Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan

I loved this book, absolutely loved this book. Am not usually a fan of small-town, family, contemporary romances, but this one was perfect. Every time I thought the story was going to go in a direction that I generally find annoying, it took a turn in such a way that I did not find annoying at all.

PR professional from London who now works in New York City decides to work over the holidays, thinking it will be the perfect escape. She hates Christmas, avoids family, and she's getting a secluded cabin in Vermont to work on her new account, a struggling resort. But then she finds herself having to confront all her fears of family and love and holidays.

Last year, I won a contest with a website called Bookish, which was supposed to be a Harlequin holiday romance package including several books, such as this one. But then the package arrived, containing nothing but a photo album with pictures of people I didn't know. Turns out the package busted in transit and the postal service guessed as to who got what. (Imagine the surprise of receiving a bunch of holiday romances. Lucky person.) I was approved for a NetGalley copy, but it never appeared on my kindle. I remember several people having this problem at the time. So I assumed I was not meant to have this book. Then over the summer, I remember updating the kindle, and a slew of holiday stories appeared, including this one. But I forgot about it.

This was a case of finding exactly the right book at the right time. From Thanksgiving until the end of the year, I bombard myself with holiday romances. I wasn't all that impressed with this year's selections. I'd started two books that didn't really hold my interest, so I was searching for something different..

Then I saw this book mentioned as being free from the Harlequin website, remembered how I'd wanted to read it the previous year, so I went to get a copy, only to realize I can't read ebooks bought from the Harlequin website on my kindle. Then I discovered it was already on my kindle. So I thought I'd give it a try, since I wasn't enjoying the other books I was trying to read.

I started it on Christmas Day when flying out to see the family and found myself wishing my flight was a bit longer.

As someone who doesn't find the holidays an especially wonderful time of the year, as someone who has issues with family, as someone who generally prefers to be alone when others are blathering about togetherness, I could relate so very well to this character. Isn't there some saying about every cynic being a romantic at heart? Because we want that fairy tale and we've been convinced by the world that it is never, ever going to happen, so quit hoping. But this story. It's magical.

Loved the characters and seeing their emotional growth enabled by the perspective of outsiders. The setting made me ache for a snowy, secluded cabin to spend the holidays (even without the romance, that'd be kind of awesome). But most of all, loved the super steamy romance. Such a wonderful story. And I cried through the last two chapters - and I pretty much have a heart of stone - so that was

Highly recommend this book to anyone in search of a holiday romance that is both sexy and has a great story.

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley. (I also purchased a copy from when it was available for free as part of their holiday specials.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: The French for Christmas by Fiona Valpy

I liked this book quite a bit. I very much enjoyed the idea behind the story - running away to the French countryside to escape the holidays. Evie is dreading Christmas and her friends offer to let her stay at their place in France.  In the process of running away, Evie is able to finally come to terms with the grief that forced her to run away.  She also meets some wonderful people in the area and rekindles her love of cooking.

But I'm only giving this three stars instead of the four I'd normally give a book like this because I had a problem with the way the story ended. I don't want to give away too much, but I didn't think the husband was treated fairly. He suffered the same loss, and for some reason he's supposed to be punished because he didn't give up on life the way Evie did? If he did something horrible that was deserving of the way he was treated it wasn't mentioned.  It sounded as if even when they were separated he continued to credit Evie with his success as celebrity chef.  He didn't run off and abandon her.  If Evie really wanted to honor her dead child, shouldn't treating the child's father fairly be part of that? The more I think about this, the more I'm bothered by it.

Overall, I enjoyed the characters and especially the setting and this is yet another book that has made me want to run away to France for the holidays.  I think a lot of people probably won't be as bothered as I was by the ending. There's still a nice, simple romance involved, but to me it seemed a bit generic and an easy solution when going another direction would have created a much deeper, stronger love story.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Review: Wild Holiday Nights: Holiday Rush\ Playing Games \ All Night Long

I love reading these anthologies over the holidays, and finishing a story a night. Overall this was a fairly enjoyable collection.

The first story, Holiday Rush by Samantha Hunter, is about a woman who runs a bakery in New York City. Her brother's friend from Texas stops by to check on her when her family is worried after her store is broken into. During their time together, they revisit an attraction they had for each other thirteen years earlier. I liked this story, but in the beginning, I was annoyed about how indignant the guy was about respecting his partner (Calla's brother). She's 30 years old and I found it insulting that he would think her brother had some control over who she slept with. They got over that fairly quickly though.

My favorite story was the second one, Playing Games by Meg Maquire. These two people run into each other at the counter for a rental car after their flights are cancelled. They'd known each other in high school - she'd dated his best friend. And they'd each secretly harbored a crush for the other. I loved the way this story played out as they made the long road trip home. Then when the roads get too difficult to drive, they have to pull over to a motel and of course, there's only one room left.  Things get very hot and steamy in that hotel room.  This story was really great - exactly what I want in a quick, sexy holiday story.

I didn't like the third story, All Night Long, by Debbi Rawlins, all that much.  A woman gets sent on a trip a few days before Christmas to get some papers signed. In the process she finds herself drawn to the man who is supposed to sign the papers. I found this story to be a little bit sleazy, the paralegal hooking up with the rich business guy. Might have worked for a full length story if there had been time to develop their relationship, but not in this short format. I sort of skimmed over this one because I didn't like it very much.

Overall though, worth the read for the first two stories, especially the second one.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Review: Christmas at Waratah Bay by Marion Lennox

I didn't like this book very much. I thought the characters were too perfect and a little boring. She's a super model and he's a rich rancher/tech success story.  I started this book thinking I would finish it in a night and it ended up taking me a week to read it because it never grabbed my interest. Very simple romance, no real conflict, a minor misunderstanding, but nothing dramatic.

And the extent of their physical contact was maybe a kiss. If a story isn't going to be interesting I tend to hope it makes up for that by being steamy, and this wasn't the case. This might be fine for someone who wants a simple, sweet, no conflict romance.  Not really the type of story I enjoy.

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Review: The Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver

One of my favorite holiday books last year was Jenny Oliver's Parisian Christmas Bake-off, so I was very excited to read this book.  This did not disappoint.  Another to add to my holiday favorites.

While I didn't like it quite as much as Parisian Bake-off, I still liked it a lot.

Ella has just learned her husband is cheating on her, so without giving much thought to her actions, she packs a bag and takes off to Greece to stay with her mother and sister - even though she's not been especially close to them since her parents' divorce when she was a teenager.

Her sister, Maddy, in the meantime, has dreams of going to London and singing in a club.  Ella offers her the use of her flat, since she won't be there.  So we have the two story lines - Ella, working at her mother's cafe in Greece while Maddy is wandering around London on her own for the first time in her life.

What I enjoy most about this story is the complex characters.  While the characters may at times perceive some of the others to be all good or bad, it's clear to the reader that isn't the case.  While Ella and Maddy are both adults, they've spent years harboring some child like anger toward their parents.  They had their reasons, but being in a new location allows both of them begin to see things from a different perspective. 

This book is all about finally accepting the past and yourself and your flaws as well as the flaws of the people you love.  That sounds kind of hokey, but it's actually really well written and the result is a fun story that has a very powerful underlying meaning to it.  

My only issue with the book (possible spoiler, if you're worried I might be giving something away, skip to the next paragraph) was the idea that Ella would prefer life in Greece to life in London.  I thought her life in London seemed pretty great.  I also have to admit to kind of hoping she would get back together with her husband - despite what he did, he seemed to still love her and she him.  I guess I just wasn't all that impressed with the romance in the story.  I think what I would have preferred to happen would be Ella saying maybe she needed a break from relationships for a while since she just got out of a marriage, and maybe taking some time to figure out who she was and what she wanted without a guy influencing her decisions.  

Overall though, I really liked this book.  While I was reading it, I noticed it was free on amazon for a few days and I tried to get everyone I know to download it.  And really, whatever the current price is, usually just two or three dollars, is completely worth it.  Very good holiday read.  Nice, fun story with a good message about family and self perception.  

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley.