Month: December 2015

Top Ten 2016 Debuts I’m Excited About

Posted December 14, 2015 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 6 Comments

 

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at the other blog I write for, The Broke and the Bookish.

We did this topic a few weeks ago over at The Broke and the Bookish, and I missed it. As host of the Debut Author Challenge, though, I’m pretty much required to post this topic (although, it’s really hard to choose between all of them)! So here are ten of the many 2016 debuts that I’m looking forward to!

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
March 8, 2016 from Penguin
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She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him…or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers
February 2, 2016 from HarperTeen
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In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.

Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.

With shades of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a story of love, lies, and the ultimate vengeance.

Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira
January 12, 2016 from Spencer Hill Contemporary
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In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?

Even if the Sky Falls by Mia Garcia
May 12, 2016 from Katherine Tegen Books
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All she needs is one night to be anyone she wants.

Julie is desperate for a change. So she heads to New Orleans with her youth group to rebuild houses and pretend her life isn’t a total mess. But between her super-clingy team leader and her way-too-chipper companions, Julie feels more trapped than ever.

In a moment of daring, she ditches her work clothes for DIY fairy wings and heads straight into the heart of Mid-Summer Mardi Gras, where she locks eyes with Miles, an utterly irresistible guy with a complicated story of his own. And for once, Julie isn’t looking back. She jumps at the chance to see the real New Orleans, and in one surreal night, they dance under the stars, share their most shameful secrets, and fall in love.

But their adventure takes an unexpected turn when an oncoming hurricane changes course. As the storm gains power and Julie is pulled back into chaos she finds pretending everything is fine is no longer an option.

Mia García’s Even If the Sky Falls is a whirlwind twenty-four-hour romance about discovering what it means to feel alive in the face of life’s greatest danger: love.

The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright
January 18, 2016 by Merit Press
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Family can be complicated. Especially when skeletons from the past pop up unexpectedly. For American Evie Gray, finding out her deceased mother had a secret identity, and not one of the caped crusader variety, was quite the surprise. Evie’s mom had a secret life before she was even born, one that involved tiaras.

In this modern day fairytale, Evie is on a path to figure out who her mom really was, while discovering for herself what the future will hold. Charged with her late mother’s letters, Evie embarks on a quest into her past. The first item on the list is to attend Oxford, her mom’s alma mater. There, Evie stumbles upon a real life prince charming, Edmund Stuart the second Prince of England, who is all too happy to be the counterpart to her damsel in distress.

Evie can’t resist her growing attraction to Edmund as they spend more time together trying to unravel the clues her mother left behind. But, when doubts arise as to whether or not Edmund could ever be with an untitled American, what really ends up unraveling is Evie’s heart. When Evie uncovers all the facts about her mom’s former life, she realizes her mom’s past can open doors she never dreamed possible, doors that can help her be with Edmund. But, with everything now unveiled, Evie starts to crack under the pressure of new family responsibilities and the realization that her perfect prince may want her for all the wrong reasons.

Love, Lies, & Spies by Cindy Anstey
April 19, 2016 from Swoon Reads
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Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
April 12, 2016 from Simon Pulse
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A summer in Italy turns into a road trip across Tuscany in this sweeping debut novel filled with romance, mystery, and adventure.

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept from Lina for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and ever herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
May 3, 2016 from St. Martin’s Griffin
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Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets – thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk – it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.

THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN is a lush, beautifully written and vividly imagined fantasy inspired by Indian mythology.

Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto
February 2, 2016 from Balzer + Bray
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The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.

Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.

But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

This thrilling novel is a remarkable tale of danger and discovery, from debut author Michelle Modesto.

Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
January 19, 2016 from HarperTeen
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Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.

Which 2016 debuts are you looking forward to?


A Little Christmas Nostalgia | Guest Post by Sara from Reading the Blues Away

Posted December 14, 2015 by Jana in Guest Post / 0 Comments

 

I’d like to welcome Sara from Reading the Blues Away to the blog today to give us a glimpse into her holiday memories and traditions! She has perfectly captured what I think we all love about Christmas. (Pictures added by Jana from online sources.)


Hi guys! It’s Sara from over at Reading the Blues Away. The most wonderful time of year for me is from Halloween to the New Year. It is filled with so much love, happiness, and charity. My family used to have many traditions for this time of year but as my sister and I have gotten older and things in our family have changed many of these traditions have went away. I miss the ones that have disappeared but I hope to bring them back when I have a family of my own. These are the 13 traditions I hope to bring back or keep for my future family (13 just because I love the number).

1. Yard time!
October is when the world begins to change in my neck of the woods. The temperature finally gets comfortable. The leaves start turning beautiful colors and falling to the ground. Saturdays mean playing in these leaves. Raking them into piles to burn, or to stuff in the garbage bags that look like pumpkins for decoration.

2. Family time!
Thanksgiving is for family. With everyone having different schedules it has been years since we have actually gotten to have Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day. This doesn’t really make a difference for the spirit of the holiday but to me it just feels different. I want to be able to bring Thanksgiving dinner back to Thanksgiving Day. Food, family, starting Christmas movies, one entire day with no outside interference just being with the ones we love.

3. Parades!
Watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has always been my favorite thing. No one else in my family likes to watch it, which I do not understand. I love watching the musicals and Broadway shows that do scenes. Seeing all the families, the happy children, and hearing the news anchors talk about their family plans after the parade makes me so happy. Like a glimpse into other people’s lives.

4. Food drives!
I was brought up to help others in any way possible when you are able. Donating food is one way we would help others. My school, the local churches, and other organizations in the area always had food drives to help people thru the holiday season. It is always a priority to donate as much as we can to help as many people as possible. One year we were even on the receiving end of these donations, which reinforces the urge to help even more.

5. Trees!
I am a live tree person. I know it is horrible for all those trees to be cut down every year but I really don’t like artificial trees. My family has an artificial tree now but I will be going back to live trees when I get my own place. I like picking a time that we can all get together and go pick out the perfect tree. If that means going to a tree lot, the hardware store, or even better a tree farm. Another day that the whole family gets to bundle up and search for perfection.

6. Decorations!
Once we have the perfect tree it is time to decorate it. All the decorations are brought out of storage and Christmas music is put on to play. We argue of which lights to use, because we all have our favorites. Then the ornaments, some from all the way back when my grandparents first got married. Plus the yearly ornaments we always got when we were little with our names and the year on them. All kinds of memories in one big storage bin.

7. Charity!
Giving to others is what this time of year is about. Let’s be honest, we should give and help others all year but the “want” is stronger during this time. Giving to the food drives again. Putting money in the red buckets outside stores. Visiting nursing homes and hospitals, singing carols, taking gifts, snacks, and just spending time with the patients. All around making people happy.

8. A child’s happiness!
There are always children out there that will not get the Christmas they deserve, and it isn’t their fault. Thankfully we have programs to help these kids have the best possible Christmas, Angel trees to Toys for Tots. I always put a few toys in the Toys for Tots boxes. For me the most fun is when we adopt a child for Christmas. We get to shop for everything for them from socks/underwear to a new warm coat, to toys and a stocking of goodies. Knowing how happy this child will be when they wake up Christmas morning is such a wonderful feeling.

9. Music!
Music has always been a big part of my life, but Christmas music holds a special place in my heart. From the weekend after Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas, Christmas music plays in the car, at work, around the house when we are doing Christmas things. All songs from the hippo song to Carol of the Bells to Silent Night nothing is overlooked.

10. Movies!
As a child we always picked one night for Christmas movies. We would get big bags of popcorn to share and watch all the old cartoon Christmas movies. Rudolph, Frosty, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Year Without a Santa Claus…. We watched all the others throughout the season too. Holiday Inn; my all time favorite, was watched either on Christmas Eve or after dinner on Christmas Day.

11. Breakfast!
Christmas morning every year we all get up and have breakfast together. Breakfast usually consists of cinnamon rolls and juice. We gather around the table eat breakfast, and then mom goes and starts the turkey or the ham for dinner.


12. Presents!
I’m not going to lie presents are one of the best parts of Christmas. Who doesn’t like getting presents?? I also like giving presents. The choosing a perfect gift for someone, the wrapping it up beautifully, and seeing their face when they open it. Making people happy makes me happy. Plus I am always given one present a year that I get to be a little evil with when I wrap it. Some years I use boxes inside of boxes; sometimes I use lots of packing tape, sometimes a patchwork wrapping job, and sometimes all of the above.

13. New!
The New Year is so many things in just a click of a second on a clock. It is the wrapping up of the bad from the previous year. It is a beginning of something new. It is a time to look at your life decided what you want to let go, and where you want to go. One deep breathe in that one second of time can change so much.
Thank you for letting me share my traditions. Now go enjoy your traditions, your families, and your holiday celebrations whatever they may be.

Holiday Love,
Sara


What is your favorite thing about the holiday season?


Christmas in New Zealand | Guest Post by Victoria from Addlepates and Book Nerds

Posted December 12, 2015 by Jana in Guest Post / 0 Comments

 

I’d like to welcome Victoria from Addlepates and Book Nerds to the blog today to tell us what Christmas is like where she lives in New Zealand! I love learning about Christmas in other countries, so this is a real treat for me!


Hi everyone! I’m Victoria, a blogger from New Zealand. And over here, we celebrate Christmas a little differently!

First off, it’s summer here. That means we’re off school for summer break, and there’s absolutely no fear of a white Christmas. Honestly, I get super jealous of seeing snow in so many other countries! I would love snow here, but it’ll never happen at Christmas time. Luckily though, it also means we don’t have to snuggle up inside during the day. For me personally, my dad’s parents come and visit us, or we go and visit them. With six people in the house, it can be a little crowded. So it’s a good thing we get to go outside! We have Christmas lunch outside, and my dad and I often get sunburned. Yeah, we got the dud genes… Because my parents get Christmas break off, we go to the beach a lot once my grandparents are gone. Again, lots of sunburns, but also swimming in the sea! Oh, and the blooming of these beautiful trees, the pohutakwa.

When I signed up for writing this, I was worried that we didn’t have many differences apart from the season. Then I discovered something terrible about America – you don’t have Santa parades! Okay, how do you cope? What was your childhood?!? I haven’t been in years, since I’m supposedly too grown-up now, but when I was younger we went every year. I was even in one, dressed up as a fairy and handing out lollies (candy, sweets, whatever you want to call them). Basically, the parade is exactly what you’d expect – some dancers, some fairies, some circus people, all doing cool performances. And then, the man himself! Santa always has the best float, filled with lucky as heck children, always bringing up the rear of the parade. He’s not actually flying in this picture (obviously), but the floats are cool enough to make it look like it.

The last big difference (I think) is the food. For Americans, you’ve stuffed yourselves a month earlier at Thanksgiving. For us, the last time we ate that much food was last Christmas. So I think we get into it more than you guys do – but I’ve never celebrated anywhere outside of New Zealand, so what would I know? Definitely the best food we get at Christmas is pavlova. Honestly, I don’t know how to explain it to anyone who hasn’t had it. Google it! We also have roast kumara (sweet potato) with our roast lamb. Very New Zealandy! Oh, and you can’t forget Christmas cookies! Where would be without those? And advent calendars, Sampler biscuits, lamingtons… I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Thanks so much to Jana for letting me share all this with you! I’m so excited to see everyone else’s traditions.

Victoria is a 17-year-old blogger at Addlepates and Book Nerds. She swims, writes (not as often as she should…), reads, and watches too much YouTube to be healthy. You can find her on Twitter, Goodreads, Snapchat (@victoriajaynes), or email her at addlepatesandbooknerds@gmail.com! 


What is Christmas like where you live?

 


Christmas Songs Book Tag

Posted December 9, 2015 by Jana in Book Tag / 6 Comments

ChristmasSongsBookTag

I love Christmas songs so much! I listen to them all December, and they make me so happy. They also remind me of my childhood, and how excited I would get when my favorites would come on. While I was playing some of my favorite Christmas albums as I decorated my Christmas tree over the weekend, I found myself also being reminded of certain books and characters I’ve read (or read about) over the years (does Christmas make you super nostalgic, too?). And, voila! A book tag was born! I’ve been having a lot of fun with some of the other book tags I’ve found around the Internet, so I thought I’d make one myself to help us get in the Christmas spirit.

I hope you’ll join in on the fun. :) If you would like to participate, grab the button and make sure to link yours up in the Linky below so I can come visit! I can’t wait to see which books you choose to feature. :)

1. “All I Want for Christmas Is You”Name your favorite bookish couple.
Willem De Ruiter and Allyson “Lulu” Healey from the Just One Day books by Gayle Forman. I love these two, and how their love can jump hurdles and dodge punches from every direction.

2. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”: Name a book where a character is away from home (school, vacation, etc.).
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I love Anna’s whirlwind romance while away for school in Paris.

3. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”: Name your favorite “little” book (children’s book, short story, novella, etc.).
Snowed Over by Angie Stanton is my absolute favorite Christmas book, and it is short enough to read every year! It’s new adult, and involves a blizzard, a cabin, and a swoony romance.

4. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town“: What book(s) do you hope Santa brings you this year?
I really want the two Veronica Mars novels: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line and Mr. Kiss and Tell. I just barely watched the series for the first time, and I’m addicted and want more.

5. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: Which book turned your nose red? (made you cry)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. For all the obvious reasons.

6. “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: What’s your favorite book to read during the holidays? (re-read? or a specific genre?)
I love the Let It Snow anthology by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle. I try my hardest to read it every year, but at least Green’s tale because it’s hilarious and very feel-good.

7. “We Three Kings”: What’s your favorite trilogy?
This is very hard. Why did I do this to myself? I have three. The Under the Never Sky trilogy by Veronica Rossi, the Newsoul trilogy by Jodi Meadows, and The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.

8. “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”: Which character would you not mind being snowed in with?
I have too many book boyfriends. Again, why did I do this? Sam from Incarnate by Jodi Meadows, Thorne from the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, and Michael from Nocturne by Syrie James.

9. “Last Christmas”: Which book seriously let you down?
Shadowlands by Kate Brian. That. Ending. I was so mad. It took a huge turn for the worse, and I’m not even interested in reading the rest of the series.

10. “White Christmas”: Which upcoming release are you dreaming of?
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. PLEASE GIVE IT TO ME NOW.

Which books remind you of these songs? 

I tag you!

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


Kisses, She Wrote by Katharine Ashe | Book Review

Posted December 8, 2015 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 0 Comments

Kisses, She Wrote by Katharine Ashe | Book ReviewKisses, She Wrote by Katharine Ashe
Series: The Prince Catchers #1.5
Published by Avon Impulse on December 3, 2015
Genres: Historical Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 176
Source: Purchased
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1.5 Stars

Christmas in town has never been so steamy . . .

Handsome as sin and scandalously rakish, Cam Westfall, the Earl of Bedwyr, is every young lady's wickedest dream. Shy wallflower Princess Jacqueline of Sensaire knows this better than anyone, because her dreams are full of the breathtaking earl's kisses. And not only her dreams—her diary, too.

But when Cam discovers the maiden's not-so-maidenly diary, will her wildest Christmas wishes be fulfilled in its pages . . . or in his arms?

Hmmm. Well, this is a tough review to write. I did not really like the first book in this series, I Married a Duke, but I’m a sucker for historical Christmas romances and bookish characters. I decided to give this one a try, and I ran into the same problems I experienced with the first book. I was bored. The background details and politics and cultural explanations were boring. I felt for Jacqueline and her major crush on Cam. What girl hasn’t this happened to? However, I got very tired of reading her “erotic” journal entries about him. In this time period, what woman would write those kinds of things and then leave her journal out in the open for anyone to happen across? Cam read it, and became so hot and bothered by it that he wanted her even though she never struck his fancy before. I felt like this was a pretty weak plot line. Everything that happened between them was a result of his invasion of her privacy. There was no intrigue or attraction between the two of them, only Cam’s sex drive and her obsession with his looks. Jacqueline is supposed to be shy and proper, but it didn’t take long for her to throw all that away. There was no romance here. Plus, the entire story significantly lacked Christmassy details. This could have taken place at any point during the year and nothing would have really changed. Needless to say, I’m pretty disappointed.

1.5 Stars

Top 5 Christmastime Movies | Guest Post by Alexia at Pretty Deadly Reviews

Posted December 7, 2015 by Jana in Guest Post / 3 Comments

 

I’m happy to welcome a very good friend, Alexia from Pretty Deadly Reviews, to the blog today to help us celebrate the magic of this holiday season! She’s here to tell us about her top five choices for holiday movie-watching.


Elf

Elf is the movie that can get me into the Christmas spirit no matter what kind of day I’m having. It’s full of character, fun and hilarity. My family usually watches it on Christmas Eve after my brother gets home from his dad’s house. We also occasionally watch it on Thanksgiving night, though the former is much more likely.

Love Actually

I’ve got so much love for this movie. I mean, come on, it’s got an entire cast made from British actors and actresses. Plus it’s a movie about love, centered around the holidays. There’s always a mix of emotions when I watch this movie, but it always ends on a happy, hopeful note. There’s themes of love, death, cheating, promiscuity and forgiveness.

The Sound of Music

This movie was always one of my favorite movies to watch during Christmastime when I was little. Even now, as I am nearly 30, it still holds that same kind of magic for me. The chemistry between Julie Andrews & Christopher Plummer is perfection. The songs are forever etched into my memory, and it too creates a mix of emotions as I watch the movie.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Honestly, I can take either version of this. The short cartoon or the longer, live action version with Jim Carrey. They both are awesome for many reasons. The cartoon has the nostalgia vote, but the live action is longer and it actually adds more to the story in some ways.

The Preacher’s Wife

This is another movie that has been one of my favorites since I was little. A large chunk of it is due to the fact that I’ve been obsessed with Whitney Houston since I was a child. This movie has so much good stuff in it. I almost always end up full on sobbing at the end of it. There are a lot of “grown up” topics in it, topics I didn’t grasp as a child, but important topics nonetheless.

 

 


What are some of your favorite movies to watch during the holiday season?

 


Mistletoe and Mr. Right: Two Stories of Holiday Romance by Lyla Payne | Book Review

Posted December 4, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, New Adult / 4 Comments

Mistletoe and Mr. Right: Two Stories of Holiday Romance by Lyla Payne | Book ReviewMistletoe and Mr. Right: Two Stories of Holiday Romance by Lyla Payne
Published by Bloomsbury on October 6, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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3 Stars

In "Mistletoe and Mr. Right," Jessica (not Jessie) takes a flying leap and follows her boyfriend home for the holidays for Christmas break, sure 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 the only person making the trip worthwhile is the local farmhand, who has a way of showing up when Jessica needs him most . . . and least.

The holiday hijinks continue in "Sleigh Bells and Second Chances," when Jessica's best friend makes her own way across the pond! Christina Lake does not want to be away at Christmas, but it's her duty to babysit one of London's hottest bands at their last-minute concert on Christmas Eve . . . even though she had a fling with Cary, the band's lead singer, that never officially ended. Now forced to reconnect, Christina is starting to think that maybe London is exactly where she's supposed to be to get the perfect New Year's kiss--at least until she finds out that he's been lying the whole time. Can Cary find a way to prove himself before the clock strikes twelve? Or will the New Year ring in a new romance?

Lyla Payne wraps up two perfect holiday novellas, ties them with a ribbon of romance, and tops them with a light dusting of snow. Perfect to curl up with under the tree. Just add hot cocoa!

I really enjoyed Mistletoe and Mr. Right when I read it last year, so I was very excited to receive this bundle for Bloomsbury, which contains Mistletoe and Mr. Right and also a follow-up novella called Sleigh Bells and Second Chances. Just for convenience, I’m going to paste my original review of Mistletoe and Mr. Right here before reviewing the follow-up novel!

Mistletoe and Mr. Right: I was particularly excited when I found out that this novel 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!

Sleigh Bells and Second Chances: Sadly, I didn’t like this one as much. Mistletoe and Mr. Right was funny and light and sweet, and I found myself so annoyed by Christina that I honestly could not wait to finish this novella. I love that it took place in London, and there were some magical descriptions of the scenery… but my love stopped there. I cared more about the romance than the technical goings-on of a band publicist. The descriptions of sound checks and sweaty band members bored me. And Christina’s drama bothered me a lot. She spent most of the book either miserable, broody, or self conscious. I really liked Cary as a person now, although I hate what he did to Christina. But he’s trying to make amends, and she’s just being a baby who throws tantrums all the time. The backstory of why Cary did what he did makes no sense at all, and I was really unconvinced. Maybe I’m just at a higher level, but what girl goes out and sleeps with a guy who betrayed her? She keeps saying she can’t trust him and she doesn’t want his life, so why is she sleeping with him? Her poor decisions made me lose respect for her. And really, the story isn’t even very Christmassy. Meh.

Read this book for Mistletoe and Mr. Right! I thought it was very fun and an enjoyable read. Sleigh Bells and Second Chances just didn’t work for me, even though I was super excited about the whole band aspect. Things just fell flat. I wanted more Christmas magic and less brooding.

3 Stars

Christmas Childhood Memories | Guest Post by Jess at Literary, Etc.

Posted December 3, 2015 by Jana in Guest Post / 3 Comments

 

I’m so happy to have one of my very dear friends, Jessica from Literary, Etc., on the blog today to discuss her childhood Christmas traditions and how she misses them now that she’s an adult. Don’t we all have memories like these? I know I miss the magic of Christmas as a child. I still love it today, but there’s just something about being a kid at Christmas.


Firstly, I want to thank Jana for the opportunity to write about Christmas! Secondly, I want to wish everyone happy holidays and I hope you all have a fun filled season!

I grew up with one set of “main” grandparents, my father’s parents. I can’t remember a holiday not spent at their house or with them. When I was a baby, I spent maybe a Christmas or two in Mexico with my mom’s family, but for the most part we hardly ever went to visit them unless someone died.

Spending Christmas with my grandparents involved the entire family. My aunts and uncles along with my cousins would descend on Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve. My Grandma always made the best tamales and to this day, no one’s tamales come close (not even my mother’s) and it was all hands on deck. Meaning as soon as we entered the house, hands were washed, and we were given a plate with a spoon and directed to help spread the masa onto the corn husks. I hated this task as a child and still do as an adult. I tended to work slowly so most of the work was done by others. It’s messy because the husks are usually wet from being washed and trying to spread the dough like mixture on them often meant it didn’t spread evenly. And then there was the waiting for the tamales to be done. It often meant as children we didn’t eat until Midnight.

My Grandma also made the most amazing cookies! The cookie recipe for the bizcocho (sort of like a snicker doodle but way more delicious) is highly coveted by those who taste them. In fact, they are my dad’s favorite cookies and my Grandma took pity on my mom and gave her the recipe. Not even her daughters have the recipe. Then she made cuernitos (horn shaped and what most know as Mexican wedding cookies) that were my personal favorites! I loved going over to her house and these wonderful cookies were waiting for me (and boo to sharing!). I never helped her bake and in fact, never really saw her bake these two cookies that were always present during Christmas.

I remember quite fondly one year all the kids were taken to a room because it was almost Midnight and Santa was coming. Of course my cousin Chris and I knew better, but for my sister it must have been fun hearing a knock on the door and my Uncle Javier pretending to be Santa. That was loads of fun. Even though as a kid, I often hated leaving my grandparents after 1 am and heading to bed close to 2 am, I would love to relive it even for one night.

While we had a tree and lights, I envy people who have stockings and get stocking stuffers. My mom loves stockings, but they are for decoration only! And yet, when I look back at my childhood, I wouldn’t change anything. One of my fondest memories of the holiday season was the first time we celebrated the Night of Three Kings, which is January 6th. It’s the day when the 3 Wise Men visit baby Jesus. On this particular night, my sister and I left a shoe out (not really sure why, but we were instructed to do so) and some fruit for the camels. We went to bed and the next day, the fruit was gone, there was some money in our shoes, but one of my mother’s plants had a leaf torn and it looked like something took a bite! I was old enough to question the reality of it, but the truth is, a piece of me still believes we were visited by the 3 Wise Men! And this reminds me of another event a few years later. We were in a new house in El Paso and it was Christmas Eve, but for some odd reason we were there and not with my grandparents. My sister and I went and put a plate of cookies and milk for Santa. My sister went to bed and I went to help my parents with the tamales. My dad got up to “eat” the cookies and came back and asked where they were. I showed him, but the cookies were gone as well as the milk. My mom swore up and down it wasn’t her. I had nothing to do with it and I’ve never questioned my sister if she ate them. Perhaps it was Old Saint Nick?

In hindsight, all of my extended family laughing and helping make tamales brings a tear to my eye because we don’t do that anymore. It’s been years since we’ve all been together to celebrate Christmas and I miss that. My immediate family stopped participating when we moved from El Paso to Fort Worth and then a few years later we wound up in Albuquerque. Over the years, my parents have gone to visit my grandparents after Christmas and it’s not the same. This year will mark the second Christmas without my grandmother (the first was shortly after her death) and I’m missing those days of innocence. I also wish my religious Aunt O, would have participated more. Her family never came over on holidays or birthdays. It saddens me that on the most important night in Christianity, she wasn’t there.

Over the years traditions change and new ones are added. It’s not uncommon that on the holiest night of the year, my family is watching a horror flick or two. I grew up opening my gifts at Midnight and still do. My parents may head to bed before Midnight and my sister and I might be the only ones awake (although last year, I struggled to stay up!), but at least that tradition stays the same. I’ve celebrated two Christmases without my family. The first was about 15 years ago when my parents and sister went to my grandparent’s house and I stayed because of work and school. I spent Christmas Eve with my then boss and her family and it was lovely, but I missed my family. Then a few years ago, I was studying abroad where I celebrated with a friend who stayed the night in my dorm room, but for the most part it was a lonely holiday.

As I grow older, Dorothy’s quote from The Wizard of Oz, “there’s no place like home” becomes truer each year. Holiday traditions are for the kids and to make memories, but as long as you’re with the people you love, it doesn’t matter if the tamales and cookies aren’t there. What matters is having the people you care about most in the world around you.

What were some of your favorite Holiday traditions growing up? Have you incorporated any new ones?


Tales from Christmas Wood by Suzy Senior | Children’s Book Review

Posted December 2, 2015 by Jana in Children's Book Review, Inner Child / 1 Comment

Tales from Christmas Wood by Suzy Senior
Illustrated by:
James Newman Gray
Published by: Lion Hudson PLC on September 18, 2015
Pages: 32
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Add to Goodreads • Buy the Book

Christmas wood is full of animals: Badger, Fidgety Fox, Owl (not Wise Old Owl, just Owl), the Rabbit family, Tiny Mouse, and Robin. It’s nearly Christmas and all the animals are getting ready to celebrate – Badger is looking for new friends, Tiny is making (or is that eating…) gingerbread, and Rosie Rabbit just can’t get ANY peace and quiet! Five festive stories from the animals in the wood all come together in a fantastically Christmassy finale in a barn with some rather special guests…

This book is a cute anthology of five very short stories about different animals who live in Christmas Wood. Each animal is looking for something, and each story has a lesson. Badger is bigger than all the other animals, and is having a hard time making friends. She asks the owl for advice, and while he feels ill-equipped to help her, she leaves very happy. The second story is about a mouse who made gingerbread for his friends, but somehow lost all of it in his tummy. He felt bad, but grandma always makes things better. The third story is about a rabbit named Rosie whose brothers are making it very hard for her to concentrate on making Christmas cards. She throws a tantrum and storms out into the snow, concerning her brothers and making them realize how much they love having her around. Then we have Robin, who loves playing make believe. He wants to be a hero more than anything, and Rosie the Rabbit gives him that opportunity. Robin realizes he does not have to he a super hero to be special. All the animals come together in the end for a festive Christmas Eve adventure. They each learn the true meaning of Christmas at a very festive Christmas party, with gifts, friends, and singing.

My favorite thing about this book are the illustrations. They are adorable and so warm and cheerful. The animals have such sweet faces, and the illustrator is able to paint light in a way that reminds me of Thomas Kincaid (although simpler). I only wish the type had been given as much attention. A very generic font was used for the story itself, and the thin black letters get lost in the illustrations. I would have loved to see a more whimsical font and more thought put into the placement and size of the words. I also think there were too many words on a page. Perhaps this will be fixed before printing, though.

All in all, I really enjoyed this sweet Christmas book. The stories all feel very short and disjointed on their own, so they should be read back to back in one story time experience. I would not recommend reading one a night unless your child is old enough to remember each one and tie them together in the end. I think it’s a great addition to any family’s Christmas book collection, and I know I’d love to snuggle in bed with my littles someday and read this cozy tale.


The 4th Annual Bookish Little Christmas with That Artsy Reader Girl

Posted December 1, 2015 by Jana in Blog Event, Bookish Little Christmas / 3 Comments

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, which also means it’s my favorite time of year! As I’m sure you’ve come to expect from me, today begins my annual A Bookish Little Christmas event! That Artsy Reader Girl has donned her Santa hat, and is ready to present a festive and joyous event as we count down the days to Christmas. The next few weeks will be filled with holiday book reviews, recipes, music, and personal posts from yours truly. I’ve also rallied some bookish friends and authors together to bring you their movie and TV special recommendations, outfit recommendations for all your holiday events, traditions, and more! So grab a cup of cocoa, your favorite cozy blanket, and snuggle up for a warm winter’s night!

The more the merrier! If you would like to join in the festivities, email me using the button on my sidebar and I’ll add you to the line-up! Celebrating Christmas is not required. You can write about any winter holiday, and on pretty much any topic!