assistant, horse groomer and exercise rider, accounting assistant, and, during a very dark time, customer service representative. . . . She’s also, of course, now a YA novelist. So don’t let anyone tell you a BA degree will keep you unemployed. Romily currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Her debut novel, Find Me, won the Golden Heart Award for YA Romance from the Romance Writers of America in 2012.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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Forever’s Holiday Celebration | Blog Tour

Posted December 7, 2016 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Spotlight, Guest Post / 0 Comments

Forever’s Holiday Celebration | Blog Tour

Merry Christmas from five of Forever’s authors! Carolyn Brown, Paula Quinn, Debbie Mason, Hope Ramsay, and Oliva Miles have all published brand new Christmas romances and are here to share with us their holiday memories and favorite yummy recipes!


Merry Cowboy Christmas by Carolyn Brown
Series: Lucky Penny Ranch #3
September 27, 2016 from Forever
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THIS CHRISTMAS, SANTA’S WEARING A STETSON
Tis the night before Christmas and all through the house is the presence of one wickedly hot cowboy who’s come to stay for the holiday. Fiona Logan is downright shocked to return to her childhood home and find that the tall blond stranger who came to her rescue on an icy road will be sleeping just across the hall from her bedroom. Talk about temptation . . .

Jud Dawson never believed the Lucky Penny Ranch would live up to its name until now. Fiona is gorgeous, smart, funny, and everything he thought he’d never find. Now all he has to do is convince her to stick around town instead of hightailing it back to Houston. But with wild weather, nosy neighbors, and a new baby in the family, getting her to admit that she’s falling in love might just take a Christmas miracle.

Read more about Carolyn on her website.

Carolyn Brown’s Pumpkin Bread

Kids, grand children, great-grands, all coming home for the holidays—the aroma of pumpkin bread baking in the oven—everyone waiting for it to get done so they can slice it up while it’s still hot, slather butter or whipped cream cheese on it, and tell the age old stories about the holidays we’ve had in the house. That’s the stuff memories are made off and every time I smell pumpkin bread it puts a smile on my face for the whole day.

Pumpkin Bread

This makes 2 loaves and 8 muffins; Or it makes one Bundt cake

Ingredients:

½ cup butter
½ cup shortening
2 2/3 cups of sugar
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin (one 15-16 ounce can)
3 ½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soda
1 cup pecans (optional)
2/3 cup of cold strong black coffee
(NOTE: I use all butter if I’m out of shortening or even oil)

Directions:

1. Cream first four ingredients.
2. Add canned pumpkin.
3. Add dry ingredients alternately with coffee
4. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour for loaves or bundt cake, 25 minutes for muffins, or until they test done in the center.
5. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.
6. Cool completely before frosting with Harvest Moon Frosting (below).

Harvest Moon Frosting

3 egg whites
1½ cups brown sugar
6 tablespoons water
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a double boiler. Cook 7 minutes, beating the whole time with an electric mixer, over the boiling water. The frosting will stand in peaks when done. Add vanilla. Beat until thick enough to spread.


A Highlander’s Christmas Kiss by Paula Quinn
Series: The MacGregors: Highland Heirs #5
September 27, 2016 from Forever
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A STRANGER’S SMILE

Christmas may be coming to Linavar, but Temperance Menzie is far from joyful. Grief-stricken over the death of her father at the hands of the Black Riders, she almost didn’t see the wounded stranger in the woods. And now she’s determined to give this braw, brooding Highlander the help she couldn’t give her father. But there’s a secret lurking in the depths of his blue-gray eyes. And Temperance won’t rest until she uncovers it . . .

A LOVER’S KISS

A killer for hire. It’s the last thing Cailean Grant ever thought he’d become, but being part of the Black Riders was his only way to survive. Now, his guilt grows day by day, along with his desire for the beautiful, brave lass nursing him back to health. As Christmas, the season of miracles, draws near and the truth of his identity threatens to come out, Cailean must risk the only thing he has left to lose-his heart.

Visit Paula’s website!

My dad used to live across the street from us. Every year, when my
kids were little, he would dress up like Santa, climb out his window
on the second floor, and hang Christmas lights on his fire escape. My
kids would watch from our window with wonder in their eyes, unaware
that it was grandpa. He would turn and wave to them, sending them into
little fits of breathlessness. Later, we would visit grandma and
grandpa’s for homemade cookies (left there for them by Santa). The
house was always fully decked out with every Christmas decoration
imaginable with Alvin and the Chipmunks on repeat while the kids
hunted down little “pre-Christmas” gifts he’d hide for them. I loved
witnessing the magic of Christmas and love through their eyes. Now
grown, my kids will sometimes still look out the window at his fire
escape and smile, remembering a grandpa who loved them beyond measure.

Grandpa’s Christmas Cookies (A favored Italian recipe)

Ingredients:

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
3½ cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder

Directions:

1. Sift dry ingredients.
2. Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs; add
vanilla and dry ingredients.
3. Knead and add flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to hands.
4. Pinch off dough, roll in your hands to form a log and then twirl into
shape.
5. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.

Icing

2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 teaspoons water

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Stir until creamy. Dip cookies into icing and sprinkle with trim. Place on wire rack with wax paper on counter to collect the dripping icing and sprinkles.


Mistletoe Cottage by Debbie Mason
Series: Harmony House #1
October 25, 2016 from Forever
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‘Tis the season for love . . .
Sophie DiRossi loved growing up in Harmony Harbor. But after fleeing in disgrace many years ago, it is the last place she wants to be. Left homeless by a fire, she’s forced to go back to the small coastal town that harbors a million secrets, including her own. Sophie sees this secret reflected every day in her daughter’s blue eyes-and she must keep it hidden from the only man she has ever loved.

Sophie’s return is a shock for everyone . . . especially Liam Gallagher. The firefighter had some serious feelings for Sophie-and seeing her again sparks a desire so fierce it takes his breath away. Now Liam will do whatever it takes to show Sophie that they deserve a second chance at love, even if everything they’ve concealed threatens to keep them apart. In this special town at this special time of the year, Sophie and Liam can only hope for a little holiday magic…

Learn more about Debbie on her website!

One of my family’s favorite holiday traditions is our tree trimming party. We’ve held one every year for the past thirty years. Though I don’t know if it qualifies as a party seeing as it’s just the immediate family. But we do make a thing of it with our favorite carols playing in the background, fire on (mostly for ambience), hot chocolate served in festive mugs, lots of holiday treats, and a special ornament for each of the kids and grandkids to open before the tree decorating gets under way.

But I think the most fun for all of us isn’t decorating the tree, it’s unpacking the ornaments. I’ve always tried to buy an ornament that’s uniquely suited to each of the kids, whether it was a sport they were into that year or a movie, book, or hobby they loved, so unwrapping each one brings back a lot of special memories. Here’s a peek at just some of the collection. I don’t think it will be long before we have to break from tradition and let the kids take some of the ornaments home to decorate their own trees. Either that or we’ll have to put up another tree.

And this one in my office doesn’t count. Every year, my family gifts me with an ornament too. This year they gave me these three adorable ornaments to celebrate the release of the first book in the new Harmony Harbor series, MISTLETOE COTTAGE, and the short story, CHRISTMAS WITH AN ANGEL.

Read more about Debbie on her website!


A Christmas Bride by Hope Ramsay
Series: Chapel of Love #1
September 27, 2016 from Forever
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A season of hope . . .
‘Tis the season in Shenandoah Falls and the first time Willow Peterson has been home in years. But she’s determined to fulfill the wishes of her recently deceased best friend and restore Eagle Hill Manor to its former glory-all in time to host the perfect holiday wedding. She just has to get the owner of the historic inn to hire her. Unfortunately, that means dealing with Scrooge himself…

After the death of his wife, David Lyndon has a bah-humbug approach to Christmas. But as December counts down and the wedding planning is in full swing, it’s harder and harder to stay immune to the charms of Willow, especially when he sees how much joy she brings his eight-year-old daughter. After a simple kiss under the mistletoe turns into something more, David is hoping he can turn the magic of the holiday season into the love of a lifetime.

Visit Hope’s website!

Every year for the last quarter-century, or possibly longer, I have set aside the Saturday closest to Christmas to bake gingerbread cookies with my children, and now, with my grandchildren. These are the only cookies I make at Christmas time, and the activity is more about family fun than turning out a perfect cookie. Usually I do most of the rolling, cutting, and baking. And the rest of the family does the decorating.

The magic is in the royal icing. The white icing is a snap to make, and it can be divided up into small bowls and colored with food dye, creating pots of colored cookie paint. I give each child (or adult) a watercolor paint brush and let them paint the icing onto the cookies. The kids have a blast, and the cookies always come out looking wonderfully homemade.

To me, cookie baking embodies everything I love about Christmas: kids, family, baking, and yummy desserts.

Gingerbread Cookie Dough
Makes about 6 Dozen

Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Dutch cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
1 cup superfine sugar
1 egg at room temperature
½ cup unsulphured molasses

Directions:

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients – flour cocoa, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, backing soda, and salt.
2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat thoroughly.
3. On low speed, add the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
4. Cut the dough into thirds, pat into disks, wrap in plastic and chill until firm – 2 hours or overnight.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough about 1/16 inch thick and cut cookies with cookie cutters. Transfer the cookies to an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges of the cookie turn brown.
6. Let cool on sheets and then transfer to a wire rack. Decorate with royal icing.

Royal Icing

2 egg whites, at room temperature
1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup water

Using a mixer, place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat at high speed until fluffy, thick & shiny (about 10 minutes.) Divide the icing into smaller bowls and color it using food coloring.


Christmas Comes to Main Street by Olivia Miles
Series: Briar Creek #5
September 27, 2016 from Forever
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The mistletoe is out, and the gloves are off . . .

‘Tis the worst season to be single, but Kara Hastings won’t let a little Christmas funk spoil the festive season. Sure, running her own bakery is a little harder than she expected, but she can handle it. And she’ll prove it to a certain infuriatingly handsome, bossy Big City guy. She may be sugar and spice, but she can kick his butt twice.

Nate Griffin is in Briar Creek only for the holidays, and he refuses to fall for the whole “small town, candy cane-scented Christmas Wonderland” thing. He’s more interested in the fresh-faced cookie chef who always knows exactly how to get under his skin. So when Nate challenges Kara in the town’s big holiday contest, it’s not just the competition that starts to heat up. If he’s not careful, Kara won’t just melt his icy resolve against a small-town Christmas . . . she’ll melt his heart too.

Find out more about Olivia on her website!

In my newest release, CHRISTMAS COMES TO MAIN STREET, my heroine owns a cookie bakery. As this story takes place over the holidays, I thought hard about a signature cookie she might make, and eventually I settled on charming snowflake cookies. Of course these are not just any old cut out cookie, though. No, Kara makes them by the dozen, sure to keep each one in the batch distinct in shape and decoration, because no two snowflakes are ever the same, after all! And it’s these snowflake cookies that she delivers every day to the inn in Briar Creek…where a Christmas visitor falls in love with more than just her cookies.

I hope you all enjoy these snowflake cookies as much as Nate does! :)

Kara’s Snowflake Cookies
(recipes courtesy of Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.
2. Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into a disk. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Let one disk of dough stand at room temperature just until soft enough to roll, about 10 minutes. Roll out dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to 1/4 inch thick. Remove top layer of plastic wrap. Cut out cookies. Transfer cookie dough on plastic wrap to a baking sheet. Transfer baking sheet to freezer, freeze until very firm, about 15 minutes. Remove baking sheet from freezer and transfer shapes to baking sheets lined with nonstick baking mats. Roll out scraps, and repeat. Repeat with remaining disk of dough.
4. Bake, switching positions of sheets and rotating halfway through, until edges turn golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Royal Icing

2 large egg whites, or more to thin icing
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, or more to thicken icing
Juice of 1 lemon
3 drops glycerin

Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar, lemon juice and glycerin (if using); beat for 1 minute more. If icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it is too thin, add more sugar. The icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Decorate each as you wish!


Cristin Terrill | 2017 Apollycon Author Spotlight Tour

Posted November 7, 2016 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Spotlight / 2 Comments

Cristin Terrill | 2017 Apollycon Author Spotlight Tour

Woohoo! Today I get to spotlight the amazing Cristin Terrill, who will be joining us at Apollycon in Orlando next year! Cristin’s book, All Our Yesterdays, is one of my FAVORITE books ever (so sad about no sequels!). I reviewed it on my blog many moons ago, and here’s some of the highlights of that review:

“Your mind will be blown, and your eyes will get huge, and your brain will try to comprehend it but it’s really wacky. And amazing.”

“I loved the sweet relationships between Marina and James. To me, it kind of felt like Corey and Topanga from Boy Meets World.”

“Romance blooms, romance fades, new feelings grow, old feelings are explored. People flip flop. Lots happens. In the midst of all of it, the characters learn a lot about themselves.”

Yeah. I loved this book. So I’m super excited to feature Cristin today!


The Fast Five Q&A with Cristin

Thing you’re most excited about for Apollycon 2017:
Getting to hang out with all the other authors and readers!

Last book you read:
The Sisters Who Would Be Queen by Leanda de Lisle. Just a bit of research for something I’m toying with at the moment (and an interesting examination of Jane Grey’s less famous sisters).

Best moment as an author:
Probably my first real book signing at BEA a couple of months before ALL OUR YESTERDAYS released. It’s all a bit of a haze but I think that was when I really realized that my book was going to be published and people were going to read it and my life was going to change.

Last thing you treated yourself to:
A chocolate frozen custard for surviving a miserable day without hurting anyone.

Last thing that made you laugh:
While typing my previous answer, my cat jumped for a bookcase and totally missed and I evil cackled. Maybe not very nice, but true.

Cristin Terrill is a young adult author and aspiring grown-up. She grew up semi-nomadic and graduated from Vassar College with a degree in drama. After getting her masters in Shakespeare Studies from the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, she lived in London, Austin, Boston, and Washington, DC while working as a theatrical stage manager. Now she writes and leads creative writing workshops for DC-area kids and teens. All Our Yesterdays is her first novel.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


All Our Yesterdays

What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

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All 2017 Apollycon attendees are eligible to win one of these awesome prizes! Gift Cards will be distributed to the winners at Apollycon 2017 to be used within the Apollycon bookstore. The passes will allow you to skip to the front of one author’s signing line (your choice).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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