Saturday, December 31, 2016

No Holly for Christmas by Julie N. Ford {Review}

No Holly for Christmas by Julie N. Ford
Paperback, 2, 472 pages
Published November 15th 2016 (first published January 1st 2011)

A story about how fate will carry us where we need to go whether we are willing passengers or not.

After being jilted not once, but twice by the only woman he’s ever truly loved, Brian McAlister has all but given up on relationships. Then, on special assignment for the DA's office, he steps into the middle of a politically sensitive murder case where he crosses paths with a beautiful ex-socialite-turned-social-worker, Holly Cavanaugh Winter.

Widowed, practically penniless, and reduced to shopping at Walmart, Holly is dreading the approaching holiday season. However, her angst isn't due to her husband's untimely death the previous December 25th, but to a secret that could reveal itself unless she can find a way to avoid the coming Christmas. To make matters worse, she unwittingly stumbles into the throes of Brian’s case and the manhunt for a killer who now has his sights set on her.

His case unraveling, Brian finds himself tasked with keeping Holly and her two daughters safe while bringing an assassin and the powerful man who hired him to justice.


My Review: 3 Stars

Holly is now a single mom, trying to make ends meet, while sacrificing her rich lifestyle. Her estranged sister is working on a case with Brian, who is on a special assignment for the DA. As their paths cross, unmistakable sparks fly, while danger, romance, and thrilling fear abound. Holly is pretty likable, although she can be uptight and contradictory. Brian is a horn-dog, but at the same time, a little lovable; maybe a little rough around the edges.

My likes: I enjoyed the working aspects of the characters and how they were able to do their jobs to stay safe. I also liked the relationships and how intricate they are. Holly's two girls are opposites, yet their personalities shine through the pages. I love a good thriller, especially with twists and turns, and one set during the holidays is especially intriguing, but it does move a little slow.

My dislikes: I enjoy my books a little cleaner and was a tad bit disappointed by the amount of language and sexual references scattered through the book--just my personal preference. Nothing is graphic, but there is an attempted rape, some pretty heavy innuendo, and a lot of matter-of-fact talk of sex and sexual activity.

Content: see my dislikes.

*I received a complimentary copy through eBooks for Review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*


Buy Links

About the Author:

Julie N Ford
A graduate from San Diego State University with a BA in Political Science, Julie N. Ford also earned a Masters in Social Work from the University of Alabama, which has only made her better able to recognize the unhealthy, codependent relationship she has with writing. Professionally, she has worked in teaching and as a marriage and family counselor. She is the author of six women’s fiction novels, including Count Down to Love, a 2011 Whitney Award finalist. When she’s not writing, she entertains delusions of being a master gardener, that is, when she’s not killing the unsuspecting plants in her yard with her good intentions. She lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, two daughters, and the cutest Scottish fold cat you’ve ever seen.

My Top 20 Books of 2016

I've read a lot of books this year--over 280, to be exact. I've also read some really, really good ones and it's hard to narrow down my favorites, but I'm going to try. My plan was to pick my top 15, with a bonus (16 in '16), but I ended up with close to 50 on my list. I had to leave a lot of favorites off so this post wouldn't go on and on and on, but it was still super hard to narrow it down to 20. If you click on the picture, it will take you to Amazon, where you can purchase a copy for yourself. If you click on the title, it will take you to my review, where you can read more about it.

Here no particular
Top 20 books of 2016:

What made your list this year? What books should I add to mine for 2017?

Check out my book friends' lists:

KJ's Book Nook
Bookworm Nation

Friday, December 30, 2016

Under the Mistletoe Collection (A Timeless Romance Anthology) {Review}

Under the Mistletoe Collection (A Timeless Romance Anthology)
Kindle Edition, 299 pages
Published October 15th 2015 by Mirror Press    

Amazon #1 Bestselling series in *New Release* for Clean Romance

Six Award-Winning Authors have contributed new stories to A Timeless Romance Anthology: Under the Mistletoe Collection. Six contemporary novellas, all adding sweet romance to the Christmas season.

In the enchanting novella FORGOTTEN KISSES by Cindy Roland Anderson, costume designer Madison Taylor has no love lost when the male lead playing Sir Lancelot in a TV series is fired. She couldn’t stand working with him anyway. But when she discovers who his replacement is, her heart nearly stops. Caleb Matthews is one of the hottest male actors ever… and not to mention Madison’s former boyfriend. When things got too serious between them, everything fell apart. And now, Madison must play nice or lose her job. She just has to forget all of the reasons she’d fallen for him in the first place.

In THE LAST CHRISTMAS, a sweet romance novella by Annette Lyon, Meredith only has to make it through the Christmas holiday pretending that she and her husband Eric aren’t on the verge of divorce. She doesn’t want to ruin the holiday for her two grown daughters and their boyfriends. But when Eric hurries home after weeks of living in a motel to unpack before their daughters arrive, he starts pressing Meredith with questions about why she filed for divorce. The last thing Meredith wants to do it give Eric a second chance, but it seems that Eric is not willing to let her go without trying to win her back.

In Julie Coulter Bellon’s captivating novella TRUTH OR DARE, after a year of recovery, wounded war veteran Jonah Harrison comes home for Christmas. No longer the outgoing high school track star, he just wants to be left alone, away from well-meaning friends and neighbors. But when a blizzard strands him with Cami Jackson—the girl who once knew him best—he can’t hide anything from her, no matter how much he wants to. Cami has a wounded heart of her own, though, and it might take a Christmas miracle for them to find the healing they both long for and the courage to reach for a chance at love.

In the charming novella HOLIDAY BUCKET LIST by Sarah M. Eden, Celeste Lagorio has officially given up on Christmas. A single mother, with her children grown and unable to return for the holiday, Celeste determines to take a break from everything. When her single neighbor and almost-best-friend, Mike Durham, discovers her non-plans, they discuss things they’ve always wanted to do, but never had time. Mike and Celeste put together a friendly competition of checking off the things on their bucket list, all the while drawing closer and discovering they have more in common than they thought.

In CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY, a delightful novella by Heather B. Moore, Monica is on the verge of buying her dream store, but when she tells her boyfriend, he turns it into an embarrassing public argument. Heartbroken, but determined to follow her dream, she goes to her employer’s Christmas party to play Mrs. Claus, only to be paired with someone unexpected. A young Mr. Claus who is the complete opposite of her ex-boyfriend in all the most important ways. Yet, Monica is not sure she can risk opening her heart again.

In Jennifer Griffith’s exciting novella FIRST (AND LAST) CHRISTMAS DATE, pilot Juliet Law has been in a holding pattern, dating the wrong guy, until she gets a holiday shake-up: old flame Tag McClintock e-mails her to ask for second date—after ten years. Their first date, back in high school, had been an unmitigated disaster culminating with Pepto Bismol and the police. Still, Juliet would have gone out with Tag again the next day—and the next—had he asked. So now that he’s finally popping up in her in-box again, Juliet must decide whether to say yes to the date, even if it puts her at risk of another decade of carrying a torch for Tag McClintock. Will their second date be their last?


My Review: 5 Stars

I love the holidays and these sweet Christmas romances each hit the spot. I was pleasantly surprised to find stories that span the ages. Not only are there younger couples, but older ones as well, and each book has a great story to tell. I only wish that each and every story had a kiss under the mistletoe.

Jealousy and second chances are big themes in FORGOTTEN KISSES. The characters work in Hollywood and discover that after two years, the spark is still there. But can the jealousy be dispelled? I love how the feelings and insecurities are accurately portrayed. That tender glance of love made my knees weak.

THE LAST CHRISTMAS is about a couple who are ready to divorce after 25 years of marriage. My heart was completely tugged by this story, as it's so easy to lose sight of the reason why a couple marries in the first place. The emerging glimmers of communication and the responses to the pleas almost brought tears to my eyes and this one really stood out to me.

TRUTH OR DARE brings the reader a second chance romance with a couple who each struggles with pain and injured souls. I love the way they play this simple game to rekindled a friendship and more. Such sweet reactions and tender love.

In a friends-to-love story, CHRISTMAS BUCKET LIST brings us two widowed characters who make a list to recreate what their younger selves would have wanted for gifts. An unrequited love just may finally be recognized in the process, in this sweet story. I love their lists and the way it all played out.

Who can resist a knight in shining armor--especially a perfectly flawed one? In CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY, Monica is rescued from a bad boyfriend by Jaxon. As they are thrown together and help each other heal over heartaches, they just might realize how perfectly matched they are. I loved the adventure and suspense that was mixed into the romance.

FIRST (AND LAST) CHRISTMAS DATE is a second chance romance. When Juliet gets an email out of the blue ten years after a disastrous first date with Tag, she jumps at the chance to flesh out her former crush. Another disastrous date is in the making, but the results may be different. This story was action-packed and very swoony, which I didn't mind in the least.

This is a great collection that I would love to re-read each year!

Content: each story has mild (kissing) romance. The last one has some innuendo and Christmas Every Day has some mild language.


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Thursday, December 29, 2016

What Light by Jay Asher {Review}

What Light by Jay Asher
Hardcover, 251 pages
Published October 18th 2016 by Razorbill

Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it's a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb's past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

What Light is a love story that's moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.


My Review: 4 Stars

To be honest, I wasn't sure how well a man could write a story from a teenage girl's point-of-view, but I was pleasantly surprised!

I've never thought about what goes into bringing Christmas trees to lots for people to buy.  Sierra's family has a Christmas tree farm in Oregon and they spend every month between Thanksgiving and Christmas in California running a lot. That's their way of life and now as a junior in high school, Sierra is dreading the day when it all comes to an end.

Some teens would probably be resentful of this family tradition, as it uproots Sierra from her home, school, and friends, during the holidays, but she embraces this life. She is pretty mature about the situations she finds herself in and does a good job of balancing work, family, and friends. I love her attitude and the way she is able to look past the superficial parts of a person.

When Caleb buys a tree from her lot, Sierra is intrigued and can't shake him out of her mind. Against advice from loved ones, she allows herself to pursue a whirlwind romance, and in turn, recognizes that true love just might conquer all. Caleb is a little mysterious and has a past, but his actions and the rumors don't exactly align.

This book is a mesh of loyalties, forgiveness, love, fears, and more. It was hard for me to completely relate to Sierra, since my life hasn't been split in two as hers has been, but I can relate to emotions and this story has many. This isn't your typical light-hearted Christmas romance, but a feel-good story still emerges from the angst. I did want a little more resolution.

Content: mild romance (kissing); mild language; mention of mild violence.

*I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*


Buy Links:               

About the Author:
Jay Asher
Jay Asher was born in Arcadia, California on September 30, 1975. He grew up in a family that encouraged all of his interests, from playing the guitar to his writing. He attended Cuesta College right after graduating from high school. It was here where he wrote his first two children’s books for a class called Children’s Literature Appreciation. At this point in his life, he had decided he wanted to become an elementary school teacher. He then transferred to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where he left his senior year in order to pursue his career as a serious writer. Throughout his life he worked in various establishments, including as a salesman in a shoe store and in libraries and bookstores. Many of his work experiences had an impact on some aspect of his writing.

He has published only one book to date, Thirteen Reasons Why, which was published in October 2007. He is currently working on his second Young Adult novel, and has written several picture books and screenplays. Thirteen Reasons Why has won several awards and has received five stars from Teen Book Review. It also has received high reviews from fellow authors such as Ellen Hopkins, Chris Crutcher, and Gordon Kormon.