I love when research for a post requires me to listen to CHRISTMAS MUSIC. If only everything were that simple and amazing. But it’s true, I’ve been revving up our annual Rather Be Reading Holiday Mixes on Spotify — last year’s, 2012, and 2011 — so that I make this year’s the BEST (making it even harder for me in 2015).
I’m not sure if I ever shared this with you before but I listen to music as often as possible — when I’m getting ready in the morning, on my walk to work, during work, on my commute home, and before bed. I hate quiet. I need background noise so this season’s music of choice is totally obvious.
First things first, let’s talk new albums. There have been quite a few this year and here are the few I am deeming “buy it” quality.
[ Idina Menzel’s Holiday Wishes | Christmas with Nashville | Pentatonix’s That’s Christmas to Me ]
Looking for some classics to add to your collection?
[ A Charlie Brown Christmas | Elvis Presley The Christmas Album | In the Christmas Mood by Glenn Miller Orchestra ]
what you’ve been waiting for ♥ ♥ ♥
I’ll stop beating around the Christmas tree now… hope you enjoy this year’s Rather Be Reading Holiday Mix! Don’t be shy — we would love to hear what holiday tunes you are listening to this winter!
This Christmas by Katlyn Duncan [twitter | website]
Previously reviewed on RBR: This Summer
Publication Date: November 18, 2014
Publisher: Carina UK
Pages: ebook novella
Target Audience: Mature Young Adult / New Adult
Keywords: Christmas in the woods,
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: After their first semester together in New York, Hadley and Will need some time together to reconnect. He feels distant and distracted; she feels worried and scared. This isn’t the end, is it?
- Hello, hello, hellooooo Hadley and Will. They’re as imperfect and STEAMY as ever. Phew.
- This is a novella so it’s a nice little reunification with two great characters to sort of pop in, catch up, and then carry on about your day. I’ve kind of been wary of the whole “novella” thing because I WANT A WHOLE BOOK, but there are some major positives here: a) I finished a whole “book” in a day, and b) that made me feel incredibly accomplished, and c) it was nice to pick up where we left off and not have to spend tons of time on the backstory.
- Hadley and Will are working through what I think every couple faces through any stage in their relationship: change. How do two people continue to reconnect and stay in love when so many elements are changing for them? (In my marriage this year: Dustyn’s gone back to grad school and that’s been a big game-changer. In so many ways I could relate to tiny little elements of the story because I’ve so been there.)
- The setting is amazing for getting you in the Christmas spirit: a remote, quiet cabin in the woods. Surrounded by snow and pine trees. (Pssst. Did you catch that they’re all by themselves? Ahem.)
- Uh, it’s a novella. That can be a plus and a minus, right?
- Maybe because it is on the shorter side, there are a few moments that feel a little jerky and Hadley’s mind is so quickly changed.
Add to Goodreads | Buy from Amazon ($3.14)| Buy from Barnes & Noble ($3.49)
For Real by Alison Cherry ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte / Random House
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: revenge, reality TV, sister relationships
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley.
Summary: Two sisters embark on a reality show adventure but with different objectives: one wants revenge on an ex-best friend and the other is hoping for more quality time with her sister.
FYI: You don’t have to be a reality show guru to enjoy FOR REAL. In fact, if you are like me and maybe watch more Dancing with the Stars reality entertainment over the latest Survivor-type show, you will be impressed by the little details the author has folded into this story. From the auditions to deep in the action of Around the World, I felt like I was behind-the-scenes in the thick of things.
The core of FOR REAL was sisterhood, and that was so refreshing to experience because a lot of my reading doesn’t concentrate on the complicated relationship between sisters. I would know. I’m an older one. So even though I am more similar to Miranda and not Claire, our narrator, I related so much to the push and pull between them. Even though two people are related, when they are in two difference places in life, it’s so difficult to find common ground. Hearing Claire talk about playing second fiddle to Miranda made me think a lot about my sister and if she had ever felt the same way. Despite the disconnect, Cherry nailed the best thing about sisters: no matter where you are or what you are doing, the loyalty is unbreakable.
So Claire and Miranda team up to audition for a reality show that will take them around the world, participating in various challenges as a way to get back at Miranda’s cheating ex who is also on the show. They are so excited to land a last minute spot, but are also thrown for loop after loop once they sign their contract. There’s time spent with Will Devine, an adorable guy who seems to have his eye on Claire, and the changing landscape on the show that is focused on causing more drama and not really about strengthening new and old relationships. Is anyone taking part in this for real or are they all faking it?
It’s great that Claire was forced to make some tough decisions, as she struggled with her love for her sister and also her desire to win. (Let’s not forget her affection for Will.) Even as a reality show aficiando, Claire doesn’t have all the answers and I really enjoyed her journey. Cherry’s story was full of heart and I loved how she gave readers the opportunity to think about how real these reality shows are. Still, I would have welcomed more chapters to flesh out the end of the novel, and maybe a few more in between to lend some clarity to the show’s timeline. Overall, this was a fun introduction to Cherry’s writing and I was impressed by her decision to not always make the typical storytelling choices.
Add FOR REAL to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
Big thanks to Random House for the opportunity to chat with Alison about FOR REAL!
First of all, I loved that FOR REAL focused on the relationship between two sisters. As an older sister, it was a little hard for me to read about how Claire wanted her sister to respect her and want to spend time with her. (I became very self-reflective, seriously.) What was the hardest part about getting this dynamic right? Did you throw in your own experience at all?
It was definitely a challenging dynamic to write, especially since I’m the older sister in real life, too! My younger sister and I have always been close; we’re far enough apart in age and have diverse enough interests that we’ve never really experienced any sibling rivalry, and she says I never underestimated or babied her the way Miranda does to Claire. (I was extremely happy to hear that, as you might imagine.) But many of my best friends in high school were older than I was, and I remember exactly what it felt like when they went off to college and moved on to bigger, better things while I was still stuck at home. It’s extremely painful to watch your importance in other people’s lives wane, especially when your feelings for them haven’t changed at all.
I’m more of a Dancing with the Stars fan than an adventure reality show fan but I was so impressed by all the behind-the-scenes details you included that I never would have thought of. Was it tough to narrow down the destinations of the show that Claire and Miranda take part in?
The behind-the-scenes details were surprisingly hard to find! It turns out people have to sign all kinds of non-disclosure agreements when they go on reality shows, so there are barely any tell-alls or even blog posts about the experience. I did manage to interview one former contestant and one field producer, both of whom were very helpful, but I also got a lot of my information from a fan-written compendium about the first five seasons of The Amazing Race. If you want to know minutia about pop culture, it’s always best to talk to rabid fans; they’ve done much more digging than you’ll ever accomplish on your own.
As for narrowing down destinations, it actually wasn’t that difficult, but I can’t talk about my decision-making process without major spoilers! Let’s just say this: at each location, my characters had to do three challenges based on a very specific kind of local custom, so I could only send them to countries for which I could find three usable ideas.
Since its December and we are all about the holiday spirit around here, what do you think Claire and Miranda would be gifting each other this holiday season?
Miranda has noticed that Claire carries a Doctor Who bag, so the first thing she’ll Google when it’s time for Christmas shopping is “Doctor Who gifts.” She won’t know what this blue police box thing is supposed to be, but since it pops up everywhere, she’ll deduce that it’s probably pretty important, and she’ll buy Claire a TARDIS bathrobe. Claire will be delighted, thinking Miranda is finally taking some interest in the things she likes. But when she puts it on and makes a “bigger on the inside” joke, Miranda will just stare at her blankly.
Claire will buy Miranda the complete Freaks and Geeks on DVD. She’ll tell herself it’s just because she wants to introduce her sister to some great television, but secretly, she also wants Miranda to know what it felt like not to be popular in high school.
Thanks so much, Alison!
(Be sure to check out Alison’s appearance at this month’s BIG KIDS’ TABLE too!)
Fa la la la novella la la la. (Did you like that song?)
I’m loving this mini-review thing! Honestly, I don’t read a ton of novellas, but after checking out these three? I’m looking forward to checking out more especially since here are three authors I’ve never read before and I’m excited to read more of their work.
Stay warm & enjoy, friends!
Her Holiday Man by Shannon Stacey ( web | tweet )
Publisher: Carina Press/Harlequin
Target audience: Adult
Her Holiday Man is all about second chances: Christina is on her own for the first time in her life after her husband embezzled money and Will has returned to live in his hometown, knowing full well memories of how his life should have been will be everywhere. Christina and her young son befriend Will’s mom (who is dealing with the holidays as a widow) and Will is immediately taken with the enthusiastic and sweet little boy living across the street, and, even more so, the mother who works so hard to take care of her little family.
For a novella, the development of each of the main characters plus the romance between Christina and Will is well-developed even as the couple keeps resisting what is happening between them. I did not want to take one break while I was reading, and I mostly succeeded in that (thanks to huge Black Friday lines). It was so nice to see a family come together, neighbors become friends, and two people come to the realization that life can begin again. (Plus the small town is adorable — so many holiday events!)
Add HER HOLIDAY MAN to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
Mistletoe & Mr. Right by Lyla Payne ( web | tweet )
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Target audience: New adult
Jessica is one of the most Type-A characters I’ve ever met in a book before. On winter break from college, she decides to surprise her boyfriend in Ireland during holidays with his family. (Isn’t this ballsy?) She is determined to make a good impression on his family, and figure out once in for all if Brennan is “the one”. (I know. She’s a little young to feel this way but she’s obsessed with following a very specific list of life achievements. There is a reason for her madness; trust me.)
Not only does she hit a goat with her rental car when she first arrives in Ireland, but Brennan isn’t entirely thrilled to see her and his family isn’t exactly welcoming. (They don’t throw her out though, so that’s a plus.) Instead of the romantic trip she was envisioning, Jessica is dealing with family members who don’t even know who she is, a serious ex-girlfriend she never knew Brennan had, and the cute guy who works for the family and keeps catching Jessica at her worst.
All in all, Mistletoe & Mr. Right is more about a girl coming to terms with her own past and realizing that it’s okay to let loose once in awhile. You cannot be in control of everything. So Jessica’s Christmas miracle ends up taken a completely unexpected turn but I definitely liked the way it all turned out. Writing was a bit on the high-drama side (a lot of sentences with “soul” in it) and I would have loved to see a goat or a horse on the cover instead of a dog, but yet another fun read from Bloomsbury Spark! (Oh — and the author’s love for Ireland is so apparent. Loved all the detail!)
Add MISTLETOE & MR. RIGHT to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman ( web | tweet )
Publisher: CreateSpace (originally Notting Hill)
Target audience: Adult
Christmastime & home improvement rolled into one = two of my favorite things! Lottie and her young daughter head to Wales when Aunt Kate lands herself in the hospital after a terrible car accident. Unable to take care of her bed & breakfast due to her injuries, Lottie is positive she can handle the stay of a big reviewer and his family especially because her aunt desperately needs the exposure. When she makes her way to the B&B, she’s surprised the house is in such disrepair and is forced to do whatever she can to make it livable for her guests. Enlisting the help of Danny, a full time cab driver and part time sculptor, Lottie is forced to think on her toes in order to host the perfect Victorian holiday.
Guys, this book was so utterly charming and laugh-out-loud hilarious. I loved how wise Lottie’s daughter acted (reminded me of Susan in The Miracle on 34th Street), and the funny way Gorman framed so many of the scenes in this book. As you can imagine, so much went wrong (Lottie is a video game designer and has no experience in hotel management) but there is also so much that went right. I loved the mother/daughter relationship, sweet Danny who is a devoted long distance dad, and the B&B backdrop so much that I would have welcomed a full-length book with these characters!
Add THE RELUCTANT ELF to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
All holiday novellas in this post were supplied by individual publisher for honest reviews. (Thank you!)
Today we’re hosting a dinner party so I’m glad you are here because the guests of honor are awesome. All four of them have books releasing this month, and were kind enough to attend this potluck get-together at a pretty late hours. (Wink wink; thanks ladies!)
It’s been awhile since we’ve had a get-together like this one on Big Kids’ Table and who knows? It might be a sign of what’s to come in the new year. But right now, we have four talented authors with their own shiny new books and on top of that, some personal non-YA recommendations for you. I hope you get a kick out of these and find something to add to your TBR too.
Molli’s pick & pitch: I recently had the chance to read Becka Paula’s New Adult debut, EVERLY AFTER, which I thought was such an unconventional and brave romance. EVERLY AFTER is a tense, beautiful story about two damaged individuals who see the best in one another – and the versions of themselves they can become.
What’s new (dinner convo): When I’m not reading whatever I can get my hands on, I’m working on the sequel to my first book, AS YOU TURN AWAY. The sequel is called AS WE FALL TOGETHER and with luck, will be published in the spring of 2015!
Add ONE SONG AWAY to Goodreads | Visit Molli on the web + twitter
Lorriane’s pick: White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Her pitch: WHITE OLEANDER is an adult book with a young protagonist who ages from 12 to 20 during the course of the novel. It’s a raw, compelling, emotional tale about a girl who is the victim of her mother’s bad choices and struggles to make her way in the world. It’s also an excellent movie!
What’s new (dinner convo): My latest novel, INDEPENDENTLY WEALTHY, was published by St. Martin’s Press on December 2, so I’m currently very busy with a blog tour, etc.
Visit Lorraine on the web + twitter | My review of Independently Wealthy
Liz’s pick: Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore
Her pitch: This is not your average vampire book–it’s hilarious. Like all of Christopher Moore’s books, it turns your assumptions on their heads. If you love the fun, relatable voice of humorous YA writers like Josh Berk and Louise Rennison, you will never be disappointed by Chris Moore.
What’s new (Dinner convo): My 2nd YA book, TOP TEN CLUES YOU’RE CLUELESS comes out on December 9. Then my first New Adult book under my pen name Ellie Cahill, WHEN JOSS MET MATT, comes out on February 24, 2015! Other than that, I’ve got a couple of YA and NA projects in the works that I can’t talk about yet!
Liz Czukas on the web + on twitter | Magan’s review of TOP 10 CLUES
Alison’s pick: The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
Her pitch: In any book, the most important thing to me is well-drawn characters, and the four protagonists of The Robber Bride seem so real that I’ve never thought of them as characters at all—I just think of them as people I know. There have been times I’ve been out shopping and thought, “Oh, Charis would like that,” before I remembered she’s not a real person. The plot is so well paced and intricately woven and ultimately quite suspenseful, and the way Atwood describes these four women loving and hurting and manipulating each other is incredibly masterful. I’ve read this book every few years since I was about sixteen, and it never fails to delight me.
What’s new (dinner convo): I have two books coming out in 2016! The first, Grandma Jo’s Guide to Prim and Proper Pilfering, is a middle grade about a girl who discovers that her grandmother’s bridge club is actually a heist ring. The second, Look Both Ways, is a YA about musical theater and two girls walking the very fine line between obsessive platonic friendship and romantic love.
Alison’s upcoming book FOR REAL releases on December 9. Big sisters on a reality TV show adventure!
Alison Cherry on the web + twitter
You were brilliant guests, Molli, Lorraine, Liz, and Alison! I hope you’ll be back soon!
Now it’s your turn! What great non-YA have you read lately?
(My current recommendations are The Rosie Project and Her Holiday Man!)
Independently Wealthy by Lorraine Z. Rosenthal ( web | tweet )
→ Book 1: New Money from Fall 2013
Publication Date: 12/2/2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Target audience: New adult/adult
Keywords: family secrets/mystery, romance, New York City
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher. (Thanks!)
Summary: Savannah is still finding her way in New York City: balancing a job, her boyfriend, and settling into life with her extended family. She hasn’t yet given up on what really took her biological father from her, and is determined to figure out the true story… with our without the help of her half-siblings.
I had a really good time reading New Money last fall, but this time around, I bonded with Savannah in a way I hadn’t before. She’s more settled in the city, working hard at her job (even though, let’s face it: with her allowance, she doesn’t need to), balancing a boyfriend and getting to know her newly acquired family better.
The drama from the first book has mostly disappeared and I say mostly because while the craziness in New Money seemed to creep up on her out of nowhere, this girl goes after it herself in this book — chasing down the answers of what really killed her media tycoon father. While we spend a majority of our time cabbing around Manhattan (the book opens with the Christmas season — so fitting and Rosenthal captures it so perfectly), Savannah also spends time in DC, worming herself into many uncomfortable situations to find out more and eventually returning to NYC with more than she bargained for.
This is the thing: even though Savannah handles her wealth and new lifestyle with such grace, she’s not above acting impulsively either. And maybe not always in the way you would think. Rosenthal has made a good habit of writing about strong, complicated women from the little sister in Queens (Other Words for Love) to this southern belle granted a fairy tale life with a few inconsistencies. The struggle to be independent, successful, and express love to the people in your life is what makes Savannah such an authentic character. We may not be wearing Gucci or living in an apartment that overlooks Central Park, but we worry about our hearts. We want to be good and do good by the people we care about.
Independently Wealthy mixes some ballsy detective work and delicious distractions with finding your place in relationships, your family, and a bustling city. As I inched to the last pages of the book, I already missed Savannah and wondered what she would be up to next. You know I want you to check out this series from the beginning, but I won’t tell if you cheat and skip to this one.
Add INDEPENDENTLY WEALTHY to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
The lovely folks at St. Martin’s Press are offering 1 lucky winner a finished copy of Independently Wealthy. Open to U.S. readers only. Enter below & good luck!
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