Month: December 2014

The Ten Things I Love Most About Christmas | Guest Post by Brenda Novak (+ Giveaways)

Posted December 9, 2014 by Jana in Blog Tour, Giveaway, Guest Post / 4 Comments


Welcome to my stop along the Harlequin Holiday Reads Blog Tour, hosted by Rockstar Book Tours! I absolutely love Christmas books, and this year’s line of holiday reads are wonderful! I’ve read and enjoyed several of them, including The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak, which I get to highlight today! Check out my review here. I loved it, and it definitely got me into the holiday spirit.

It’s my pleasure to have Brenda Novak on the blog today to tell us all about the ten things she loves about Christmas. She also has a fun giveaway for my readers to go along with the Harlequin-sponsored giveaway of all the books on the tour and some other fun goodies. So basically, this post is full of Christmas goodness!

The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak
Published by MIRA Books on October 28, 2014
Genres: Romance, Contemporary, Christmas
Pages: 384
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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 Eve Harmon has always enjoyed Christmas, but this year it reminds her of everything she doesn’t have. Almost all her friends are married now, and that’s what Eve wants, too. There’s no one in the small town of Whiskey Creek she could even imagine as a husband—until a handsome stranger comes to town.

The Ten Things I Love Most About Christmas
by Brenda Novak

1. Christmas Memories. They are some of my best. I will never forget the agonizing anticipation of trying to get through Christmas Eve as a young child. I think that’s been the only time in my life when I absolutely couldn’t sleep for the tremendous amount of excitement pouring through me. I’ll never forget my grandparents (one or the other, since they were divorced), coming to spend the night with us. That changed up our sleeping situation, which put us kids in various beds together. We would squirm and talk and anxiously await dawn—and then we’d get up before the sun only to be sent back to bed until the clock struck six.

2. Dickens Village Pieces. No one loves the Victorian era, or Charles Dickens, quite as much as I do. So I started collecting the Dept. 56 Dickens Village pieces early on. After several years, I couldn’t practically store and put out, so I quit adding to the collection. But I still enjoy setting up my village every year. There’s something about imagining that era that really gets my imagination going.

3. The hustle and bustle in the air. I love the frenetic activity. Some people eschew the crowds in the mall and on the streets, but I feed off the excitement. Several years ago, we started a tradition of going out very early on Black Friday to grab all the deals we could, and we’ve had a blast ever since, chasing from store to store with our five children.

4. The food. Need I say more? I think most people will agree with me here. My mother is now in her eighties and can’t cook anymore, but I will always remember her big dinners with great fondness. No one can make stuffing the way she could.

5. The lights. I can’t say that my husband is quite as excited as I am to drive around and see the lights, but I make him take me. There are certain streets not far from where we live that are famous for their displays. I enjoy getting a cup of hot cocoa and cruising around to take in the beauty.

6. The snow. Okay, this might be stretching it a bit, since I live in California. But I love snow in theory. I love the romanticism of a white Christmas, the beauty of it on Christmas cards (although I’m fine to admire it from afar—LOL).

7. The magic. I know a lot of people complain about the commercialism of Christmas. I’m sure they have a point. There is too much of that. But I also see a great deal of magic happening at this time. The gathering of friends and family builds stronger bonds. We remember associates we haven’t spoken to in a long time and take a few minutes to reconnect with a gift, some baked goods or a card. I love that this season causes us to pause and reflect on the things that are most important to us.

8. The gifts. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the gifts, so I’m going to be honest and include them. LOL

9. The books. There are so many inspiring and uplifting books that come out this time of year. Such stories of sacrifice and forgiveness and community inspire me.

10. The meaning. Peace on earth. Just saying those words makes me feel hope and joy.

About Brenda Novak:

Brenda and her husband, Ted, live in Sacramento and are the proud parents of five children—three girls and two boys. She juggles her writing career with her children’s softball and soccer games, field trips, carpool runs and homework sessions. Readers can find out more about Brenda at her website.

Find Brenda on Facebook and Twitter

Looking for more holiday-themed reads? Click here to discover.



(Each week of the tour holds a separate shared giveaway among that week’s tour stops, so make sure to visit stops each week for more opportunities to win)

The Harlequin Holiday Reads prize-pack includes:
– One mass market paperback of each of: Christmas with the Billionaire by Carole Mortimer, Maisey Yates and Joss Wood; Maybe this Christmas by Sarah Morgan; Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne; The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak; and The Lodge on Holly Road by Sheila Roberts.
– One copy of Her Holiday Man by Shannon Stacey in the digital format of your choice.
– One package of ornament charms
– One box of Harlequin-themed gift tags

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Apron_Brenda Novak prize

To be entered to win an autographed ‘Just Likes Mom’s’ apron from author Brenda Novak, share in the comment section of this post why you think having traditions is an important part of life.

It’s a New Adult Christmas with Megan Erickson! (+ Giveaway)

Posted December 8, 2014 by Jana in Book Excerpt, Giveaway / 1 Comment



It’s a new adult Christmas! This holiday season we’re celebrating with thirteen new adult authors. There’s bunches of stops along this tour starting today and going all the way up to Christmas Eve! Today I’m hosting Megan Erickson, author of the Bowler University Series: Make It Count, Make It Right, and Make It Last (coming January 6, 2015). She has a brand new Christmas scene for us that takes place shortly after Make It Right ended.

Max Payton spat out his half-chewed bite of pecan pie onto his plate. “Why the f—- does that taste like fire?”

Lea Travers dipped her finger into the gelatinous middle of Max’s slice of pie and stuck the tip of her finger in her mouth. Max was not wrong. She could feel the searing warmth down her throat and into her stomach. Her eyes watered and she coughed. Max leaned into her shoulder. “You all right, doll?”

“Water,” she gasped.

He reached for her glass on the coffee table in front of the couch they sat on in the Payton living room. He handed it to her and then turned to his brothers. Brent stood beside the recliner where their father was drinking a beer, and Cal leaned against the fireplace.

Brent looked pleased, chomping merrily on his pie. “I think it’s delicious.”

“What’d you do to the pie, Brent?” Cal asked.

“I made it delicious.”

“You made it burn the lining of my esophagus,” Max shot back.

Brent rolled his eyes. “You guys just can’t appreciate good Bourbon.”

“How much bourbon did you put in it?” Cal asked.

Brent didn’t answer.

Lea assumed if she checked the recycling, there’d be an empty bottle. That pie was drunk.

And seeing as Christmas Eve in the Payton household wasn’t going too hot, a hangover tomorrow was the last thing they all needed. Lea could tell her boyfriend, Max, and his brothers and Dad were trying, but they didn’t quite seem to have the holiday cheer. She wondered how the hell they got through previous holidays. Or if what she was witnessing right now was as merry as they got.

Which was sad. They were good guys. They just lacked a little finesse. A feminine touch. Their mom had left when Max was a kid.

Cal brooded by the fireplace, Jack drank in silence, and Max picked at his pie with a disgusted look on his face. Lea began to think that her plans for this evening might have been a bad idea.

Her plans that would be here in approximately five minutes.

She began to sweat and fanned her thin sweater off of her chest. Max frowned at her. “You okay?”

She wiped her forehead, like she was sweating. “Yeah, it’s just hot in here, you know? Maybe we can all go out in the backyard?”

Brent looked up from devouring his alcoholic pie. “Outside? Lea, it’s thirty degrees and dark.”

Why couldn’t they all just go with it? She had about – she glanced at the clock on the wall – T minus two minutes to get them out of the house before they heard the doorbell.

“It’s a family tradition of mine to look for shooting stars on Christmas Eve.” She was pretty proud of herself for that lie. It was a damn good one, and she’d made it up on the spot.

Max just stared at her. “What are you talking about?”

She tugged on his sleeve and stood up, bustling around to get their coats together. “Christmas Eve. Stars. Wishes. You know.” She clapped her hands together. “Round up, boys!”

Jack didn’t lower the footrest recliner. Cal was looking at her like she was crazy. Brent was picking a piece of pie off of his shirt…

And then the doorbell rang.

Cal’s head went up and he frowned. “Who the hell is ringing the doorbell on Christmas Eve?”

Lea laughed nervously. “I’m sure it’s just a solicitor or something. Okay, so backyard?”

But Cal ignored her and strode toward the front door. Max followed him and when they swung the door open, she squeezed her eyes shut. And waited.

There was a pause.

A long pause.

And when she cracked an eye open, she saw Cal scowling at the group of carolers Lea had asked to come from the local church. They were staring back at Cal like he was an axe murderer, and Max slowly turned his head to pin Lea with his gaze.

She waggled her fingers in weak wave.

Max sighed and turned back around.

There were five carolers, and the older woman in front was wearing a huge red coat over an ugly Christmas sweater and a massive fur hat. She seemed to gather herself together, and Lea had to hand it to her, because that was a bright smile in response to Cal’s frown.

“Merry Christmas, I’m Theresa and we’re from First Presbyterian over on Oakmont,” the woman said. “Would you like to hear some carols?”

Lea stepped up before Cal could answer. “Yes, please. Yes, yes we would.”

She felt a presence at her back and looked over her shoulder to see Brent, a grin on his face, his eyes on the cute young female caroler in the back. Who was blushing.

Lea rolled her eyes.

“Okay, ready?” Theresa said. “One…two…three.”

They began to sing a somewhat tentative version of “Jingle Bells.” Even so, Lea had to admit they sounded absolutely lovely, with a young guy in the back accompanying with a set of bells.
When that was over, Cal looked like he was going to close the door. But Lea could see Max beginning to smile, Brent bobbing his head, and Jack had even risen from his statue-like state on his recliner to listen to the carolers.

“Another please?” Lea asked.

Theresa nodded and turned to her group. Lea swore she saw a twinkle in Theresa’s eye as she communicated silently with her group.

Then Theresa turned around, and the carolers launched into a rousing rendition of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

And it was lovely. And fun. Brent began clapping and even placed his fingers in his mouth and whistled. Max grabbed Lea’s hand and swayed to beat. Even Cal was smiling, leaning back against the open door, his lips moving as he sang silently along with the carolers. Lea swore she caught Jack tapping his toe.

Lea threw back her head and laughed as Max picked her up and twirled her. He leaned his forehead against hers. “You already made me the happiest guy in the world, and now you’re trying to work your magic on my family?”

“I have no idea what you mean,” she said with fake innocence as she gripped his dark hair tightly.

He lowered her to the ground. “Yeah ya do. And we all appreciate it.”

She ran her fingers along the stubble on his jaw. “Merry Christmas, Max.”

He leaned in and pressed a tender kiss to her lips. “Merry Christmas, doll.”

Sweet, huh? Makes you even more excited to read the series, huh? You have the opportunity to win the first book by entering the giveaway at the end of this post! First, I’m going to introduce you to Megan and her final book, Make It Last, which comes out in the new year and can be read as a standalone!


About Megan:

Megan Erickson worked as a journalist covering real-life dramas before she decided she liked writing her own endings better and switched to fiction.

She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids and two cats. When she’s not tapping away on her laptop, she’s probably listening to the characters in her head who won’t stop talking.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and at her website!


Make It Last by Megan Erickson
Series: Bowler University #3
Published by William Morrow Impulse
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 336
Buy the BookAdd to Goodreads

After graduating from Bowler University, the last place Cam Ruiz ever expected to find himself is his hometown. A bad job as a bouncer and worry over his mom’s health make living in Paradise anything but. There’s only one thing that can make his return any harder—running into the only girl he’s ever loved.

Tate Ellison made a mistake when she was eighteen, one that cost her the best thing she’s ever had. She’s always hoped the regret of losing Cam would fade over time. Too bad it’s only grown. She took comfort in the fact she’d never have to face him again, so his presence in Paradise throws her for a loop.

The pull between them is instant and when the truth of what happened years ago tumbles out, they share a mind-blowing kiss…which leads to more. But the past has a way of repeating itself. When all the cards are on the table, Cam and Tate must decide what they are willing to do to make it last.


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Celebrate the Holidays with Harlequin (Giveaway)

Posted December 4, 2014 by Jana in Giveaway / 17 Comments

Harlequin Giveaway


What better way to kick off this amazing holiday season, than with a bunch of Christmas romances to read by the fire? The lovely people at Harlequin have offered up a selection of their Christmas books to one of my lucky readers! Reviews of many of these books will be popping up throughout the month, and I can’t wait to see what YOU think of them, too. Look at what you can win:

Harlequin Books

One winner will receive:
Christmas with the Billionaire
Maybe this Christmas by Sarah Morgan
Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne
The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak
The Lodge on Holly Road by Sheila Roberts

A copy of Her Holiday Man by Shannon Stacey in the digital format of your choice

A package of ornament charms

A box of Harlequin-themed gift tags


WOW. That is one lucky winner!

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Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Lyla Payne | Mini Book Review

Posted December 3, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, New Adult / 5 Comments

Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Lyla Payne | Mini Book ReviewMistletoe and Mr. Right by Lyla Payne
Published by Bloomsbury Spark on November 20, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 150
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
Add to Goodreads
Buy on Amazon
3 Stars

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…but lust refused to settle in for a long winter's nap.
She might be all nestled, snug in her bed, by why, oh why, do visions of the wrong guy dance in her head?

Jessica, (not Jessie), figures that nothing could be better than a trip to the Emerald Isle for Christmas break. So she takes a flying leap and follows her boyfriend home for the holidays, not only sure that he will finally agree they're destined for each other, but also that Ireland will provide the perfect backdrop to the beginning of their happily-ever-after.

But it turns out his family--and his gorgeous ex-girlfriend--don't feel the same way, and even the family goat seems to be conspiring against her well-laid plans. The only person making the trip worthwhile is the very last one she should be thinking about, but Grady, the local farmhand, has a way of showing up when Jessica needs him most...and least.

USA Today bestselling author Lyla Payne wraps up the perfect holiday novella, ties it with a ribbon of romance, and tops it with a light dusting of snow. Perfect to curl up with under the tree. Just add hot cocoa!

Mistletoe and Mr. Right was a great way to kick off my holiday season of reading! I was particularly excited when I found out it takes place in Ireland, and Lyla Payne really did a wonderful job with the setting. It felt magical and quintessentially Irish. The characters were charming, and I could just hear their beautiful Irish accents as I read their exchanges. I loved the bed and breakfast that Jessica’s boyfriend’s parents owned, and I loved the snow and the decorations. I could just smell the Christmas treats baking in the oven.

My favorite part of the story was the very beginning. I commiserated with Jessica’s long and eventful travel time. Transatlantic flights are not fun at all, plus then she had to drive the snowy roads on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road… and almost killed the family’s beloved goat. There she is, wet and cold, standing in the dark looking for the goat she hit and up comes the sexy farmhand, Grady. I loved this guy, and I loved him so much more than Jessica’s stuffy boyfriend, Brennan. I did love Brennan’s family, though. They were such characters, and I laughed at their antics several times. I’d love to be a fly on their wall during their Christmas dinner.

The writing was kind of dramatic, but I tend to allow so many things I don’t usually allow when it comes to Christmas books. It read like a super cheesy Hallmark movie, but I get all sappy and cheesy during the holidays so I didn’t even care. Things are a bit predictable and formulaic, but I came away happy and satisfied and ready for Christmas!

3 Stars

The 3rd Annual Bookish Little Christmas with That Artsy Reader Girl!

Posted December 2, 2014 by Jana in Blog Event, Bookish Little Christmas / 14 Comments

December has arrived, and That Artsy Reader Girl has donned her Santa hat in celebration of the most wonderful time of the year! I’m SO excited that it’s officially Christmas time! You know how much I love this time of year. We put up our Christmas tree this past weekend, and I’m going to start baking cookies as soon as I finish up these last few things for the semester’s end. I’m up to my eyeballs in fun Christmas reads, and I just bought a bunch of new movies! I’m going to have SO much fun, and I hope you’ll sit and stay a while!

Throughout the entire month of December, I will be sharing Christmas book reviews, giveaways, features, and guest posts from authors and my friends! Grab yourself some hot cocoa, and get ready for a fun and festive month here on the blog!

Would you like to participate? I’ve always got room for more friends! Just let me know, and I will fit you into the schedule. :) And be sure to send me links of any Christmas posts you come across (or write yourself). I’d be happy to help spread the word, or just come and bring some Christmas cheer. And I hope YOU will stop by lots this month, mainly because I love your face, but also because it’s going to be so much fun and I’d hate for you to miss out!