Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year End Book Challenge Update

I honestly can't believe 2013 is almost over.... it seems the older I get, the faster time flies...which is scarey, because I'm honestly really not that old! Eek! Anyway, I wanted to give a year end update on the 3 book challenges that I was involved in this year.

E-Book Challenge
hosted by Workaday Reads

My goal was the "DVD Level" of 25 e-books.

What I actually read: 45 e-books

 Mount TBR Reading Challenge
hosted by My Reader's Block

My goal was the "Pike's Peak" level of 12 books.

What I actually read: 12 books

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
hosted by Historical Tapestry
My goal was the "Renaissance Reader" level of 10 books
What I actually read: 20 books

So, there you have my progress and year end totals. I'm happy with how it went, and though I won't be participating in 2014 due to time constraints, I'm still glad I took the challenges in 2013 and met/exceeded the goals I had set.

Some fun facts:
I read a total of 50 books in 2013. (Some qualified for multiple challenges, which is why the above numbers total more.)

I wrote a review for every single book I read. Granted, about 6 are still sitting in my blog draft area waiting to be published, but I still consider this to be quite a feat! :)

Thank you to my followers for sticking with me this year. I wish everyone a happy 2014, and please, if someone has the recipe to make time go a little slower, please let me know, ok? ;)

Happy 2014!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review: A December Bride by Denise Hunter

Book Cover and Synopsis:
What started as a whim turned into an accidental - and very public - engagement. Can Layla and Seth keep up the facade in Chapel Springs this holiday season - for the sake of her career . . . and his heart?

Under normal circumstances, Seth Murphy, the best friend of Layla O'Reilly's ex-fiance would be the last person she'd marry. But the news of their upcoming (and phony) nuptials convinces a big client that Layla may be high-society enough to work for his agency, a coup that would put her fledgling home-staging business on the map. 

Seth has secretly loved Layla for years, even when she was dating his best friend. Maybe she'll never forgive him for the way he hurt her back then, but he has to try. And Layla is willing to keep up their engagement farce until she's landed her client. For Layla, it's the chance to save her career. But for Seth, it's his last chance to win her heart.

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
I love a good "fake relationship" story, and when you throw in the Christmas season, this novella is a winner! The length is short enough to be considered a novella, yet it's long enough that it feels like a full story in the fact that the characters are fully developed and you get to know them well, which I find is rather rare in novellas.

Layla was certainly an interesting character and easy to like and sympathize with, but it was ultimately Seth that kept pulling me back to the story. His confidence and ease in the fake engagement was charming and amusing, especially compared to the anxiety and bouts of freaking out that Layla was prone to whenever they had to act like a "couple" in front of friends. Their bumpy past added a unique angle, causing Layla to refuse Seth's charm longer than most would...but this is certainly not a bad thing, as it added some pretty fun moments between the two.

I haven't previously read any of Denise Hunter's books, but this novella has sold me on her writing. (No doubt I'll soon be hunting down her previous works!) I really liked the atmosphere of the story; the development of the relationship between Layla and Seth has a very modern and "now" feel, but the Christian genre of the story keeps it clean. :)

If you're looking for a fun December read, this is certainly one that I'd recommend. It's short enough that it won't suck up a ton of your time during the busy holiday season, but yet it's long enough that you can really savor the story. It's a win from all angles!

My Rating: 4 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Zondervan) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: Christmas on the Tenth Floor by Lisa Page

Merry Christmas, everyone! Here's my review of "Christmas on the Tenth Floor", a Christmas novella recently released by Lisa Page.

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Abby Daniels can't go home for Christmas so she's trying to make Christmas feel a bit like home; at least, as much as she can in her little apartment on the tenth floor.
She feels like she's living a dream come true after landing an internship at her dream job in New York City. The only glitch is that she can't go home for Christmas. She plans a night of video chatting with her family and boyfriend, Brad, watching favorite movies and continuing her family tradition of baking snickerdoodles on Christmas Eve. She's determined to have a festive night, even if she did have to spend it alone.

But Abby's night doesn't go as planned. She's missing home more than she wants to admit, she doesn't have all the ingredients to make her cookies and her handsome new neighbor, Jason, is rude to her. As if that's not enough, the final blow comes with the discovery of a devastating betrayal.

Alone and heartbroken, she finds comfort in a person she'd least expect; someone who puts her night into a new perspective. Abby finds out that sometimes, grief is better shared and that a jar of cinnamon can change your life. 

My source for book: Personal Library
My Thoughts:
This is a cute novella that's perfect for December, or just for whenever you're feeling Christmas-y! The length is just right for reading in one sitting, it took me about 45 minutes from start to finish.

I really liked the premise of the story; the basic idea of two hurting hearts finding comfort together on a lonely holiday. I do admit that Abby initially struck me as being a bit "too happy" and perfect with her upbeat outlook on things, however considering that it's a Christmas story her attitude wasn't necessarily out of place. I think if more people had a similar upbeat outlook on life, things would be so much nicer for everyone!

The writing itself has a somewhat simple style to it, which makes for a quick and easy read. Though some of the wording felt a bit unpolished, I still found the story to be very cute and enjoyable. The entire story takes place in one night (Christmas Eve), but there is a short epilogue that takes the story a bit further, which was something that I really appreciated.

I was in-between novels when I picked up "Christmas on the Tenth Floor", and it turned out to be a great little story to read while I decided what full-length book to read next. It really is a cute story, and with just a bit more fleshing out it's something I could easily see Hallmark turning into a movie. :)

My Rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: Home for the Holidays by Christine Lynxwiler

Book Cover and Synopsis:
A heartwarming Christmas novella about true friendship, helping those in need, and falling in love... 
What's a girl to do when she falls in love with her lifelong best friend? Small town librarian Lauren Forrester moves to St. Louis so that handsome contractor Jeffrey Warren can find a wife without having to deal with Lauren's moods. But when Jeffrey shows up on her doorstep to convince her to come home for a country Christmas, will the hardheaded pair lose their friendship or find something even more precious?

My source for book: Personal Library
My Thoughts:
This is a cute little story with characters that are well developed, despite the short novella length. I read it from cover to cover in just one sitting, and it only took about 90 minutes. But in that time I felt like I came to know the characters--especially Lauren--quite well.

The novella explores several themes, including facing your feelings and finding the courage to admit them, as well as letting go of past hurts, and helping those who are in need. Despite the short length, there is a surprising amount of content covered! Though I wasn't head-over-heels for Jeff like Lauren was, I did find myself rooting for Lauren to get the happy ending that she desired. I enjoyed seeing how much history the two had together, and their habit of meeting at "the swings" was really cute.

Christine Lynxwiler's stories are always entertaining at the very least, and Home for the Holidays is no different. If you're looking for a quick read, this one is certainly worth a look! Though most of the story does take place around Christmas, the season is really more just a backdrop for the characters... so while it certainly adds a bit of fun if you read the story during December, the Christmas angle isn't heavy enough to require that it be read during the holidays. Any time of year would be fine! :)

My Rating: 4 stars