I’m sitting in my living room with a new addition — our Christmas tree, of course. It took a little longer to find “the perfect tree” this year (the guys who are working in our neighborhood were insistent we waited for their next delivery) but here we are, listening to Christmas carols on my iPod, playing video games (James), and napping (Pepper). It seems like the perfect time to unveil one of my favorite blogging traditions: the annual mix because oh my god if I could, I would listen to cheery, jazzy wintery tracks all year long. (Isn’t it ironic that I’d rather listen to songs about snow than actually have it be snowing? Ha.)
To be honest, most years I’m so looking forward to the new albums released in October before the season is officially upon us. But this year, not so much. I’ve downloaded a few tracks here and there (I highly recommend Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas” with Andra Day) but it seems this year is destined to be one where I enjoy old favorites. Not a bad thing at all. So I hope whether you’re at work today, decorating this weekend, or online shopping and wrapping presents, you’ll give my latest a listen. (James and I gave it a listen two nights ago, and it’s a good one; I swear.)
Have a super weekend, and remember to enjoy! (Oh, and don’t forget to share your favorite tunes below. I might be missing one in my collection!)
More fa la la fun holiday mixes: 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014
Why, hello there. It’s actually THURSDAY. I kept thinking yesterday was Thursday, but it wasn’t. So here we are. Ten days into December, only a few weeks left in the year and so much to talk about — the best books, how many books, and, of course, the new titles still releasing this month! Today I’m all about the third option and I’m sharing a few YA reads that are sure to brighten anyone’s holiday or kick off a new year right.
NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST by Eric Lindstrom (12/1/15; Little Brown/Poppy)
What you need to know: Parker is blind but she doesn’t want any special treatment. Her dad passed away recently, and she doesn’t want to talk about that much either. She wants to go running and spend time with her best friend, dishing out way honest advice to classmates. She seems to be coping until “an old flame” finds his way back into her life, and she’s left to rethink events that happened years ago, just who’s on her side, and how she can’t hide from her feelings (about just about everything) forever.
The best part: Okay, there are two best parts. Parker is refreshingly bold (even if some of this is deflecting her own pain) and her friendship with her forever bestie is so wonderful but almost because it’s not safe from growing pains and misunderstandings. I love how Eric Lindstrom explores the reasons why we share some things with our friends, and hide others. It’s so important.
b&n | amazon
THE TROUBLE WITH DESTINY by Lauren Morrill (12/8/15; Penguin)
What you need to know: Liza is drum major of her marching band, and takes major responsibility for the band’s success. But she’s the only one that knows the band could lose its funding and cease to exist so they are now performing on a cruise ship in hopes of winning some major bucks. Schools trip can be dramatic, surprising, and totally fun but Liza is the last person who puts her feet up and relaxes. Can the band triumph — especially with evil ex-best friends, old loves, and new distractions?
The best part: Lauren Morrill nails the feeling of being in a marching band, and that chemistry when the hard work and sweat and tears come together for some amazing performance. I was instantly transported to some of my favorite times in middle school (just band) and high school (marching band, forever).
b&n | amazon
THIS RAGING LIGHT by Estelle Laure (12/22/15; HMH for Young Readers)
Can I just point out how strange it is that this author’s name is Estelle Laure? This is almost the perfect combo of my & my sister’s names. In fact, I have to keep correcting myself from writing Estelle Laurie. Anyway…
What you need to know: Lucille is forced to take care of her younger sister when her mom disappears and her dad deals. She gets a job, pays all the bills, and still manages to get her and her sister to school. She can only keep up appearances for so long, right? Nothing can distract her from her growing attraction for her best friend’s twin brother; can anything get more complicated? (I may have spoken too soon here.)
The best part: All of it. Every time I had to press pause on this book, I felt like I was being sucked out of some dream. The writing was sharp, thoughtful, and honest. I loved how strong Lucille was; I absolutely adored her friendship with Eden, and her devotion to her sister? As a reader, you want to give as many hugs to these characters as possible. I admired Lucille for advocating for herself so many times, especially when she had been let down by the people who should be taking care of her.
b&n | amazon
December is certainly impressing me with the books so far. Let’s keep this streak going!
Be sure to share some fab reads of the month below — if you want. xoxo
A big Rather Be Reading welcome to romance writer, Vicki Lewis Thompson, who shares a unique moment that kicked off to her 2015 for the Naughty & Nice blog tour.
When you live in the desert, the only snow you expect to see during the Christmas holidays comes from a spray can. It snows in Tucson every few years, but having it land when Christmas lights are wound around the cactus in the front yard takes a small miracle. That miracle happened on the eve of 2015.
For my family, New Year’s Eve means staying home, building a fire even if it’s not that cold, eating all kinds of finger food and playing board games. Sorry is a big favorite because we’d rather not think too hard. So at about 10:30p.m., with a hot game of Sorry in progress, we noticed the rain looked funny. It wasn’t so much falling as floating. Desert dwellers need time to adjust to the reality of snow.
Because we didn’t want to get our hopes up, we figured on a light dusting that would melt the minute it reached the ground. But the temperature dropped and soon the patio tables were covered. The lights draped on the cactus in the front of the house were reflected in the fallen snow and turned the yard into a magical world. I realize those of you living in the snowbelt don’t consider the white stuff particularly magical, so go ahead and roll your eyes. Out here we still think it’s pretty.
It continued off and on until we went to bed sometime after midnight. We expected it to be gone by morning because that’s what snow does in the desert. It melts. But no! My favorite walking path was not exactly snow-packed, but enough had accumulated to justify boots. Boots! Although our mountains become snow-covered at least once every winter, we hardly ever see snow-covered prickly pear cactus on the valley floor. When a prickly pear gets snowed on it always looks startled, maybe even slightly offended.
Snow on the first day of the year seemed like a sign that 2015 would be fun and unusual, and so it has been! It’s no coincidence that Cowboy Under the Mistletoe, my November Harlequin Blaze novel, includes a blizzard. How do you feel about snow? Love, hate or somewhere in between?
Find Vicki Lewis Thompson: website / Twitter / Facebook
Her latest, Cowboy Under the Mistletoe: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N
A cowboy’s scars can last a lifetime. Ty Slater’s cheerfulness is a carefully constructed armor. After losing his parents in a tragic accident, he was fostered at Thunder Mountain Ranch. Although he’s learned how to survive, he hides a broken heart. He knows love leads to loss, so he’s vowed never to fall in love…
Unfortunately, Ty’s attraction to Whitney Yates is nothing short of a maelstrom, a desire that threatens his resolve. When she’s stranded at Thunder Mountain for Christmas, Ty realizes he’d better find Whitney’s flaw, and fast—because his lust is too damn close to love. This red-hot cowboy is ready to bolt…unless Whitney shows him that some rides are definitely worth the risk.
And don’t forget to enter this giveaway for your chance to win a jolly bundle from Harlequin, including:
1 print copy of The Harder You Fall by Gena Showalter, White Wedding Christmas by Andrea Laurence, A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Wrapped in Red by Nana Malone and Sherelle Green
1 eBook copy of A Copper Ridge Christmas by Maisey Yates and Under the Spotlight by Kate Willoughby
100,000 Harlequin MyRewards points
2 Harlequin Classics limited edition notebooks
1 Brenda Jackson Westmoreland limited edition notebook
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Happy holiday reading! ♥
Ohmigosh. It is FRIDAY.
Why is it that the week after a holiday weekend feels like it goes on for months and months? Maybe it’s all the holiday anticipation. Or still not being over daylight savings? (Tell me this gets worse when you get older.) Anyway, pizza, and Star Wars: The Empire Strike Back are on my agenda for tonight. What am I forgetting? Oh, right. Beer. And this month’s pub date theme: siblings.
Let’s talk sisters. I am one. A built-in friend, but also one of your most complicated relationships. This topic comes at perfect time because I just finished Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. It’s a book that unpacks the overwhelming grief June is feeling after her favorite relative, her uncle, dies from AIDs in the 80s. That much I knew going in, but I had no idea how much it would explore the relationship between June and her sister, Greta. Close in age, they used to be best friends but have gradually grown apart. Jealousy. Misunderstanding. And rediscovering a connection June and Greta have only begun to understand. Have your tissues ready because wow wow wow. Brunt nailed the messy and wonderful moments of sisterhood.
(If you need to get more in the mood, listen to “Sisters” from White Christmas.)
This leads me to the drink: Two Roads Brewing Co. Route of All Evil Black Ale. There’s a lot of dark moments to this novel, and that matches perfectly with the chocolate, molasses, and mocha that make up this brew. On the bright side: It’s one of my favorite winter ales (especially after the disappointing and very week Redhook Winter Ale) and perfect for a cozy night spent reading, watching a movie, or staring at your holiday lights.
As you can see, I couldn’t help myself and picked a few other memorable sister reads from 2015 for you to try out. I enjoyed each of these for so many different reasons… definitely give them a look!
A Million Miles Away | To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before | Between Us and the Moon |
Making Pretty | Rules for Stealing Stars
Most importantly, enjoy your weekend. Relax, destress, and recharge! xoxo
Pub Date: Brittany @ Book Addict’s Guide | Andi @ ABC’s | Maggie @ Just a Couple More
Twas the weekend after Thanksgiving and all through the apartment, not a creature was stirring not even my sleeping cat. Oh, pish posh. This is just a fancy way to say I’m diving into the holiday season by binge watching a ton of made for TV movies on Hallmark and Lifetime channels with cheesy dialogue, fake snow, great tunes, and lots of heart. (I cry at 75 percent of them.) I love just about everything about this time of year but oh gosh, dusting off the DVDs we only watch in December is like Christmas morning all on its own. So today I wanted to share the top 10 movies you MUST WATCH to make the most of your holiday season. (No Hallmark or Lifetime movies included; sorry about that.)
Sidenote: these are in no particular order. I could never, ever do it!
1. Serendipity (2001): Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack bump into each other in a crowded Bloomingdales during the holiday season and both want to buy the last pair of leather gloves. They end up spending one night hanging out and totally connect but they are both taken by other people. Kate’s character proposes they leave their “relationship” to chance and allow the fates to bring them back together. This has been one of my favorite movies since I first saw it in theaters after a shift at CVS. There’s ice skating, Frozen hot chocolate, and lots of tubas. (Seriously.) Such a romantical flick.
Holiday song pick: “Cool Yule” by Louis Armstrong.
2. White Christmas (1954): You may need your tissues handy for this one. An entertainment duo head to a Vermont Inn during the holidays and end up scheming to save the place for their former commanding officer. There’s romance, some misunderstanding, and some beautiful performances from Bing Crosby, Danny Kate, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen.
Holiday song pick: “Snow” by Irving Berlin.
3. Love Actually (2003): Does this movie need an introduction? Six couples around the holidays in various states of relationship: nonexistent, unrequited, complicated, very sad, exciting, and totally happy. I love the way these characters find themselves linked to one another, and how honest these storylines played out. Even though it’s a Christmas movie, not everyone gets their happy ending and year after year, I’m left to contemplate how it all goes down. It’s just excellent.
Holiday song pick: This soundtrack is ah-mazing but I’d say: “All Alone On Christmas” by Darlene Love.
4. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992): This was the first Muppet film released after the death of creator Jim Henson, and it’s directed by his son, Brian. As my husband likes to remind me, the film is so closely resembles the Dickens tale mixed in with some wacky Muppet humor and memorable songs. The Muppet Christmas Carol has become part of our Christmas Eve tradition and it never, ever gets old.
Holiday song pick: The whole album is classic, but I love “It Feels Like Christmas” by Paul Williams.
5. The Santa Clause (1994): If there’s a movie that really makes me believe in the magic of Christmas, it’s this one. A divorced dad and his son rediscover their relationship in the strangest and most wonderful of ways: dad accidentally become the new Santa Claus. A trip to North Pole, lots of doubts, and so much wonder to be discovered. I basically tear up every time I watch. Real talk: I also love The Santa Clause 2 but I pretend the third doesn’t exist.
Holiday song pick: “Away to the Window” orchestration by Michael Convertino.
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Dear friends and readers,
Happy December 1! I can’t believe it’s the last month of 2015. It feels like just yesterday that we were picking our favorite books of 2014 and getting all excited about the new work we’d be going gaga over in 2015. But here we are and what a year it’s been. So much of December feels like a time of reflection and to tie up loose ends so I thought it was best to post today about the future of Rather Be Reading.
In November, Magan and I hit the 4-year mark with RBR. Four years. I can’t believe it. When M and I started this project all those years ago, we barely knew each other and now we have shared big birthdays, family trips, life milestones, and so many ups and downs together. With this blog, our friendship has become so strong, so important to both of us — despite our distance. When you meet people from far away (which inevitably happens in online communities), it’s so easy to break away from one another (I mean, that’s easy in other relationships) because it takes such effort to stay in touch, bridging time between visits. The blog has always been a way to for us to touch base, our version of coffee dates, the group we belong to, the common interest that brought us together. It’s safe to say 4 years ago, M and I were both searching for something more in our lives and that’s part of the reason why RBR was born. It’s fulfilled so much for each of us: a creative outlet, a platform to express ourselves and share our stories, and a connection to other authors and other smart people in ways we never imagined.
It’s inevitable that four years brings a lot of change too. Think about the four years between freshman and senior year of high school, and then of college. It’s so crazy to think about. Sometimes you don’t even feel like the same person. So many factors have pushed and pulled you in different directions and sometimes the reason why you did something changes, sometimes the way you feel about it changes too.
Truth be told: Magan and I made a video about our feelings on blogging when she visited New York in early October. I was supposed to put it up, but I just couldn’t. So much of what we discussed I’ve said above. How you can love something so fiercely and how that love can change. Sometimes you just want to embark on something different, and in other instances, you just don’t have the time you used to. Without speaking too much for M, I think it’s a mix of both. But most importantly, it’s about being a team. We love working together so, very much but the time just isn’t there like it used to be.
So what am I saying exactly? Well, December will be the last month of updates on RBR. It’s a sad announcement to make, but sometimes things just reach a natural end and that’s where we are right now. (Don’t worry; at the end of the month, I’ll make sure you know where you can reach us both!)
We are so appreciative of your comments, your thoughts, your imaginations, and your friendship for the past few years. Thank you so much for listening to our stories, sharing your own, and also bringing so many beautiful, memorable books in our lives.
Here’s to a wonderful December full of kindness, thoughtfulness, and concluding this chapter on a high note.