2013 Christmas Reading Challenge and my fave holiday movies + playlist!

This year I decided to join the Christmas Reading Challenge. If you like to join here’s how…
It's time! The 5th year of the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge! Like last year, there are multiple levels for participation, like children's books and watching Christmas movies...and there is an extra special twist this year...so read on!

Details and sign up:
•challenge will run from Friday, November 22, 2013 through Monday, January 6, 2014 (Twelfth Night or Epiphany).

•cross over with other challenges is totally permitted AND encouraged!

•These must be Christmas novels, books about Christmas lore, a book of Christmas short stories or poems, books about Christmas crafts, and for the first time...a children's Christmas books level!

Candy Cane:  read 1 book
Mistletoe:  read 2-4 books
Christmas Tree:  read 5 or 6 books (this is the fanatic level...LOL!)

           Additional levels:
Fa La La La Films:  watch a bunch or a few Christmas movies...it's up to you!
Visions of Sugar Plums:  read books with your children this season, share what you read

*the additional levels are optional; you still must complete one of the main reading levels above.

•the most important rule?  Have fun!!!
•I will have a review linky posted as a page the day the challenge starts.  You will find it at the top of the left sidebar.
•Sign up in the linky below (link to your post with your reading list...you can change up your list during the challenge...I just want to be able to stop by to welcome you and see what you plan to read).

**One final note:  I am going to do a giveaway of one mystery box of Christmas books to participants in the U.S. I will also pick an International winner who will win $5.00 to spend at Amazon.

Level I choose:

Books I hope to read:
The Christmas Cookie Collection by Lori Wilde
Holiday Heart by Marilyn Conner Miles
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Marie Landry

Fa La La La films [these are ones I watch every year]:
A Christmas Story
The Holiday
This Christmas
Christmas with the Kranks
Love Actually
The Family Stone
Charlie Brown Christmas
Home Alone
It’s a Wonderful Life
Frosty the Snowman
Nothing like the Holidays

Favorite Hallmark Movies [they are the BEST!!]…
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Trading Christmas
Christmas with Holly
The Christmas Ornament [new this yr but already a fave]
Snow Bride [new this yr but a fave already]
Mrs. Miracle

Now on to the music! Here is my holiday playlist that truly represents me. It has the classics, old school R&B/Jazz and some new stuff.

My Playlist
Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee
Run Run Rudolph by Chuck Berry
Baby it’s Cold Outside by Ray Charles
Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms
The Christmas Song Nat King Cole
Sleigh Ride by Ella Fitzgerald
Christmas [Baby Please Come Home] by Darlene Love
This Christmas by Donnie Hathaway
What Christmas Means to Me by Stevie Wonder
Merry Christmas Baby by Otis Redding
It’s Beginning to Look A Lot like Christmas by Michael Buble
Let it Snow by Michael Buble
I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Michael Buble
Wonderful Christmastime by Demi Lovato
Last Christmas by Wham!
Have Yourself a Merry little Christmas by Luther Vandross
All I want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey
Oh Santa by Mariah Carey
Underneath the Tree by Kelly Clarkson
River by Joni Mitchell [technically not Xmas but somehow fits]
Merry Christmas Darling by The Carpenters
Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses
Christmas in Hollis by Run-DMC

Got any faves? Please share!


Holiday Reads: Some Kind of Wonderful by Beth Ciotta

Some Kind of Wonderful: A Holiday Novella by Beth Ciotta
Published October 22, 2013
Format: via NetGalley
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 3/5

Have yourself a scrumptious, small-town Christmas with this special Cupcake Lovers holiday novella, Love on a Winter's Night!

Growing up in Sugar Creek, Maya Templeton and Zachary Cole were best friends. After high school, each went out into the world in search of adventure. Maya moved to Florida to explore her passion for baking and pastry-making, eventually establishing her own business: Cupcakes & Dreamscapes. Zach joined the military and became a Marine Scout Sniper. Now, after years apart, they’re both going home for the holidays. They don’t seem to have much in common anymore. In fact, Zach seems to have the hots for Maya’s business partner. But when the two get stranded together during a blizzard, they are forced to reexamine their connection. Are Maya and Zach better off “just friends”—just as they were when they were young? Or could it be that true love was there all along?

My Thoughts
Some Kind of Wonderful is a very cute and short holiday tale. It’s about two old friends who grew up together and reconnect over the holidays. Maya has set up her friend with Zach but a clueless Zach doesn’t realize the girl who he fell for over letters and IM’s is really Maya instead. When Maya goes back home for the holidays there is no denying that Maya and Zach definitely have a strong and unbreakable connection.

While they try and deny their feelings towards each other they are forced to spend the night together while out delivering meals to the needy. During this time they can’t help but give into their attraction.  Is this the real thing? Or are they just two old lonely flames rekindling what they once had?  

This novella is a very good and fast paced holiday read. It keeps you interested and with just the right amount of romance involved. Simple and sweet with Christmas as a wonderful backdrop, you can’t go wrong in choosing this. Though this is part of a series this is a novella and can be read as a stand alone. It's very complete and I had no problems in reading this, never had read the previous books.


WoW [54]

Waiting on Wednesday [WoW] is a weekly event hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.
This week’s WoW feature is:

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Expected Publication: July8, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. Is that what she’s supposed to do? Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Why I Can’t Wait....
One reason…
It’s Rainbow Freakin’ Rowell!!!!!!!

What are you waiting on? Please link me up to yours. I’d love to see your picks!


Review: 27 by Howard Sounes

27 by Howard Sounes
Published: November 12, 2013
Format: via NetGalley
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Rating: 3.5/5

Journalists write about the curse of the “27 Club” as if there is a supernatural reason for this series of deaths. Others invoke astrology, numerology, and conspiracy theories to explain what has become a modern mystery. In this haunting book, author Howard Sounes conducts the definitive forensic investigation into the lives and deaths of the six most iconic members of the Club, plus another forty-four music industry figures who died at 27, to discover what, apart from coincidence, this phenomenon signifies.

In a grimly fascinating journey through the dark side of the music business over six decades, Sounes uncovers a common story of excess, madness, and self-destruction. The fantasies, half-truths, and mythologies that have become associated with Jones, Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, Cobain, and Winehouse are debunked. Instead a clear and compelling narrative emerges, one based on hard facts, that unites these lost souls in both life and death.

My Thoughts
I’ve always been a huge music fan, especially classic rock. So when I saw this book I had to read it. I have always been curious of this whole “27 club” theory. Was it all just coincidence or was something to this whole thing.

This is a great read for anyone who is a fan of any of these great musicians. You get an insight of them that you might have never known. We get a good feel about how they lived and the struggles that came with fame. This whole “27 club” is a thing of legend. Why is it that these great singers all suffered with these demons inside of them and all died at the same age? Most of these singers all died at the height of their careers leaving them frozen in time and the legacy only growing with time. We see they as icons but mostly I’ve have grown to see them as tortured souls. These are people with problems way deeper than anyone knows and many of them turn to drugs to deal.

If you love music or are a fan of any of these musicians or just plain curious, than this is a read for you. While some stories can drag a bit overall it’s an interesting read.


2014 TBR Reading Challenge List

It’s that time again! Time for me to list my books for the 2014 TBR Challenge hosted by Evie Bookish. Click here to join. I can’t believe another year has flown by. I completed my goal for 2013 so I hope to do the same next year.

2014 goal is: A Firm Handshake [1-10 books]
*2014 TBR List*
[No order]
2014 goal is: A Firm Handshake [1-10 books]
*2014 TBR List*
[No order]
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
Time between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
The Lonely Heart Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland


Holiday Reads: Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas by Sugar Jamison

Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas [Holiday Novella] by Sugar Jamison
Published: October 1, 2013
Format: via NetGalley
Rating: 3/5

On the first day of Christmas, Dina Gregory, former wild child and prodigal daughter returns home to New York on a mission. Finding her young son’s father and making him take responsibility for the child he created is the only thing on her wish list. But instead of finding the man she was looking for she runs into his stuffy older brother Ben. Ben has never liked Dina, but being trapped together on the holidays allows him to see a different side of her. She brings back his Christmas spirit and in the process reminds him what it feels like to love. Dina’s past makes her wary of falling in love, but Ben is determined to make her stay as his permanent Christmas gift. 

My Thoughts
I’m a huge sucker for anything Christmas, I love the whole magical and sappiness of the season but this novella really tested my theory. This short story was just a tad too unbelievable even for me. Dina goes out looking for her baby’s father she finds his brother instead. Of course he is a hard nose stick in the mud but somehow in literally a matter of minutes he falls in love with Dina, he’s dead brothers ex. Wow! Plus suddenly he wants to marry her and refers to his nephew as his “son.” Weird! I mean I get the whole wanting to help out and talking care of his family but I felt it was way too rush, granted I know it’s a short story but still.

Though I felt for Ben he lost his wife and never wanted to love again, I wonder if he loved Dina or was it just the fact that she was attractive and there. I just couldn’t buy into this “instant” love story. I did love the Christmas background and the story had promise. I honest wished this was a full size read, if longer this was something I could’ve love. For that reason I give it a three for the pure potential.


Review: The Sister Season by Jennifer Scott

The Sister Season by Jennifer Scott
Published: November 5, 2013
Format: provided by publisher
Publisher: NAL Trade
Rating: 4/5

Three sisters who discover that coming home for the holidays isn’t as easy as it seems…
Sometimes coming home for the holidays isn’t as easy as it seems….

It’s December 21, and the Yancey sisters have been called home. When the girls were young, holidays at their family farm meant a tinsel-garnished tree, the scent of simmering food, and laughter ringing through the house. But as the years unfolded, family bonds fractured, and the three sisters scattered and settled into separate lives. Until now. The Yancey sisters are coming to spend the holidays with their mother. They’re also coming to bury their father.

Claire, the youngest, a free spirit who journeyed to California, returns first. Then comes Julia, the eldest, a college professor with a teenage son of her own. And finally there’s Maya, the middle child, who works so hard to be the perfect mother and wife. During the sisters’ week together, old conflicts surface, new secrets emerge, and the limits and definitions of family are tested. And as the longest night of the year slips by and brightening days beckon, the sisters will have to answer one question: When you’re a sister, aren’t you a sister forever?

My Thoughts
The Yancey sisters were brought together over Christmas for the funeral of their father. However they weren’t really there for his sake but more for their mothers. While throughout the book we come to learn more about each sister they have one thing in common, how they feel about their father.  We learn that their father via flashbacks wasn’t the kindest person. He was a cruel and a mean man who tortured his wife and was physically, verbally and emotionally abusive to his daughters also.

Each sister reveals they all have their own family drama. However at the root of it all it all goes back to their childhood. Each has trust issues and the inability to open up and connect with their partner and kids. But can we really blame them? As children don’t we only know what we’ve seen? Can you really truly love if you’ve never felt that yourself?

During the week they are forced to stay together and secrets are revealed and wounds are healed with time. This is a story of hope and redemption. It’s one that’s shows how family secrets can destroy but that with time and patience things can be forgiven. Most importantly I took away was that family is all you need. While you might have disagreements and misunderstanding family will always be there. Together we can make each other stronger and there’s nothing better than that.


Cover Reveal: Love and Cupcakes by Susan Bishop Crispell

Love and Cupcakes by Susan Bishop Crispell
Genre: Adult Romance
Expected Publication: January 21, 2014
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Add to Goodreads

For Jaclyn “Jack” Pace, sensing what sweets people crave is as easy as breathing. But it’s not enough to keep her cupcake bakery in the black.

So, when her estranged sister Harper comes back to town with an affinity for making art out of icing—and a past full of secrets—she reluctantly gives Harper a job and a place to crash.

As their sisterly relationship begins to thaw, the one with her business partner Graham starts to heat up. Given the legend that says Hollingsworth men will recognize their soul mates at first touch, Jack’s always been resigned to the fact that she’s not his.

But when she starts sensing desires that are decidedly not dessert-related, it’ll take all of her magic to set things right with customers and make her own desires come true. Love and Cupcakes is a delightfully sweet and sensual romance from Susan Bishop Crispell.

About the Author
Susan Bishop Crispell is not one of those writers who's been scribbling down stories since she could hold a pencil. She didn't read constantly growing up (blasphemy!), and she can still be found in public without a book tucked into her purse (again with the blasphemy!).

She is, however, the kind of writer who lives for the imaginative spark that introduces her to a new character or story idea that pushes her to turn everyday life into something magical. She lives and writes near Wilmington, NC.

Author Links:
Publisher: www.myswoonromance.com
Tumblr: http://sbcrispell.tumblr.com/



Review: The Disappearance of Lizzy Ross by Jessica Schein

The Disappearance of Lizzy Ross by Jessica Schein
Published: October 29, 2013
Format: via NetGalley
Rating: 1/5

A new four-book e-novella series featuring four different characters trying to find out the answer to one big question: where is Lizzy Ross?
Book 1: Mimi Lerner and Lizzy Ross have been best friends since high school began and now, as seniors, they've made big plans together—from a trip to the Bahamas only months away to going to college the following year and ruling it like they do high school. But when Lizzy goes MIA after a party Mimi throws at a posh Manhattan hotel, everything is suddenly up in the air and Mimi must face facts: Lizzy Ross may not be the girl she knew, and the life she thought she'd have is going in a very different direction.

Please note that this book ends in a cliffhanger and book 2 will be told by another character.

Keep an eye out for the next installment, as told by a different character, of the Lizzy Ross series in early 2014.

My Thoughts
I picked up this short novella since I needed the break from the long books ive been reading lately. Well, I should’ve just let this one go. I didn’t like this read at all, in my opinion, not an appealing storyline and unlikeable characters. Very mean girls, typical rich spoiled girls who think they are the “it.” Needless to say I won’t be reading the other three stories in this series.


WoW [53]

Waiting on Wednesday [WoW] is a weekly event hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.
This week’s WoW feature is:

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Expected Publication: May 13, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Why I Can’t Wait....
Ok that description really just made me want to read it! Lies, an accident and secrets? Heck yeah I’m in! Now I just got to get my hands on a copy ASAP!

What are you waiting on? Please link me up to yours. I’d love to see your picks!


Review: The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene

The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene
Published: November 5, 2013
Format: finished copy via publisher
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Rating: 3.5/5

When Jenny Davis comes across a beautiful vintage tea set at an outdoor market in the English countryside, she’s convinced its fate. A young bride on a budget, she has her heart set on a vintage tea-party theme for her wedding—and the gorgeous gold-rimmed china before her is perfect. There’s only one problem. Two other women have fallen in love with it, too. So they come up with a solution: They’ll share it.

They establish a sisterhood, sharing the ups and downs of their lives—from broken hearts and weddings, to family drama and career dreams. When a figure from Jenny’s past threatens to ruin her big day, Alison’s teenage daughter pushes her to the limit, and Maggie’s romantic life is thrown into turmoil, the members of the Vintage Teacup Club band together—proving their newfound friendship will last a lifetime.

My Thoughts
I really did enjoy this book. I love a good friendship book, one that shows that women can come together and love and support each other. Each of these women came together, each with their own story but all connected via a thing as simple as a teacup. Was it fate? I think so. These women were meant to meet and it was more than just for teacups.

I think these women needed each other as things in their lives were happening they all needed someone there for them. They needed that friendship, the unconditional support from someone other than those around them.

This is a well written read, one that will leave you wanting more. You feel like you've become a part of these ladies lives and want nothing but the best for each one of them. So do yourself a favor and pick up this great read about friendship.


Review: The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle

The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle
Expected Publication: November 5, 2013
Format: E-ARC provided via NetGalley
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Rating: 5/5

To the outside Diana and Joe have a perfect family-three lovely children, a beautiful home, and a café that's finally taking off. But their world is rocked when it's discovered that their oldest daughter, 17-year-old Morgan is having an affair with her married teacher, TJ Hill.

Their town rocks with the scandal. When the case goes to trial, the family is torn further apart when Morgan sides not with her parents-as a manipulated teenage girl; but with TJ himself-as a woman who loves a 30-year-old man.

Told from the perspectives of Morgan, Diana, and TJ's wife, Rain, this is an unforgettable story that fully explores the surprising, even shocking, events that change the lives of two families.

My Thoughts
We start off at the trial of TJ Hill then gradually go back in time to reveal the reason why. Teenager Morgan is an average girl who is having problems that she refuses to share with anyone. She feels she can’t confine in her parents or even her friends so one day she feels that trust in her teacher Mr. Hill.

While it all starts out innocent enough it soon starts to cross the line. TJ meanwhile is having problems of his own back home. His wife is desperate to have a child and his jealousy towards his brother is mind blowing. He takes out his frustrations about his life towards his wife who loves him despite everything.

Although this story of teacher/student seduction has been told time and time again this one had a different feel to it. The characters were all very rich and although it’s easy to hate TJ, he has a menacing vibe to him that’s almost genius. He is one who has issues yet you can see how easily he can flip from victim to martyr in a split second. While he is an adult and should know better you also see how calculating Morgan’s moves can be. She sets her plan in motion and is determine to not let anything stand in her way.

However my favorite character was Rain, TJ’s wife. While some might see her as a delicate shrinking flower I saw her as a strong woman who simply hadn’t yet to find her inner voice. She stayed with a man who had many problems because she loved him. Was that wrong? Maybe. I think she saw him as a person who needed help…he needed her. She thought she could fix him. All signs showed he didn’t love her, in fact all he looked after was himself, and anything that could help him he went after. And in the end Rain finally realized that and did the only thing she could, for once she did what was best for herself and no one else. I love how we get to see all angles in this twisted tell.

In the end it’s a great story of justice and in a way of learning who you are and becoming stronger like you never knew you could. We all learn from our mistakes even if they hurt us to the core. This is for anyone who loves a story of redemption and frankly just a well written read from an awesome storyteller.