So last Friday, I talked about the seasonal creep and as Halloween gets that much closer (3 days!), candy canes and singing Santa Clauses will be exploding all over the place super soon.
When I started getting emails about seasonal books releasing in the last few months of the year, I realized a list might be handy. That is what I have compiled below. Books I am preparing to read during the holiday season; some that will end up as reviews on this very blog in December. If you like to be ahead of the game and get your shopping on, I’m hoping what’s below is helpful. In addition to these, I’m adding a few more recommendations with the text. (I’m a bad influence, I know.)
Merry, er, Tuesday! (Have a good Halloween if I forget to tell you!)
⇒ The Christmas Wedding Ring by Susan Mallery (Harlequin HQN)
Also recommending: A Fool’s Gold Christmas by Susan Mallery (there’s a cute cat in this one!)
⇒ The Reluctant Elf by Michelle Gorman (Notting Hill Press) Christmas in Britain anyone?
⇒ My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins (St. Martin’s Press Teen)
Also recommending: Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle
⇒ ‘Tis the Season by Robyn Carr (Harlequin MIRA) Three novellas!
⇒ Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin HQN)
Also recommending: Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan (admit to owning this and haven’t read it yet)
⇒ Snowflakes on the Sea by Linda Lael Miller (Harlequin HQN)
⇒ The Mistletoe Melody by Jennifer Snow (Harlequin Heartwarming)
Also recommending: Cowboy, It’s Cold Outside by Katherine Garbera
⇒ Her Holiday Man by Shannon Stacey (Carina Press)
Would love to hear your suggestions below! Never enough holiday books, I say!
Thanks for reading! ♥
Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 9/2/2014
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: cancer, friendship, family, recovery
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)
Summary: Zac unexpectedly meets Mia in the hospital while he is recovering from a bone marrow transplant. But their friendship is short-lived when they go back to their separate lives, only for them to reunite in a surprising way.
Around its publication date, I read a lot of middle of the road reviews for Zac and Mia. Many felt their expectations weren’t met, and so, this might be one of those situations where putting a distance between reviews and your chosen reading time leads to a positive outcome because I found Zac and Mia to be very refreshing, even if it wasn’t perfect.
I find myself thinking a lot about the choice to compare a book to two other popular ones. In this case, the book was marketed as a combo of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park. But how long before this overused comparison means nothing anymore? Maybe it is helpful to the average book buyer or maybe it’s really not because I wasn’t reminded of either of them when reading Zac and Mia. Sure, there was cancer (Fault) and a boy and girl as main characters (E&P) but that was basically it. For the record, I found Fault overly pretentious, so much that any emotion I was supposed to feel was lost in a lot of big words. On the other hand, I thought E&P was charming even if it’s not my favorite of the author’s work. I realize I’m going off on a major tangent and this is a way to sell books but is it really helpful when the final product is nothing like the newsworthy titles they are relating it to? For this reader, not so much.
Anyway. I digress.
The main thing that stood out to me about A.J. Bett’s book was how she didn’t over-dramatize the cancer. We all know cancer just sucks. I’m sure we all know at least 5 people who have died from cancer. It has sadly become a word that is a normal part of our reality these days, and I appreciated how Betts explained each of Zac and Mia’s diagnoses so well, and also had them dealing with it in very real ways. Zac’s loss of friendships, Mia’s hot and cold relationship with her boyfriend, Zac knowing so much about this disease but still being surprised by its unwieldy nature, the utter devotion from family members when one of their own is diagnosed. It was a true delight to spend time with Zac’s family, especially getting to know his mother and his sister.
I was surprised the structure of the book didn’t immediately start with flip-flopping between Zac and Mia, and spent a lot of time on Zac at first. I do think that had a hand in me not getting Mia as quickly as I wanted to, but as I delved deeper into the book and got to know her better, there was an apparent change in her. (Maggie at Just a Couple More compares her to Alice in Side Effects May Vary and I can totally see that. She’s not the flat, nice character everyone wants to be friends with. She’s complicated; what a revelation!) Because we get to know Zac right off the bat and were provided with such a fuller look at his life, I felt closer to him than to Mia.
Another highlight? There wasn’t romance for sake of romance. There was attraction, yes. But this wasn’t a full-fledged love story. It was more about finding support and understanding in unexpected places, and a lot about trusting people when you are at your worst and welcoming them into your family. Zac and Mia’s friendship could have remained this momentary thing that happened in the hospital, but I think it was critical to their survival (throughout the book) that they lean on each other (despite distance).
All in all, I really enjoyed reading Zac and Mia. I loved the Australian setting, the time on Zac’s farm, and how unpredictably the story unfolded. The writing was fantastic, and I’m looking forward to reading more of Betts’ work in the future.
Add Zac and Mia to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
While everyone is planning their Halloween costume and picking out what candy they want to hand out to trick or treaters, I’m the person who is impatiently staring at the calendar, giddily awaiting the start of the holiday season. Heck, I heard two commercials for holiday music stations on Spotify this week and I almost had a heart attack. (The good kind. I felt all fluttery and spacey.) I swear I’m not a fan of the seasonal creep but it’s Christmas and it’s happy and there are twinkly lights! How can you not look forward to that time of year… just about every single day of your life?
My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories (edited by Stephanie Perkins), which features an amazing lineup of young adult writers, was released on the 14th of October (St. Martin’s Press). A little early, I know, but these books must come out so people can prepare their holidays lists with all the good stuff!
This is my official review:
MY TRUE LOVE GAME TO ME never feels like 12 authors set off to write 12 holiday-themed stories; instead, they created very realistic, dimensional stories that took on a life of their own with a sprinkle of holiday magic thrown in. Sure, there were a few I loved more than others but all in all it’s the quintessential holiday short story collection I’ve been waiting for and I’m about ready to buy it for everyone I know. – Estelle a.k.a. Santa (Sometimes)/Perpetual Elf, Rather Be
Understandably, there are major life lessons that come along with a story collection that boasts romance, Christmas trees, holiday meals, dysfunctional families, holiday plays, and more. Because it’s (almost) Christmas and I like to think of myself as a generous individual minus the bowl of jelly tummy (I do have rosy cheeks) I am going to share a few of those with you today. Enjoy! (Santa is watching you…)
Have I convinced you?
How about now?
Add MY TRUE LOVE GAME TO ME to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N | Book Depository
Tip: The UK version is just as beautiful as the United States release. I need both. (Santa, are you listening?)
Oh Yeah, Audrey by Tucker Shaw ( tweet )
Release Date: 10/14/2014
Publisher: Amulet Books
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Audrey Hepburn, New York City, Tumblr, Internet Friends
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)
Summary: Gemma runs away from her home in Philly for an Audrey Hepburn meetup she organized through her themed Tumblr page. She has an itinerary for following Audrey’s footsteps through her film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and finally meeting some of her internet friends face to face.
As someone who runs two blogs and meets people from the internet a lot, I could totally relate to Gemma, who decides to start a Tumblr page about Audrey Hepburn to help her get through a hard time. Through the Tumblr, she meets two friends, Bryan and Trina, who she talks to all the time but she doesn’t find herself really confiding in just yet. But they all plan to meet for the first time to see a monumental movie screening of Breakfast at Tiffany’s in New York City.
Sure, Gemma lies to her dad about where she is going but at this point, she needs a little space to do something on her own. And so their city adventure begins but never according to Gemma’s original schedule. There’s a shopping trip, a fancy auction, and the surprise visits of two other internet personalities she was not expecting. So instead of hitting all the Holly Golightley spots in Manhattan, Gemma is swept up in a magical evening with Dusty, a boy she also met on the internet. Does she make a choice to hang out with her friends or go on a once in a lifetime date with Dusty?
Well, you’ll see.
In a span of 24 hours, Gemma is forced to face a lot of truths: why she feels so close to Holly Golightley and Audrey Hepburn, how important these friendships are to her, and also coming to terms with the changes in her family life. While the strict timeline did cause me to feel a bit of suspense, I really wish there had been more time to learn about Gemma’s relationship with her father and spend time with Bryan and Triana, her friends who lived far, far away. When would they see each other again?! On the other hand, I liked how Shaw was not prejudiced over internet friendships being REAL because, in so many instances, they are and they blossom into these wonderful real life things.
Oh Yeah, Audrey! was a great New York City adventure, and I could imagine it as a really fun Disney Channel/ABC Family movie. It definitely inspired me to watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s again, too. All in all, it was a fast-paced read that made me think a lot about fandom and making pals and what we flock to when we are feeling alone. I hope Shaw has another young adult book up his sleeve.
Add OH, YEAH, AUDREY to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner
See Also: Skinny by Donna Cooner
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: beauty and fashion vlogger, loss of a sibling, moving to a new state
Format Read: Arc received from the Publisher. (Thank you!)
Summary: Torrey, popular fashion and beauty vlogger, doesn’t know how to deal with the sudden harassment and criticism she receives from her followers after the death of her younger sister. Her family moves from Colorado to Texas to be closer to family, and Torrey has to figure out how to mourn her sister and move on.
Almost exactly two years ago, I raved about Donna Cooner’s Skinny, a book about a girl who undergoes gastric bypass surgery and deals with insecurities and body image issues, even though her physical appearance is changing. I really connected with Ever and felt super pumped to read Donna’s newest book, Can’t Look Away, about Torrey Grey, who is a popular beauty and fashion vlogger. The scenarios are almost completely reversed — Ever is a girl who had zero self-confidence and had to work really hard to accept and love herself. Torrey is popular and extremely well-known, but when her 12-year old sister is killed by a drunk driver, her character is questioned and she’s criticized for detaching and not addressing what’s happening.
But ultimately, the lesson is still the same for both Ever and Torrey: despite fame, beauty, body size, popularity, vlog views, etc., both girls have to learn to love and accept themselves despite any of those other outside factors.
Torrey was a more difficult character for me to relate to because her every move seemed calculated: How do I promote myself? How will everyone react to xyz? What can I do to gain more views and recognition? Believe me when I say I could relate to those feelings because I’ve dealt with that with my businesses and with Rather Be Reading. You pour so much of yourself into these projects and want people to love and appreciate it as much as you do. I think I’m in a personal place of wanting to be a blogger and a business owner, but also not wanting my entire life to be only those things. And that’s what I wanted for Torrey.
I wanted to see her mourn her sister and stop worrying about how to connect to the internet to see what people were saying about her. I wanted her comments to not be so snippy with her cousin, Raylene, who was trying desperately to forge a friendship with her. I wanted Torrey to not care quite so much about sitting at the popular table at her new school. Oh, and that boy she liked, Luis? I wanted to shout, “JUST GO FOR IT! Who cares if he’s “unpopular”!” Torrey had a lot of growing up to do, but I think one thing stands out. Sometimes when we’re in the midst of something deep, hard, and heavy, we find distractions to focus on. We fill our time with the mundane details so we can cast aside all of the hurt we don’t want to deal with.
In a nutshell, that was Torrey. It was easier for her to focus on being the girl she used to be instead of letting it sink in all the ways her life would now be changed without her sister. The growth does happen, but I wanted to see it happen a little less rapidly. And what about her parents? They were on the periphery of the story and we saw how they dealt (or didn’t deal well with their grief), but I felt there should have been a little more involvement with helping Torrey overcome her obstacles. She deals with Internet bullying and moving to a completely new state, and the death of her sister all by herself.
Can’t Look Away is so pertinent and has some really valid points and lessons. I, always the proponent for loose ends to be tied as much as possible, wish there were a few moments that felt a little more ironed out, but overall, this is another great contemporary by Cooner. Definitely looking forward to more!
Add Can’t Look Away to Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble