Saturday, January 30, 2016

Must-Haves for Reading Sophie Jordan's REIGN OF SHADOWS

Saturday, January 30, 2016 with
Labels:

Hello everyone,
Welcome to the last stop in the Reign of Shadows Blog Tour. Now that you've stopped by all the other blog stops, you're probably super excited to get your hands on and start reading Sophie Jordan's Reign of Shadows, right?

Well, to make your reading experience even better I am here to help. But, first the synopsis just in case this is the first time you're come across is awesome book.


Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

With lush writing and a star–crossed romance, Reign of Shadows is Sophie Jordan at her best.







Must-Haves for Reading Reign of Shadows

1. Reign of Shadows is a fantasy and, to me, fantasy books are the read-and-snuggle (aka a winter reads) type. So, you're going to want to wear comfy PJs. You also need a soft pillow and a chunky knit throw (the best kind of throws) to snuggle.
PJs via Victoria's Secret, pillow via Society6, throw via The Citizenry

2. Reign of Shadows is set in a world where it's perpetually darkness and our heroine Luna lives in a tower in the middle of a mysterious forest. To help transport yourself into the setting of the story, I suggest burning any pine-scented or forest-scented candles. I personally burned Bath and Body Works's Swiss Alps candle, which is a blend of cypress sprigs, rich vanilla embers, and creamy tonka bean.

3. While you're reading Reign of Shadows, you're probably going to get hungry and/or thirsty. Trail mix is the best snack when reading a book because you can eat it easily all the while keeping your eyes on your book--trust me, you're not going to want to be distracted from Reign of Shadows. It's too good! To wash it all down, steep Stash's Moroccan Mint Green Tea for no other reason than it's the best tea in the world.
Trail mix via The Healthy Maven
4. Isn't cover of Reign of Shadows gorgeous? I love the mix of dark blues, indigo, dark reds, maroon, and greens. When thinking of nail polish to match the cover, the Illamasqua Glitterati and the Sea Glass Starrily immediately came to mind.
Sea Glass Starrily via Live Love Polish, Illamasqua Glitterati via Trends Style

With these few items, you're all set to read Reign of Shadows. I will be reviewing it later next week so that I can fully share my thoughts about it. But, I enjoyed it a lot overall. There were some twists and surprises I didn't expect and that ending really made me excited for the next book.

If you haven't already...
Reign of Shadows will be out on Feb. 9th.


About the Author:
Sophie Jordan
Sophie Jordan took her adolescent daydreaming one step further and penned her first historical romance in the back of her high school Spanish class. This passion led her to pursue a degree in English and History.

A brief stint in law school taught her that case law was not nearly as interesting as literature - teaching English seemed the natural recourse. After several years teaching high school students to love Antigone, Sophie resigned with the birth of her first child and decided it was time to pursue the long-held dream of writing.

In less than three years, her first book, Once Upon A Wedding Night, a 2006 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Nominee for Best First Historical, hit book shelves. Her second novel, Too Wicked To Tame, released in March 2007 with a bang, landing on the USA Today Bestseller's List.
Find Sophie: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Sophie's Tour Schedule:
St. Louis, MO
February 9, 2016
Main Street Books, off-site at Spencer Road Library, 7 PM

Naperville, IL
February 10, 2016
Anderson’s Bookshop, 7 PM

Washington, D.C.
February 11, 2016
Politics & Prose, off-site at the Bethesda Library, 7 PM

Fairfax, VA
February 12, 2016
Barnes & Noble, 7 PM

Bensalem, PA
February 13, 2016
Barnes & Noble, 1 PM

New York City
February 14, 2016
Books of Wonder, 4 PM
*Billed as “Epic Reads Presents: A Date with Royalty”

Blog Tour Schedule:
1/24: Ex Libris - Review
1/24: No BS Book Reviews - Reign of Eyeshadows
1/25: The Young Folks - Review
1/25: Rebelle Reads - Rapunzel Hairstyles
1/26: What Sarah Read - Review
1/26: The Bookkeeper's Secrets - Graphics
1/27: Books Buying Beauty - Review
1/27: Lost In Lit - Bookish Impressions
1/28: Mundie Moms - Review
1/28: Swoony Boys Podcast - Dream Casting
1/29: Bookmark Lit - Review
1/29: The Irish Banana Review - Night Scapes
1/30: YA Bibliophile - Review
1/30: Undeniably Book Nerdy - Must Haves for Reading RoS <-- you're here!

Have you read Reign of Shadows? What did you think of it?
Happy reading,
Michelle
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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: Owlcrate January Subscription Box

Thursday, January 28, 2016 with
Hello everyone,
If you follow me on Instagram, you might've seen my Owlcrate post. I finally gave in and subscribed in January. This was my first ever foray into book subscription service.

If you guys don't know what Owlcrate is, you can visit their website. But, basically, it's a monthly YA subscription box. The YA novel and 3-5 bookish goodies will be tailored to the different theme they have every month.

Why I Avoided Book Subscriptions
I've know about Owlcrate since about mid-2015. I follow their Instagram account and I enjoy watching Owlcrate unboxing videos on YouTube, but I've never been tempted to subscribe.

My main reason was you don't know what book you're getting. I'm the type of person of rarely buy books on a whim. I "research" my books before buying/accepting it for review it: read and compare reviews (both negative and positive), if it's a new to me author I look up their backlist titles and look at average ratings, I see if bloggers with similar reading tastes as me rated it favorably, I read a preview if it's available... I want to be sure it's a book I will enjoy (there's a reason why most of the books I review here are between 3-5 stars).

Also, it's expensive at $29.99 (plus shipping). I paid $33.99 (I had a 10% off coupon as a first-time subscriber)--with that money, I can buy 3 paperback books on Amazon. Books I actually know I'll enjoy because I would've researched them beforehand.

BUT!
In early January Owlcrate announced that their January box will include a full-size Funko Pop. I love Pop figurines, so I thought why not? If it sucks I can always cancel my subscription. Also, the theme for January was Magic, which equals Harry Potter goodies.

Here's what was inside the January box.

As promised, the box contained a full-sized Funko Pop. According to the info card, they sent five different characters from the Harry Potter collection and my box contained Harry
My favorite item in the box!
The next thing was a Patronus lip balm from the Etsy shop Geek Fire Labs. It's a mint and white chocolate flavor. It smells good. I haven't tried it yet, though, so I can't say how it is on my lips. I do use lip balm daily so it's nice to have it.

The last two bookish goodies were an art print with a quote from Throne of Glass and a bookmark inspired by The Raven Cycle series. Both of these were created and designed by Evie Bookish (my favorite graphic designer of book-inspired items--I love her Society6 store!). They're both beautifully designed and printed on nice paper. They're nice to have and I'll probably appreciate them more once I continue on with ToG and start The Raven Cycle series.

The last thing was the book.
In the box was a copy of Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley. It came with a letter from the author and a paper doll kit. I have never heard of Worlds of Ink and Shadow until I got it my Owlcrate box. Of course, as soon as I saw what book I got I started to research it. It's a fantasy retelling based on the Bronte sisters, where they have the ability to jump into the stories they create. I'm not a fan of any of the Bronte sisters' works so I really don't have any interest in reading a retelling about them. And after reading the synopsis, reading a few pages of the book and reading reviews (both positive and negative), I really have no interest in reading Worlds of Ink and Shadow. It's not for me.

My biggest worry about book subscription boxes was that I wasn't going to like the book, which is the most important item and probably where most of my money went, and that's what happened here. I'm giving the Owlcrate January box

Renewing My Subscription?
Well, I haven't cancelled yet. I am skipping February's box (which is an option they give you) because Owlcrate recently hinted that one of the bookish items may be a pair of earrings and I'm not interested in those. Also, the theme is Sci-fi Love and I was looking at a list of sci-fi YA novels coming out in February and I'm not really interested in any of them. We'll see what the theme will be in March and see how it goes. I might give it another chance, or I may cancel completely.

I don't know, you guys. Maybe book subscription boxes are not for me. If it's just a bookish items subscription box without the book, I think I'd enjoy more because I do like all of the bookish things included in the January box. Owlcrate, please come up with a bookish items-only.

Are you subscribed to Owlcrate or another book subscription service? How did you like it?

Happy reading,
Michelle

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

E-ARC: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.



I'm Torn
I'm torn whether to rate Firsts higher because of the strong emotions it evoked in me while I was reading it or lower because of the strong conflicting emotions it evoked in me...

Plot
Mercedes Ayres was a senior in high school and a chemistry whiz. But, she mostly keeps to herself and doesn't really let anyone in, not even her best friend Angela nor Zach, the boy she meets every Wednesday at lunch to have sex with. Unbeknownst to Angela and Zach, Mercedes had been regularly inviting boys--they must be virgins and must be in a serious relationship--up to her bedroom to have sex with her. But, she's not doing it for the pleasure of having sex with them and taking their virginity. She does it for a more altruistic reason: she suffers through their fumbling first-time awkwardness so that she could guide and teach them how to make their girlfriend's first time perfect.

At the start of the novel, she just had sex with virgin #10 and swears to herself that he's the last one. She's already slept with 12 different guys--the 10 virgins, plus Luke (the guy who took her virginity) and Zach. That's a big number, she thought. But, as more virgins approach her with their sob story about needing her help in order to make their girlfriend's first time perfect, Mercedes just couldn't say no. Until, that is, her best friend Angela's boyfriend approached her to help him. And when her perfect system of making sure no one finds out about her revolving bedroom door falls apart, Mercedes needed to find a way to salvage her reputation as well as face some issues she has long been ignoring to figure out where her heart really belongs.

Mercedes and the Other Characters
Oh, man. Where to start with Mercedes? For most of the novel, I vacillated between wanting to slap some sense into her (Girl, what, what, what are you doing?!) and wanting to give her a hug. She's one of the most frustrating main character I've read ever. She really thought her system in making sure the boys keep their mouth shut about her works. But, we're talking about horny high school guys here. Even the ones with serious girlfriends are going to talk to their friends--if not to brag, then to hook their friend up with Mercedes so she can also help them. I'm not condemning her for the sex and the number of guys she slept with, but I am condemning her for being so friggin' gullible about the guys who approached her after virgin #10. Those guys obviously had other agendas, but Mercedes chose to ignore all the warning signs and what her gut was telling her: those guys may have other intentions, other agendas. For a smart girl, Mercedes was very dense.

Okay, fine, so her home life sucks with a self-centered, negligent mom (I imagined her as one of those women in Real Housewives of [insert city] based on what I've seen in commercials--I could be completely off since I don't watch those shows) and an absent dad. We also got hints throughout that she may have been in an unhealthy relationship with her first boyfriend, Luke. She also didn't really have anyone to confide in because her closest friend Angela was uber-religious and believes in wanting until marriage to have sex, and she pushes potential relationships away. But, I can only excuse her denseness and gullibility so much on her personal issues, because it's common sense: you have sex with numerous guys in the same high school, it's going to get out sooner or later.

But don't get me wrong, I liked Mercedes. She made terrible decisions and I was frustrated with her and could rant about her all day long, but I couldn't not like her. I felt for her and rooted for her success and wanted her to stand up to those hypocritical girls and guys at her school when they were calling her a slut and a whore--because SHE WASN'T!! I was so angry for her when she got all the hate when sex involved two people. Why weren't the guys getting the same hate as she?

Speaking of Mercedes pushing away potential relationships, I felt so sorry for Zach. The way Mercedes treated him over and over again--the way she was constantly pushing him away and her constantly rejecting him? She was so mean to him! If I were Zach, I would've walked away long time ago and never looked back. I felt like he deserved someone better--someone nicer than Mercedes.

My favorite character in the novel, though, was Faye. She's a strong, independent, tell-it-how-it-is person and I just love how she called out Mercedes on some of her BS while still standing by her side when everything fell apart. She's what Mercedes could've been if Mercedes had some common sense. She and Mercedes kind of had this attraction thing going and I was wondered if the author was going to take the story in that direction, but she didn't. That would've been an interesting turn in the story.

Writing Style/Pacing
I really enjoyed the author's writing style and voice. While the writing was nothing out of the ordinary, it was very readable and consumable. The story flowed nicely with really no dull moments. The build up was tense--I was just waiting for every thing to fall apart for Mercedes, which was inevitable. Reading about Mercedes getting closer and closer to social suicide was very stressful for me as a reader. Mercedes's character caused some big, conflicting emotions in me and any book that makes me feel strong emotions (whether positive or negative) while reading it is a winner to me because that means that the author got me to care about the story and characters. Firsts succeed very in that aspect.

Also, if you're worried about all the sex. Don't be--Firsts was not written like a new adult or a romance novel. There were no long descriptions about the act and author kept pretty much kept it succinct and behind-closed-doors.

Final Thoughts
Truth be told, Firsts took me by surprise. I expected I was going to like it, but I didn't expect it to rile me up or to to leave me uncomfortable yet drawn in by the story, frustrated yet empathetic. Basically, this book had a lot of heart and I got a lot more out of it than I was expecting. I applaud the author for penning a strong debut novel. I look forward to reading more by her.

After writing this review and thinking about my reading journey with Firsts, I'm giving it

Firsts is already out in stores!


If you can't see the excerpt, read it here.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release Date: January 26, 2016 (tomorrow!)
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
An internationally bestselling romantic comedy for fans of The Rosie Project, about a language-loving bachelor and the cat that opens his eyes to life’s little pleasures

When Samuel, a lonely linguistics lecturer, wakes up on New Year’s Day, he is convinced that the year ahead will bring nothing more than passive verbs and un-italicized moments—until an unexpected visitor slips into his Barcelona apartment and refuses to leave. The appearance of Mishima, a stray, brindle-furred cat, leads Samuel from the comforts of his favorite books, foreign films, and classical music to places he’s never been (next door) and to people he might never have met (his neighbor Titus, with whom he’s never exchanged a word). Even better, Mishima leads him back to the mysterious Gabriela, whom he thought he’d lost long before.

In the spirit of
The Solitude of Prime Numbers and The Guest Cat, Love in Lowercase is a charming and uplifting novel about how one man, thanks to a persistent cat-turned-catalyst, awakens to the importance of the little things in life—and discovers that sometimes love is hiding in the smallest characters.


Initial Reaction
A cat changes a lonely person's life? Gimme!
Plot
Samuel led a boring, lonely life that pretty much alternated between his assistant lecturer job at the Department of German Studies and Linguistics and his apartment. But a cat at his door on New Year's Day became a catalyst from his solitary, monotonous existence to meeting a cast of interesting characters and maybe even to his long-lost love, Gabriela.
"Love in lowercase?"

"It's when some small act of kindness sets off a chain of events that comes around again in the form of multiplied love. Then, even if you want to return to where you started, it's too late, because this love in lowercase has wiped away all traces of the path back to where you were before."
Characters
Samuel was our main character and I liked him right away. He was a very smart, and since we're in his head the whole novel we really get a lot of his idiosyncrasies. He loves classical music, literature, and foreign films and there was a lot of mention of specific books, movies, and music. Yes, he was kind of an awkward weirdo, but he was an easy character to root for. He mused over Mendelssohn, Goethe, The Misfits, Kafka, The Good Person of Szechwan, among others and I just ate it up. I love it when books include a lot of literary references and characters in books ponder about or discuss literature and art (especially ones I am know about) because I see them in a different light or a different perspective. There was a lot of that in Love in Lowercase so I was in reading heaven. It took me longer to read it because I was googling for more information or to validate what was being said in the book pretty much as every other chapter.
"You've used Buddha's words to explain yourself."

"You see? I'm hopeless. That's what I mean. I have to unlearn everything I've learned and go back to being a normal person. Culture is just background noise that prevents me from seeing life as it really is. Culture makes no one happy. I want to be a simpleton or a wise peasant who knows when it's going to rain and goes to bed and wakes up when the sun sets and rises."
The secondary characters, mainly Titus (Samuel's neighbor), Valdemar (a man he met at a bar), and Gabriela were all interesting on their own. However, with the exception of Titus, I didn't find the other two nearly as likable. Valdemar was kind of a creepy conspiracy theorist, and we didn't really get to know Gabriela enough. Since we're in Samuel's point of view we really only know what he knew about her, which wasn't much. There was a point in the novel where I was hoping that Samuel would hook up with the veterinarian Meritxell instead of Gabriela. I really think they're a better match. I got the impression than Gabriela had a complicated past and wasn't quite ready to be in a relationship that Samuel was hoping for.

As for Mishima the cat, he wasn't nearly in the novel as much as I thought he'd be. This is not a owner-and-his-cat story--with the exception of the first ten or so pages and the chapter called "Treatise on Feline Philosophy" (one of my favorite chapters), Mishima pretty much stayed in the background. Rather this is a story of self-discovery for Samuel with Mishima only acting as the stimulus that forced him to step outside his lonely existence.
"Cats are said to be selfish, but in reality they're just smart... They don't go looking for love and therefore obtain it without asking. Dogs have a master. Cats have servants."
Writing Style/Pacing
Love in Lowercase was originally written in Spanish and was translated in English. I can only speak of it in its translation, but I found the novel to be lighthearted, amusing, and so quotable. If I was the type to highlight my books, this one would be filled with highlights. The novel was divided into five parts and each part was broken into short, somewhat episodic chapters (some even reads more like essays), with the overarching plot of the romance. Each chapter had a title and I really enjoyed how they gave hints of what's to come in the short chapters. Love in Lowercase was fairly short at only about 220 pages, but the pacing was on point. It didn't feel too long or too short, and by the end (despite the "happy for now" ending in terms of Samuel's relationship with Gabriela) I was satisfied.

This novel is being compared to The Rosie Project, so if you enjoyed that novel you might enjoy this one. I can't really say since I haven't read The Rosie Project but you might consider Love in Lowercase if you're looking for a read-alike.
"...when we talk about building blocks, letters, or atoms, what matters is who arranges them and what use is made of them. In other words, what we are isn't important. What we do with what we are is important. Hours are worthless unless you know what to do with them."
Final Thoughts
Love in Lowercase was not my typical read, but such an engaging, delightful story that I had a hard time putting down. It kind of reminded me of the movie Amelie--not in plot, but in tone. How they're both feel-good romantic comedies with quirky characters that had me smiling and cheering by the end.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

If You Could Book Tag

Thursday, January 21, 2016 with
Hello everyone,
This is the If You Could book tag and it's created by the Bookworm Duo.

If you could change any book cover, which cover would you change?
I am not a fan of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series covers. I do like the overall look and style but I'm not a fan of the computer animation. I was hoping for a human model like on the covers of the The Winner's Curse or The Selection trilogy.

If you could bring any character into our world, who would you bring?
Khalid from The Wrath and the Dawn

If you could go into a book, which book would it be?
There's only one answer for this question: Harry Potter series world as a wizard (or even a muggle, as long as I'm invited to attend Hogwarts).

If you could have any animal from a book, which would it be?
I want a dæmon companion like Pan from His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman.

If you could kill any character from any book, who would you kill?
Shahrzad's dad, Jahandar, from The Wrath and the Dawn. That man is dabbling in dark magic that will only bring problems and chaos.

If you could bring any character back to life, who would it be?
This is a total spoiler for Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, so for my answer highlight here >> Kelsier.

If you could have any author to write you as a character, who would it be?
Julie James because I can count on her to make me a smart, successful, tough, independent businesswoman/lawyer and match me with a sexy FBI agent or a sexy lawyer. I'd also be able to hold my own in some clever banter with said sexy.

If you could be any magical creature from any book, what would you be?
This is really hard to answer because I don't read a lot of books that have magical creatures. Umm... the only one that comes to mind is a dragon from Rachel Hartman's Seraphina. These dragons can shape-shift into humans albeit void of any emotions.

If you could change any ending of any book, which ending would you change and how?
The ending to Allegiant by Veronica Roth. I loved Divergent and I bought Insurgent, but I wanted to wait for Allegiant to come out so I can read them both one after the other. That never happened after I was spoiled about what happened to Tris at the end of Allegiant. After I found out, I had no interest in reading the series anymore. So, I'd love to change Tris's fate at the end of Allegiant because if I could, I would't avoid the series.

If you could switch places with a character, who would you switch places with?
A character? Only one? No can do. I'd gladly switch any of these ladies: Anna from Anna and the French Kiss, Hermione from the Harry Potter series, Shahrzad from The Wrath and the Dawn, Ella from Ella Enchanted, Samantha from My Life Next Door, Payton Kendall from Practice Makes Perfect, Cameron Lynde from Something About You, Mia Holland from Sweet Filthy Boy, Alex from Burying Water, just to name a few.

If you could TAG someone, who would you TAG?
The Smut Lovers: Bea, Ari, Tika, and Blessie. Also, YOU!!

Happy reading,
Michelle

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mass Market: 544 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Release Date: October 28, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
Searching for You
Can a determined woman executive and a playboy billionaire survive being stranded together in a snowstorm?
Jennifer Probst depicts an encounter almost too hot to handle...

It's a Wonderful Tangled Christmas Carol
Drew and Kate play an encore to Tangled in this sexy take on a "Christmas Carol" by Emma Chase. When a Christmas Eve argument condemns Drew to a troubled night, three dream women teach him that no gift could be more tantalizing than Kate...

Saving Grace
With Kristen Proby, ski slopes are quite delightful. Grace Douglas is sure she'll never learn to ski, but instructor Jacob Baxter could teach her lessons of a different kind...

Safe in His Arms
Can a southern California transplant survive Montana's deep snows? Melody Anne, author of the bestselling Andersons series, melts the icy drifts completely away with the heat between sexy Hawk Winchester and brand-new teacher Natalie Duncan...

Rekindle the Flame
What could be hotter than a firefighter? Kate Meader shows how, as Beck Rivera and heiress-turned-tattoo-artist Lucy Cochrane discover, nothing ignites holiday flames like rekindling a lost love...


Initial Reaction
The initial draw for me in picking up this anthology was Emma Chase's novella It's a Wonderful Tangled Christmas Carol because I'm a huge fan of the Tangled series. But, I am glad I picked it up because the other novellas were very enjoyable and I had a great time reading all of the stories. With the exception of Emma Chase, the other authors were all new to me and it was awesome getting to try them out. 

Like I said, all the novellas were overall wonderful but I've ranked them from my favorite to my least favorite.

It's a Wonderful Tangled Christmas Carol by Emma Chase
Of course my top favorite was It's a Wonderful Tangled Christmas Carol, which was told in Drew's first person POV. I really enjoyed being back in Drew's head. It was a really fun read and a retelling of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol but Tangled-style. Drew had to got to work to close a deal during Christmas Eve. Kate was understandably upset and she and Drew got into a huge fight. Drew left anyway, leaving Kate and their son James to go to a party alone. While at work he was visited by three ghosts of Christmas.

I love the Tangled series and this was an awesome addition to the series. It was wonderful getting an update on Drew, Kate and their son James (now 5 years old) and other "series regulars" also made a cameo. Absolutely loved this one!

Searching for You by Jennifer Probst
This one was about billionaire Dylan and businesswoman Riley who knew each other back in college and were basically oil and water. Dylan was always down for a party while serious Riley preferred to stay in and study. Now in their thirties, they both signed up for a matchmaking service Kinnections and were matched with each other. On the day of the date, there was a terrible snowstorm and Riley ended up snowed in with Dylan in his huge old mansion (think Beast's castle in Disney's Beauty and the Beast).

I was a bit unsure about this one when I first started reading it because I avoid matchmaking themed romance novels (not a fan of them), but besides the first chapter the focus was on Dylan and Riley and not Kinnections. I'm a sucker for second chance romances too, and this one was excellent. I enjoyed Dylan and Riley's characters, their backstory, and how they worked out their issues with each other. It was well-paced and never feel rushed, but I wished their story was longer because I enjoyed them so much.

Safe in His Arms by Melody Anne
Natalie Duncan arrived in Sterling, Montana unprepared for the cold and snow. She left sunny Los Angeles after she was hired for her first teaching position, but unbeknownst to her the meddling ladies of Sterling chose her not just for her stellar application but also in the hopes of matching her with local fire chief Hawk Winschester. Unfortunately, Natalie and Hawk got off on the wrong foot and there were some cute, funny moments between them.

Next to It's a Wonderful Tangled Christmas CarolSafe in His Arms was the most Christmas-y of all the novellas. It was such a cute story. Natalie was a sweetheart--you feel for her because she grew up poor with just her mom and they had some bad times and then watching her being welcomed and embraced by people of Sterling just gives you the warm and fuzzies. As for Hawk, he was sexy, good and kind. He and Natalie were so cute and sweet together.

Rekindle the Flame by Kate Meader
This was another second chance romance, and of course I ate it up. Darcy and Beck were together in high school, but Darcy was from a wealthy family and Beck was a foster kid. Beck broke Darcy's heart when he broke up with her, but he did it because he thought if they stayed together he would just hold her back from pursuing her dreams. Eight years later, they meet again. However, Darcy was only in town for a couple of weeks to take care of her grandmother before she moved on to her next adventure. Beck didn't know it but since they broke up Darcy had lived a nomadic lifestyle and have since became a tattoo artist much to the disappointment of her estranged father. Can Beck convince her to stay and give their relationship a second chance?

Rekindle the Flame was the least Christmas-y of the novellas. I didn't really get much holiday vibes from it, but I didn't really mind because Beck and Darcy were probably the most complex of all the characters in this anthology.

Note: If you're only interested in reading Rekindle the Flame, it is available by itself on e-book.

Saving Grace by Kristen Proby
Grace Douglas's friends treated her to a weekend stay at a ski resort near their town where she's to take ski lessons so that she's ready for her friends' bachelorette weekend in Aspen. But Grace was convinced she'll never learn because she's the world's biggest accident prone. But with the promise of a spa and a hot ski instructor, she graciously accepted an all expenses paid weekend at a ski resort. There she met her sexy ski instructor Jacob Baxter and they have weekend fling. But Jacob was hiding a secret from Grace...

This was my least favorite of the novellas. It was still good, but I didn't love it as much as the others. Grace kind of annoyed me in the beginning. When her friends announced that they're having their bachelorette party in Aspen, Grace was all "NO!! Why did you pick Aspen? You all know I can't ski! Pick another location!" Really, Grace? Because your friends' decision should be based on your inability to ski and not on what makes them happy. I didn't find her klutziness cute. She also apparently didn't know how to flirt, but had no problems flirting with Jacob who everyone called Bax, but Grace insisted on calling Jacob. I also found myself rolling my eyes every time she spoke to Jacob when they first met. Grace just rubbed me the wrong way in the beginning. And because I couldn't see what was so appealing about Grace, I was just rolling my eyes at Jacob's ardor for her. By the halfway point, Grace was less annoying and the ending (Jacob going after Grace--I'm a sucker for heroes who go after the woman they love) was so sweet. I still enjoyed this novella overall, but my feelings towards Grace in the first half made this one my least favorite.

Final Thoughts
Excellent collection of holiday novellas. Definitely worth picking up!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mass Market: 384 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Release Date: December 29, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Winner Takes All #2
Synopsis
John Turner was thinking only of winning a bet when he swapped identities with his friend, the Earl of Ashby. He didn’t wager on winning the fiery Countess of Churzy’s heart with his lies, or on falling for her in return.

Leticia, impoverished Countess of Churzy, was publicly humiliated when it came out that she had fallen for the man, not the master. She fled when she learned of his betrayal. But fate throws them together again, and some things are too intoxicating to be denied.

John is determined to regain her trust—and her love—this time as himself. Letty knows what choice she must make to survive, but if she turns her back on her dashing rogue – again – will she loose her chance at love forever?



Initial Reaction
Kate Noble has been on my list of to-read authors. I love the cover of The Lie and the Lady! Also, a second chance love story? I'm sold! 
Plot
I picked The Lie and the Lady up knowing it's the second book in the Winner Takes All series that started with The Game and the Governess, which I did not read. I don't think it's a requirement to read the first book because I was still able to enjoy Turner and Leticia's story but I feel I did lose a bit of the progression of their relationship and the full impact on why Leticia was so angry at Turner.

Okay, so the back story was that John Turner was Ned, the Earl of Ashby's secretary and friend. They had a wager and they switched places for two weeks while attending a house party. Turner played the earl and Ned the secretary. While in their roles, Ned ended up falling for a governess (The Game and the Governess) while Turner fell for Leticia, the beautiful widowed Countess of Churzy. When the wager was revealed, Leticia was humiliated and left Turner. Turner went after her and eventually caught up to her, but she's still very angry with him and rejected him. She eventually ended up in Paris and became engaged to Sir Barty, a rich older gentleman with a 19-year-old daughter. But when Sir Barty took her back to Lincolnshire Letty found herself face to face with Turner because it turned out his family owns the town's grain mill.

Main Characters
Neither Turner or Leticia were particularly likable, which was fine with me. I don't have to love the main characters to enjoy reading their story. I just have to understand their motivations behind their actions, which I did.

Letty made a bigger impression on me than Turner. I really enjoyed her character--she's different from other historical romance heroine in that she's very flawed, older than Turner, a widow, not a virgin, and she's unapologetically a fortune hunter. She wanted to find a rich husband to take care of her but after the humiliation with Turner, she had a hard time. She had to move from place to place all over England with not much success because the gossip always followed her until finally ended up in Paris where she redoubled her efforts in pursuing a husband. She eventually found her rich husband in Sir Barty and accepted his proposal.

Letty was basically a gold-digger and her personality will not endear her to some readers. But she really wasn't a bad person. She did mean well and cared for Sir Barty and his daughter Margaret--she wasn't planning to marry him and then turn around and spend all of his money and have affairs. She wanted to be a good, faithful wife to Barty. If it wasn't for Turner, I think she would've have and been content. I didn't even mind her mercenariness. In a way I kind of admired her, especially considering her history and thinking about women's position in society in those days.

As for Turner, I also enjoyed his character, but like I said, Letty made a bigger impression on me. He's a good guy--hardworking, smart, not a manwhore--but also had he was also flawed. He and Letty did have great chemistry, but don't expect much sexy times in this book--they had only one and it on the third to the last chapter. But like in Pride and Prejudice, the build up to that scene made it all the more special. I typically like my romance novels with a lot of steam, but I didn't mind the lack of smexy times in The Lie and the Lady because I was too busy enjoying everything else and the story simply didn't need the distraction of sex.
Okay, I do have to address the whole cheating thing. Letty was engaged to Sir Barty for almost the whole novel--The Lie and the Lady had 24 chapters and Letty and Sir Barty were engaged until the end of Chapter 21. Turner and Letty shared two passionate kisses while Letty was still engaged. I knew Letty and Turner were end game (obviously!) and there wasn't any strong feelings of love or anything sexual between Letty and Sir Barty, but it's still cheating. I am glad they didn't take it further than kissing, but I kinda felt bad for Sir Barty because he was so taken with Letty.

Pacing/Writing Style
Ms. Noble's style kind of reminds me a bit of Jane Austen and a bit of Meredith Duran. She penned an atypical romance novel with uniquely flawed characters and an engaging plot that didn't need the distraction of sex. I found the writing clever, witty, smart and with great humor--there were times when I even laugh out loud which was unusual when I'm reading a historical romance. The pacing of the story was appropriate for Letty and Turner's situation.

Final Thoughts
The Lie and the Lady was a different kind of historical romance novel. We don't get the typical hero and heroine in Turner and Leticia and I really appreciated that. I also enjoyed Ms. Noble's writing style. The plot included some intriguing social situations (Letty vs. the town's queen bee--I loved how Letty stood up to her), some twists and turns in the secondary mystery plot to keep things interesting, unique characters and great chemistry between them, and wondeful humor. This was my first read by Ms. Noble, but it won't be my last.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: none
Synopsis
If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year's there's something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.


Hi, everyone! Happy new year. I hope 2016 is going great for you all and you all are beginning the year with some amazing reads. For me, I began my year off nice and easy by reading some selections from the anthology My True Love Gave To Me that features some of my favorite authors, authors whose books I hope to read some time soon, and authors unfamiliar to me but whom I would like to check out. Coupled with my relief and comfort for finally being back home with my family and friends, I really enjoyed My True Love Gave To Me. Each story I read was so full of heart and warmth that I felt it was a great way to begin the year and a great book to cuddle with while wrapped up in my blanket during those cold winter nights. Hence, I'm giving the anthology an overall rating of:
However, to really express my enjoyment of this book, I listed and reviewed my top five favorite stories from it in the order of what I liked to what I loved. So here we go!

#5: "Your Temporary Santa" by David Levithan
David Levithan's "Your Temporary Santa" was the funniest story I read from My True Love Gave To Me. Filled with Levithan's signature humor and candidness, I was giggling and laughing with every page turn and was easily taken by the story's discussion of love and acceptance. Despite its limited length as a short story, "Your Temporary Santa" had good pacing and caused me little confusion as to how all the characters related to each other and perceived each other. My only complaint against it is that the ending didn't quite add up for me, making me feel a little confused as to how the story's final impact was suppose to be. Nonetheless, "Your Temporary Santa" by David Levithan was a funny and heartening read that had me beginning the new year with a good laugh and a happy smile.

#4: "Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell
"Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell is the opening story of My True Love Gave To Me, and I'm not too sure if the authors did that purposefully or if they placed their stories in a specific order, but I must say, I thought that her story was a good choice to begin the anthology. Cute and relatable, Rowell's story was like getting a taste of dessert before trying the entrees, the interest it sparked in me making me want more and more of its loveliness by looking to and reading the other stories. I really liked the development of the romance in "Midnights", which was unlike any of the stories in My True Love Gave To Me. It included flashbacks to previous New Year Eve nights when the main characters met and then grew closer, and that evidently long time frame of the story made the romance more real and relatable to me than any of the other romances of the other stories. I'll admit, though, the flashbacks made for an odd pacing that often made me feel as if I was missing a lot of details about the characters' relationship, but that lost feeling was easily overcome as the details slowly came together and the two main characters, the standoffish Mags and the extroverted Noel, were finally brought together in a way that made me go, "Awwwwwww." Rowell's "Midnights" was a sweet story that nicely began the anthology's collection of swoon-worthy love stories.

#3: "Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White
Reading Kiersten White's "Welcome to Christmas, CA" in My True Love Gave To Me was a real treat for me because it was my first time reading anything by her. Now, I'm happy to say that I enjoyed her short holiday story, making me want to check out and read her books some time soon. "Welcome to Christmas, CA" was a very uplifting read that was full of love and warmth. I really liked its topical theme of home as it centered around a feisty heroine named Maria who is itching to get away from her small town home. Maria's personal conflict really spoke to me because I felt the same way when I was preparing to go to college and wanting to be someplace new and different, so as I rooted for Maria to understand what home really is--a place where the heart, not the person, resides--I easily got into the story and even felt a sense of relief after finishing it. Also, I can't talk about White's "Welcome to Christmas, CA" without mentioning Maria's love interest Ben. First of all, kudos to him for being an amazing chef. (May I have some cookies specially made for me please, Ben?) Positive, patient, bashful, and kind, Ben was a sweetheart who balanced out Maria's feistiness and stubbornness well. I loved watching the two of them get together and learn from each other. So, overall, what with Maria, her home, her revelation on home, and Ben, I enjoyed reading "Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White. Does anybody have any book recommendations for me so I can read more by White? Please let me know!

#2: "What The Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" by Gayle Forman
Gayle Forman is another author I haven't read anything by yet even though I've heard great things about her books, so I was glad to find that her "What The Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" was anther holiday story in My True Love Gave To Me that I really enjoyed reading. The story made me laugh, smile, swoon, and reflect as I followed the main character Sophie on one of her last nights in her college's rural town before going back home in the big city. I totally sympathized with her as she spoke of how alienated she felt among her college peers and as she berated herself for her decision to go to her college. Her thoughts and feelings of not only missing her family and old friends but also her own self are what I think and feel often when I'm away at school, so I really rooted for her throughout the story in the hopes that she will find some resolve and strength within her as I try to find when I'm feeling lonely. Then, because I felt for Sophie so much, I really liked her love interest Russell. At first, I was apprehensive toward him because he kind of just popped up in the story and was a total stranger to Sophie, but as he proved to be a sincere, friendly, and open-minded guy with wit and charm that matched Sophie's, I warmed up to him and rooted for him and Sophie to be together. Then, when they finally did, it was... **le sigh** ...so swoon-worthy. Hence, finding it funny, relatable, and heartening, I really loved Forman's "What The Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" and I hope to read more by her soon. If I Stay, I'll read you the next time I come home, I promise, but does anybody have any other book suggestions? I would love some.

#1: "It's A Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins
I thoroughly enjoyed Stephanie Perkins's "It's A Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown". I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed her novels--and yet, the holiday story was only a handful of pages long, and so, had limited space and time to develop itself. But, guys, this story had everything: cute, engaging, romantic, and moving, it made me wish I could meet my true love within the next twenty-four hours. I loved the pacing of the story, for it was easy to follow, and the development of the romance, for it made for a realistic whirlwind-kind-of-romance. I laughed at all the times the two main characters Marigold and North picked at each other and acted awkward around each other, and I swooned at all the other times they actually got along and showed they admired each other. Marigold and North together were great, and I rooted for them from the moment they met to the moment they departed from each other, and I root for them now, long after the story itself has ended and I am left to my own imagination as to how they'll stay together. As individuals, they were great as well: I loved Marigold and her persistent yet loving character and I loved North and his intelligent yet sweet personality. Their little quirks--Marigold's passion for making short, animated films and North's surprisingly extensive vocabulary--somehow made them both all the more likable to me, and even though on the surface they seemed like opposites, I rooted for them each in overcoming their shared personal conflict of wanting to pursue their dreams but not wanting to abandon their family. I wish Marigold and North had more than a handful of pages to dazzle the YA/NA fiction world because they are really a great duo whose story needs to be told beyond their single, first day together. It was a pleasure reading more by Stephanie Perkins after having finished her last published book almost a year ago, and her holiday story "It's A Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" has got me hoping for a chance romance that may just last forever.

To conclude, My True Love Gave To Me is a great anthology with some great holiday stories that are going to make you want to cuddle up with it while curled up in a blanket and drinking a mug of hot chocolate. I highly recommend it to anyone in need of a pick-me-up from a reading slump and/or whoever is just in the mood for a little romance on a cold winter night--My True Love Gave To Me has more than enough love and warmth to offer to make anyone appreciate their life, their loved ones, and their selves.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

TBR Jar + January's Pick

Saturday, January 9, 2016 with
Hello everyone,
As I've mentioned in a couple of my past posts, I am doing the TBR Jar this year! YAY!! This is the first year I am doing it and I am so excited. Here's what my jar looks like.
I used metallic sharpies to embellish it.
My twelve different categories are--one for each month of the year:
A book you meant to read in 2015, but didn't
The first book in a new to you series
The next book in a series you are reading
A middle grade book
A YA fantasy
A historical romance
A YA contemporary
A romance contemporary
An e-book
Listen to an audiobook
A new adult
Read a book written by your favorite author

My plan is to randomly pick one each month and to read as many books as I can in that category within the month. I was going to make it a rule that my TBR Jar books be only non-review books, but let's be realistic here. There will be some months where all I'll have time to read are review books and the TBRJ will be a fail before I know it. So, as much as I can I will read non-review books for TBRJ but it's not a requirement.

Now, for January's pick...

And I'll be reading...

If you're also doing TBR Jar this year, let me know. We can cheer each other on.

Happy reading,
Michelle