The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward | Mini Book Review

Posted December 9, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward | Mini Book ReviewThe Christmas Pact by Penelope Ward, Vi Keeland
Narrator: Andi Arndt, Sebastian York
Published by Audible Original on December 5, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Length: 2 hours 54 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
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4 Stars

Heat up the holidays with this sizzling new novella from New York Times best-selling authors Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward!

Riley Kennedy’s emails keep getting crossed with her colleague, Kennedy Riley.

The infuriating man forwards them along with his annoying commentary and unsolicited advice. At least she never has to see him in person since they work in different locations…until they come face to face at the office holiday party. As luck would have it, Kennedy turns out to be gorgeous…though still a jerk. Yet somehow he’s able to charm her out on the dance floor—and convince her to participate in his crazy scheme: He’ll go home with Riley for a Christmas party and pretend to be her boyfriend if Riley agrees to be his date to a wedding.

It sounds easy enough. But little by little, the act they’re putting on starts to feel like so much more than a Christmas pact—and Riley’s about to learn there’s more to Kennedy than she ever imagined.

This was such a fun listen! I love a good fauxmance (as you know), and this one was delightful. The two main characters share a name, but in reverse. He’s Kennedy Riley, and she’s Riley Kennedy. They also work for the same company, and keep getting each other’s emails. She politely forwards his along, but he gets nosey and reads them all… and then forwards them along with his comments/thoughts/musings. He annoys the crap out of her, but it’s not until they meet at the company Christmas party for the first time ever that they realize there’s this attraction there. And he’s a lot less annoying than Riley thought. He talks her into coming to a wedding with him and, in turn, he says he’ll go home with her for Christmas and pose as her boyfriend. Sneaky, huh? Everything unfolds in a pretty predictable manner, and I loved it a lot. The narrators were fun to listen to! And yay for my blushing self, there were no sex scenes! I cannot listen to sex scenes being read to me. It’s just too embarrassing. Things are mentioned… and sex happens, but it’s not described. The story is told from two different points of view. Kennedy’s thoughts had a little more swearing than I would have liked, but that faded away as the story moved on. All in all, a very fun listen!

4 Stars
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Top Ten Cozy Christmas Book Titles

Posted December 8, 2020 by Jana in Bookish Little Christmas, Top Ten Tuesday / 38 Comments

This week’s TTT is a seasonal freebie, so I chose to keep things Christmassy over here during A Bookish Little Christmas! There are some completely adorable Christmas book titles out there that give me all the Christmas feelings and sound perfect for curling up with by the tree. I’m going to share some of those today!

1. Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale
2. Christmas at the Cat Cafe by Melissa Daley (because cats)
3. Christmas On Candy Cane Lane by Sheila Roberts
4. Snowflakes On Silver Cove by Holly Martin
5. Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake by Sue Watson
6. Upon a Winter’s Night by Karen Harper
7. Love at the Northern Lights by Darcie Boleyn
8. The Holiday Hideaway by J.L. Jarvis
9. A Merry Mountain Christmas by Trish Milburn
10. Snowfall on Cedar Trail by Annie Rains

Don’t these sound cozy!? Have you read any of them?

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A McMillan Christmas by Bethany Claire | Book Review

Posted December 7, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

A McMillan Christmas by Bethany Claire | Book ReviewA McMillan Christmas by Bethany Claire
Series: Morna's Legacy #7.5
Narrator: Lily Collingwood
Published by Self on December 14, 2016
Genres: Holiday - Christmas, Romance, Time Travel
Length: 3 hours 10 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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5 Stars

Morna’s magic returns in this new Holiday story sure to warm your heart and make you believe in the miracle of love.

A Time For Second Chances

When the worst snowstorm of the century hits the Scottish Highlands just in time for the Christmas holiday, Harper knows she must seek shelter from the storm. With her grandparents’ home still hours away and the roads growing more hazardous by the minute, she is left with no choice but to take refuge in the one place she swore to never return— McMillan Castle—the home of the only man to ever break her heart.

Christmas only serves to remind Kamden McMillan of all that he’s lost. As he settles in for yet another holiday spent alone, he is stunned when his ex-girlfriend breaks into his home to escape the snow. With the storm projected to last for days, Kamden sees this time alone with her as a chance to make things right.

Just as they begin to get reacquainted, Morna’s meddling magic sends them back in time, and both are forced to reconsider what they thought they knew about the other. Will returning to the year their relationship ended allow Kamden and Harper to mend the hurt between them? Or has history already sealed their fate?

I saw this little story on Hoopla while I was looking for a short Christmas read, and thought it would be a great way to check out Bethany Claire’s writing. I’ve been interested in the Morna’s Legacy time travel series for quite some time now, and this was a very magical and festive introduction that I really enjoyed. I love it when a snowstorm plays matchmaker, and that’s what happens here. Harper is on her way to spend Christmas with her grandparents, when this snowstorm forces her to quit her drive early and seek shelter at the McMillan Castle, which is supposed to be empty right now. Harper used to work there and knows where the secret key is stashed. So she lets herself in and comes face to face with Kamden, the man who broke her heart. Forced proximity makes hearts soften, apparently. Morna’s magic (which I’m thinking pops up a lot to make people fall in love) sends Kamden and Harper back in time to the year they broke up to see if a little clarity can help mend those hearts and bring these two lovebirds back together.

I loved this, and I think I would have loved it even more if I’d read the other books in the series leading up to this one. The time travel aspects and Morna and some of the characters might have been less of a mystery to me. Still, though, I really enjoyed what I got and am eager to jump into this series now. The writing was really well done, and I enjoyed listening to this narrator. I also liked the strong message of forgiveness. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a magical Christmas story set in the snowy Scottish Highlands.

5 Stars
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Christmas Cards by Andrea S. | Blogger Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

Posted December 6, 2020 by Jana in Bookish Little Christmas, Giveaway, Guest Post / 8 Comments

I’m so happy to have one of my dear friends, Andi, on the blog today to share some of her beautiful holiday card creations! Enter to win what she’s made at the end of the post!


I’m really excited to take part in Jana’s Bookish Little Christmas. For those of you that don’t know me I’m Andi from the book blog Andi’s ABCs. But besides book blogging I also make handmade cards and some other paper crafts. I sell them in my Etsy shop, Cards by Andrea S.. When I signed up for Jana’s Bookish Little Christmas I knew I was going to craft a few items starting with some gift card holders, my new favorite thing to make. I went to my supplies and pulled some stuff out.

I grabbed my new Glitter Paper from The Stamp Market and decided to work with that and with the Bag and Tag die set. The great thing about the Bag and Tag die set if you can make one bag that is the perfect size for gift card and another bag that can be whatever size you want. Once the base was decided I grabbed my favorite Altenew ink in Crimson and the candy cane stamp from the No Peeking stamp and die set.

Taking the glitter paper I die cut the bags and used double sided tape to hold seal the sides securely. When the bags were complete I set them aside and grabbed my Misti Stamping tool and stamped two candy canes. Using my mini die cutting machine and matching die I cut the candy canes into tags.

With the bags and candy canes done I searched my stash and found some red snowflakes I had previously cut. Grabbing two clothes pins, one with an embellishment, I simply attached the the two tags to the bags. Once again looking in my stash of previously made items I found two tags to include in the larger bag.

Then it was time to move to the cards:

I decided to keep the cards pretty simple by within the same theme. Using the Altenew ink I grabbed a small candy cane stamp set. I stamped the message in the corner and used one of the candy canes and created a pattern surrounding the sentiment. Creating a random pattern is the easiest way to make a simple card and I was able to quickly do this. And that is all there is to it.

And there you have it, two gift card holders, two tags, and two holiday cards. And what is the best parr about that? Well they are all up for grabs for you to win. One winner (US only) will receive all of the items I made and a code to save in my Etsy shop should you want to order something in the future.

Thank you so much Jana for having me! It was a lot of fun. I hope everyone has a Happy Bookish Little Christmas!

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(Header by Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash)

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12 Dogs and Brownies by Lizzie Shane | Author Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

Posted December 5, 2020 by Jana in Bookish Little Christmas, Giveaway, Guest Post / 3 Comments

I’m so happy to have Lizzie Shane, author of The Twelve Dogs of Christmas, on the blog today to celebrate A Bookish Little Christmas with me! I have a major sweet tooth, so this was the perfect post for me. Who doesn’t love brownies?? Read more about Lizzie and her book below, and enter to win one of five copies of the book!


Tis the season for holiday treats!  I love making special goodies for the holidays, but I’m also a big believer in simple, time-saving recipes that feel special while still being super easy.  Enter Brownie Toppers.

In my new release, The Twelve Dogs of Christmas, town Scrooge Ben is overwhelmed by his Christmas obligations and isn’t much of a baker – but he’s still determined to make something special for his niece’s holiday bake sale.  So, of course, our heroine Ally saves the day by helping him dress up some brownies so they become the hit of the holiday fair.  (And then they fall madly in love, of course.)

In college I was addicted to the fancy brownies at a sweet shop in town (I still think back fondly on the M&M brownie…) and when I started playing at replicating them, they became one of my favorite holiday hacks.

S’mores Brownies, Peppermint Bark Brownies, “Dirt” Brownies, Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies and more.  Seriously, these are so easy.

  • Start with your favorite BROWNIE MIX – or you can make them from scratch if you’re fancy.  I like Ghirardelli Double Chocolate mix (and I can get it in bulk at Costco!).
  • PREPARE the brownies like you usually would and let them cool completely. While they are cooling you can start assembling your toppings.

(photo by Lizzie Shane)

For the S’mores Brownies, you’ll want:

  • Marshmallow fluff (or lightly warmed/softened marshmallows to make your own – 10 seconds in the microwave and a quick stir usually does the trick)
  • Crumbled graham crackers
  • Hershey squares

After the brownies have cooled, cut them into squares FIRST (otherwise you’ll never get them to cut cleanly because the marshmallow will be everywhere).  Spread the marshmallow fluff on each brownie, then sprinkle graham cracker crumbles on top and set a single Hershey square in the center.  Super fast.  Super easy.  Super delicious.  (If you’re wrapping them individually, make sure you really cover the fluff with graham crumbles or it will stick to the saran wrap forever.)

For the Peppermint Bark Brownies, you’ll need:

  • White Chocolate Chips
  • Crumbled Candy Canes (or Peppermint Bark)
  • Shortening (or vegetable oil)
  • Peppermint Extract or Peppermint Schnapps (optional)

After the brownies have cooled, you can either cut them into squares if you want the white chocolate dripping down the sides (I like it that way) or leave them in the pan if you’d like a clean white chocolate layer on top of the brownies.  In a microwave-safe dish, combine the white chocolate chips, shortening (for 1.5 cups chips, I add 1.5 tablespoons of shortening), and a splash of peppermint schnapps or ½ tsp of peppermint extract if you want extra minty-ness.  Melt for 30 seconds in the microwave, stir, melt for another 30, another stir, and you should have smooth, liquid, pourable chocolate.

Pour the white chocolate on top of the fully cooled brownies and sprinkle crushed candy canes on top while the chocolate is still warm and soft.  Let cool and harden completely.  If the brownies are still in the pan, be sure to score the chocolate with a knife as it is cooling, otherwise the chocolate topping will crack when you try to cut your squares.

For “Dirt” Brownies, you’ll need:

  • Chocolate frosting
  • Gummy worms
  • Crumbled Oreos (optional)

Once the brownies have cooled, cut them into squares (since the gummy worms are very difficult to cut after the fact).  You can cover the brownie squares with melted chocolate by replicating the steps above in the Peppermint Bark recipe, only with milk chocolate morsels instead of white chocolate, or you can simply cover them with a thin layer of frosting and a light dusting of Oreo crumbs before pressing the gummy worms on top.  And then you’re done.  Easy peasy.

For Caramel Pretzel Brownies, you’ll need:

  • Soft caramels
  • Salted Pretzels
  • Sea Salt (optional)

Cut the cooled brownies into squares again (because like the marshmallow, the caramel does not cut cleanly).  Melt the caramels in the microwave – I tend to do this ten seconds at a time, stirring as I check them, because the caramel burns easily.  You can drizzle lightly on top, but I like to slather it on with a knife because I like a lot of caramel.  Then, while the caramel is still warm, press the pretzels into the top.  You can either crumble them into pieces or press them on whole.  I also like to sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on top, for that extra salty kick.  Then just let cool completely and enjoy!

That’s it!  “Fancy” brownies with very little effort.

You can always mix and match your favorite toppings too.  I love white chocolate with Oreo crumbs (like Cookies n Cream), or a dollop of peanut butter with a Hershey square, or marshmallow fluff with M&Ms.

These are all very sweet, but they are a perfect holiday sugar rush.  And hopefully they make you as much the hit of the holidays as they did Ben and Ally.  Happy baking and happy reading!


The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Lizzie Shane
Series: Pine Hollow #1
Published by Forever on September 29, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance — Christmas
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A delightful holiday romance about a small-town single dad and an animal rescue owner as they try to find forever homes for a dozen lovable pups before Christmas.

Pine Hollow has everything Ally Gilmore could wish for in a holiday break: gently falling snow in a charming small town and time with her family. Then she learns some Grinch has pulled the funding for her family’s rescue shelter, and now she has only four weeks to find new homes for a dozen dogs! But when she confronts her Scroogey councilman nemesis, Ally finds he’s far more reasonable — and handsome — than she ever expected.

As the guardian of his dog-obsessed ten-year-old niece, Ben West doesn’t have time to build a cuddly reputation. But he does feel guilty about the shelter closing. So he proposes a truce with Ally, agreeing to help her adopt out the pups. As the two spend more time together, the town’s gossip is spreading faster than Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. And soon Ben is hoping he can convince Ally that Pine Hollow is her home for the holidays. . . and the whole year through.


About Lizzie Shane

Contemporary romance author Lizzie Shane was born in Alaska and still calls the frozen north home, though she can frequently be found indulging her travel addiction. Thankfully, her laptop travels with her and she has written her way through all fifty states and over fifty countries.

Lizzie has been honored to win the Golden Heart Award and HOLT Medallion, and has been named a finalist three times for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA Award®, but her main claim to fame is that she lost on Jeopardy! For more about Lizzie and her books, please visit http://www.lizzieshane.com.

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Header photo by Anna Peipina on Unsplash

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2020 Christmas Songs Book Club

Posted December 4, 2020 by Jana in Book Tag, Bookish Little Christmas / 6 Comments

The Christmas Songs Book Tag has become a pretty popular feature on my blog each year as part of A Bookish Little Christmas! I created this tag in 2015 and bring it back each year for people to participate in. Because I do this every year, I am limiting my choices to books I’ve read in 2020. You can do whatever you would like. :)

1. “All I Want for Christmas Is You”: Favorite bookish couple.
Stacey and Dex from Well Played by Jen DeLuca

2. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”: Name a book where a character is away from home (school, vacation, etc.).
Zoey from The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler. She’s on a bucket list vacation in Alaska!

3. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”: Name your favorite “little” book (children’s book, short story, novella, etc.).
Rolling In the Deep by Seanan McGuire.

4. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town“: What book(s) do you hope Santa brings you this year?
The Gem Thief by Sian Ann Bessey and Well Played by Jen DeLuca. I loved both of these books so much, and would love copies for my bookshelf! And if Santa wants to be REALLY nice, I’d love ARCs of The Bride Bet by Tessa Dare, Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle, and Well Matched by Jen DeLuca.

5. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: Which book turned your nose red (made you cry)?
You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle gave me all the feels.

6. “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: Your favorite book/kind of book to read during the holidays.
Christmas romances!! So far I’ve read a handful of great ones! I loved Jana Aston’s Reindeer Falls trilogy, Scrooged by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward, and Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Sarah Morgenthaler.

7. “We Three Kings”: Your favorite trilogy.
Hopefully it won’t be a trilogy forever, but I read and LOVED all three of the Moose Springs, Alaska books by Sarah Morgenthaler this year.

8. “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”: A character you would love to be snowed in with.
Cooper from Whiteout by Adriana Anders. He is super swoony, very caring, and good in times of crisis. I know he’d take care of me. He got Angel across the Antarctic tundra while being pursued by murderers and knew just how to keep her warm while he did it. I could totally be snowed in with a guy like him, where all we do is cuddle and fall in love. No thanks to the trek in a blizzard.

9. “Last Christmas”: A book that seriously let you down.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. I have loved every book of his to date, but this one was… not good.

10. “White Christmas”: An upcoming release you’re dreaming about.
Well Matched by Jen DeLuca!!

Which books would you pick for the prompts?

Christmas vector created, in part, by pch.vector – www.freepik.com

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An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow | Book Review

Posted December 3, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review, Bookish Little Christmas / 1 Comment

An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow | Book ReviewAn Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow
Series: Wild River #1
Published by Harlequin on September 24, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

In Alaska, it’s always a white Christmas—but the sparks flying between two reunited friends could turn it red-hot…

If there’s one gift Erika Sheraton does not want for Christmas, it’s a vacation. Ordered to take time off, the workaholic surgeon reluctantly trades in her scrubs for a ski suit and heads to Wild River, Alaska. Her friend Cassie owns a tour company that offers adventures to fit every visitor. But nothing compares to the adrenaline rush Erika feels on being reunited with Cassie’s brother, Reed Reynolds.

Gone is the buttoned-up girl Reed remembers. His sister’s best friend has blossomed into a strong, skilled, confident woman. She’s exactly what his search-and-rescue team needs—and everything he didn’t know he craved. The gulf between his life in Wild River and her big-city career is wide. But it’s no match for a desire powerful enough to melt two stubborn hearts…

I really, really love Alaska, so I was excited when I found this Christmas romance set in Wild River! This was very fun book, but I would have been happier if it had been more festive and Christmassy.

The synopsis has done a really good job explaining what the book is about. You’ve got workaholic Erika, who has to take a forced vacation by the order of her boss (aka her dad). She heads to Alaska to stay with her old best friend, Cassie, who owns a tour company. And then you’ve got Cassie’s brother, Reed, who Erika has always had the hots for. He works for a search and rescue crew. Cassie and Erika haven’t been close in years, so things are a bit awkward at first as they figure each other out again. Obviously, they have both changed. And Reed definitely notices the changes in Erika.

I always enjoy friends to lovers and dating the best friend’s sibling tropes, and this book gives us a bit of both. Cassie goes off on a tour with a group for a few days, leaving Erika at home to go stir crazy. She gets out and starts hanging with Reed… goes on a few rescues… gets to know the locals. It’s fun. I like the town of Wild River and the people that live there. This book was a strong set-up for the series, and I know I would have liked it more if I hadn’t gone into it expecting an explosion of Christmas decorations and festive merriment. You could really read this at any time during the year, which isn’t a bad thing by any means, but was a bit of a disappointment for me. An Alaskan Christmas was actually a lot deeper and more heavy than I was expecting when I looked and the beautiful cover. I was picturing steamy Hallmark, but this was more of a drama than a romance for me. Everyone is working through a lot of stuff, and Erika is reanalyzing her life. I honestly can’t remember much Christmas or even many swoons. I really liked Erika and Reed together, but I didn’t have any strong feelings for them as individuals. They were not very memorable, personality-wise. I enjoyed the search and rescue tidbits, which were exciting and interesting.

All in all, this was fun! I was expecting something different, but it doesn’t mean that what I got was bad. I’m interested in continuing on with the series to see who gets their own romance next. Maybe Cassie? Or one of the search and rescue team? Both would be fun. :)

3 Stars
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In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren | Book Excerpt (+ Giveaway)

Posted December 2, 2020 by Jana in Book Excerpt, Book Spotlight, Bookish Little Christmas, Giveaway / 7 Comments

Today I have a Christmas treat for you! Gallery Books has given me an excerpt of Christina Lauren’s new Christmas book to share with you, plus they are sponsoring a giveaway of a copy of the book for A Bookish Little Christmas! I’m reading In a Holidaze right now, and it’s so much fun so far. Trust me, you’re going to want to win this!


In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on October 6, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance — Christmas
Pages: 336
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One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.


In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Chapter 1 (Excerpt)

December 26

Call me harlot. Call me impulsive. Call me hungover.

No one ever has before, but someone absolutely should this morning. Last night was a disaster.

As quietly as I can, I slip out of the bottom bunk and tip- toe across the freezing floor to the stairs. My heart is beating so hard I wonder if it’s audible outside of my body. The last thing I want is to wake Theo and have to look him in the eye before my brain is warmed up and my thoughts are cohesive.

The second step from the bottom always creaks like something out of a haunted house; it’s been victimized by nearly three decades of us “kids” run-stomping our way up for meals and down for games and bed in the basement. I stretch to carefully put my foot on the one just above it, exhaling when I land with no sound. Not everyone is so lucky; that loose board has busted Theo sneaking in late—or early, depending on how you look at it—more times than I can count.

Once I’m in the kitchen, I worry less about stealth and go for speed. It’s still dark; the house is quiet, but Uncle Ricky will be up soon. This cabin is full of early risers. My window of opportunity to figure out how to fix this is narrowing quickly.

With a barrage of memories from last night rolling like a mortifying flip book through my head, I jog up the wide stairway to the second floor, ignore the mistletoe hanging above the landing, round the banister in my candy cane socks, sneak quietly down the hallway, and open the door to the narrower set of stairs leading to the attic. At the top, I nudge open Benny’s door.

“Benny,” I whisper into the chilly blackness. “Benny, wake up. It’s an emergency.”

A gravelly groan comes from across the room, and I warn him, “I’m turning on the light.”

“No—”

“Yes.” I reach over, flicking the switch and illuminating the room. While we offspring have long been relegated to bunk beds in the basement, this attic is Benny’s bedroom every December, and I think it’s the best one in the house. It has pitched ceilings and a long stained-glass window at the far end that projects sunlight across the walls in brilliant stripes of blue, red, green, and orange. The narrow twin bed up here shares the space with the organized clutter of family heirlooms, boxes of decorations for various holidays, and a wardrobe full of Grandma and Grandpa Hollis’s old winter clothes, from back when buying a cabin in Park City wasn’t a laughable financial prospect for a high school principal from Salt Lake. Since none of the other families had girls when I was a kid, I would play dress-up all alone up here, or sometimes with Benny as my audience.

But now I don’t need an audience, I need a kind ear and a cold, hard shot of advice because I am on the verge of hysteria.
“Benny. Wake up.”

He pushes up onto an elbow and, with his other hand, wipes the sleep from his eyes. His Aussie accent comes out hoarse: “What time is it?”

I look at the phone I have gripped in my clammy palm. “Five thirty.”

He stares at me with squinty, incredulous eyes. “Is somebody dead?”

“No.”

“Missing?”

“No.”

“Bleeding profusely?”

“Mentally bleeding, yes.” I step deeper into the room, wrap myself up in an old afghan, and sit in a wicker chair that faces the bed. “Help.”

At fifty-five years old, Benny still has the same fluffy sandy-brown hair he’s sported my entire life. It reaches just past his chin, wavy like it was permed for years and at some point decided to stay that way. I used to imagine he was a roadie for some aging eighties rock band, or an adventurer who led rich tourists to their doom out in the bush. The reality—he’s a Portland locksmith—is less exciting, but his jangle of turquoise bracelets and beaded necklaces at least lets me pretend.
Right now that hair is mostly a tangled halo of chaos around his head.

With each of the twelve other bodies in this house, I’ve got deep history, but Benny is special. He’s a college friend of my parents—all of the grown-ups in this house attended the University of Utah together, except Kyle, who married into the group—but Benny has always been more friend than parent figure. He’s from Melbourne, even-tempered and open-minded. Benny is the eternal bachelor, the wise adviser, and the one person in my life I know I can count on to give me perspective when my own thoughts are swerving out of control.

When I was a kid, I would save up my gossip until I saw him over the Fourth of July weekend or Christmas break, and then unload everything the moment I had him to myself. Benny has a way of listening and giving the simplest, most judgment-free advice without lecturing. I’m just hoping his level head can save me now.

“Okay.” He clears some of the gravel out of his throat with a cough and brushes a few wayward strands of hair out of his face. “Let’s have it.”

“Right. So.” Despite my panic and the ticking clock, I decide it’s best to ease him in gently to this conversation. “Theo, Miles, Andrew, and I were playing board games last night in the basement,” I start.

A low “Mm-hm” rumbles out of him. “A standard night.”

“Clue,” I stall, tugging my dark hair over my shoulder.

“Okay.” Benny, as ever, is blissfully patient.

“Miles fell asleep on the floor,” I say. My younger brother is seventeen and, like most teenagers, can sleep on a pointy rock. “Andrew went out to the Boathouse.”

This “Mm-hm” is a chuckle because Benny still finds it hilarious that Andrew Hollis—Theo’s older brother— finally put his foot down with his father and found a way out of the infantilizing bunk bed situation: he moved into the Boathouse for the duration of the Christmas holiday. The Boathouse is a small, drafty old building about twenty yards from the main cabin. What cracks me up is that the Boathouse isn’t anywhere near a body of water. It’s most frequently used as an extension of the backyard in the summer and most assuredly not set up for overnight guests to the Rocky Mountains in December.

And as much as I hated not seeing Andrew Hollis in the top bunk across the room, I honestly can’t blame him.
No one sleeping in the basement is actually a kid anymore. It’s been well established that Theo can (ahem) sleep anywhere, my brother, Miles, idolizes Theo and will go wherever Theo is, and I put up with it because my mother would murder me barehanded if I ever complained about the Hollis family’s abundant hospitality. But Andrew, nearly thirty years old, was apparently done placating the parents, and took a camping cot and sleeping bag and strolled his way out of the cabin our first night here.

“We’d all had a couple drinks by then,” I say, then amend, “Well, not Miles, obviously, but the rest of us.”

Benny’s brows lift.

“Two.” I grimace. “Eggnog.”

I wonder if Benny knows where this is going. I am a notoriously wussy drinker and Theo is a notoriously horny one. Though, to be fair, Theo is just notoriously horny.

“Theo and I went upstairs to grab some water.” I lick my lips and swallow, suddenly parched. “Um, and then we were like, ‘Let’s drunkenly go for a walk in the snow!’ but instead . . .” I hold my breath, strangling my words. “We made out in the mudroom.”

Benny goes still, and then turns his suddenly-wide-awake hazel eyes on me. “You’re talking about Andrew, right? You and Andrew?”

And there it is. With that gentle question, Benny has hit the nail on the head. “No,” I say finally. “Not Andrew. Theo.”

That’s me: harlot.

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Top Ten Favorite Christmas Books I’d Love to Read Again Soon

Posted December 1, 2020 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 17 Comments

Happy December, and welcome to another TTT! This is my favorite time of year and, in celebration of A Bookish Little Christmas here on my blog, I will be spinning all of the December TTT prompts to fit the Christmas theme. This week’s topic is Books I Want to Read Again, so I’m sharing some of my favorite Christmas books that I’d love to read again. I’m picking some children’s, middle grade, YA, and adult titles so there’s a little something for everyone here!

The Mouse’s Christmas by Kit Schorsch


The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat by Brigid Clark and Chris Noel


Merry Christmas Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer

Sleigh Bells In the Snow by Sarah Morgan

Snowed Over by Angie Stanton

Operation White Christmas by Nicki Edwards

Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

Christmas at Frozen Falls by Kiley Dunbar

One Christmas Eve by Shannon Stacey

Do you have any recommendations for really great Christmas books I might love? I’m always looking for more!

What books do you want to read again soon?

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9th Annual A Bookish Little Christmas with That Artsy Reader Girl

Posted December 1, 2020 by Jana in Blog Event / 2 Comments

Welcome to the 9th annual A Bookish Little Christmas! This is my favorite blog event ever, and even though I’ve struggled a bit with consistent blogging and reviewing this year I’m extremely excited to be putting on this event once again! The next few weeks will be filled with Christmassy guest posts, book reviews, and other fun things as we count down the days until Christmas (I’ll be updating the schedule as posts go live). Some of my very favorite bookish people will be stopping by with amazing festive content. I can’t wait to celebrate my favorite holiday with you!

Celebrate #ChristmasWithJanaInstagram ✦ Twitter

December 1

Top Ten Christmas Books I’d Love to Read Again Soon

December 2

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren | Book Excerpt (+ Giveaway)

December 3 

An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow | Book Review

December 4

2020 Christmas Songs Book Club

December 5

12 Dogs and Brownies by Lizzie Shane | Author Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

December 6

Christmas Cards by Andrea S. | Blogger Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

December 7

A McMillan Christmas by Bethany Claire | Book Review

December 8

Top Ten Cozy Christmas Book Titles

December 9

The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward | Mini Book Review

December 10

Traditions & Christmas Trees by Estelle Hallick | Publicist Guest Post

December 11

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

December 12

How to Make a Tomato Cage Christmas Tree by Annie Rains | Author Guest Post (+Giveaway)

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