Tuesday, December 1, 2015

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Stephanie Perkins (Editor), A Review

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Book Description

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins.


I borrowed this book from my library in 2014.   I read two stories at a time, intending to read along with Christina Marie on youTube, but I got behind and had to catch up after Christmas.  This is my honest review written at the end of 2014*.  This post has been scheduled since January!
*Some data may change, i.e. I am sure that I will read works by some of these authors in 2015.

This book reminded me how enjoyable short stories could be!  I've only read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins going into this anthology.  It was a great introduction to the works of such well-known young adult authors.  Perkins forward was cute and bubbly and the perfect opener.   

I'll have an overall rating at the end of my post but I thought I'd rate each story individually as well.

The book opens with "Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell.  I've never read any of Rowell's work* but this story makes me want to.  I especially liked the way Rowell told a story that spanned time by focusing on one part of a recurring event.  I loved the characters and finished this story thinking that it would be hard to displace as my favorite.  It was this story that reminded me why I enjoyed our discussions of short stories in college so much.  Rowell did a stellar job with character development and their growth in a very concise format.    

Kelly Link's "The Lady and the Fox" was another great story and reminder of how powerful short stories can be.  It had a bit of fantasy to it and a lot of symbolism.  Link also told her story through a series of snapshots across time. ★ Because I thought the writing and the story were great - not because I agree with who the heroine ended up with. 

"Angels in the Snow" by Matt de la Pena was such a sweet story.  I liked that it was told from a male perspective and oh, my heart felt him being stuck alone for Christmas.  And then being so happy that there was a sweet, tender girl to reach out to him.  I also really liked that these young adults acted and thought and spoke like I think normal young adults act and think and speak.  

Jenny Han's "Polaris is Where You'll Find Me" was the first story that left me feeling meh.  It felt super cutesy (it is set at the North Pole and features elves and Santa) and trite to me.  I haven't read any of Han's work either but I have seen so much praise for her books -perhaps I expected more.  Or maybe I'm just old enough to not get it.  

Stephanie Perkins' contribution, "It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" was phenomenal.  The heroine is real and gritty; I just thought Perkins did a great job of showing how much bad stuff has happened in her life in a concise way that gave her such depth. It was a little hard to swallow the "love at first sight" in the story....well, the level that they get to anyway in such a short amount of time.  And the hero was such a great example of selflessness to his family and to the heroine.  

David Levithan's "Your Temporary Santa" was another meh story for me.  I really liked the premise and the stream of consciousness from the main character.  I spent so much time though trying to figure out if the main character was male that it really bothered me.  I wish it had been more clear that it was a homosexual couple - then I could have actually focused on the story and the characters and all. And I found it completely unbelievable that (1) he was able to sneak in without an adult knowing and (2) that his boyfriend was asleep.  I wouldn't be able to sleep if I knew that my love interest was going to be sneaking into my house--- I'd be anticipating it.   

Krampuslauf by Holly Black was another okay story for me.  I didn't think it was great but I liked it a little more than the story just before. I thought the characters were shallow.  I've never been a "partier" so I just wasn't able to connect to anyone in the story.  

I read the If I Stay dualogy by Gayle Forman this spring so I was expecting a great piece of work in her story "What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?"  Forman did an excellent job exploring those moments when you realize that you have made the wrong assumptions of people or moments.  I really appreciated the way that Forman built an interracial relationship in a genuine, sweet way.  There were moments that could've been cheesy but she wrote them and they were instead simple and kind.  And of course, Forman has amazing insight into the minds of young adults and culture.  This story was so much more than just a love story.  

I also really enjoyed Myra McEntire's "Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus".  First, it had some Christian elements running through it; not in your face but it revolves around putting on a Nativity Play.  I liked how the pastor reached out and stood up for a kid that is considered an outcast/troublemaker in the town.  I thought it was a great picture of how we as Christians should be loving and gracious and accepting and including (I don't think that is a real word but do you know what I mean?) to those around us.  I thought there was a lot of humor in this story and enjoyed the character growth that the hero goes through in such a short amount of time.  

"Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White was a surprise for me.  At the beginning,  I wasn't enjoying the story but I admired her helping out people and when Ben showed up, it took a turn in a positive direction.  The best part was the way the heroine's relationship with her mom and her mom's boyfriend went from strained to her realization of the way they had shown their love for her and her acknowledgment and appreciation for that.  

"Star of Bethlehem" by Ally Carter was ridiculous.  I just can't even....this story was fantasy. Not good, other world fantasy but "this would never happen" fantasy.  

The final story is "The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor.  I can't even remember the last story.  I already returned my copy to the library so I'm not able to reference back to it at all.  

After I finished reading the last story, I was looking at the cover and thinking how I liked the British cover so much more.  Then I realized that there were twelve couples featured on the cover and I thought "that's a nice touch...the artist did a good job on that little detail".  Then I started really looking at each pair and I realized that it was each couple from the stories.  Very cool and I loved going through and matching each story up with their little couple icon.  I love when stuff like that happens on book covers, do you? 

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

My overall rating is three stars because each story was either one I really liked (or loved) or really didn't like.  The standout stories definitely make this a book to pick up and I could see myself coming back and reading the stories I enjoyed over again.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Grandma's a Ninja by Todd Tarpley, A Review

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Book Description

When Ethan’s grandma suggests they take a zip line to school, Ethan realizes that his grandma is a little different. In fact, she’s a ninja! Ethan is soon the hit of the school when his grandma drops from the ceiling at show-and-tell, and teaches the kids karate moves and how to do backflips in slow motion. But when his grandma deflates his team’s soccer ball, everyone is upset—including Ethan. Why can’t he just have a regular grandma? But when Ethan tries out his new karate movesduring the championship game . . . he’s happy that his grandma isn’t ordinary.


I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

Fun read for young students, especially boys.  My son and I read it and even though he is thoroughly into reading chapter books these days, he enjoyed the book and the elements of fantasy found in the book - what boy wouldn't think it was awesome for their grandma to be a ninja? Engaging illustrations are a bonus!

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    

★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Quick Book Reviews

I just have a few quick reviews to share with you today from my pile of books I've been sent by publishers.

The Fairy Tale Bride
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Review: The plot was interesting but the character development was pretty shallow and I found most of them to be annoying.  There were several four star reviews for this book on Goodreads so you should check those out as it seems other readers have a completely  different response.

My First - Jason & Katie (Crossroads, #1)

Source: Purchased - you can pick it up for free at Amazon (but I don't recommend it)
Review: I honestly could not remember anything about this book when I pulled up my list of books I needed to review.  I gave it two stars on Goodreads and I tend to rate books eve if I don't have time to write a review.  This is another book that had a good number of favorable reviews. 

A Bride in the Bargain
Source: Purchased
Review: I enjoyed this story; while I could never imagine myself in an arranged marriage situation, I enjoy those plot setups.  I think it is the finding unexpected love in less than perfect situations.  Strong heroine, secondary characters that added to the story and a believable story arc made this an enjoyable read. 

Source: Purchased
Review: I couldn't remember details from this story either but I gave it three stars so it must have been at least enjoyable as that is the rating I give to romance books that I liked, they weren't horrible but I didn't love them.  I definitely think this is a book that you should check out other reviews for 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Semi-Charmed Summer Reading Challenge

I participated in her Winter Challenge and discovered one of the best books for this year from the list.  I'm looking forward to this challenge - there are some interesting categories.

Click the link above to see the list and sign up!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Carry Her Heart by Holly Jacobs, A Review

Carry Her Heart

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Book Description

“Maybe we live our lives constantly becoming and rebecoming. Maybe we’re always in the process of metamorphosing into something new.”

In her journal, writer Piper George notes the change of seasons. Each entry marks the passage of time since she became a teen mother and put her baby up for adoption. Her words flow together, painting a picture of loss, hope, and enduring love for the daughter she’s never forgotten. But one autumn, a new presence appears in its pages and in her life: her neighbor, Edward “Ned” Chesterfield.

As winter thaws to spring, Piper and Ned develop a friendship that could be something more…if only Piper would open her heart. But the loss of her daughter has irrevocably shaped her life. And having given so much of herself away, she’s not sure if she can give Ned all that he deserves. But with him at her side, Piper just might learn that a heart’s love is never truly lost.


I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

This book is on my short list of best book I've read this year.  What struck me from the opening chapter was the beautiful language that Jacobs uses.  This book is full of lovely writing - words that just capture your very inner essence.  Piper is likable even though she seems to have it all together.  She has such a wonderfully positive outlook on life, it is refreshing in a female character.

At one point, I thought the book was going to disappoint me horribly; Piper's visit to her father to discuss whether it was possible to just be friends left me convinced that she and Ned would not have a happy ever after.  But oh, what sweetness waited down the line.  Sweet romance, completely realistic and it is a friends to lovers story which is one of my favorites.

This book is so much more than a romance story however.  It is a story of relationships ultimately - 

I started this really late Friday night and read a chapter, maybe two.  Picked it up in the wee hours of Saturday waiting for the sunrise and finished it.  I was in tears as the book drew to a close. It's full of emotion and wonderful characters.  

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pocket Letter #3 - Favorite Color

I recently sent out another Pocket Letter for a Color Swap over at Pocket Letter Pals.  

My partner chose red and I really had fun working on this for her.  I like the color red and have had it as my main bedroom color for years.  I went with a deeper red, so I hope she is happy with that.

I am going to include a prayer in each of my pocket letters that I send.  I believe there is such power in prayer!  I tried to collage that insert and I like it but I'm not in love with it, KWIM?  The left pocket says "My Favs" in the thought bubble.  On my desk, it showed up much better than it is in the picture.  I didn't take a picture of the back of this card but I love how it turned out. I just handwrote some favorites on scrap cardstock and arranged them hodge-podge on the back.

The center insert features the frame stamp I am going to incorporate on each pocket letter and some layered, glittered tulle.  The left insert was taken almost directly from the pocket letter Tmika recently sent me - I loved how the stacked banner/flags looked!

I stamped the days that I worked on this letter on the left insert, another element I am working into each pocket letter.  The center insert has a Vanilla Caramel tea bag behind that is so tasty!  Are you singing yet with the scrap of hymn?  I am, every time I sat down and worked on this pocket letter.

Here is a peek at all the little goodies I included behind the inserts: napkin, glitter, gems, punched shapes, washi, tea and a letter with a key paper clip.

Are you swapping pocket letters?  If you are interested, check out the Pocket Letter Pals forum.  Leave a comment if you are interested in swapping!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pocket Letter # 2 - Coffee is Always a Good Idea

Coffee is Always a Good Idea

Sharing the pocket letter I created for a swap with one of my favorite youTube crafters - Scrapdaworld.  I photographed them outside of the page protector to avoid glare.

I know she loves shabby chic so I tried to use soft colors and lots of lace and pearls.  With the browns, this is probably more vintage than shabby (needs more white) but I am still really happy with how it turned out.

My signature frame on the left block and the cup on the lace background is my favorite I think.

I tried making a little shaker on the center block but the sequins do not show up very well.  The right block is embossed with some "vintage" embossing powder that kinda puffed up when I heated it. Really loved the way it looked!

I failed to take a picture of the back with the goodies.  I included some embossing powder, glitter, sequins and lace for her as well as a letter and a prayer.  I wrapped it in a graphic I printed off and wrapped that with a vintage handkerchief I picked up at an estate sale recently, finished off with a little flower closure.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pocket Letter #1 - Better Get Better

I came across a new "thing" that uses my craft supplies and feeds my creative side.  They are called Pocket Letters, created by Janette Lane.  If you click on the link (in that last sentence), you'll pull up all her posts on Pocket Letters. Basically, they are ATCs (which the more I create and work with them, the more I enjoy it), decorated and slipped into a page protector.  Also integrated is a letter so there is the pen pal concept as well.  You can also view quite a bit about them on youTube and link over to the community at Janette's blog.

I have been creating ATCs for many years now with my local stamp club.  We make 12 every month which involves quite a bit of assembly line work, not unpleasant but after the initial design, not entirely creative.  What I really enjoy with the pocket letters is creating a set of coordinated cards and the letter component.

Better Get Better

The first PL I created was sent as a cheer me up for a lady that has a hurt wrist and as such, limited creating time.  I am out of practice in taking photos so I apologize for the glare.

I pulled out the floral print paper first as I wanted something bright and cheery - yellow and red seem to fit the bill!  The center pocket is stamped and painted; the third pocket is stamped and then flocked.

I wanted to have something to incorporate on every pocket letter I create.  The frame stamp on the center block fits perfectly and I will use it for each one as well as dating when I work on the project.  I know that many people create the entire letter at one time; I enjoy crafting as a form of relaxation and so tend to linger over my projects. 

My favorite bit in this letter is the far right block.

The fun comes in adding little bits to the pockets as well.  I've included some of the items I used: tags, stamped labels, twine, washi tape as well as a prayer, and a list of books I enjoyed last year.

I'll share another Pocket Letter later this week.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

House Divided Blog Tour

House Divided (1)
house divided

There is a law irrevocably decreed in the state of Alabama that you must choose a team. You're either an Auburn fan or an Alabama Fan. There is no fence sitting or waffling. It’s one or the other. However, it doesn't mean that you can’t fall in love with someone from the opposing side. They even have a name for it ... House Divided. Ellie Eaton and Brady Jackson were just such a couple, but unfortunately they were separated by more than just their loyalty to a university. Against the odds and against the rules, Ellie and Brady dove right into the forbidden current of friendship and then love. Their sweet, innocent romance was one for the storybooks, but old rules and family prejudices ultimately tore them apart, just as they were each ready to depart to their beloved universities, Ellie to Auburn and Brady to Alabama. But years later, when near tragedy strikes, they're brought together again and given a second chance at love, this time with help from some very unlikely sources. House Divided is a sweet romance filled with southern charm, a dash of humor and, for good measure, a pinch of lies and intrigue.

Praise for the Book 
 "House Divided was one of those books that made me want to ignore my children, my to-do list, my need for food, and pretty much anything else that would keep me from reading. Jennifer Peel has a real gift for depicting first love, heartbreak, and hope." "A tender, soft, story that truly is a gem to read." "Ms. Peel has created a story that stands as a tribute to true southern gentility, it's foibles and strengths. Truly a beautiful read that gives heart and meaning to true devotion. She truly knows how to weave a story that has beauty and true southern charm."

                                                                   My Review

You can see my updated review at Goodreads. 

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour.  House Divided is a great book so far.  I must be honest and say that I am still reading it.  It is told from Ellie's point of view - I tend to read slower in first person. That coupled with an unplanned gathering that has taken my attention this week means I have not been able to read more than just a few clicks at a time.  That being said, it is off to a great start.  So far, I like Ellie's devotion to her aunt and hate the way Brady walked away from her in high school.  Stories that explore a couple's second chance at love are one of my favorites.  Often authors will set up the plot where they were good friends or such.  Peel has a unique twist in Ellie and Brady were forbidden to even talk to each other let alone have a "we're just friends" relationship.  I can't wait to see where the journey goes.  
   add to goodreads     Jennifer Peel Headshot
Author Jennifer Peel 
 I'm a Colorado native who currently calls Alabama home. I'm the mother of three amazing children who have grown up way too fast. I enjoy the mountains, vacations at the beach, date night with my husband, late night talks with my kiddos, touring model homes, and pink bubblegum ice cream. I grew up on the Western Slope in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I learned to love the beauty of the outdoors, but not camping--unless staying overnight at the Marriott counts. I met my husband while living in Denver and then several years later we traded the beauty and majesty of the Colorado Rocky Mountains for the art and culture of Chicago, Illinois. My family and I enjoyed living near this world class city, despite the crazy cold winters, but new adventures awaited in Northern Alabama--just six hours away from Orange Beach, Alabama. These three magical places (the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Chicago, and Orange Beach) are the inspired locations used in several of my books.

Jennifer Peel   25_Amazon_Paypal

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 4/12/15 
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