Category: Guest Post

Christie’s Auction House, Art, & A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden | Author Guest Post (+Giveaway)

Posted February 20, 2020 by Jana in Giveaway, Guest Post / 4 Comments

I’m pleased to welcome to Karen Odden, author of A Dangerous Duet, to the blog today to talk about the next book in her Victorian Mystery series, A Trace of Deceit! I love art (I minored in art history during undergrad), so this entire post is just fascinating to me. Read more about Karen and A Trace of Deceit below, and enter to win a copy of your own!


Christie’s Auction House, Art, & A Trace of Deceit
by Karen Odden

On my 29th birthday, November 11, 1994, I was standing in the main sales room at Christie’s auction house in New York City. The elegant room was crowded for the rare book auction scheduled to begin at 10 o’clock. On an elevated stage at the front stood Stephen Massey, the head of the Rare Books department, behind a podium. I stood along one wall surveying the rows of chairs, filled with potential buyers and some gawkers. On the opposite wall was a bank of tables draped with black fabric, with phones for other Christie’s employees who’d be taking the bids of people calling in. The star of the auction that day was Leonardo Da Vinci’s Codex Hammer, one of his notebooks, 32 pages, written right to left, in his mirror handwriting, and featuring the famous image of the Vitruvian Man, among others.

A page from the Codex Leicester (a.k.a. Codex Hammer) by da Vinci, 1510

People who attend Christie’s auctions are generally well behaved. They speak in soft tones, if they speak at all. No one shouts out or flaps their paddle around. But that day people could not stop murmuring. Rare manuscripts, signed copies and first editions sold as expected. But everyone was waiting for the Da Vinci notebook.

As usual the auctioneer started the bidding below the presale estimate. Between buyers in the room and on the phones, the bid began to climb: 6 million, 6.5, 7, 7.5 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 20. Soon it became a duel between two bidders, one in the room and one on the phone, and the employee at the phone bank just kept raising her hand. Eventually the hammer came down at 28 million dollars to a phone bidder whose identity was kept confidential. Later, I heard one of the Christie’s employees say, “It went to someone named Cates.” His friend replied, “Not Cates, Gates. I think he does something with computers.” Back in 1994, Windows 95 was still months away, and Bill Gates wasn’t a household name yet.

That morning was the first time I felt down to my bones the way suspense and story could swirl around art.

I wasn’t at Christie’s because of my art expertise. I was a media buyer, purchasing print ad space to support sales of everything from paintings and photographs to silver, coins and Faberge eggs, Chinese and Latin American art, and antique furniture. I placed ads in publications such as the New York Times, New Yorker, Architectural Digest, Art and Auction, and ArtNews. Because I was buying ad space, I had to read these publications in order to know what art to advertise where, and for the first few weeks of my job, I sat in my cubicle and read magazines. It was fun. (My dad always said, you’re never going to find a job that pays you to read! Ha!)

So like many things in my life I came to art through reading. And while I enjoy art, it’s the stories around art that captivate me. The precious manuscripts smuggled out of Wartime Germany by an American soldier, only to be found by his grandchildren forty years later, after his death. The art heists and dramatic thefts out of museums. The Renaissance painting by Cimabue that a 90-year-old Frenchwoman had hung over her kitchen stove for years because she thought it was a knock off. The painter who fell in love with his subject and then couldn’t bring himself to sell the painting to her husband. So when it came time to write my third book, I had a whole backlog of interest in stories about art.

Kate Greenaway, “Diamonds and Toads,” 1871

I write mysteries set in Victorian England, specifically the 1870s, largely because I wrote my dissertation at NYU on British literature from 1850-1890. It’s my happy time and place. (My son, who is called upon to help me with my iPhone teases me that I belong there.) But if I wanted to write another novel about a young woman in 1870s London, I needed to find a place for her to study. Fortunately, the Slade School, now world-renowned and part of the University College London, was opened in 1871, after a bequest by a very forward-thinking gentleman named Felix Slade, who wanted a school where men and women could study art together. This was met with resistance from the men. Still, women entered with the first class, and early students included Kate Greenaway who became famous for her exquisite illustrations for children’s books.

At the time I began to write, I was thinking a lot about memory—how memory isn’t static, like a painting. You can’t come back to it and see the exact same image. Memory changes with time; and sometimes we unconsciously suppress memories or alter them, depending on the kinds of stories we want to tell about ourselves or people we love or our lives. I also wanted to write about how talent or genius can sometimes be a burden, or even something that is put to use by parents of the gifted child.

With this, Annabel’s story started taking shape. She has an older brother named Edwin, an outrageously talented painter, and his father started to push him, hard, when Edwin was seven. As a result Edwin became a troublemaker and rebellious. He went to school at age 12, and when he returned he had deeply changed. Troubled and angry, he visited opium dens down by the Thames, forging paintings to support himself. He stumbled home more times than Annabel can remember, swearing he was going to do better. This cycle of what we would now call addiction and relapse recurred again and again, until he was arrested for forging and thrown in prison for a year.

As the book begins, Edwin has been out of prison for four months. He has sworn to Annabel that he is going to stay away from opium and to live within the law. When Annabel and Edwin meet, he appears on time; he’s clear eyed; he talks responsibly about his paintings and his work. Slowly Annabel begins to trust him. Besides, he is her only family, and she wants desperately to believe in him.

In the first chapter, Annabel is at her easel at the Slade. Her work finished for the day, she retrieves her umbrella from the stand and ventures out in the rain. At the terraced house where Edwin rented rooms, she climbs the stairs to the top floor, and sees the door open. That’s odd, she thinks. Odder still is the sight of two strange men riffling through Edwin’s paintings and papers. She bursts out, “What are you doing? Where’s Edwin?” They turn, and she sees the truncheon that one of them carries. She realizes they’re plainclothes detectives, and Annabel feels her heart sink, for she assumes that Edwin has fallen back into his old patterns. Unhappily, she sighs and asks, “What has Edwin done now?”

But in fact, Edwin has been murdered.

Christie’s Auction Rooms, engraving from ‘The Microcosm of London’ published by Rudolph Ackermann, 1808

Within hours, Annabel discovers that a priceless painting of Madame de Pompadour, by the French master Francois Boucher, has gone missing from her brother’s studio. Edwin was cleaning it in preparation for an auction to take place in two weeks, at Bettridge’s, an up-and-coming house trying to compete with Christie’s and Sotheby’s, both of which were established in London in the eighteenth century. The painting I’ve described is fictional—but Boucher painted nearly a dozen of Madame de Pompadour, who was King Louis XV’s mistress from 1745-1751. In my novel, this Boucher painting is the star of the auction—like Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex—but then its true owner appears, claiming the original was destroyed a fire in 1874.

François Boucher, “Madame de Pompadour”, 1756

So the questions begin. Was the painting that Edwin was cleaning a forgery? Had Edwin made the forgery? Was he murdered because his past had caught up to him? But even more important than learning why Edwin was murdered, Annabel longs to discover the truth about who her brother was before he died. Was he lying to her about reforming, or sincere? She wants to fix his character in her mind, render it as something stable, the way she paints her portraits and small scenes, so she can find some closure and peace. But what complicates Annabel’s inquiry is that in the process of investigating Edwin’s past, she comes to recognize a general truth: that there is a trace of deceit in many of our memories, both our happiest ones and our most painful; and that memories are not like paintings. They shift and sideslip, depending on the stories we want to tell ourselves—and the ones we want to conceal. Annabel learns that her memories both enable and limit what she can know about Edwin. Indeed, the closure and peace she seeks won’t come through fixing her brother’s character as in a portrait, but in weaving together her brother’s story and her own, and accepting—and grieving—that there are pieces missing. But that perhaps a sincere effort to understand, founded in love, is enough.

 


About Karen Odden

After writing her PhD dissertation on Victorian railway disasters, Karen became trapped in the era. (Her teenage son, who helps her with tech, teases that she belongs there.) Before turning to fiction, Karen taught at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and her essays on literature have appeared in numerous academic journals and books. Her three novels, set in 1870s London, feature young women who solve mysteries with personal stakes. Her first, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller; A Dangerous Duet won best Historical Fiction at the New Mexico/Arizona book awards; and A Trace of Deceit (Harper Collins) was published in December. She lives in Arizona with her family and beagle-muse Rosy. Visit www.karenodden.com, or find her on twitter: @karen_odden and instagram: @karen_m_odden.


A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden
Series: Victorian Mystery #2
Other books in the series: A Dangerous Duet (#1)
Publisher: William Morrow
Genres: Adult Fiction — Historical, Mystery
Add to Goodreads
Buy on Amazon

A young painter digs beneath the veneer of Victorian London’s art world to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder…

Edwin is dead. That’s what Inspector Matthew Hallam of Scotland Yard tells Annabel Rowe when she discovers him searching her brother’s flat for clues. While the news is shocking, Annabel can’t say it’s wholly unexpected, given Edwin’s past as a dissolute risk-taker and art forger, although he swore he’d reformed. After years spent blaming his reckless behavior for their parents’ deaths, Annabel is now faced with the question of who murdered him—because Edwin’s death was both violent and deliberate. A valuable French painting he’d been restoring for an auction house is missing from his studio: find the painting, find the murderer. But the owner of the artwork claims it was destroyed in a warehouse fire years ago.

As a painter at the prestigious Slade School of Art and as Edwin’s closest relative, Annabel makes the case that she is crucial to Matthew’s investigation. But in their search for the painting, Matthew and Annabel trace a path of deceit and viciousness that reaches far beyond the elegant rooms of the auction house, into an underworld of politics, corruption, and secrets someone will kill to keep.



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

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

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


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

My Favorites

 

Dancing Through the Snow by Jean Little

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

 

The Dash & Lily series by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

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

 

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

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

 

My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

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

 

Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle

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

 

 

Anticipated 2020 Releases

Recommended for You by Laura Silverman

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

The Detour by Natalie D. Richards

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

One Way or Another by Kara McDowell

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

A Royal Christmas Quandary by Samantha Hastings

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

About the Blogger

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

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

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

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

Book Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin | Goodreads

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


Chanda’s Favorite Christmas Book Covers | Guest Post

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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


New Traditions for a Beloved Holiday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

What if you had a second chance at first love?

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

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

 


About Tracey Garvis Graves

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

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

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

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

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


Darla’s Holiday Party Planning Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


About Sara Richardson

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

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

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Jennifer’s Bookish Etsy Gift List | Guest Post

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

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


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

Enamel Pins

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

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

Candles

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

Jewelry

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

Pencils and Notebooks

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

Artwork

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

Totes/Bags

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

 

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

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


5 Pet-Friendly Gift-Giving Ideas by Melinda Curtis | Author Guest Post (+Giveaway)

Posted December 12, 2019 by Jana in Giveaway, Guest Post / 5 Comments

In honor of Melinda Curtis’s recent release, The Christmas Wish (which has a puppy-loving heroine), Melinda is here to share her 5 pet-friendly gift-giving ideas with us! Read more about her book and enter to win an awesome Forever Books prize pack.


Melinda Curtis’s 5 Pet-Friendly Gift-Giving Ideas

When you think pets and the holidays, you might only think of buying for your pets. Well, think again! Gifts for pet and animal lovers are a wonderful way to solve the dilemma of what to get for that person who has everything.

1. Gift Cards. You can give them a gift card from your local pet store or an IOU certificate to pet-sit the next time they go out of town. There is nothing as comforting as the feeling of having your pet stay at home while you’re away.

(Meet Melinda’s dog, Duke, in his cute bed!)

2. Pet Beds. No matter what kind of pet they have, there’s probably a pet bed available. I have pet beds in nearly every room of the house, and one is always in need of replacing.

3. Breed-Specific Items. From calendars to magnets to ornaments to coffee mugs to mouse pads, you can find pet-themed merchandise on just about anything nowadays. Just don’t wait to the last minute to find a Hamster-themed calendar!

4. Pet Toys. Is their pet a toy lover? Does their dog have strong ball-drive? Or perhaps their cat can’t resist catnip-filled toys? These are simple items that can be used every day.

5. Donations. If they have an animal cause near and dear to their heart, make a donation in their name. What better way to fulfill the reason for the holiday season?


The Christmas Wish by Melinda Curtis
Series: Sunshine Valley #0.5
Published by Forever on November 26, 2019
AmazonAdd to Goodreads

It’s beginning to look a lot like a Christmas in thisSunshine Valley novella from USA Today bestselling authorMelinda Curtis that will appeal to fans of RaeAnne Thayne and Sheila Roberts.

Everyone in Sunshine Valley, Colorado, is in the Christmas spirit except forEverett Bollinger, the new town manager. With money tighter than ever, Everet thas had to make some tough decisions about the local holiday celebration. And taking the blame has put him in a very un-festive mood.

Rosalie Reyes has big plans to open her new pet shop during the Christmas parade. But it seems like Everett is determined to sabotage the parade and her business too. With the help of the local matchmakers and a rambunctious SaintBernard named Remy, Rosalie is about to unleash the town’s holiday cheer and make it a paws-itively amazing Christmas for all. Including a certain town manager who’s about to discover the reason for the season…is love.


About Melinda Curtis

Melinda Curtis is the USA Today bestselling author of light‐hearted contemporary romance. In addition to her Sunshine Valley series from Forever, she’s published independently and with Harlequin Heartwarming, including her book Dandelion Wishes, which is currently being made into a TV movie. She lives in California’s hot central valley with her hot husband – her basketball-playing college sweetheart. While raising three kids, the couple did the soccer thing, the karate thing, the dance thing, the Little League thing and, of course, the basketball thing. Between books, Melinda spends time with her husband remodeling their home by swinging a hammer, grouting tile, and wielding a paintbrush with other family members.

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Dear Santa, From Chief of Police, Alex Baker of Snowfall On Cedar Trail by Annie Rains | Author Guest Post (+Giveaway)

Posted December 11, 2019 by Jana in Giveaway, Guest Post / 3 Comments

I’m so happy to have Annie Rains on the blog today to share Alex Baker’s letter to Santa. Alex is the Chief of Police and hero of Annie’s latest book, Snowfall On Cedar Trail. Read more about the book and enter to win copies of the first three Sweetwater Springs books (the 4th comes out in February 2020)!


Dear Santa,

I stopped believing in you a long time ago. Sorry about that, but you stopped delivering on what I needed most.
After my father died ten years ago, all I wanted was to have him back. Yeah, I know that even Santa can’t bring back the people we’ve lost. A new pair of boots or tie isn’t going to lift my spirits anymore though—not when I’ve lost the most important person in my life. And if I can’t have Dad back, can I at least find the person who left him dying in the snow? Justice for the man who taught me everything. Is that too much to ask?

I also need to find a good home for this little puppy I’m fostering. We’re calling this naughty pup Officer Chew around the station because the little guy is teething on everything at his level. So Santa, if you’re listening, a few chew toys would be welcome at the Sweetwater Springs Police Station. And a good home if you know one. Officer Chew needs someone gentle and caring. He’s been through a lot, as you know, and deserves some TLC.

So does Halona Locklear, whether she’s willing to admit it or not. Santa, Halona is the most giving person I know. She gives her son, Theo, everything, and she never takes time for herself. I’m not sure you can give Halona what she needs this year either. I suspect it’s a lot more than a piece of jewelry or some chocolates. She’s so strong on the outside, but everyone needs someone to lean on every now and then. If I’m honest (and you’d know if I tried to lie, right?), I want to be that person for her. I’ve always wanted to be that guy. She’s my best friend’s little sister though… but over the past month, I’ve felt a buzz in the air between us. I look in her eyes and I know she feels something too. She makes my heart beat a little faster, a little harder. And she makes these cold days in the mountain valley seem so much warmer.
So Santa, if you’re real and if I’m not too far down on your naughty list, can I have a chance with Halona? She has been through a lot as well. All I want to do is to make her smile and laugh. I want to make her days warmer and brighter too—just like she does for me.

There you have it. All I want for Christmas this year is to solve my Dad’s cold case, find a home for this loveable, albeit naughty puppy, and to win Halona’s heart forever. It’s a tall order, but if you can deliver on that, I’ll start believing in the magic of Christmas again.

Your long-lost believer,
Chief of Police Alex Baker


Snowfall On Cedar Trail by Annie Rains
Series: Sweetwater Springs #3
Published by Forever on October 8, 2019
Genres: Adult Fiction — Contemporary, Romance, Holiday – Christmas
AmazonAdd to Goodreads

Last Christmas was tough for Halona Locklear and her seven-year-old son Theo, who hasn’t spoken a word since his father’s death. This year, Halona wants nothing more than to give him a good holiday and to hear his sweet voice again. Enrolling him in the Mentor Match program might help, but when Theo gets matched with Sweetwater Springs Chief of Police, Alex Baker, Halona realizes that the handsome hero might know secrets about her past that she is determined to keep buried.

Chief of Police, Alex Baker, re-opens his father’s hit-and-run cold case every December, hoping to finally solve it. This year, his plate is full with being a Mentor Match to a young seven-year-old boy as well. His biggest obstacle, however, is fighting his attraction to the boy’s mother, Halona. As Alex gets close to solving his father’s cold case, he learns that those closest to him may be in danger — including Halona. Alex has already lost one of the most important people in his life; he isn’t about to lose her too, even if it means walking away to keep her safe.


About Annie Rains

Annie Rains is a contemporary romance author who writes small town love stories set in fictional towns on the coast of North Carolina. Raised in one of America’s largest military communities, Annie often features heroes who fight for their countries, while also fighting for a place to call home and a good woman to love. When Annie isn’t writing, she’s spending time with her husband and 3 children, or reading a book by one of her favorite authors.

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Lauren’s Christmas Reading Round-up

Posted December 9, 2019 by Jana in Guest Post / 4 Comments

I’m so excited to have Lauren from Bookmark Lit on the blog today to celebrate A Bookish Little Christmas with me! Lauren loves Christmas pretty much as I do, so I was really excited that she wanted to participate this year! She’s rounding up some awesome Christmas books today, all of which I’ve either read or want to read! Hopefully she helps you find your next holiday read.


It’s no secret that I love Christmas if you follow my blog. I AM one of those people who starts listening to holiday music riiiiight around Halloween. I put my Christmas decorations up somewhere toward the middle of November. I plan a huge holiday TBR each year, sign up for seasonal readathons, and aggressively plan blog posts accordingly throughout December. This year, my first post (a rundown of Netflix, Disney+, Hallmark, etc. Christmas movies releasing in 2019), was posted before November 15th. Hey, if Hallmark is going to debut their new Christmas movies on October 26th, surely I can advertise them before mid-November!

I digress: when Jana announced she was looking for participants for the Bookish Little Christmas this year, I decided I should talk about one of my biggest holiday highlights: BOOKS. I’m a sucker for book covers so I originally planned to chat about those, but I thought it would be good to share some general holiday reading recommendations and highlights from this year’s TBR. You can find a number of these on my blog as well, where I did a bit of Christmas in July with 2019 books coming. Without further adoooo….

 

25 Days Til Christmas by Poppy Alexander | Has there ever been a more perfectly-fitted book cover for a holiday story?! The fact that this looks like an advent calendar – aka a Christmas countdown – matches the title of the book so perfectly. I’m excited to read this one. Also on my 2019 TBR!

Christmas at the Palace by Jeevani Charika | Maybe this cover is a little cheesy looking but for some reason I’m obsessed with it. I haven’t read this yet and am not sure I’ll get to it this holiday season, unfortunately. I LOVE the font, the snow, the castle, the couple… ugh, perfection!

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin | I love this cover! I think this is slightly more on the winter or New Years side (plot-wise), but don’t quote me on that! It’s just so cute and has wonderful typography. A bookish holiday story set in Paris?! YES. Also on my 2019 TBR!

Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella | I used to love the Shopaholic books but lost steam years ago. I’m really curious to read this one – I have a feeling it will generally stand alone with some recap about the MC’s life at the beginning. I ADORE illustrated cover trends and this one is absolutely no exception.

My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins and others | I’m a big anthology fan and the Winter and Summer-oriented ones, edited by Perkins, were highly adorable. The covers especially! Also a general TBR recommendation!

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand | This book was exactly what I wanted it to be when I read it a couple of years ago. I highly recommend this one, and love the cover! It’s simple and dark – not super holiday-ish – but just the right touch of it! It’s also based on a Dickens book, so it’s a little old-school-looking. Also a general TBR recommendation!

Winter series by Elin Hilderbrand | If you like her other summery stories and would like to see Nantucket at Christmas, give this series a try. I didn’t fully LOVE these books, to be perfectly honest, but they’re so quick and addicting to read! They’re also a bit more on the December/winter side than Christmas but there are some strong holiday feels usually at some point in the stories.

Sweetwater Springs series by Annie Rains | This series has some springtime books as well, which you’ll see as a common theme in the “small town romance companion series” trend that I adore so much! The first book, shown here, was lovely, and I’m eager to read this year’s Christmas installment!

Any book by Jenny Hale set at Christmas | Yes, they get a little repetitive if you binge-read them, but I recommend reading one of her books RIGHT before Christmas. I always savor them as my last holiday read on Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, because they’re the most atmospheric for the holiday. The pictured book is my favorite of hers.

Haven Point series by RaeAnne Thayne | I won’t lie: I keep thinking I’ve reached the last book in this series and she keeps putting new ones out! Not complaining – I ADORE this small town. The book pictured here is the first in the series and like the Sweetwater Springs books, you’ll find summertime books mixed in.

Snowfall on Cedar Trail by Annie Rains | Next in the Sweetwater Springs series.
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory | Next in the Wedding Date series, but can be read alone.
Christmas at Silver Falls by Jenny Hale | Her newest 2019 release.
A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan | I’m on a blog tour for this!
Coming Home for Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne | Next in the Haven Point series.
All I Want for Christmas is You by Miranda Liasson | New series for me!
The Matchmaker’s Mistletoe Mission by Jaci Burton | Novella for November’s TBR
10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston | This one sounds amazing!

For more holiday cheer, book reviews, decorations, tags, and more, check out the bottom of this post on my blog (it lists ALL of the holiday-related posts from years past) and here you can see 2018’s posts.


Miranda Liasson’s Favorite Children’s Holiday Books | Author Guest Post (+Giveaway)

Posted December 6, 2019 by Jana in Giveaway, Guest Post / 22 Comments

I’m so excited to have Miranda Liasson on the blog today to share her favorite children’s Christmas books! When I dreamed up Bookish Little Christmas 8 years ago and began inviting authors to participate with guest posts, this post here is the exact kind of post I was hoping to receive. I love the cozy books she chose and the memories she shared of her childhood and her life as a mother. Make sure you read about her latest release and enter to win the entire Angel Falls series!

Miranda’s Favorite Children’s Holiday Books

My first thought at revisiting my favorite kids’ holiday books was—I’d LOVE to talk about that! Such happy times, such good memories.

As all of you who love books know, our memories of books are often bonded to our souls.

But a funny thing happened as I pulled out the old bin of kids’ books from my attic. I came to realize that my wonderful memories of books—some from my own childhood, others from my kids’ time—are overshadowed by even more powerful memories—of my mom, who’s been gone a long time, and of my kids, all now in their 20’s. I still see them all lined up next to me on our crazily-patterned couch with their blankies and sippy cups—and the dog, just another one of the kids, ready to snuggle in too.

Great times!

At this time of the year, we crack open books for our kids that imbue a special sense of hope and the meaning of the holiday (whichever ones we celebrate). We want to pass on that legacy of love and giving. And as we enjoy them with our children, we feel their sense of wonder and awe spread to us as well.

I hope you enjoy my little trip down memory lane as you create your own memories this season with your families!

1960 Edition of The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, Illustrated by Catherine Barnes

This is a large book—10 by 13 inches, to be exact. And it deserves this big, sumptuous size so we can fully appreciate the amazing illustrations. This book, which I own from my childhood, is sadly out of print. I did find a copy for $250 somewhere on the Internet if you’re interested!

Even better, I found this amazing YouTube video done a few years ago by an amazing music teacher wanting her second graders to learn in a fun way the lines to the famous poem. You can appreciate it—and her own love for this book—here.

On my copy, as the teacher’s in the video, the binding is taped and the pages may have a few smudges, evidence of how beloved this book was not only by me but by my children too.

As the tale unfolds, we experience in sharp detail that the narrator of Moore’s famous poem is the dad of his sleeping family, and we discover Santa along with him, during one wild night of interrupted sleep.

My love of Victorian homes probably started here, as they are shown, beautiful and snow-covered in the sleepy gray light of the moon.

I still remember my mom pretending to pull out a cookie from the gorgeous display, saying things like, that dad’s feet must’ve been cold when they hit that floor, and the inflection of her voice as she said Doooown the chimney he came with a bound!

It is no wonder I am a writer. With an expressive mom like that, what else could I possibly be?

The teacher reading the story in the video does it beautifully. But her narration made me realize that everyone’s experience of a great story is unique—different inflections, different pauses. And, of course, surely different commentary. Yet another amazing thing about books!

Little Golden Book Edition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, original copyright 1958

Rudolph is the classic underdog story. In this edition, passed down to me from my dear neighbors, Rudolph, ashamed to have Santa see his red nose, decides to hide where no one would find him—in a toy pirate chest with a heavy wooden lid and brass hinges. An illustration shows him, nose glowing, climbing deep into a giant green box.

Yes, there is a wealth of take-home lessons here—be yourself, take pride in your differences, etc. But again, it’s my mom’s wise take on Rudolph’s temporary act of cowardice that has stuck with me over the years…

“You see,” I can still hear her saying, “even heroes have moments where they need time to regroup.”

Renee Graef’s Illustrations of Picture Books based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books

Every girl my age in the 70’s read the wildly popular Laura Ingalls Wilder books.

Picture books published years later, when my kids were little (which are still in print today, including a hardcover anthology of all the picture books together), illustrated by Renee Graef, paid homage to the stories and the classic black-and-white Garth Williams illustrations.

Each little picture book re-tells part of the original stories. The illustrations are in color and gorgeous, and Laura’s same heartwarming tone is present in a simpler form. In the book Christmas in the Big Woods, the Ingalls family gets company from afar for and Laura gets a beloved rag doll she names Charlotte.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, Illustrated by P.J. Lynch

This book will soon celebrate its 25th anniversary. I bought it for my kids but it is one of my favorite picture books of all time, period.

This book has perfect storytelling married to amazing illustrations, and both create a marriage made in heaven. It is about a broken man who has lost his wife and lives as a woodcarver at the edge of town. He is visited by a young boy and his widowed mother because she has lost her manger set and would like another made. Eventually she asks if her son could watch him work because he’s interested in becoming a woodcarver too. Jonathan begrudgingly lets them in to his home—and his life. The story unfolds with perfect pacing and is so filled with emotion, I usually start crying on the first page and don’t stop until it’s over. This is a haunting, beautiful story about the healing power of love. If you haven’t read it, please do yourself a favor and experience this book!

Little Rabbit’s Christmas, a cloth storybook Illustrated by Brian Bartle, 2000

This is an ingenious little cloth book that zips up for a child to carry around, which my son did A LOT. It has a tiny quilted rabbit on the inside on an attached string that can be moved from page to page as Little Rabbit gets himself into various Christmas situations. The reason this one goes on my favorite list, besides being vey cleverly put together, is that there is a page where Little Rabbit is allowed to sleep in the living room so he can listen for Santa, prompting my then-young son to ask (over and over) to do the same.

Sadly, I was not as lenient as Little Rabbit’s mom, putting MY little rabbit to bed upstairs, far away from the Christmas tree.

Lastly, I wanted to share a photo with you, taken on the very same crazy couch I told you about. You can’t see the ever-present basket of library books, many of which I just told you about. And you can only see the reflected lights in the window behind the kids from our Christmas tree that year.

But what you do notice is the shock and awe on my three kids’ faces.

This particular year, through a friend, we were able to procure a puppy from a litter that just happened to be ready right before Christmas. (The only reason we were able to do that was because the breeder knew my brother well.) My husband drove an hour to pick this little dog up in a snowstorm. I stayed behind, and I clearly remember reading a boatload of Christmas stories, trying to keep everyone busy and hold in my own anticipation. Then at last my husband walked in.

I don’t know how I managed to capture this moment on film, but it is priceless to me.

Maggie went on to become a member of our family for the next fifteen years, often curling up with the gang to listen to many books being read aloud too.

I wish you all a happy holiday season filled with love, hope, and great stories!

Check out Miranda’s latest Christmas novel, All I Want for Christmas Is You, book #3 in the Angel Falls series.
Enter to win a copy of the entire series at the bottom of this post.

All I Want for Christmas Is You by Miranda Liasson
Series: Angel Falls #3
Published by Forever on October 29, 2019
Genres: Adult Fiction — Contemporary, Romance, Holiday – Christmas
AmazonAdd to Goodreads

Being naughty was nice, but now these friends-turned-lovers are in for an unforgettable Christmas…

Just when Kaitlyn Barnes vows to get over her longtime crush on Rafe Langdon, they share a sizzling evening that delivers an epic holiday surprise: Kaitlyn is pregnant. And if that weren’t life-changing enough, everyone assumes they’re engaged — a charade they must keep alive through the holiday season. But Kaitlyn knows Rafe better than anyone, and Rafe settling down is about as likely as Santa skipping Angel Falls this year…

Rafe would rather Kaitlyn believe a lie — that their night together was a fling — than face his own dangerous truth: he’s falling for her, hard. After a devastating loss, Rafe swore he’d never risk his heart again. Yet the longer they pretend to be engaged the more Rafe starts to want the real thing. But now he has to convince Kaitlyn he wants to be by her side — and their baby’s — for all the Christmases to come.

About Miranda Liasson

Miranda Liasson loves to write stories about everyday people who find love despite themselves, because there’s nothing like a great love story. And if there are a few laughs along the way, even better!

She’s a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart winner and an Amazon bestselling author whose heartwarming and humorous small–town romances have won accolades such as the National Readers’ Choice Award and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence and have been Harlequin Junkie and Night Owl Reviews Top Picks.

She lives in the Midwest with her husband and three kids in a charming old neighborhood which is the inspiration for many of the homes in her books.

Miranda loves to hear from readers! Find her at Facebook.com/MirandaLiassonAuthor, and on Instagram and Twitter @mirandaliasson. For information about new releases and other news, feel free to sign up for her newsletter at https://mirandaliasson.com/#mailing-list.

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