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My Christmas Recs – Books and Movies

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year! It’s the end of something, but it’s also bringing a new beginning. And this year, I think we are all ready for a new beginning.

Every year, I pull out my favorite Christmas books and movies, and set aside time to read and watch them as part of my own personal Christmas celebration.

Favorite Christmas Books

  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Although this is not strictly a Christmas book, it’s opening scene takes place at Christmas, and the whole book gives you cozy Christmas-like vibes. When I have the time, I like to do a reread (or listen to the audiobook) of this classic.
  2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Speaking of classics, this one is a must read for every Dickens fan or any fan of Christmas. And truthfully, this is my favorite Dickens book.
  3. The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand. This is a YA retelling of A Christmas Carol and it is so good! Once I finished reading it the first time, I knew it was going to be a yearly reread.
  4. Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. I know this one is a children’s picture book, but there is just something so magical about the rhyming prose. I have loved this one for as long as I can remember.
  5. Everything I Need to Know About Christmas, I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow. There’s a whole series of these humorous books, that just happen to look like Little Golden Books themselves. And I may be giving away my age a little here, but as a kid, I loved Little Golden Books.

And of course, I always find some new books that I want to read, so here are my most anticipated reads for this Christmas:

  1. In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren. I’ve heard so much about this book, and seen it all over the place, so it’s at the top of my TBR pile. 🙂
  2. Snowed In by Rachel Hawthorne. While not specifically Christmas, this book is touted to still have all the cozy Christmas vibes, so I’m pschyed to read it.
  3. The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody. Written by the author of Save the Cat Writes a Novel (find out more about this awesome book here), this one has been on my TBR pile for a bit. After rereading the book’s blurb, I decided I wanted to read it this year. This one is set on New Year’s Day.
  4. The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. This is a Nutcracker retelling and was on my Christmas TBR list last year, but I didn’t get to it, so it’s near the top of my list this year.

Favorite Christmas Movies

  1. A Mom for Christmas. This is an old favorite from childhood. It originally aired on TV as a Hallmark movie, and my grandparents taped it on a VHS tape for all the grandkids to watch at Christmas. (My grandfather loved doing this – taping movies and having them ready for us to watch either at Christmas or during the summer when we come and stay awhile.) Bonus: Olivia Newton John plays the wished for “mom”.
  2. Mickey’s and the Muppets Christmas Carol Movies. These are another couple childhood favorites that I always try to make time to watch each year.
  3. Elf. You knew this was going to be on here. 🙂 I don’t always like the slapsticky comedy, but this one has its own sort of charm. Maybe it’s the Christmas setting that makes it such fun.
  4. Season of Miracles. This is another Hallmark movie, but it’s a throwback one, so it has a slightly more complicated plot than girl finding the perfect man.
  5. While You Were Sleeping. Not only is this one of my Christmas favorites, it’s one of my favorite Sandra Bullock movies and I’m willing to watch it anytime of the year.

Movies on Netflix/other worth a watch

  1. Holiday in the Wild – Set in Africa, the beautiful scenery itself makes this worth a watch, but it also has a good storyline too.
  2. Christmas Chronicles – So cute! This is a fun Santa story.
  3. The Knight Before Christmas – So this one might be a little cheesy, but I really enjoyed it!
  4. Noelle (Disney+) – This is another fun Santa story, with a twist.
  5. Godmothered (Disney+) – This one is new this year and is so fun! Perfect for a family movie night.
  6. The March Sisters at Christmas (Hulu, possibly available other places too.) A modern day retelling of Little Women, with a Christmasy theme.

And of course there are a few I’m highly anticipating, but have not watched yet:

  1. Christmas Chronicles 2 (Netflix)- The first one was great, so of course I want to see this one too.
  2. Jingle Jangle (Netflix)- I’ve heard a lot of great things about this one.
  3. Operation Christmas Drop (Netflix) – The preview for this movie caught my eye and so it’s also on my watchlist.

What books are you reading this holiday season? What movies are you watching? Let me know in the comments!

Blog tours, Book Reviews

The Cousins Book Review

I was so excited when I heard about this ultimate blog tour hosted by TheWriteReads! I love Karen M. McManus’s books and was eagerly looking forward to this new release. I was thrilled to get to read it early!

About the Book

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus 
Published by Penguin UK on December 3rd 2020 
Genres: MysteryYoung AdultThrillerSuspense 
Pages: 304 
Format: PaperbackARC 
Source: Publisher 
Buy on Amazon 
Goodreads 

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised… and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point—not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious—and dark—their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over—and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.

About the Author

Karen M. McManus is the #1 New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying, Two Can Keep a Secret, and One of Us Is Next. Her fourth novel, The Cousins, will publish in December 2020. Her work has been translated into more than 40 languages worldwide. Karen lives in Massachusetts and holds a master’s degree in Journalism from Northeastern University, which she mostly uses to draft fake news stories for her novels. 

For more information, visit www.karenmcmanus.com or @writerkmc on Twitter and Instagram. 

My Review

This book was fast-paced and thrilling, just like McManus’s other books. I enjoyed the way she moved back and forth between the viewpoints of the three main characters. I think that technique works really well for this kind of novel. With each additional chapter, you discover another piece of the puzzle. There was also a flashback point of view at several intervals, which I thought was a nice touch.

The characters were likable and relatable, and I was immediately invested in finding out what was going to happen to them. There were lots of twists – some I knew were coming, but there were a few I did not see coming. This is always impressive to me, since it is not often that I don’t see the twists coming beforehand.

If you’ve enjoyed McManus’s other books, you’ll enjoy this one too! It will also appeal to fans of Kara Thomas’s books, the Pretty Little Liars series, the Truly Devious series, and A Good’s Girl’s Guide to Murder. Basically, if you like dramatic teen thrillers, you’ll like this. 🙂

Have you read any of McManus’s books? If so, how did you like them? Let me know in the comments!

Blog tours, Book Reviews

Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy Book Review

I’m excited to be part of Turn the Page’s blog tour for Melissa de la Cruz’s new book Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy. I’ve really enjoyed every book I’ve read by Ms. Cruz, and if you have followed my blog for very long, you know I love fairytales, so I signed up for this blog tour right away. 🙂

Don’t forget to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the post to enter the giveaway!

About the Book

Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy
by Melissa de la Cruz
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Releasing on December 1, 2020

Nothing ever happens in Filomena Jefferson-Cho’s sleepy little suburban town of North Pasadena. The sun shines every day, the grass is always a perfect green, and while her progressive school swears there’s no such thing as bullying, she still feels bummed out. But one day, when Filomena is walking home on her own, something strange happens. 

Filomena is being followed by Jack Stalker, one of the heroes in the Thirteenth Fairy, a series of books she loves about a brave girl and her ragtag group of friends who save their world from an evil enchantress. She must be dreaming, or still reading a book. But Jack is insistent—he’s real, the stories are real, and Filomena must come with him at once!

Soon, Filomena is thrust into the world of evil fairies and beautiful princesses, sorcerers and slayers, where an evil queen drives her ruthless armies to destroy what is left of the Fairy tribes. To save herself and the kingdom of Westphalia, Filomena must find the truth behind the fairytales and set the world back to rights before the cycle of sleep and destruction begins once more.

Goodreads Buy a Copy

My Review

The author did not disappoint with this book. Exciting and fast-paced, it was a quick read that I really enjoyed. I love the way the fairytale world was woven into the real world, and I thought Filomena was a relatable character. Being a book lover myself, I also appreciated Filomena’s eagerness to read the next book in the Never After series. I loved the diverse characters, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Fans of Rick Riordan’s books as well as the Ridley Pearson’s Kingdom Keepers series will enjoy this book!

About the Author

MELISSA DE LA CRUZ is the #1 New York Times, #1 Publisher’s Weekly and #1 Indie Bound bestselling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for readers of all ages, and edited the inspiring anthology of true stories, Because I Was a Girl. She grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. At Columbia University, she majored in art history and English. Melissa de la Cruz lives in West Hollywood with her husband and daughter.

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Giveaway

Click here to enter the giveaway: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1e4a114d14/

Uncategorized

A Thanksgiving Reflection

In the US, we are celebrating Thanksgiving today. This year has been such a crazy and difficult one, it may seem hard to find things to be thankful for. But, once I think about all the things I have to be thankful for, I find my mood is raised and my hope is restored.

I have food, clothes, and a place to live. And fortunately, I also still have my job which I know is not true for some people. I am able to celebrate today with my loving and supportive husband, my adorable little dog, and my wonderful in-laws. I have several other family members I’ve been able to celebrate with virtually. This year, I’ve made progress with a couple different writing projects and have become part of a great virtual writing group.

I have a faith that sustains me even in difficult times, and I have witnessed wonderful acts of kindness even in the midst of troubled times. As we move into the Christmas/holiday season (which is my favorite holiday, btw), I’m going to continue to remember the things I have to be thankful for and look for ways to spread kindness. It is through kindness and love that we can bring change and help make the world a better place for those who come after us.

What things are you thankful for today? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

For Writers

Here Comes NaNoWriMo….Ready or Not!

It’s hard to believe it’s nearly November, and with it comes NaNoWriMo time. I’m pretty excited about NaNo this year, as I’ve had an idea percolating in my brain for the last several weeks. It’s going to be a sequel to my previous WIP, another NaNo novel, The Bloodstained Key. My working title is Never Neverland, and it will be a Peter Pan retelling. Here’s my working cover and playlist:

And here is my fancast and setting inspiration:

Also, I’m bringing back my NaNoWriMo Bingo board, and there are a couple of ways you can get the board this year. You can screenshot/print this one to use:

You can also go to this link: https://www.flippity.net/bi.php?k=1ZWofMRcuWyL5rLoioNYNRy2dsjNjO-rb-1B4nKZLank

It shows a checklist of all the prompts, but when you click on the print tab, it will generate a board to print. If you click on the play online tab, a QR code will pop up that you can scan with your phone’s camera and it will generate a board to your phone. When you tap a square, a bingo chip will cover it. Have fun and share your bingo board progress across social media with #nanobingo20. 🙂

Also, if you looking for a NaNo calendar, my writing friend Camilla Tracy has an awesome one you can download.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? What are your favorite tools for NaNo? Let me know in the comments!

Uncategorized

Nemesis and the Swan Blog Tour Book Review

I’m excited to be part of The Favourite Pages Book Club’s blog tour for Nemesis and the Swan by Lindsay K. Bandy.

About the Book

by Lindsay K. Bandy

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Release Date: October 27th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Fiction, France

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | BookDepository | Kobo | Google Books
Synopsis:
From her prison cell in revolutionary Paris, nineteen-year-old aristocrat Hélène d’Aubign recalls the events that led her to choose between following in her parents’ unforgivable footsteps or abandoning the man she loves.
Despite her world of privilege, Hélène is inspired early on by the radical ideas of her progressive governess. Though her family tries to intervene, the seeds of revolution have already been planted in Hélène’s heart, as are the seeds of love from an unlikely friendship with a young jeweler’s apprentice. Hélène’s determination to find true love is as revolutionary as her attempt to unravel the truth behind a chilling set of eye-shaped brooches and the concealed murder that tore her family apart.
As violence erupts in Paris, Hélène is forced into hiding with her estranged family, where the tangled secrets of their past become entwined with her own. When she finally returns to the blood-stained streets of Paris, she finds everything-and everyone-very much changed. In a city where alliances shift overnight, no one knows who to trust.
Faced with looming war, the mystery of her family’s past, and the man she loves near death, Hélène will soon will find out if doing one wrong thing will make everything right, or if it will simply push her closer to the guillotine.

My Review

The cover for this book caught my eye and piqued my interest. Also, the title is so creative, and it’s great how it’s meaning is explained in the story.

The story starts with Helene in prison, and I love that the chapter numbers look like the slash marks she makes to count the days she is there. The flashbacks were done well, and the story was fast-paced, and hard to put down. I also enjoyed the way the author weaved in all the historical details, and how all the little pieces came together in the end.

I’d recommed this book to any fan of historical fiction, and fans of These Northern Lights by Jennifer Donnelly would also enjoy this one.

About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Lindsay Bandy writes historical and contemporary young adult fiction as well as poetry. She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with her husband, two daughters, and two cats, and currently serves as the co–regional advisor of the Eastern Pennsylvania region of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Blog tours, Book Reviews

But For The Mountains Blog Tour Book Review

About the Book

But For The Mountains

by Erin Riha

Publisher: REUTS Publications

Release Date: June 3rd 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Fantasy

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Bookdepository | iTunes | Kobo

Synopsis:
Arden Thatcher wasn’t meant to be chosen.
But when her name is announced, she’s presented with something she never thought she’d have: a future away from her abuser. Shuttled off to attend the prestigious National Women’s Institute, Arden will receive Nordania’s highest honor, studying with other elite candidates to become leaders, diplomats, and ambassadors on the world stage.
Only, the institute’s not quite what she expected. Paraded around in gown after gown, the tests seem less about educating and more about a different competition, with a very specific prize at stake—the Nordanian Prime Minister’s son. Despite the dean’s protestations that angling for an engagement leads to expulsion, Arden sees the truth. There’s a secret bubbling beneath the institute’s refined surface, and those who refuse to play along may well wind up dead.
With the danger escalating, and the return of her abuser on the horizon, Arden’s shiny future becomes a gilded cage. And this time, she’s going to need powerful allies to escape.
Political intrigue, swoon-worthy romance, and a dash of dystopian flare, But for the Mountains begs the question, how do you change the world when you’re not allowed to try?

About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Erin Riha writes young adult fantasy novels about ambitious girls who don’t know they’re not supposed to exceed expectations. She has an undergraduate degree in Political Science, a Law Degree, and a deep reverence for the power of using exactly the right word in exactly the right moment. She lives in wonderfully weird Portland, Oregon, with her super dreamy husband, where they’re raising a future train engineer and a future chicken whisperer. When not writing, she’s a music director for a teen theater company, traveling the world, or dreaming of traveling the world.​Her debut novel, BUT FOR THE MOUNTAINS, was published by REUTS Publications June 2, 2020.

My Review

I was immediately drawn into the story. The story was fast-paced and the stakes were high, both things which kept reading until the end.

Arden was relatable and engaging. I also liked the love triangle aspect in the story. Though I sometimes find love triangles annoying, it worked with this story, and it was well-written.

When I first heard about this book, the title intrigued me. I love that moment when the title finally makes sense, and I loved this particular quote from the book:

“A familiar voice called to her and said, ‘What has taken you so long to find what you seek?’ She replied, ‘But for the mountains I would have found it sooner.’ The voice replied, ‘Look at yourself. Look at the mountain. Look at the crevices, the blood stains, the gashes, the bruises. They are your character, your story. But for the mountains you would not have found yourself.” 

This book will appeal to fans of The Selection (though fair warning, this book is a bit darker than The Selection) and The Jewel by Amy Ewing.

Blog tours, Book Reviews

The Cup and the Prince Blog Tour Review

I’m excited to be part of The Favourite Pages Book Club’s blog tour for The Cup and the Prince by Day Leitao.

About the Book

The Cup and The Prince (Kingdom of Curses and Shadows #1)

by Day Leitao

Release Date: October 15th, 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Age: 15+

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Bookdepository

Synopsis:
One prince wants her out. Another wants her as a pawn. Someone wants her dead. 
Zora wants to win the cup and tell them all to screw themselves. 
Yes, 17-year-old Zora cheated her way into the Royal Games, but it was for a very good reason. Her ex-boyfriend thought she couldn’t attain glory on her own. Just because she was a girl. And he was the real cheater. So she took his place. 
Now she’s competing for the legendary Blood Cup, representing the Dark Valley. It’s her chance to prove her worth and bring glory for her people. If she wins, of course. 
But winning is far from easy. The younger prince thinks she’s a fragile damsel who doesn’t belong in the competition. Determined to eliminate her at all costs, he’s stacking the challenges against her. Zora hates him, hates him, hates him, and will do anything to prove him wrong. 
The older prince is helping her, but the cost is getting Zora entangled in dangerous flirting games. Flirting, the last thing she wanted. 
And then there’s someone trying to kill her. 
Disclaimer: Mentions of cheating, and alludes to virginity and sexual relationships. No steamy content.

My Review

It took me a little while to get into this one (I think this was because there was some backstory before it really got into what’s promised in the premise), but once I did, I enjoyed it.

I liked the contrast between Zora and Alegra. I also loved how Zora named her sword Butterfly. I got some strong Arya Stark vibes from her. The worldbuilding was good, and I’m interested in reading more about it.

Fans of The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski and The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty would probably enjoy this book.

About The Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Bookbub

I’m originally from Brazil but I’ve been living in Canada for over 10 years now. I have some influence from Brazilian writers and Brazilian culture, but I also read popular books in English. I watched some Anime as a kid, my favorite being Yamato. I’m a longtime Star Wars fan and I’m active in the fandom podcasting at Lords of the Sith as Denise. 
I’ve always loved to write stories, and I like to always include romance, action and humor in my writing. I think stories can touch us deeply. I live in Montreal, Canada, with my son. 
My books include the YA fantasy series Portals to Whyland, and the sci-fi standalones, The Sphere of Infinity and Star Spark
Check out my blog for some news, updates, and nonsensical ramblings.

Blog tours, Book Reviews

The Opal Amulet Blog Tour Book Review

I’m excited to be part of The Favourite Pages Book Club blog tour for The Opal Amulet by Victoria Drozda. Be sure to check out my post on Instagram to get in on the giveaway!

About the Book

The Opal Amulet (The Forbidden Gems of Regalia #1)

by Victoria Drozda

Publisher: BookBabyRelease

Date: October 14th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fantasy

Goodreads | Amazon | BookDepository | B&N | BookBaby

Synopsis:
Fourteen year old Emberly Tollens doesn’t dream often but when she does its never a good sign, especially when its the same dream. Some nights she would dream of the sweet nothingness of time. Other nights the voices would get louder, the running faster, and the staff colder. Ice cold. But this is just the beginning of her problems.
Things get even stranger when she finds a dangerously beautiful opal necklace lying on the ground at school. Not strange at all. And definitely not strange when your once kind of nice teacher turns into a fire-breathing creature from the past, right?
Now with the help of her hazel eyed friend named Olive and a cute mysterious fire throwing boy. They’re going to discover there’s a lot more going on than what they think.

My Review

First of all, I absolutely love the cover. The cover is what first drew me to this book. The story is interesting and fun. Emberly has a strong voice and is relatable. I liked how she had a good relationship with her mom and a dependable friendship with Olive.

To me, the book seemed like more of a middle grade book than a YA book. Emberly is just a freshman in high school, fourteen, which is young for a YA herione. The story is appropriate for younger readers as well, though older readers who don’t care if the MC is younger than they are would probably also enjoy it.

Fans of the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull and the Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi would enjoy this book.

Favorite Quotes

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book, were the great descriptions in the book. Here are some of my favorites:

“A lustrous silvery and violet light stemmed from her amulet, disentangled itself from Emberly’s hands, and wove it’s way into the owner’s body.” (Chapter 8)

The castle was a deep midnight blue, with three black towers that had thick silver vines climbing up the dark stones. Tall, illuminated clear windows lined the walls, sparkling like diamonds.” (Chapter 10)

They rode to Max’s house, her phone leading them, the warm fall wind hitting their faces with a strong scent of pine and upcoming rain. Blurry splats of orange, yellow, and red flew past them in a leafy fire of autumn.” (Chapter 13)

About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Instagram

Victoria Drozda started The Opal Amulet (book one to The Forbidden Gems of Regalia series) in the summer of 2016 before her freshman year of high school and later finished the book in 2020. She is an upcoming college student and enjoys spending her time reading, drawing, baking and of course writing. She currently resides in California and is eagerly working on the next book in the series.

Readathons, Reading Challenge

October is Readathon Month!

Every year in October, I participate in #scarathlon, a Halloween-themed challenge on Litsy. (If you haven’t heard about Litsy, you can read more about it here. There are two teams, and you receive points for reading books, watching tv shows and movies, and for time spent reading during readathons. And there are a lot of readathons in October. I’ve chosen a few of them to participate in.

  1. #Whodunitathon – Hosted by @whodunitathon on Twitter, this is a month long challenge that you work through in stages:

I have completed Stage 1 – The Premise. My setting is Manhattan (book read: The Midwife Murders by James Patterson). My detective is the police inspector (book read: The Birthday Girl by Melissa De La Cruz). And my sidekick is the unflappable butler (book read: Atomic Habits by James Clear).

2. #Anunfortunatereadathon – Hosted by the @readyreaders on Instagram, this challenge has a bingo board to complete.

So far, I’ve completed Sunny Baudelaire – Monsterstreet: The Halloweeners by JH Richards, Count Olaf – The Midwife Murders by James Patterson, Aunt Josephine – Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump, and The Reptile Room – Very Scary Halloween by Eve Bunting.

3. #trickortreatathon hosted by @samanthashares and @heyatlascreative on Instagram.

I’ve chosen the trick path to start with and have read Mike Meyers: The Midwife Murders by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo, and The Sanderson Sisters: The Halloween Queen by Joan Holub.

4. #Thrilloweenreadathon hosted by @readwithalison on Instagram.

So far I’ve read #3 witches – The Halloween Queen by Joan Holub, #5 haunted house – At the Old Haunted House by Helen Ketteman, and #10 thriller book from library – Monsterstreet: The Halloweeners by J.H. Reynolds.

What about you? Are you doing any readathons this month? Let me know in the comments.