Top Ten Favorite Books I Read In 2019

Posted December 30, 2019 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 27 Comments

Can you believe tomorrow is the beginning of 2020!? 2019 has been a rough year for me, so I’m looking forward to a fresh start. I’ve got lots of hopes and wishes for the new year, and I’m excited to dive right in. BUT before I shift my focus to the bright and shiny 2020, I’m looking back on a few of the good things that happened to me this year. Books. Basically only books were good for me this year. lol. Here are my top ten favorite reads of 2019, presented in the order in which I read them.

1. The Gem Thief by Sian Ann Bessey
2. Three Mages and a Margarita by Annette Marie
3. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
4. Dating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe
5. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
6. Final Girls by Riley Sager
7. The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare
8. Lord Dashwood Missed Out by Tessa Dare
9. His Bride for the Taking by Tessa Dare
10. Christmas at Frozen Falls by Kiley Dunbar

Which books were your favorites of the year?
Do we have any picks in common?

 

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2019 End of Year Book Survey

Posted December 30, 2019 by Jana in About Me / 4 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!

2019 Reading Stats

Number of books you read: 50
Number of re-reads: 1 (Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco)
Most read genre: Adult contemporary romance (I read 11 of them).

Best In Books

1. Best books you read in 2019:
Adult Contemporary Romance: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Adult Historical Romance: The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare
Adult Mystery/Thriller: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
Young Adult: Serious Moonlight by Jenny Bennett

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was horrible, which was a huge disappointment because I’d been excited to read it for a long time and finally made the time for it.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read:
The Gem Thief by Sian Ann Bessey was so wonderful. I’d never heard of the author or anything about the book, so I went in blind and not expecting a lot but I LOVED IT.

4. Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did):
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren.

5. Best series you started in 2019. Best sequel of 2019. Best series ender of 2019.
Started: Three Mages and a Margarita by Anette Marie (book #1 of The Guild Codex: Spellbound)
Sequel: Not exactly a sequel, but it’s book #3 in an ongoing series… The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare.
Ender: Moonlight Scandals by Jennifer L. Armentrout

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2019:
Riley Sager

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone:
I don’t read a ton of nonfiction, but I LOVED 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year:
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager had me FLYING through the book. I loved it so much.

9. Book you read in 2019 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
Christmas at Frozen Falls by Kiley Dunbar was perfection and such a festive read.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2019:
Christmas at Frozen Falls by Kiley Dunbar

11. Most memorable character of 2019:
Olive of The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2019:
Christmas at Frozen Falls by Kiley Dunbar… I KNOW. I keep mentioning this one, but it fits so many of these questions! I loved the descriptions of the scenery in this book.

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2019:
I didn’t read anything life-changing this year!

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read:
Other than Gone Girl, which I hated, I didn’t really read anything that was old enough to have been on my TBR for a long time,

15. Favorite quote from a book you read in 2019:
Wow, I didn’t pay any attention to quotes this year. Pretty sure I highlighted some in my Kindle, but they didn’t stick with me so I can’t remember which ones they were.

16. Shortest and longest books you read in 2019:
Shortest: Just Say When by Jill Shalvis, 7 pages (LOL)
Longest: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, 578 pages

17. Book that shocked you the most:
There was no shockage that I can recall…

18. OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship!):
Olive and Ethan from The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren.

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year:
Sylvie and Nari from Christmas at Frozen Falls by Kiley Dunbar are my favorite best friends!

20. Favorite book you read in 2019 from an author you’ve read previously:
The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare

21. Best book you read in 2019 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else:
Three Mages and Margarita by Annette Marie

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2019:
There’s a swoony guy in Dating by the Book by Marie Ann Marlowe, but I feel like saying his name is a spoiler. So I won’t!

23. Best 2019 debut you read:
I didn’t read one this year!

24. Most vivid setting you read this year:
Christmas at Frozen Falls by Kiley Dunbar. It takes place in the frozen Lapland at Christmas, with reindeer and huskies and snow and the Aurora Borealis!

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read:
The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2019:
I do my best to avoid crying with books, and I succeeded this year!

27. Hidden gem of the year:
The Gem Thief by Sian Ann Bessey

28. Book that crushed your soul:
Nope!

29. Most unique book you read in 2019:
A McMillan Christmas by Bethany Claire. Time travel!

30. Book that made you the maddest (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it):
The Bromance Bookclub by Lyssa Kay Adams. I was so excited for this, but I hated it so much I DNFed it!

My Blogging/Bookish Life

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2019:
*hides face in shame* I never ventured out of my safe place.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2019:
I really don’t feel strongly about any of my reviews…

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog:
All of the TTTs, really.

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.

6. Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views):
My Top Ten Unpopular Bookish Opinions got 41 comments.

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 50 books.

Looking Ahead

1. Book you are most anticipating in 2020 (non-debut):
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

2. 2020 debut you are most anticipating:
The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel

3. Sequel you are most anticipating in 2020:
Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch

4. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2020?
Get out of this reading slump and really love everything I read. I need to DNF more!

Do we have any answers in common?
Pick a question or two and answer them in the comments! Let’s discuss!

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Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings Me Tonight

Posted December 23, 2019 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 17 Comments

Merry Christmas! I can’t believe Christmas Eve is here again, and I love that it falls on Top Ten Tuesday so we can all share our lists to Santa! Some of my wishes are reasonable and some will only happen with a little bit of Christmas magic. But since Santa is Santa, maybe he can do that for me?

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch (it doesn’t come out until July 2020, but I’m so excited!)
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren (I love this book and want to own a copy!)
The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard
His Bride for the Taking by Tessa Dare
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (Also not out yet, but GIVE IT TO ME.)
The Whisper Man by Alex North
The Retreat by Mark Edwards
Dating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe (I also loved this and NEED it.)
Crashing the A-List by Summer Heacock

What do you hope Santa brings you this year?
Merry Christmas!

Christmas tree created with the help of freepik – www.freepik.com

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Julie’s Top 5 Favorite YA Holiday Books (& Some 2020 Ones to Anticipate!) | Guest Post

Posted December 23, 2019 by Jana in Guest Post / 1 Comment

I’m happy to have Julie from Struck By Stories on the blog today to share have five favorite YA Christmas books, as well as some 2020 holiday book releases that she’s excited about! That Artsy Reader Girl started out as a mostly YA book blog, but my tastes have changed and I don’t read nearly as much YA as I used to. It’s fun to have it back on the blog today!


Merry (almost!) Christmas & happy holidays, book-lovers! I’m so excited to be sharing with you a list of my favorite books to read during the winter season today, plus a few 2020 holiday books that I’m eagerly anticipating. All of these books have a special place in my heart, and I hope you guys find some new books to add to your TBR ;) Special thanks to Jana @ That Artsy Reader for allowing me the opportunity to do this!

My Favorites

 

Dancing Through the Snow by Jean Little

First on my list of favorite holiday reads is by far the most underrated! It’s about a girl named Min who, after being abandoned as a baby and rejected by yet another foster family in the height of the holiday season, experiences a Christmas miracle when a member of her foster center decides to take her in. This book is extremely heartwarming, and the perfect reminder of what the Christmas season is all about. Ever since I discovered it at my school library in 6th grade, I’ve made a point of rereading it every year. Definitely a must-read!

 

The Dash & Lily series by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Next on my list are two additional books that I always read during the Christmas season! David Levithan’s natural dry humor shines through in Dash, a bookish-yet-snarky teen boy who makes the bold decision to embark on a list challenges he finds embedded in a red notebook left on a bookshelf at the Strand. He and Lily, the teen girl who initiated the dares, continue to trade various Christmas-centered challenges, all while trying to avoid their growing feelings for each other. I love how Lily, with all of her festive holiday cheer, compliments Dash and his cynicism so well. Also, be sure not to miss book two, The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily, set a year later and featuring the same fantastic cast of characters!

 

Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson,
& Lauren Myracle

Many of you guys will probably recognize this from the newly formed Breakfast Book Club with Ms. Freeman, as this was the book we chose to read this month! John Green (writer of the famed book The Fault in Our Stars) teamed up with two other popular YA authors to write a story about what happens when a train breaks down in a small town right before Christmas, and the result was perfection! I especially liked how even though they were three separate stories, they are all set in the same place and time and a few characters make guest appearances in the other stories. P.S. Don’t have time to read the book? No worries – it was just released as a Netflix movie this year!

 

My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

If you are in the mood for a light, fluffy and cozy Christmas romance, then this is your book! This one centers around Charlie Donavon, a teen girl who’s convinced that she is meant to be with Teo Ortiz, who, in addition to being a star athlete and NHS member, is also a member of the school paper with Charlie. When she not-so-coincidentally picks his name for Secret Santa, she enlists the help of his cousin, J.D. Ortiz, to pick out the perfect presents and win his heart. However, she soon discovers that maybe, just maybe, the boy she really wants is not who she has been envisioning. Highly recommend!

 

Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle

And last-but-not-least on my list of favs is Together at Midnight, which ironically is the only one that’s not set during the Christmas season! As the title hints, this novel takes place entirely on New Year’s Eve. After witnessing a tragic accident earlier that day, two teens (Kendall and Max) make it their mission to spend the rest of it performing random acts of kindness, while also falling for each other along the way. What made this one truly special to me was that instead of just hearing the perspective of Kendall and Max, the story delved into the lives of the recipients of their good deeds. Overall, this one was a fantastic read, and it’s without a doubt one that’s not to be missed!

 

 

Anticipated 2020 Releases

Recommended for You by Laura Silverman

This is easily my most-anticipated YA holiday-centered book of 2020, and for good reason! Not only is it going to be super-bookish (as the main character, Shoshanna Greenberg, is a teen bookseller), and a hate-to-love romance (my second-favorite trope!) it’s also going to be a JEWISH (!!!) holiday romance with both Shoshanna & her love interest, Jake Kaplan, both being Jewish. This is something we *definitely* need more of in YA lit, and it’s beyond me that this is the only YA Jewish holiday romance that I know of (I’m really hoping that this starts a trend!) If this isn’t on your TBR right now, definitely be sure to add it ASAP 😍

The Detour by Natalie D. Richards

One of my earliest reviews on my blog (and my first review in my school paper!) was for Six Months Later, another book by the same author, so you can safely bet that I’ll be checking out this one as well! This book has it all: a teen girl struggling to get home to her family before the holidays, a Christmas blizzard that causes plane delays, and bad road conditions that turn an innocent car ride into the scene of . . . a mystery??? I have yet to read (or discover) a YA Christmas thriller, and I couldn’t think of a better time of year to read one than when I’m curled up in bed with a mug of hot cocoa and my fuzzy PJs ❤️

One Way or Another by Kara McDowell

While I wasn’t the ~biggest~ fan of Kara’s debut book, Just for Clicks (nothing bad, I promise, just not my cup of tea!) I am still SUPER hyped for this one! It’s basically the winter equivalent of Two Summers by Aimee Friedman, and centers around Paige, a teen girl with anxiety who’s struggling to decide between spending her Christmas break in a snowy cabin with her best friend/unrequited crush, or living it up in NYC, and ends up simultaneously living out both fates. I absolutely adore the premise for this one, and I can’t wait to read it come October 2020!

A Royal Christmas Quandary by Samantha Hastings

Finally, we have A Royal Christmas Quandry, a book by the same author of The Last Word, which has been on my TBR for what feels like forever! Anyways, the only info that has been released about this book is that it’s going to be a YA historical romance (hello, Jane Austen fangirls!) about “a young lady who must find a missing prince during the Christmas season.” While the synopsis is super short, I cannot begin to describe how perfectly irresistible that sounds (I’m an absolute sucker for books with royalty). Also, this is kinda unrelated but can we talk about how this is the *second* book that Samatha has releasing next year? Honestly, I’d be lucky if I could finish writing just one book in my entire life 😂

About the Blogger

Hi! I’m Julie, and I’m the girl behind the YA book blog, Struck by Stories.

A little about me . . . I’m eighteen (does that still count as a teenager???) a senior in high school, ailurophile (which is just a fancy word for cat-lover), HUGE Disney fan, and proud resident of New England. My dream in life is to become a Children’s/Young Adult librarian, and I’m slowly working my way to achieving that!

In addition, I am also a self-proclaimed Thunderclaw (Thunderbird/Ravenclaw) which I think perfectly sums me up because I love to adventure, especially through stories!

When I don’t have my head stuck in a book, you can probably find me either cuddling with my calico cat, baking treats in the kitchen, studying hard for all my classes, jamming out to the top 40 songs, or fangirling over all my favorite TV shows. You can follow along with all of my bookish adventures at struckbystories.com, or on social media @struckbystories ❤️

Book Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin | Goodreads

What are some of your favorite Christmas/Holiday books (YA or not)?

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Chanda’s Favorite Christmas Book Covers | Guest Post

Posted December 22, 2019 by Jana in Guest Post / 2 Comments

I’m so excited to welcome Chanda of Chanda Reads (and therusticbibliophile on Insta) to the blog today to share her favorite Christmas book covers! I love a good cover, and Christmas ones are always my favorites, so I’m loving her guest post pick for Bookish Little Christmas. I’ve read one of her picks, and a bunch of the others are on my TBR. She’s got good taste!


As the holiday season approaches I wanted to highlight some of my favorite Christmas and/or holiday themed covers. Whether you like the traditional Christmas book cover of a couple cuddling in a snowy landscape, a lone Christmassy figure, a house decked to the nines for the holidays, or a modern chick-lit style cover I included a wide array (12 to be exact) of the most aesthetically pleasing covers I could find for the holiday season. I only included adult releases from the past 5-6 years because there are just too many amazing covers if you include the classics or children’s titles and also only included books with a 3.5/5 or above Goodreads rating, because no-one deserves to be hoodwinked by a good cover.

Full disclosure: I’ve only actually read one of these (A Holiday by Gaslight), but I actually chose this book because the cover caught my eye.

1. A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews, 4.12/5 stars on Goodreads

I think this might be my most favorite Christmas book cover of all time. I was randomly scrolling Facebook one day and this cover made me stop scrolling to buy it on the spot. The muted reds and greens, the haunting snowy landscape, the eye-catching font, and the holly details combine to make a remarkable cover.

My own rating for this book was 4.5/5 stars – it is a sweet holiday read that left me smiling for hours after I finished it.

2. An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow, 4.17/5 stars on Goodreads

This cover reminds me of every Hallmark Christmas movie about a country gal and city guy who get over their differences and find true love under the mistletoe- so it’s perfect 😂

(NOTE from Jana: I’ve read this one, and it’s cute! I’d give it 3.5/5 stars because it wasn’t as Christmassy as I wanted it to be. And Chanda was nearly correct, it’s just a city gal and a country guy. lol)

3. Christmas Shopaholic (Shopaholic #9) by Sophie Kinsella (4.34/5 stars on Goodreads)

Christmas Shopaholic is a perfect example of the simple and bold design trend that has emerged over the past few years on contemporary romances. I love the clean look of this one, with the focus being on the gifts and sprinkles of snow.

4. The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright (3.98/5 stars on Goodreads)

The cover of The White Christmas Inn looks like the door of a house that, on the inside, probably smells like freshly made cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate. Come on in, they saved you a seat by the fire.

5. Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler, 3.88/5 stars on Goodreads

Christmas Camp’s cover gives me strong nostalgic vibes of what I thought, as a child, my house would look like when I became an adult. You know – based off the entirely realistic expectation that I would live in a giant house identical to Kevin McCalister’s, sans burglars of course.

6. Sealed with a Christmas Kiss by Rachael Lucas, 3.97/5 stars on Goodreads

I usually hate twisty and curly title font, but Sealed with a Christmas Kiss is able to achieve the whimsical intentionality of the font by combining it with the aforementioned contemporary style of illustration.

7. Merry Mistletoe by Emma Davies, 4.19/5 stars on Goodreads

The minimalistic illustration style on the cover of Merry Mistletoe is enchanting as it gives off a quirky and heart-warming vibe.

8. Christmas in Winter Valley by Jodi Thomas, 4.54/5 stars on Goodreads

The subdued colors of the sunset* and landscape make a perfect backdrop to the bold colors of the font and foreground scene, complimenting it without making it busy.

*sunrise? Is this one of those Buzzfeed personality test questions? If you see a sunrise you’re a morning person; a sunset you’re a vampire?

(NOTE from Jana: I guess I’m a vampire!)

9. Christmas at Claridge’s by Karen Swan, 3.78/5 stars on Goodreads

Sometimes it’s nice to get a non-conventional Christmas cover, without all the fluff of embracing couples, bright colors, and cozy scenes. I was drawn to the subtle tones, lone figure, and empty streets of London, which seemed a sure indicator that this novel would be a very different read than most others on this list.

10. Snowfall on Cedar Trail by Annie Rains, 4.57/5 stars on Goodreads

Did someone say Christmas cover fluff? Boom: Cute puppy on cover? Check. Pristine snow? Check. Lighted outdoor trees? Check. Perfect embodiment of a real-life gingerbread house? Check. It doesn’t get much fluffier than this, and I am here for it.

11. The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan, 4.17/5 stars on Goodreads

Maybe it’s because I don’t have [and always wanted] sisters, but this cover made me immediately smile. The warm tones add to the already cozy feel of it.

12. A Match Made in Mistletoe by Anna Campbell, 3.91/5 stars on Goodreads

Regency and historical romances are some of my favorites to read, but I’ll be honest: some of the covers are…not to my taste. This cover, however, is stunning with the sharp contrast of the gold gown to the deep reds and greens of the title and background.

I hope you enjoyed my picks for best Christmas covers and
I hope you have a very happy holiday season! :)

Thank you much to Jana, for allowing me to be a contributor this Bookish Little Christmas!

 

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New Traditions for a Beloved Holiday by Tracey Garvis Graves | Author Guest Post (+Giveaway)

Posted December 20, 2019 by Jana in Giveaway, Guest Post / 13 Comments

I’m happy to welcome my friend, author Tracey Garvis-Graves to the blog today to share a special guest post about spending her last Christmas in her home before moving to a new one. Read more about her newest release, The Girl He Use to Know, and enter to win a signed copy!


New Traditions for a Beloved Holiday

As I’ve mentioned in my past Bookish Little Christmas posts, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. A white Christmas is even more exciting, and because it’s already snowed twice in October, the odds are good that we’ll have a nice layer of fresh powder on the ground for the holidays this year. Whether or not we’ll have snow is the only unknown; all of our other traditions will remain the same. The baking! The decorating! The family gathered around the table for our annual surf-and-turf Christmas Eve dinner. But there is one thing that’s changing and it will add a bittersweet element because this is the last year we will celebrate Christmas in this house.

It seems like just yesterday that the kids were babies, and now our son is 20 and our daughter is 17. I guess it’s true what they say because I blinked once and then somehow, twenty years had gone by.

No one can deny that the nest is emptying. Our son has already moved into his first home, and in less than two years our daughter will be off to college. I have pined for an urban neighborhood ever since I wrote Heart-Shaped Hack and immersed myself in Minneapolis’s St. Anthony Main neighborhood. That was back in 2015 and at the time, I’d never actually contemplated leaving my suburban environment. The kids were still too young. It wasn’t time yet.

Fast forward almost five years, and the new urban empty-nest condo is under construction with a tentative move-in date of late August 2020. Next year, Christmas will be spent in a space that is half as big as what we’re used to. I find this both exciting and panic-inducing! How will I ever put out all of my decorations? The answer is that I won’t be able to. I will be forced to keep only what I love and want to take with me. From now until late August it’s going to be all Marie Kondo, all the time up in here. I’ve been applying those principles to my closets for the last couple of years, and I’m already on board. If an item no longer sparks joy, out it goes!

I did have a couple of non-negotiables when purchasing the new condo. For one, there had to be a dining space large enough for the new table that will seat all of us. I also wanted a kitchen big enough for us to cook together, the way we do every year on Christmas Eve. I’m happy to say that these items were checked off with ease. And next year, we’ll have the added bonus of a wonderful view of the downtown skyline when it’s all lit up. Maybe we’ll start a new tradition and go for a walk after dinner so we can enjoy the holiday lights.

Things definitely change when the birds start leaving the nest. A suburban home with its large backyard is no longer necessary. This two-story house with all of its stairs is more of a headache than anything. And, of course, there’s the lawn care in the summer and the snow that must be shoveled in the winter. Downtown Des Moines has so much more to offer for this stage of my life and I can’t wait to be part of an urban neighborhood. Next year, we will kick off a fresh cycle of new traditions and I find that very exciting.

But this year, things will go on as they have for the last fourteen years, and I will take great joy in sticking to the traditions we’ve been adhering to since the kids were six and two, respectively. Home is where the heart is and this year, I believe that more than ever.


The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
Published by St. Martin’s Press on April 2, 2019
AmazonAdd to Goodreads

What if you had a second chance at first love?

Annika Rose likes being alone.
She feels lost in social situations, saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way. She just can’t read people. She prefers the quiet solitude of books or playing chess to being around others. Apart from Jonathan. She liked being around him, but she hasn’t seen him for ten years. Until now that is. And she’s not sure he’ll want to see her again after what happened all those years ago.

Annika Rose likes being alone.
Except that, actually, she doesn’t like being alone at all.

 


About Tracey Garvis Graves

Tracey Garvis Graves is the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. Her debut novel, On the Island, spent 9 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into thirty-one languages, and is in development with MGM and Temple Hill Productions for a feature film. She is also the author of Uncharted, Covet, Every Time I Think of You, Cherish, Heart-Shaped Hack, White-Hot Hack, and The Girl He Used to Know. She is hard at work on her next book.

Tracey loves to interact with her readers and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Darla’s Holiday Party Planning Guide by Sara Richardson | Author Guest Post (+Giveaway)

Posted December 19, 2019 by Jana in Giveaway, Guest Post / 4 Comments

I’m happy to welcome Sara Richardson to the blog today to share Darla’s holiday party planning guide! Darla is the heroine in Sara’s recent Christmas release, A Cowboy for Christmas, and she loves to throw a good party! Read more about the book and enter to win it (and the other books in the Rocky Mountain Riders series) below!


Darla’s Holiday Party Planning Guide

Hi everyone, and welcome to my party planning blog! Since I’m known as the social diva in Topaz Falls (an official title), I’ve gotten a ton of requests to outline my party planning secrets in order to host a successful holiday shindig this Christmas season. I’ve hosted every kind of party, from a Great Gatsby themed birthday party to a last-minute meet the fake future in-laws party (long story, you’ll have to read the book!), and now I’ve sharing all my secrets for how to plan a fun, stress-free event, no matter what your theme or your budget.

Invitations
Fist, invitations set the tone for any event! Are you keeping it casual? Go with a simple text or email. If you want to jazz things up with a special theme or a fancier evening, you can custom design an invitation to fit your event online. These days most people actually don’t want more paper. Of course, if you happen to live in Topaz Falls, you can simply tell Ginny Eckles you’re having a party and she’ll get the word out for you.

Ambiance and Décor
The wonderful thing about having a party during the holidays is that you don’t have to do much in the way of decorating. Hopefully you’ve already put up a few Christmas decorations. At the wine bar I own, I always keep it simple but elegant with fresh greenery, some white lights to provide the mood lighting, and pops of color in big red velvet bows and oversized ornaments hanging from the ceiling. And if you need a little bling, there’s always silver or gold tinsel. Just make sure you keep it away from open flames!

Drinks
Yes, we’re covering the drinks before we’re covering the food, and that’s not just because I own a wine bar! In my humble opinion, the drinks are one of the most important elements of a successful party, especially during the holidays. While you can go simple with the decorations, this is an area you don’t want to skimp on! Nothing kills a festive vibe like bad wine. I always select the wines for a party first, and then take great care in pairing them with the food. I’ll have to write another post on that later (or maybe a book). Of course, for those friends and family who aren’t wine drinkers, or for anyone underage, it’s important to have some other options. I always include a few local beers in my offerings, as well as fruit-infused water and different types of soda. If children are coming to the party, I highly recommend a hot chocolate bar—I promise the kids will love you forever.

Food
After you’ve selected your drink menu, it’s time to plan the food. If you know me at all, you know I always start with dessert. There is no better treat than good-quality chocolate. I make my own chocolate truffles from scratch and specifically formulate them to pair with certain wines. (If you’re interested in ordering a few boxes, feel free to contact me.) Other than dessert, I highly recommend keeping the food offering simple and customizable, with appetizers like a charcuterie board, allowing people to select different meats, cheeses, crackers, nuts and fruits. Limiting food to appetizers keeps everyone mingling, and it also means less preparation and clean up.

Entertainment
If you live in Topaz Falls, the cowboys provide all the entertainment you need. Trust me, ladies! Inviting a few cowboys to your party can really liven things up…just don’t expect them to wear anything except their jeans and boots. If you’re not lucky enough to have a town full of cowboys, you can always hire some. Kidding! You don’t have to have shirtless cowboys there in order to have a successful party. (Though I highly recommend it. ) Aside from cowboys, music is the most important aspect of entertainment at any party. That’s why I recommend you make some time to create a playlist that helps to build a progression through the party. Starting with more mellow songs at the beginning is always good as people are mingling and getting to know each other. Then you want to move more into the lively songs that are better for dancing. What’s a party without dancing, am I right? Personally, I recommend going with a country western playlist that includes a few holiday hits in with a couple of line dancing classics. Nothing gets a party going like the Boot Scootin’ Boogie!

I hope you all find these ideas helpful as you prepare for you Christmas parties! I would love to hear your ideas too! Leave a comment with a party-planning idea or bit of party planning advice and you’ll be entered into our giveaway!


A Cowboy for Christmas by Sara Richardson
Series: Rocky Mountain Riders #6
Published by Forever on October 26, 2019
AmazonAdd to Goodreads 

Come home to Topaz Falls, Colorado, where the best way to spend Christmas is in the arms of a cowboy!

When the beloved Farm Café in Topaz Falls burns to the ground, widow Darla Michaels comes up with the perfect plan to help her friends rebuild — a Cowboy Christmas Festival complete with a sexy bachelor auction and a benefit rodeo. But to pull it off, she has to pretend to be engaged to Ty Forrester, the irresistible bull rider who keeps testing her keep-things-casual policy.

A fake fiancée wasn’t on Ty’s Christmas list this year, but it’s the only way to get his family to visit over the holidays so his NFL-star brother can draw more tourists to the festival. The engagement wouldn’t be such a problem if Ty wasn’t starting to have real feelings for Darla. Knowing he can’t go on pretending, Ty prepares to tell his family the truth–but then he and Darla discover a precious little Christmas surprise that just might help them embrace a whole new life together.


About Sara Richardson

Contemporary romance author Sara Richardson has been a communications manager, copy writer, magazine editor, and whitewater rafting guide. The day after graduating with a master’s degree in journalism, Sara realized she was too empathetic to be a journalist and starting writing her first novel instead. A lifelong fascination with true love quickly led her to the romance genre.

Her Heart of the Rockies series was published by Grand Central Forever in 2015. In 2016, her debut novel, No Better Man, was nominated for a RITA in the best first book category. Sara is passionate about writing stories that inspire people to believe in love and always enjoys connecting with readers. Learn more at www.sararichardson.com.

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Top Ten Books On My Winter 2019-2020 To-Read List

Posted December 16, 2019 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 40 Comments

I love doing these seasonal TBRs because they help me when I’m struggling with which book I should read next! I don’t ALWAYS stick to them, and I rarely read everything on my list since I’m such a mood reader, but it’s fun anyway and helps me remember all the books I’m excited to read!

Whiteout by Adriana Anders

This sounds like a really exciting romantic suspense!

Angel Smith is ready to leave Antarctica for a second chance at life. But on what was meant to be her final day, the research station is attacked. Hunted and scared, she and glaciologist Ford Cooper barely make it out with their lives…only to realize that in a place this remote, there’s nowhere left to run.

Isolated in the middle of a long, frozen winter with a madman at their heels, they must fight to survive in the most inhospitable—and beautiful—place on earth. But the outside world depends on what Ford and Angel know and, as their pursuers close in and their new partnership burns bright and hot, they will stop at nothing to make it out of the cold alive.

 

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

I’ve heard such amazing things about this book, and
it sounds like just the thing for me right now!

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world–a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

 

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

I love a great rom-com!

Korean-American author Jayci Lee delights with this delicious and light-hearted romantic comedy that readers will devour and ask for more.

Bake a chance on love.

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see her gorgeous Korean unicorn again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.

When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible…by sharing a villa.

When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

 

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

This rom-com has one of the most unique-sounding
premises I’ve seen lately, and it sounds like so much fun!

When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.

Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.

Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves–and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.

 

The Return by Rachel Harrison

I’ve really been enjoying mysteries and thrillers lately, and this sounds amazingly creepy!

An edgy and haunting debut novel about a group of friends who reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance.

Julie is missing, and the missing don’t often return. But Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and she feels in her bones that her best friend is out there, and that one day she’ll come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her.

 

The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

My favorite books are frequently by this amazing author duo!

Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…

From the “hilariously zany and heartfelt” (Booklist) Christina Lauren comes a romantic comedy that proves if it’s broke, you might as well fix it.

 

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

I’ve heard really awesome things about this one, and Renaissance Faire!!

All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

 

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters

Reenacting meet-cutes from classic romantic comedy movies. Say. No. More.

In this charming, feel-good debut novel, a cynical assistant at a screenwriting agency must reenact the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedy movies in order to help her #1 client get his scriptwriting mojo back–but can a real-life meet-cute be in store for someone who doesn’t believe in happily ever after?

After seven years as an assistant, 29-year-old Evie Summers is ready to finally get the promotion she deserves. But now the TV and film agency she’s been running behind the scenes is in trouble, and Evie will lose her job unless she can convince the agency’s biggest and most arrogant client, Ezra Chester, to finish writing the script for a Hollywood romantic comedy.

The catch? Ezra is suffering from writer’s block–and he’ll only put pen to paper if singleton Evie can prove to him that you can fall in love like they do in the movies. With the future of the agency in jeopardy, Evie embarks on a mission to meet a man the way Sally met Harry or Hugh Grant met Julia Roberts.

But in the course of testing out the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedies IRL, not only will Evie encounter one humiliating situation after another, but she’ll have to confront the romantic past that soured her on love. In a novel as hilarious as it is heartwarming, debut author Rachel Winters proves that sometimes real life is better than the movies–and that the best kind of meet-cutes happen when you least expect them.

 

My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh

Fauxmances always get me, and the fact that it’s also a historical makes it a million times better!

In the first book in Eva Leigh’s new Union of the Rakes series, a bluestocking hires a faux suitor to help her land an ideal husband only to be blindsided by real desire…

Lady Grace Wyatt is content as a wallflower, focusing on scientific pursuits rather than the complications of society matches. But when a handsome, celebrated naturalist returns from abroad, Grace wishes, for once, to be noticed. Her solution: to “build” the perfect man, who will court her publicly and help her catch his eye. Grace’s colleague, anthropologist Sebastian Holloway, is just the blank slate she requires.

In exchange for funding his passage on an expedition leaving London in a few months, Sebastian allows Grace to transform him from a bespectacled, bookish academic into a dashing—albeit fake—rake. Between secret lessons on how to be a rogue and exaggerated public flirtations, Grace’s feelings for Sebastian grow from friendship into undeniable, inconvenient, real attraction. If only she hadn’t hired him to help her marry someone else…

Sebastian is in love with brilliant, beautiful Grace, but their bargain is complete, and she desires another. Yet when he’s faced with losing her forever, Sebastian will do whatever it takes to tell her the truth, even if it means risking his own future—and his heart.

 

Twice In a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

Ditto to the above. I’m seriously behind on my reading!!

Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.

During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.

Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.

With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.

Have you read any of these, or are you planning to?

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Jennifer’s Bookish Etsy Gift List | Guest Post

Posted December 15, 2019 by Jana in Guest Post / 3 Comments

Today I’m welcoming Jennifer from YA Book Nerd to the blog to share with us her bookish Etsy gift list! I love great bookish merch, and Jennifer has some great recommendations!


Looking for something to get a Book Nerd for the Holidays? I have a few ideas from some of my favorite ETSY shops.

Enamel Pins

There are so many of these. Here are a few:

Well Read from the Word for Word Factory
Get Lit from the ADaesthetic
Treat Yo Shelf from the infiniteANDdarling

Candles

I Live In Fictional Worlds candle from SnuggleFuel
Anne of Green Gables candle from Rose & Adder
Stars Hollow candle from In the Wick of Time

Jewelry

Glasses necklace from The Locket Library
Bookstack earrings from Coryographies
Book Locket from my shop: YA Book Nerd

Pencils and Notebooks

Booknerd Pencils from IceyDesigns – she also makes tons of other fun bookish items
Sarah J Maas quote notebook from BookishStuff
You’re Just as Sane as I am (Harry Potter inspired notebook) from ColorfulGeekness

Artwork

Holly Nichols Illustrations has several bookish prints
Letterwright has Jane Austen book stacks and other bookish prints
Hermoine print from Art of Nathanna Erica

Totes/Bags

Miss Bohemia has this lovely Pemberley Tote plus lots of other bookish goodies.
Bookish coin purse/wallet from The Purple Hedgehog
We lose Ourselves in Books. We Find Ourselves there too! bag from Dreamyandco

 

Jennifer runs the blog YA Book Nerd. She’s a Children’s and Young Adult Librarian in a small town in Connecticut. She loves reading and all things bookish. When she’s not reading or talking about books, she love baking, crafting, reading twitter (@yabooknerd), watching the Celtics, and snuggling with her two dogs. She has an  Etsy shop with some bookish inspired items.

Which item is your favorite??
Do you have any recommendations for places to buy bookish items?

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Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham | Mini Book Review

Posted December 13, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham | Mini Book ReviewMine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham
Published by Carina Press on December 5, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 77
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
Add to Goodreads
Buy on Amazon
3 Stars

Thanks to a transatlantic house swap, California girl Ashley Turner is finally going to fulfill her lifelong dream of a proper English Christmas. Her holiday plans did not include a sexy stranger climbing into her borrowed bed in the middle of the night. But in the light of day, Ashley can't help but wonder if Santa has delivered early...

Game designer Oliver Stansfeld can't wait to leave dreary London—and all its difficult holiday memories—for sunny San Diego. But a freak ice storm and a grounded plane have forced him back to his already-occupied flat. To make up for the mix-up, the least he can do is show his pretty houseguest where to get the perfect Christmas tree before he leaves.

The more time they spend together, the more their attraction grows, and soon Ashley is tempting Oliver to give in to the spirit of the season and snuggle up for the rest of the winter. As the ice melts and flights start taking off again, he must choose between giving in to the past or risking his heart on a chance at love.

Doesn’t this book sound a little like The Holiday? That is one glorious movie and my favorite movie ever, so I was super excited when I found out that this book is about a transatlantic house swap! Even better, a man and a woman are swapping. And even BETTER, the airport gets shut down and she makes it to his London home… but he does not make it to her California home. SO… they have to both stay at his house. I mean, come on. How could you not want to read about this? It sounds super romantic, not to mention an accident waiting to happen! House swapping sounds like one of the coolest adventures ever, but I think I’d be a nervous wreck having a stranger living in my house. Anyways…

Ashley and Oliver are both looking for something. Growing up in poverty, Ashley has never had a real Christmas. And Oliver is looking for a way to survive the pain Christmas brings him. Neither of them were entirely happy to discover they would be sharing a home until Oliver could fly out to California, but they decide to make the best of it after an awkward encounter when Oliver enters his dark room and falls into bed… right on top of Ashley. Oops! She smacks him in his happy place, and he falls to the ground, naked and in pain. And that’s how their love story begins.

Oliver feels for Ashley and her strong desire for a beautiful Christmas, so he takes her shopping for a tree, takes care of her when she slips and falls on the ice, watches her decorate her tree, and enjoys her peppermint hot chocolate. I love the tension and the romance that grows from the bud of friendship. They confide in one another and share their stories, bonding over their sad memories and hope for a better future. I don’t like sad books at all, so I was happy to discover that the book did not feel sad for me. I just felt hope for them and excitement over the possibilities of their love story.

I really enjoyed this sweet, quick Christmas read and would recommend it to people who love The Holiday! While I think that movie is better, this book will make you smile and remind you that the most important part of Christmas is having someone special to share it with.

 

3 Stars
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