Saturday, December 12, 2015

Advent Reads Day 12: The Christmas Bake-Off by Abby Clements

Synopsis: "With Christmas just around the corner, the residents of Skipley village are gearing up for the annual bake off, and tensions are high.

Winning means a lot to everyone involved - talented cake-shop owner Katie dreams of baking stardom, Rachel wants to prove she's more than a stay-at-home mum, and John hopes his culinary skills will impress the woman he loves.

But when the judges discover that some cakes have been tampered with, the villagers' loyalties are called into question - whose ambition would stretch to sabotage, and why?

The Christmas Bake-Off is an exclusive short story from Abby Clements, author of Meet Me Under the Mistletoe. This ebook edition also includes bonus recipes for cinnamon cookies and vanilla and almond biscuits."

My Review: This was a great little read to get you in the holiday spirit. It was short and fun, and a little different from what I was expecting. It was a nice combination of the holidays, cooking, small town atmosphere, a little romance and a little mystery. There was a lot packed into this short little book. Oh and don't forget the recipes at the back of the book too! I love when books talk about delicious food and then give you the recipe to make it!
My Rating: There was a lot packed into this little book, I really wish it had been a little longer so I could really savor it. I give it a rating of Three Paws and a Stump Wag.

Crafty Times: Christmas Cards

Crafty Times is a new thing I am trying on the blog where I can share some of the art and crafts I have created (you can too of course). I really dabble in a wide variety of crafts and hope you can find something that sparks your interest or inspires you!
So I have kind of started making Christmas cards, something I hope to improve on until I can offer them for sale.  To practice I made an advent card set for a good friend of mine. She loves Christmas more than just about anything but she has lost the magic over the past few years under the pressure of maintaining her household. So I made 25 cards, each unique, one to open each day in December until Christmas and each containing a quote about the magic of Christmas.  These were very tiny cards, only 2.5" x 3.5" (the same size as Artist Trading Cards).
Here are a few of my favorite ones:


I also took a stab at making a full size card a week later while teaching the same friend some paper crafting techniques. I was really happy with it but I feel like it needs something else.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Advent Reads Day 11: Bedtime Story: The Little Light by David Wadsworth

Synopsis: "One night, a Little Light finds itself on a dark street wondering where it came from and where it should go. As it explores the sleeping town and meets the people who live there, it comes to realise how much the world needs light, comfort and joy.

And then, in a little stable on the outskirts of town, it finds a baby who has just been born..."

My Review: This was an interesting little story. I enjoyed how the illustrations were backlit but only vaguely for the most part. I also enjoyed how the goodness of that simple light was projected as it traveled. It is a religious tale in a way but I feel that it could easily be enjoyed by those who aren't religious as it is more of a story about the goodness one can bring to the world around you. I did have a minor issue with the setting, it seemed almost too modern as compared to what is should be if it was set during the birth of Christ. It was still a great little story with a wonderful message for the holiday season.
My Rating: I love how unique this story is, and how it is religious but doesn't throw it in your face. We give it a rating of Three Paws and a Stump Wag.
Good Night! Sweet Dreams!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent Reads Day 10: After Dark: Baby, It's Cold Outside by Various Authors

Synopsis: "Outside it may be frosty, so turn the heat way up with these stories of desire!

Searching for You

Can a determined woman executive and a playboy billionaire survive being stranded together in a snowstorm? Jennifer Probst depicts an encounter almost too hot to handle...

It's a Wonderful Tangled Christmas Carol

Drew and Kate play an encore to Tangled in this sexy take on a "Christmas Carol" by Emma Chase. When a Christmas Eve argument condemns Drew to a troubled night, three dream women teach him that no gift could be more tantalizing than Kate...

Saving Grace

With Kristen Proby, ski slopes are quite delightful. Grace Douglas is sure she'll never learn to ski, but instructor Jacob Baxter could teach her lessons of a different kind...

Safe in His Arms

Can a southern California transplant survive Montana's deep snows? Melody Anne, author of the bestselling Andersons series, melts the icy drifts completely away with the heat between sexy Hawk Winchester and brand-new teacher Natalie Duncan...

Rekindle the Flame

What could be hotter than a firefighter? Kate Meader shows how, as Beck Rivera and heiress-turned-tattoo-artist Lucy Cochrane discover, nothing ignites holiday flames like rekindling a lost love..."

My Review: I picked this book up solely because of the Jennifer Probst Novella to her Searching For Series, but I am a person who likes to read books in their entirety so I read this whole book. I have mentioned before how much I dislike when a mid-series novella is stuck in a book with a bunch of other novellas by other authors and potentially other series, this book was no different. Thankfully though most of the stories in this one were enjoyable and I wasn't stuck lost in the middle of a series. I really enjoyed Searching For You, though I guess it wasn't necessary to reading the series. Each of the stories in this book were unique and enjoyable on their own. Other than winter holidays and a touch of romance there really wasn't much in common between them. I loved the message in It's A Wonderful Tangled Christmas Carol about keeping the holidays to your family and memories. I enjoyed the story line and the quirkiness of the characters in Saving Grace (I would honestly love to read more featuring these characters). Safe in His Arms was a little more difficult for me to enjoy with the drastic turn around in Natalie's perspective and personality. The final story Rekindle the Flame took me a bit to get the setting straight in my head but once I did that I loved the characters and the story. All in all it was a fun set of stories to set off a cold winter season.
My Rating: As so often happens with me, I go into these anthologies for one author and series, so the others always take away from it or irritate me. There are some great stories in this one however and there may be one or two that I go back to find out more about. Overall though I give this book a rating of Three Paws.

Pen to Paper: Quotes on Letter Writing

So I know not all of you celebrate Christmas or maybe not any holiday at all this time of year, so I wanted to break away from the rush of holiday posts. Today I want to inspire you to add writing more letters to your resolutions or goals for the new year. I found some really great quotes that I wanted to share with all of you today for that little bit of inspiration.
"Or don't you like to write letters?  I do because it's such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you've done something." - Ernest Hemingway. 
To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.  ~Phyllis Theroux


Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.  ~Lord Byron
This one really got me going, I am the first to admit I am an introvert but I still love connecting with people, just maybe not face to face.

What a wonderful thing is the mail, capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand-clasp.  ~Author Unknown
What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters.  You can't reread a phone call.  ~Liz Carpenter
I hope one of these few quotes inspires you to take up written correspondence or revisit it a little more frequently.  Maybe pick one of those quotes and add it to some place you see often to remind you to sit down and connect with someone on paper.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Advent Reads Day 9: In From the Cold by Meg Adams

Synopsis: "Perfect families don’t always start with perfect ingredients.

Professional nanny Claire Iverson has wiped enough noses, butts and spills to qualify for a PhD in raising kids. She knows a toddler with a potty crisis when she sees one, and it’s clear this child’s impossibly handsome father doesn’t, since he’s sound asleep on the flight to Jackson, Wyoming.

Getting burned by her ex-boyfriend left her gun-shy around men, but when it comes to this beautiful little girl, she has to speak up. Just her luck, it turns out the man she just dressed down is her new boss.

Between his roles as full-time CEO and full-time father, Drake Driscoll is exhausted. If he can seal the next deal at his upcoming holiday house party, he’ll have room to breathe. He never expected for his daughter’s new nanny to take his breath away.

Claire hesitates to accept the warmth that beckons in Drake’s arms. But soon their attraction ignites, pulling them in deeper than either of them expected. Into passion that could weld them forever—or burn them to cinders."

My Review: I really enjoyed this book, I enjoyed the back and forth between the characters (especially when Claire puts Drake in his place). I started off not liking Drake that much but like Claire ended up seeing the good in him and loved him by the end. It was a little predictable as to what would happen in the end but I didn't mind so much as I just wanted that happy ending. It was a fun romance for those cold nights of winter.
My Rating: This book might have been a little predictable but it was really enjoyable getting there. I adored the characters and hope that I can find more books with them in the future. I give it a rating of Three Paws and a Stump Wag.
I Received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review of Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Read for: Series Challenge
Synopsis: "The queen has returned.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return."

My Review: This is the book I was hoping to read the whole series! Finally a Celaena/ Aelin becomes a character worth reading about with a storyline that isn't riddled with pettiness and self pity. There is plenty of action and ups and downs that you should expected in a fantasy adventure. Though all the inconsistencies in the past make me hesitant to invest the time and money in the next book of the series when it comes out, I am a little curious. You could also finish with this book, while some storylines are still open, there is enough closure to satisfy many readers.
My Rating: This is a very long book that I was absolutely dreading reading, but was relieved once I finally did, the characters all felt more solid like Maas finally decided to allow their own personalities to shine through instead of forcing them to be who she wanted. Though I am a little worried that she will slip back into her old ways with the next book and I will end up hating all of them again.  At least with it being such a long book there was plenty of action, which I have been absolutely craving. I give this one a rating of Four Paws (this is of course taking only this book into account not the series as a whole, which would get a really poor rating from me).

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Advent Reads Day 8: A Cup of Cozy by Various Authors

Synopsis: "Short Christmas mysteries and holiday recipes by the authors of Cozy Mystery Magazine blog."

My Review: This was an interesting set of short stories. I wouldn't so much call them mysteries though as there wasn't much mystery in them, more of simple questions that need to be answered. That said they were all fun, light reading for the holiday season. I am also a huge fan of when there are recipes included, and each story centered around a food or beverage item and then a recipe followed the story. That was a nice touch. Half of the book was one chapter features of books by the same and other authors, I have never been a fan of one chapter teasers like this unless it is at the end of a book in the series and giving a teaser of the next book, so I honestly didn't read those chapters. But if you read it just for the short stories, it is a light and entertaining read to get you in the mood for holiday baking.
My Rating: I am not much of a Mystery fan, but this book was very light on the mystery. I do love all the recipes! I give this one a rating of Two Paws and a Stump Wag.

Tasty Attempts: Spinach Balls

Last year I had started posting What's For Dinner. While I really enjoyed those posts, it was hard to keep up with a weekly post, especially since Munchkin is getting a little more picky about his diet and we are having a lot of repeat meals (sometimes the same thing several times a week). I still wanted to keep posting tasty recipes but include a little more variety (like the appetizers and desserts that I make for various parties). So I am now posting Tasty Attempts every other Tuesday. The posts will include a variety of recipes, maybe some of them turn out tasty, maybe others are failed attempts.
Every year for Thanksgiving I am in charge of the appetizers and while we have our family favorites that I make every gathering, I like to find new things (and sometimes healthier options). This year we needed to find something relatively low in fat and sodium. I came across this recipe for Spinach Balls on Pinterest and thought it looked fairly easy and potentially tasty.
It was pretty easy to make, Munchkin had a blast bounding the crackers into crumbs, and really didn't take too long. The longest part was making them into little balls but it really wasn't that bad.  They were insanely delicious right out of the oven (I honestly wondered if any would make it to the in-laws for Thanksgiving). We did have to heat them up for a couple of seconds when we got there and they weren't quite as good but still really tasty. I may even be adding this to my Christmas menu (which I host and end up managing pretty much the entire day's menu for everyone).

Monday, December 7, 2015

Advent Reads Day 7: A Christmas Jar for Santa by Jason F. Wright

Synopsis: "Christmas Jars, a New York Times Bestselling novella by Jason Wright, first became a phenomenon during the 2005 holiday season. Readers across America reacted to the message of daily giving and sacrifice by creating their own Christmas Jars.

Today, thousands of glass jars rest on kitchen countertops, slowly collecting the spare change generated each and every day. On Christmas Eve, each jar, now overflowing with both money and goodwill, will anonymously find a new home. In turn, the grateful recipients will put the money to good use in their lives and begin their own jar. Thus hearts and lives are changed and the cycle continues.

This short story follows in the tradition and spirit of Christmas Jars. If you've read the original, you'll love this sweet addition to the Christmas Jars family."

My Review: How on earth does Wright get me to tear up even with only a very quick short story?! If you have read and loved the Christmas Jars books by Wright, this is a great little follow up short story with all the feel goods that you can expect. I adored the characters and connected with them in just a couple of paragraphs. This is a wonderful, short story that you can read on a coffee break to get you in the mood for a loving and giving holiday season.
My Rating: As always with Jason Wright stories, they touch you at the heart. Even being such a short story, it still got the emotion and message across. I give it a rating of Four Paws!

Monday Reading List

Its Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Shelia at Book Journey. Share what books you have finished in the last week, are currently reading and what might be coming up next!

Reviews Posted Last Week:
Links will take you to my review
Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp
The Santa Shop by Tim Greaton
A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid
Day Light, Night Light by Franklyn M. Branley (Early Reader)
Trapped in Toyland by Jeff Zydeck (Bedtime Story)
Camelot 3000 by Mike W. Barr (Graphic Novel)
Message in a Bauble by H. Y. Hanna
Her Christmas Bonus by Rain Danvers

 Books Finished Last Week:
Reviews will be posted at a later date

Corduroy's Christmas Surprise = 1pt
Pegasus = 3pts

Currently Reading:

 Books to be Read Soon:

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg - Mount TBR/ Reading Across the States
Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley - Mount TBR
Dark Sun, Bright Moon by Oliver Sparrow - Requested Review


Total Points Earned
 202 points + 4pts earned = 206

Pages Read/ Time Listened
54,672 pages read (220 read this week)
198:04 listening time

Books Added to Shelves

Interesting Tidbits on the Web:



December is officially here and things are hitting the fan! Hubby moved to 3rd shift this week, Munchkin came down with a cold, everyone realized the end of the year is coming and need to get closings done. I didn't get much reading done this week between taking care of Munchkin, adjusting to a new routine around the house, busy at work and working on the remaining Christmas projects. It was a long busy week, but at least Saturday I got some me time. I got to go to the RI Author Expo and get a bunch of new books, got them signed, met a few authors and lined up some interviews. Not to mention getting to spend the day with one of my book loving friends that I don't get to see often.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent Reads Day 6: Her Christmas Bonus by Rain Danvers

Synopsis: "New Adult Romance – A Sexy Contemporary Romance Novelette
Sage has been working at a high-tech firm in Newport Beach, CA for over two years as the only female director among three men. She is highly valued by her boss and she loves her job, but there's a problem - she's totally attracted to him and the stress is killing her. She's taking three days off for the Christmas holiday and has posted her availability online, hoping to find a job when she returns. Before she can leave, she has to find her cell phone and she doesn't know where she left it.

Terrance is the founder and owner of Templeton Designs and considers Sage so valuable to the company, he can't afford to acknowledge the feelings he has for her. He's stuck at the company this year when normally he would be enjoying the holiday in a warm, tropical location. It may be the year he finds a way to acknowledge the woman who holds his heart captive."

My Review: This was a quick, holiday story for your busy season. For me it felt a little rushed and forced. You really didn't get to know the characters all to well and I certainly wasn't rooting for them at all. I wasn't able to find the connection between them or between myself and the story. It was a good, light read, if you are looking for something to fill the time and enjoy but not become involved in, this is a great book.
My Rating: This was a quick read and would be good for lovers of the New Adult genre who are looking for some light reading this holiday season.  For me it just missed the mark. I give it a rating of Two Paws.