11th Annual Broke & Bookish Secret Santa & Christmas Card Exchange

Posted October 23, 2020 by Jana in Blog Event, Bookish Little Christmas / 0 Comments

I am SO EXCITED to kick-off one of my favorite holiday traditions! As many of you know, Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) and I used to host this event together, but I hosted it by myself in 2019 to give Jamie some time to breathe. She has since decided to step away permanently, so That Artsy Reader Girl is now the official and forever home of Broke & Bookish Secret Santa.

I have made some minor changes and additions to the event this year, so please read this entire post carefully even if you’re a #TBTBSanta veteran.

Starting this year, I’ve decided to add a Christmas cards only exchange to #TBTBSanta! I’m super excited about this, and think it’s going to allow so many more people the opportunity to receive happy mail this season. 

CHRISTMAS CARD EXCHANGE INFO:

This exchange is open internationally. You can sign up to send 1, 5, or 10 cards and will receive the same in return. Please note that this will not be divided up by countries, so you might be sending internationally. You are more than welcome to sign up for this exchange in addition to a Secret Santa package.

SIGN-UPS CLOSE AT 11:59 PM MST ON NOVEMBER 5TH!
I will be emailing you your list of card recipients by November 10th.

If you want to sign up for the Christmas card exchange, please do so through the following links:

1 card
5 cards
10 cards

THINGS YOU NEED TO DO:

1. Mail your cards by December 4th (ASAP if you’re sending internationally). The USPS typically takes 3-7 days to deliver snail mail within the USA, and we all know they’re struggling more than usual this year.

2. Once you have sent out all your cards, please fill out this form.

3. Include some way for your card recipients to find/contact you online! If you only include your mailing address and name, they won’t be able to figure out who you are unless they write back… and since that is not a requirement of this event you might miss out on a new friend. A Twitter handle or email address would be perfect.

4. Include the hashtag #TBTBSanta somewhere on the envelope or in the card so your recipient knows you’re from this event.


SECRET SANTA INFO:

1. Please only sign up if you are committed to sending off a package on time. Really think about whether or not you’ll have the time and the money to send a thoughtful gift to your recipient–one you’d be happy to receive yourself. I really don’t want to hunt you down for not sending your package, or for sending one that does not meet the guidelines for the event. I keep track of those who do not follow the rules, and those people will not be allowed to participate in the future.

2. Be as thorough as possible in your questionnaire (no amount of info is too much). Please utilize the event hashtag on Twitter (#TBTBSanta) to ask questions, or reach out to the contact your recipient provides if you need help or clarification on what to send.

3. NEW THIS YEAR. Instead of sending me an email when you’ve sent and received your packages, you will be filling out Google forms that are linked below in the “things to do” section and will be included in the email I send out with your recipient’s information. This allows for much better organization on my part and faster answers for those who email me with questions or issues.

3. A note to people outside of the USA : Please understand that I can’t guarantee that you will be assigned someone who lives in your country. I try to work it out geographically, but it all depends on who signs up and which level of package they sign up to send.

Countries are divided up into mailing groups to help with shipping costs. If you live in one of the locations listed below, you will be placed in that mailing group and could be sending to any of the countries listed in that group. If you sign up for a package type that nobody else close to you has signed up for, you might be placed in a different mailing group. If you are unsure as to whether or not you can afford the shipping, please do a little research before you sign up. I will continually update this post with a list of countries where participants are from (and which mailing groups they are in) so you can see where you might potentially be sending your package.

Mailing Groups:

– Canada
– Europe Mailing Group 1: UK (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and Ireland
– Europe Mailing Group 2: Mainland Europe (The Netherlands)

4. I’m capping this event at 400 participants this year.

5. I can’t ensure that you will not be assigned to someone you’ve been assigned to before, or who you’ve been paired with in other swaps/gift-giving events. It’s too hard for me to juggle that while also trying to pair you with someone you have something in common with.

6. Please note that this is NOT a swap. You will not be sending to the same person who is sending to you.

SIGN-UPS CLOSE AT 11:59 PM MST ON NOVEMBER 5TH!

(Although, let’s be honest. I’m not going to be pairing while I’m sleeping so if you sneak in on the morning of 11/6, I won’t mind. I will announce on Twitter when I begin pairings, and that will be the official close of sign-ups.)

HOW TO SIGN UP:

To sign up, send an email to TBTBSecretSanta (at) gmail (dot) com answering the following questions. (NOTE: Please do not attach a document to your email. Just copy and paste your answers directly into the body of the email.)

  1. Full Name & Mailing Address (Exactly as it should appear on the mailing label)
  2. Please choose what level of package you will be sending to your recipient (I will be grouping people accordingly, so you will be expected to send out what you choose here. Please note that ARCs have no monetary value and will, therefore, not count towards the book quantities listed here. Think of them as a fun bonus if you choose to include them.):
    a) 1 book and a small gift/goodie
    b) 1-2 books and a couple small gifts/goodies
    c) 2+ books and multiple small gifts/goodies
  3. Blog URL/Twitter username/Youtube channel/Instagram username: (Include any social media or online presences to help your Santa get to know you. You MUST be active on at least one platform, and preferably be on Twitter.)
  4. List of 10-15 books you’d like to read, or a link to a wishlist: (Please include old and new releases and please do not ask for books that have not been released yet. Make sure your Goodreads profile or Amazon wishlist is public at least for the time this event runs. Double check that your links work while logged out of your account. Please keep your wishlists separate if you participate in other swaps/secret people events.)
  5. Genres you read the most: (Specify YA, adult, etc. as well.)
  6. List of your bookish preferences: (a few favorite authors, things you will not read, if you prefer hardback or paperback, if you don’t care about book format at all, if you are okay receiving something not on your wishlist that your Santa thinks you would like, etc.)
  7. Food and other allergies:
  8. All the things about yourself: (Please tell your Secret Santa about yourself. The more they know about you, the better job they can do picking out your additional small gifts/goodies. For example: general info about yourself (job, age, school/major, family, pets, etc.), if you celebrate Christmas or not, your hobbies, your passions, music you love, smells or flavors you like/do not like, TV shows you watch, favorite movies, things you collect, fandoms you’re a part of, if you would love something native to where your Secret Santa lives, coffee/tea you like, candy/snacks you like, favorite colors, shoe/sock size, favorite patterns, your style/aesthetic, favorite animals, things you are obsessed with, etc. Also, if you have an e-reader and would be happy to receive ebooks or a gift card, mention that and include any email addresses associated with those accounts. The more info in this section, the better. I literally rejoice when I see a lot of words here.)
  9. Would you be able to send internationally if needed? (This question mainly applies to people in the USA, since I can’t guarantee that you will not be sending internationally if you live outside the USA.)
    Please answer with:
    A. Yes, I can.
    B. No, I cannot.
    C. Would prefer not to but will if needed (be careful with this one, as you could be shipping ANYWHERE)
    NA. I do not live in the USA, and understand that I might be sending internationally.
  10. You are:
    a) Under 18
    b) 18+
  11. Have you participated in Broke & Bookish Secret Santa before, or is this your first time? Did you participate in Christmas In July?:
  12. Please provide the contact information (name and Twitter handle/email address) of someone your Secret Santa can contact with questions about you: (This person does not have to know you well. They just have to be able to contact you with questions so I don’t have to relay information back and forth between you and your Santa. Please ask this person before you put their twitter handle or email address here so they are not confused. Please also ask this person to open their DMs on Twitter if you choose to include their Twitter handle as a way to contact them. If you have no idea who to ask to be your contact, post to the event hashtag and ask for volunteers. You’ll find one quickly and make a new friend at the same time!)
  13. Any questions, comments or additional things your Secret Santa (or I) should know.

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THINGS YOU NEED TO DO:

1. Mail your package no later than December 10th (perhaps earlier if you are sending internationally). The earlier the better. For some people, what you’re sending might be the only thing they receive for Christmas, so please ensure their gift(s) arrives to them before December 25th. IF SOMETHING COMES UP PLEASE EMAIL ME. Communication is super important.

2. **NEW THIS YEAR** Once you’ve sent your box, please fill out this form.

3. **NEW THIS YEAR** Once you’ve received your box, please fill out this form.

4. Be sure to thank your Secret Santa when you receive your package. You can do this via social media or reach out to me for their email address. I know this should go without saying, but we’ve had some ungrateful people in the past who never reached out to their Santa to thank them or even acknowledged that they received their gift. That’s completely unacceptable, not to mention rude.

Another note on thank you’s… Please thank your Santa even if you do not plan to open your gift until Christmas Day (or any day other than the day you received it). Yes, you can’t personally thank them yet since you don’t know who they are, but please at least say you received it publicly on social media. Your Santa is likely stalking you, eager to know that their gift is safely in your hands and has not been stolen or lost. You can thank them again after once you’ve opened your gift and discovered their identity.

5. If you have not received your package by January 4th please email me and I will attempt to contact your Secret Santa. Please understand that I will try my very best to work it out, but there is only so much I can do if someone decided to be a punk.

6. Please utilize the event hashtag #TBTBSanta to ask questions, post hints, thank your Santa, and share in your shopping/gifting/receiving/sending process! Show us what you got! It’s also really helpful to search your person’s handle with the hashtag and see all the questions they’ve answered and the gifts they received in previous years. 

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GIFT GUIDELINES & SUGGESTIONS:

1. Books can be new or used. Use your discretion as far as used books go, but please be kind and don’t send something you wouldn’t want to receive. They should be in very good condition. ARCs have no monetary value and should, therefore, only be included in addition to the number of books you committed to send.

2. When I say “goodies or small gifts”, I don’t mean free swag or promotional items. If you want to add that stuff in after you’ve put in some thoughtful goodies because you think your person would really love those swag/promotional items, wonderful! Please just make sure that those additional goodies are not JUST things anyone could have picked up at a book event or received from publishers in the mail.

3. Due to everything going on in the world right now, please do not send homemade food items. Pre-packaged, store-bought foods are fine (and encouraged!).

4. Be thoughtful. 99% of the time the gifts are really sweet and thoughtful and what you would expect, but occasionally someone just throws random crap in a box and ships it off to fulfill their end. I’ve seen people receive expired face masks, for crying out loud. Don’t be like that. Gifts should be thoughtfully chosen based on your recipient’s questionnaire and wrapped nicely. There should be some sort of note included.

5. Please do not ship directly from Amazon or elsewhere (unless you talk to me first).

6. If you aren’t sure what kinds of things to add for the additional small gifts, peruse the #TBTBsanta thread on Twitter or Instagram to see pictures of packages from previous years. There are lots of good ideas!

Please ask any questions in the comments!!

TBTBSanta logo created with the help of Freepik

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The Ten Most Recent Books I’ve Read Because Someone Recommended Them

Posted October 19, 2020 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 17 Comments

Welcome to another TTT! This week’s topic is “books I read because someone recommended them to me”. I love getting recs from people and think it’s so much fun to discuss books with friends. I figured it would be too hard to narrow this list down to the top ten best ones because I’m not sure I could pick. So instead, I’ve chosen to share the ten most recent books I’ve read (good or bad) because someone recommended them to me.

Halloween Boo by Sarah Spade
My friend, Elley, recommended this Hocus Pocus-inspired romance between a ghost and a human. It was a fun little story, but a bit too steamy in places for my comfort level.

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean
Elley also recommended this entire trilogy, and said the first one is her favorite. I really enjoyed this historical romance!

Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams
I picked this up because my friend, Caro, LOVED it. Unfortuately, I had a really hard time with some of the themes throughout the story, It was a unique concept, though! Although… it featured an apocalyptic plague, which… well, you know.

Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid
I’ve seen these books everywhere, so I’m not sure who specifically made me decide to pick it up… but I loved this book! So much fun.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
My friends Harker and Elley both LOVE this book, and now I do too! Murder mermaids, guys.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
My friend, Michelle, loved the camp setting in this one and it was definitely a great book. I love Riley Sager.

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
My friend, Lindsey (Bring My Books), said the audio of this was amazing and she was right!

Roomies by Christina Lauren
My first Christina Lauren! I have no idea who recommended them. Maybe it was a bunch of voices yelling at me. In any case, I love Christina Lauren now so thank you!

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier
My friend, Bonnie, got me this book because she loves it so much and it’s WONDERFUL. Get it!

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
I never would have read this if the entire book blogging world hadn’t exploded when the ARCs went out. I was lucky enough to get one, too, and it’s such a good book.

Which of these have you read? What did you think?
What’s the best book you’ve ever read because someone else recommended it?
Have I ever recommended anything on this blog or on social media that you read and loved?

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Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday | Book Review

Posted October 15, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday | Book ReviewParadise Cove by Jenny Holiday
Series: Matchmaker Bay #2
Published by Forever on July 28, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
Add to Goodreads
Buy on Amazon
3 Stars

Dr. Nora Walsh has just been dumped in spectacular fashion, making it the perfect time for a major life change. She figures taking over the medical practice in tiny Matchmaker Bay for a couple of years will help her get over her broken heart, and then she can head back to the big city. But when the first man she sees looks like a superhero god, she wonders if maybe there's something to small-town living after all.

Jake Ramsey also has a broken heart -- one he never expects to heal. He doesn't need people anyway and is content hiding out in his secluded cottage on the beach. But after helping Nora with a medical emergency, he finds himself opening up to the witty, warmhearted doctor. Soon the local matchmakers are working overtime to pair them off, and Jake begins to wonder if his campaign to get Nora to stay is for the town or because he can't bear the thought of her leaving.

I’ve struggled with books by this author in the past, so I was a bit worried about trying again. But my friend, Estelle at Forever, pitched this to me so hard while we were talking on the phone one day that I decided to give Jenny Holiday another try! I’m glad I did, because I really enjoyed this for the most part! I do have a few tiny complaints, but I’m definitely interested in reading the other books in this series. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. We’ve got Nora, the city girl who moves to a small town to take over the medical practice there. I love stories like this, because I really enjoy anything medicine (even though it plays a tiny part in the story). She’s also running from a bad relationship and wants a new start. She’s a very energetic, bright personality and I enjoyed the contrast between her and Jake, the hero of this story.

2. Jake is a very quiet Mr. Fix-it that everyone loves even though nobody knows him very well. Well, they know his story but they don’t know him. He’s a man of very few words, but when he does speak it’s important. He lives off in a secluded part of town and goes around quietly fixing things that need fixing. He randomly shows up at Nora’s house to re-build her deck, and she stumbles upon him while he’s out there working. That’s just what he does! He’s the fix-it fairy, and I loved him for that. He’s got major heartbreak in his past, and watching him go through the grieving process and learning to open up again was very sweet. Oh, and Nora refers to him as Aquaman, if that does anything for you. I’m not a fan of the long-haired, man-buned man but I know many are!

3. Nora’s and Jake’s relationship is very organic. They start out as friends with benefits, which I actually hate. lol. But then things get deeper as he opens up to her. She expects absolutely nothing from him, and lets him open up slowly and quietly and on his own terms. When he tells her his story, she responds in a very comforting way without exhausted cliches. She reacts to him in a way nobody else has. She asks him tough, but meaningful, questions about his son instead of glazing over him as if he never existed. It’s hard on Jake, but also helps him realize that he can look to the good times and remember than fondly, rather than feeling guilty for the bad times.

4. The sex scenes were a bit too much and too frequent for me. I enjoy steam in my books, and I like it when it adds to the story. But when these scenes just keep happening and happening I start to skim over them because I need more than that in my books. I begin to disconnect from the characters because I’m not seeing them grown and learn and love. I’m just seeing how much stamina they have in the bedroom and that gets old. lol.

5. That being said, I really had fun getting to know these two characters and seeing their love story unfold. I loved Jake’s dog and his house, which was in a cute little cove. I loved that Jake bought Nora some rain boots that stayed at his house so he could put them out for her when he knew she was coming over. That way, when the tide rolled in she could traverse the wet rocks and wade through the water to get around the bend and make it to his house without getting wet. How sweet is that?

6. I loved the supporting characters and all the friendships that were developed in this story between the townspeople and Nora. I’d like to go back and read the first book in this series so I can get more info about some of these characters.

All in all, I enjoyed the story and am excited to read more books in the Matchmaker Bay series! Jenny’s writing is great and her characters are loveable. I could do with a little less heat and steam and more actual story, but it’s not enough of a drawback for me to keep me from reading more of her books!

3 Stars
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Top Ten Long Book Titles

Posted October 12, 2020 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 26 Comments

Welcome to another TTT! This week’s topic is about super long book titles. Maybe you’ve chosen to only include the titles of books you’ve read or want to read, titles you just simply like but are not necessarily interested in reading, or even long titles you hate. Or all of the above? I’m a huge fan of a good title, so I’m only focusing on ones I like, both on and off my TBR/read lists.

1.The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
This title is super unique, unforgettable, and I’d love to read this someday!

2. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
I liked this book as a kid, and I sometimes refer to my days as terrible, horrible, no good, very bad ones so the title has stuck with me!

3. You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney
This just made me laugh. I have no idea what it’s about, but I know a few people I’d like to fling this book at based on the title alone!

4. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
My mom mentioned this one while I was talking to her about this topic, and I’ve always thought it was a pretty and intriguing title.

5. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
I didn’t love this book, but the title sure is cute!

6. The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer
One of the cutest Christmas books ever.

7. On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God by Louise Rennison
I laughed when I saw this one, so I had to include it.

8. Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord by Sarah MacLean
I just finished the first book in this series, and am excited to start the next one!

9. Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale
Because it I can add a Christmas book, I will!

10. Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm by Jaimie Admans
Hey look, I did it again! I’m actually hoping to read this one soon.

Which loooong book titles did you find this week?

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Top Ten Book Covers That Give Off Fall Vibes

Posted October 5, 2020 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 20 Comments

Welcome to another TTT! I hope you’re doing well. It’s finally October (yay!!) and even though it’s not getting cold enough fast enough for me to really feel like it’s fall, I’m excited to share books with covers that give off fall vibes!

Something Wicked by Lucy Hudson
Harvest Moon by Robyn Carr
Halloween Boo by Sarah Spade
Halloween at the Graff by Sinclair Jayne
Thankfully in Love: A Thanksgiving Anthology by Anna J. Stewart, Kayla Perrin, Melinda Curtis, & Cari Lynn Webb
Pumpkin Everything by Beth Labonte
Bewitching You by Katana Collins
All I Want for Halloween by Marie Harte
A Thankful Heart by Melissa McClone
A Match Made for Thanksgiving by Jackie Lau

Which covers did you choose to feature this week?
Do any of these capture your feelings of fall?

Have you read any of these book? They’re all on my TBR, so please share your non-spoilery thoughts if you’d like!

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Ten Quotes for Book Lovers

Posted September 28, 2020 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 19 Comments

Welcome to another TTT! I hope your week is off to a good start. What are you excited about right now? The Animal Crossing: New Horizons Halloween update drops tonight, so that’s what I’m looking forward to right now!

This week’s topic is “Favorite Book Quotes”. I share quotes a lot on my blog, so I chose to share quotes for book lovers today. These are quotes about books and reading and how wonderful it is to be bookish. I’m excited to see which quotes you featured this week!

1. “A good book is an event in my life.” – Stendhal

2. “The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” — Ursula K. Le Guin

3. “Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.” — Jean Rhys

4. “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” – James Baldwin

5. “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ― Charles W. Eliot

6. “A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” ― Madeleine L’Engle

7. “I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

8. “I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

9. “Books make people quiet, yet they are so loud.” – Nnedi Okorafor, The Book of Phoenix

10. “Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book.” ― Stéphane Mallarmé

It was so much fun looking through quotes I’ve saved and browsing a bunch online! There were so many great ones to choose from, but I tried to pick some of the ones I don’t see all over the place. Hope you enjoy!

What are some of your favorite bookish quotes?

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Top Ten Books On My Fall 2020 To-Read List

Posted September 21, 2020 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 30 Comments

I LOVE FALL! I’m so, so excited that fall is here and that the weather is cooling off. I can’t wait for pumpkins and leaves and cozy hoodies and blankets. We are about to begin my absolute favorite chunk of the year. As crazy as it is to think we’re already here, I also can’t believe we’re here! In many ways, this year has felt like 7 years. It’s hard to believe that life was normal at the beginning of 2020, because I feel like we’ve been in a dystopia forever.

What kinds of books do you like to read in the fall? For me, it’s definitely Gothic/atmospheric books and eerie historical mysteries and thrillers. I love being a little creeped out, but not terrified. The books on my fall tbr fit that bill, and I’m eager to get to all of them!

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes a novel set in glamorous 1950s Mexico.

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James

Rebecca James unveils a chilling modern gothic novel of a family consumed by the shadows and secrets of its past in The Woman in the Mirror.

For more than two centuries, Winterbourne Hall has stood atop a bluff overseeing the English countryside of Cornwall and the sea beyond.

In 1947, Londoner Alice Miller accepts a post as governess at Winterbourne, looking after Captain Jonathan de Grey’s twin children. Falling under the de Greys’ spell, Alice believes the family will heal her own past sorrows. But then the twins’ adoration becomes deceitful and taunting. Their father, ever distant, turns spiteful and cruel. The manor itself seems to lash out. Alice finds her surroundings subtly altered, her air slightly chilled. Something malicious resents her presence, something clouding her senses and threatening her very sanity.

In present day New York, art gallery curator Rachel Wright has learned she is a descendant of the de Greys and heir to Winterbourne. Adopted as an infant, she never knew her birth parents or her lineage. At long last, Rachel will find answers to questions about her identity that have haunted her entire life. But what she finds in Cornwall is a devastating tragic legacy that has afflicted generations of de Greys. A legacy borne from greed and deceit, twisted by madness, and suffused with unrequited love and unequivocal rage.

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. A high school English teacher specializing in the Gothic writer R. M. Holland, she teaches a course on it every year. But when one of Clare’s colleagues and closest friends is found dead, with a line from R. M. Holland’s most famous story, “The Stranger,” left by her body, Clare is horrified to see her life collide with the storylines of her favourite literature.

To make matters worse, the police suspect the killer is someone Clare knows. Unsure whom to trust, she turns to her closest confidant, her diary, the only outlet she has for her darkest suspicions and fears about the case. Then one day she notices something odd. Writing that isn’t hers, left on the page of an old diary: “Hallo, Clare. You don’t know me.”

Clare becomes more certain than ever: “The Stranger” has come to terrifying life. But can the ending be rewritten in time?

The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age debut novel

It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor, Samuel Moore, appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life―especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam.

Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history―and her heart.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

Music City Salvage is a family operation, owned and operated by Chuck Dutton: master stripper of doomed historic properties, and expert seller of all things old and crusty. But business is lean and times are tight, so he’s thrilled when the aged and esteemed Augusta Withrow appears in his office, bearing an offer he really ought to refuse. She has a massive family estate to unload – lock, stock, and barrel. For a check and a handshake, it’s all his.

It’s a big check. It’s a firm handshake. And it’s enough of a gold mine that he assigns his daughter Dahlia to personally oversee the project.

Dahlia preps a couple of trucks, takes a small crew, and they caravan down to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the ancient Withrow house is waiting – and so is a barn, a carriage house, and a small, overgrown cemetery that Augusta Withrow left out of the paperwork.

Augusta Withrow left out a lot of things.

The property is in unusually great shape for a condemned building. It’s empty, but it isn’t abandoned. Something in the Withrow mansion is angry and lost. This is its last chance to raise hell before the house is gone forever, and there’s still plenty of room in the strange little family plot.

New from Cherie Priest, a modern master of supernatural fiction, The Family Plot is a haunted house story for the ages – atmospheric, scary, and strange, with a modern gothic sensibility that every bit as fresh as it is frightening.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But pregnant and widowed just weeks after their wedding, with her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her late husband’s awkward cousin for company–or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure—a silent companion—that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of the estate are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition—that is until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.

A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, The Silent Companions is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect—much like the companions themselves.

The Return by Rachel Harrison

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.

Under the Willows by Pamela McCord

After her husband is killed by a drunk driver, Kelly Harris and her son TJ move into a sprawling Victorian house in Ohio that her husband inherited from his grandmother. Dealing with her overwhelming grief is a struggle as she adjusts to life in a small town. And, just as she’s beginning to feel more comfortable, life takes another unexpected turn.

The Alexa unit in her son’s bedroom starts to cry, and a little girl’s voice comes out of it asking for help.

At first Kelly is unnerved by the presence of the voice. After ruling out all the other likely possibilities, she begins to put the pieces together, and suspects the girl is a ghost. Unwilling to be uprooted from another home, she decides to find out what the child wants. Maybe she can help.

Kelly isn’t the only one interested in the voice. Detective Rob Porter is investigating the disappearance of a child named Marilee. As the two cross paths, Porter is taken aback when Kelly’s ghost mentions Marilee’s name. In fact, the ghost says “Marilee’s with me.”

Whether that means the child is a ghost as well is a question Rob and Kelly hope to answer.

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

A seductive, gothic-infused tale of literary suspense — the debut of a spectacular new voice — about a dangerously curious young undergraduate whose rebelliousness leads her to discover a shocking secret involving an exclusive circle of students . . . and the dark truth beneath her school’s promise of prestige.

You are in the house and the house is in the woods.
You are in the house and the house is in you . . .

Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises its graduates a future of sublime power and prestige, and that they can become anything or anyone they desire.

Among this year’s incoming class is Ines, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, pills, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. The school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves and their place within the formidable black iron gates of Catherine.

For Ines, Catherine is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had, and her serious, timid roommate, Baby, soon becomes an unlikely friend. Yet the House’s strange protocols make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when Baby’s obsessive desire for acceptance ends in tragedy, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda that is connected to a secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.

Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.

Have you read or are excited o read any of these?
Do you have any recommendations for Gothic or atmospheric/spooky reads?
What’s on your Fall TBR?

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Top Ten Swoony Book Covers

Posted September 14, 2020 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 22 Comments

Welcome to another TTT! This week’s topic is a book cover freebie and I decided to focus on covers with swoony scenes on them! I love romance, so this was very hard. I tried the not let them all be historical romances, but… again, that was hard. I’m excited to see what you chose to post about.

The Bride Bet by Tessa Dare

A Good Duke is Hard to Find by Christina Britton

The New Normal by Tracey Brogan

This looks like a super sweet moment.

The Highlander’s Christmas Bride by Vanessa Kelly

The Write Escape by Cherish Reid

The Irish Heiress by Kaitlin O’Reily

The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

An Unexpected Christmas by Shannon Richard

There’s just something about those cheek/head kisses that melt me.

Christmas with Love: An Anthology by Sarah Morgan

Royally Romanov by Teri Wilson

Paris. But also, this is so romantic.

What book cover freebie did you pick this week?
And have you read any of these? Are they good?

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Top Ten Picture Books Little Me Would Have Loved

Posted September 7, 2020 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 20 Comments

Welcome to TTT! Just an FYI, I updated the list of future TTT topics through the end of the year so you can get planning!

This week’s topic is “books for my younger self”, and I have just realized that this topic is… basically the same topic we did in April. I’m so sorry! I did books I wish teen me had read back then, so it slipped my mind that the two prompts I provided are basically identical. I hope you’ve been able to spin it or pick a new topic entirely that suits you better. Can we please blame this duplication on the pandemic? I feel so dumb!

I rarely get to talk about picture books on here because I focus on romance so much, but I really love them and am excited to share a few favorites I wish had been around when I was little.

Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
This is about a kitten who thinks the moon is a bowl of milk, and it is darling.

Little Elliot, Big City (and the rest of the series) by Mike Curato
Elliot is the cutest white polka dot elephant and he loves to go on adventures with his best friend, a timid and tiny mouse. The pictures are to die for.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (and the rest of the series) by Mo Willems
This pigeon wants to do everything he can’t, and he’s the best little complainer. These books are so funny!

The Lending Zoo by Frank Asch
I loved Frank Asch books as a kid (his bear books were so fun), and this book about a zoo-brary with a missing tiger would have been well loved, I know.

Duck and Goose (and the rest of the series) by Tad Hills
This entire series is so cute and simple, but I think the illustrations are my favorite part.

Little Quack (and the rest of the series) by Lauren Thompson
Another adorable book series with the cutest illustrations! Little Quack has some of the best facial expressions.

10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle
Apparently I like ducks? 10 rubber duckies fall off a ship and travel around the world. It’s magical and adorable, and so colorful!

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Simple and so funny. I bet my mom would have enjoyed reading this to me!

Slugs in Love by Susan Pearson
The most heartwarming little romance for kids! I love these slugs. A sentence I never though I’d say.

Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage
There are no words in this book, but it’s still so amazingly entertaining! A walrus escapes his zoo home and goes on an adventure. I know I would have loved to narrate this.

Which books do you wish had been available when you were younger?

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Top Ten Book Covers that Make Me Hungry

Posted August 31, 2020 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 21 Comments

Welcome to another TTT! Thank you so much to those of you who reached out in the comments and on Twitter to make sure I was ok last week. That was so sweet of you, and made me feel very loved. I’m back his week with a very fun topic that centers on one of my favorite things: food. The topic is “books that make me hungry” and I’ve chosen to share book covers that have pictures of yummy things on them! I can’t wait to see what everyone else chose to do with this week’s topic!

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee
The Ingredients of You and Me by Nina Bocci
Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights by Carole Matthews
The Bakeshop at Pumpkin and Spice by Donna Kauffman, Kate Angell, and Allyson Charles
The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March
Just One Taste by Louisa Edwards
Sugar Rush by Donna Kauffman
Love à la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Have you read any of these? The only one I’ve read is Love & Gelato (LOVE IT),
but the others are on my TBR!

What’s your favorite food? 

(So sorry this was late! My link-up service has been down all day.
I got it to work for a few minutes, so fingers crossed!
Please post links as comments if the linky is weird!)

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