Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Blogging Beauty ~ On Self-Image & Finding Courage


noun beau·ty \ˈbyü-tē\

: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit : loveliness “a woman of great physical beauty exploring the natural beauty of the island” “A thing of beauty is a joy forever …” — John Keats
: a beautiful person or thing “His new car’s a real beauty.”; especially: a beautiful woman “She was a great beauty in her day.”
: a particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality “Well, at any rate, he had two great beauties—the pale flat white of his skin and his great shaggy mass of dark hair.” — Dorothy C. Fisher

—Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Side Note: Before diving into the post below. Most of you know this as a bookish review blog, which it primarily is. But now and then I want to also blog about life & beauty, as the subtitle suggests ;) Today we talk about beauty by digging deeper into self-image. Enjoy!

Beauty is a concept both physical and metaphysical, both timeless and modern. It is the focus and drive behind advertising and society as a whole. Each of us carry our own skewed conception of what beauty is. We strive for it as we struggle with our self-image. We are both slave and seekers of beauty.

My love for lovely things started from the beginning. I collected crystal rocks and other knick knacks. We had a small “tank” (Texas slang) or stock pond with a leaning willow tree hanging over the murky water. I remember the way those pale green leaves shimmered in the sunlight and the way the yellow flowers growing on the hills reminded me of The Wizard of Oz. You remember that moment when Dorothy steps out of her sepia toned life into blazing technicolor for the first time? It’s one of the reasons Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie today. An ordinary girl escaping into that land over the rainbow is one of my oldest fantasies. It’s a theme in every story I write.

As a child I remember collecting hair ribbons and silky colorful girly things. I remember thinking ballerinas were so graceful and beautiful, I wanted to be one. I loved how Erica Kane always wore big studded jewelry on All My Children. I loved the sequined dresses that were in full swing during my childhood. I begged my mom to make me beautiful dresses too. Because I was the baby, only girl and one lucky lass, she did.

I wasn’t worried about being beautiful until I grew older. My fellow sisters will remember that moment when someone made fun of your hair or clothes for the first time. It cuts deep as you realize something about you isn’t up to par. It makes you feel less. It makes me want to go back in time and throttle all the cruel kids who say such things to all the little girls. All the same, we develop tougher skin as we grow. That’s how we survive the dog-eat-dog world. But some of us never develop thick skin. Sometimes, our tough exterior is only paper thin.

I was secretly one of those kids. I hated the way I looked for a long time. I was the only girl with three big brothers and jumped straight from puffy bows and lace into tomboy rebellion. (Don’t you dare ask me to wear flowers or pink!) 

So when I got boobs early, I wore bigger shirts to hide them. I got a haircut thinking bangs would be cool. (Yeah…never a good idea with hair as thick as mine lol.) I can laugh about it in hindsight, but at the time it was embarrassing being the awkward looking girl in my group of friends. My best friends on the flipside, wore the right clothes, learned how to put on makeup and bleach & straighten their hair. They embraced their femininity and all that came with it. I’m positive they struggled just as much as I did with self-image. Still, I was on the chubby side while they seemed so much thinner. The boys we knew always flirted with them and ignored me. For a long time I pretended I didn’t care about it. I was more interested in reading books and writing science fiction stories, or binge watching my favorite 80’s action flicks. I was an artist and a bit of a weirdo embracing the weirdness. While my friends obsessed over boys, I laughed because I grew up around guys. What was the big deal? Secretly though…I crushed hard on some of the same guys they did. Did I breathe a word? Heck no. Girls can be pretty evil when it comes to fighting over boys. Also, who would wanna date me?

For a while I secretly hated myself. I thought everyone would be happier if I just checked out. I used to fantasize about their reactions if I went through with it. But the one and only time I tried to hurt myself, I couldn’t do it. My faith is the biggest reason I never took it a step too far. I was surrounded by family who loved me, led a pretty sheltered childhood and life wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it was. But you see, when you’re that age, the world kind of is all about you and how you fit into it. Some of us fit in better than others, at least on the surface. Others struggle to be accepted, to feel beautiful. We all care. We all struggle through that period where we struggle to find the right clothes, the right look. We all crave beauty.

A few years past my “awkward phase” I grew a few inches and wasn’t quite as chubby. I slowly tried out styles and tried to not be ashamed of my bigger bust size, or my thicker hips. I didn’t quite figure out makeup or hair until I was a Junior in High School. I was still the funny friend, the quirky one and even though I didn’t feel beautiful all the time, I learned to look for it in the world around me. I learned to smile and to help others laugh and sing, to dance and hope for better things. I’m sure some people thought I was off my rocker, but I was happy.

My friends made their own choices and mistakes and experienced the worst heartache coupled with first loves. So I thought maybe it was okay I was a late bloomer. Maybe it wasn’t so bad to watch my friends date the guys I like, because the older we grew, the less appealing they became. I tended to like older men anyway as it turns out. I couldn’t imagine that one day I’d meet an old soul, just like mine, someone who makes me feel beautiful every day.

I haven’t had a rough life, compared to the suffering I’ve witnessed traveling around the world. It puts a lot in perspective, when we step out of ourselves and our little spheres of influence. The world is a darkly beautiful place with pockets of bright light shining through in imperfect smiles and wrinkled leathery faces, twisted limbs and small acts of kindness. The world is so much bigger than us and my hope and mission in life is to spread as much beauty as I can into it.

I would love to hear from y’all about your stories and what you find beautiful today about yourself or in others. Spread the love to those around you.

Remember, sometimes there is no knight in shining armor. Sometimes you have to be your own hero.

Don’t be afraid because you aren’t alone.

And you are stronger than you know.

Starry Nights & Romance Facebook Party Announcement!

Come join the Starry Nights & Romance party on Facebook! 

14 #romance authors all in one place to chat, share their newest releases, plus tons of giveaways! 

Wednesday, November 29th, from 12 - 3 PM ET.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

7th Annual Black Friday Book Bonanza (Nov 24th-27th)

It's the #BlackFriday #BookBonanza Extravaganza! 
Hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer & Marlene @ReadingReality

This year I'm offering up three prizes: 

1.) A free signed paperback copy of my clean mythical romance, Stay (with swag)

2.) All 3 Heaven's Edge Novellas

3.) $15 Amazon GC

Open internationally  Happy Thanksgiving!

Don't forget about all the other fantastic blogs you can hop to win even more bookish prizes! Click on THIS LINK to visit the other blogs :) (Or just check them out via the linky below the raffle)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Book Spotlight! "Right Gift. Wrong Day." by Natalie Decker

Right Gift. Wrong Day 

(Offsides, #1.5)

by Natalie Decker

Published by: Swoon Romance

Publication date: November 24th 2017

Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Tyler Richardson is freaking out! Not only did he invite his new girlfriend to meet his entire family, this is also the day they will exchange gifts. But what do you get a girl after dating for only two weeks? Should he listen to his friends and just give her a card, or should he ask for a second opinion?

Layla can’t believe she agreed to have dinner with Tyler and his family. What if they don’t like her? To make matter’s worse, they agreed to exchange Christmas gifts. The boy already has everything. And what if she gets him something that’s nicer than what he gets her? That would be really awkward. Asking him what he would like is completely out of the question. Maybe she should ask his friends for help.

After a rocky start, Tyler and Layla’s relationship is everybody’s relationship goals. But can Tyler and Layla survive the holidays without losing their cool?

RIGHT GIFT WRONG DAY is a hilarious companion novella to RIGHT TEXT WRONG NUMBER from Natalie Decker.


Omigod! Omigod! I don’t know why I just agreed to meet his entire family. Are we really at that step in our relationship? I don’t think I’m ready for this.

I didn’t meet Adam’s family until we had been seeing each other for a good five months, and even that was by pure accident. I ran into them during one of those free physical screenings at school. Talk about awkward. His mom had this look on her face like, “who’s this girl hugging my son?” She called me “dearest,” and Adam, well, he stood there turning red like I was embarrassing him in front of his mother. His little sister gave me the stink eye. His dad kept clearing his throat.

Tyler and I have only been dating officially for a week. What if his family hates me? What if they take one look at me and tell him to dump me?

I’m freaking out. The other issue that has me worked up; is Christmas. Yeah, I know it comes every year. But things around our house have been a little bland since my dad died. Our house used to be decked out in decorations. Since my dad’s death, my mom just puts up a tree, if you can even call it that. It’s a five-foot artificial tree, and this year, only two parts of it are lit. She doesn’t care enough to buy a new one or add lights to it. I miss our banisters and every other section of the house decorated with ribbons and garland and the smell of cinnamon wafting throughout the house. Instead, it looks like we’re celebrating Halloween or some other holiday we’re not really into. Aside from my house lacking the Christmas spirit, I’m worried about gifts. Not in receiving but giving. Am I supposed to only get Tyler a gift, or am I supposed to get ones for his family too? And what do I possibly get a guy who already has everything?

Author Bio

Natalie Decker is the author of RIVAL LOVE series and the Scandalous Boys series. She loves oceans, sunsets, sand between her toes, and carefree days. Her imagination is always going, which some find odd. But she believes in seeing the world in a different light at all times. Her first passion for writing started at age twelve when she had to write a poem for English class. However, seventh grade wasn't her favorite time and books were her source of comfort. She took all college prep classes in High school, and attended the University of Akron. Although she studied Mathematics she never lost her passion for writing or her comfort in books. She's a mean cook in the kitchen, loves her family and friends and her awesome dog infinity times infinity. If she's not writing, reading, traveling, hanging out with her family and friends, then she's off having an adventure. Because Natalie believes in a saying: Your life is your own journey, so make it amazing!

Find out more visit:


Monday, November 20, 2017

Interview With Jack Waller Bewitching Book Tours

For Whom The Reap Tolls

Reapers Series: Book 3

by Jack Wallen

A Reaper’s job is never done!

The Scythe has been eradicated. Now it’s time for Grim and company to enjoy much-needed rest, pizza, and romance. Thing is, Death has darker plans and deep-seated secrets to reveal.

With the help of a bookstore dedicated to all things occult, Grim uncovers a truth that could very well set him at odds with Fate and send the natural order spiraling into chaos.

The soul-reaping Scooby Gang is back to help the spirits of humanity return to the Universal Pool and challenge the Eternal status quo.
For whom will the bell toll? Inquiring minds want to know.

Amazon     BN      iTunes     Smashwords

About the Author

Jack Wallen is what happens when a Gen Xer mind-melds with present day snark. Jack is a seeker of truth and a writer of words with a quantum mechanical pencil and a disjointed beat of sound and soul. Although he resides in the unlikely city of Louisville, Kentucky, Jack likes to think of himself more as an interplanetary traveler, on the lookout for the Satellite of Love and a perpetual movie sign...or so he tells the reflection in the mirror (some times in 3rd person). Jack is the author of numerous tales of dark, twisty fiction including the I Zombie series, the Klockwerk Movement, the Fringe Killer series, Shero, The Nameless Saga, and much more.

Author Interview

SS:  First of all, thanks so much for sharing For Whom the Reap Tolls with us. Could you tell us a little about the inspiration behind your Reapers series? 

JW:  Most of the books I write tend to come from me asking questions of myself. I tend to dig pretty deep into the wells of curiosity, so no question is out of, well, question. When I found out Devil Dog Press wanted me to submit a new series for consideration, I knew something special was in order. After asking myself question after question, I finally hit on something that had potential. Said question was “What would happen if the Grim Reaper quit?” The idea of a reaper of souls giving up his own particular ghost was incredibly intriguing … but had already been done in the film, “Death Takes A Holiday”. Naturally, I didn’t want to step on the toes of Maxwell Anderson and Gladys Lehman, so I took that idea back to the drawing board and reformed the question into, “What would happen if the Grim Reaper fell in love?” That question is what gave birth to the Reapers series.

SS:  You are known for writing a blend of the fantastical with the macabre. What makes you gravitate towards these genres?

JW:  I was weened on the works of Clive Barker. I’ve always considered him my muse and idol. Barker manages to write the macabre with such elegance and grace, the reader simply cannot look away from the carnage draped in beautiful prose. I firmly believe it was reading Barker’s book “Imajica” that convinced me I not only wanted to be a writer, but had to be a writer.
I’ve always been fascinated by many things and feel the world becomes so much more interesting when it’s a melange of ideas, genres, and themes. Human beings are not one dimensional. We are comprised of the personal, professional, political, pious, pragmatic, passionate; to assume readers want their literature to be one dimensional is (I believe) a mistake. To that end, I do my best to layer genre on top of genre, hoping to create something altogether new.

SS:  As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?’

JW:  If not Clive Barker himself, it would be my cat, Bigen. He is, all at once, mysterious and obvious; playful and serious; curious and uninterested; loving and aloof. In other words, Bigen is his own chiasma—a parallel inverse of himself.

SS:  On your website, you mention how you got your start in acting. Do you feel your acting background has helped your writing?

JW:  Without a doubt. During my training, one of the single most important elements was instinct. I spent three years of my life at Purdue University, focusing on that very thing. As an actor, instinct was my guide. When approaching a new role, I allowed that instinct to take over and enjoyed the ride. As a writer, the same thing holds true. I write in a very organic fashion—allowing the characters to dictate the story. I feel this makes for a much more natural progression of plot, as well as deeper and more dimensional characters.
My work with improv has also been crucial to my craft as an author. When any new writer comes to me for advice, one of the first things I tell them is to find an improv task and sign up immediately. Understanding and working with improv will not only help improve dialog, it gives the artist a better insight into how people relate and how stories are told.

SS:  For Whom the Reap Tolls is the third installment in your series. Did you know from the beginning this would be a series or did it the story grow organically?

JW:  Originally it was going to be three books. I had NO idea where or how the story was going to unfold, I just started writing and let the characters take me on a ride. During the writing of “For Whom The Reap Tolls”, I realized I had so much more story to tell, so I approached Devil Dog Press about it becoming an open-ended series. While that question was out in the infinite void, something wonderful happened during the telling of the story and I knew, if Devil Dog Press, wanted to keep it at three books, I had my ending. When they agreed to allow it to continue on, I decided to use what I had as an ending for book three and open the book four story with it. I cannot wait for that portion of the universe to unfold.

SS:  What did you edit out of this book?

JW:  Because of the way I write, very little gets edited out. I don’t have those stories of “I cut an entire character or chapter out of my WIP!” I’ve been writing for over twenty years now and have managed to develop a very efficient method, so next to nothing gets cut.

SS:  Are your characters based on people you know, or do they live solely in your imagination? 

JW:  Actually, Grim is the one character I’ve written that is closest to me. I’ve put so much of myself in that character, readers probably know me better than they realize. This might be why the series is so easy for me to write.

SS:  What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

JW:  I’m friends with a lot of authors. I consider Jaime Johnesee my “sister from another”. She always has a positive outlook on life, even when things aren’t always going well. I find, being an artist, that is so very necessary. Jay Wilburn also embodies a very similar outlook. Brent Abell is another good friend of mine. He and I have spent hours talking shop and our other, geekier, leanings. Armand Rosamilia helped me quite a bit in the early days...showing everyone that it’s not about the individual, but the community as a whole.
There are so many writers out their, worthy of respect, love, and friendship.

SS:  Besides your Reaper series, are there any upcoming projects on your radar you'd like to share with us today?

JW:  I am currently in the editing process with my book “Dead Twin Sister” (the sequel to “The Dark Seduction”, that stars real-life rock band, Die So Fluid), as well as about to finish up the first draft of “Suicide Machine” (The sequel to “Suicide Station”). I will then be embarking on co-authoring a new series, for Devil Dog Press, with Jaime Johnesee  and Christine Sutton, called “Hell, Inc.”

SS:  Could you offer your fans a little teaser for what Grim and company might face in the next installment?

JW:  Without giving too much away, if you’ve read the third book, you know what’s in store for the immediate future. But that happily ever after will not happen without a few bumps and bruises along the way.

SS: Thank you so much for sharing with us a little about your books and writing process, Jack. Best of luck with your new release! If you enjoyed today's feature, please check out Jack Wallen's Reaper Series

Check Out Book One

A Tale of Two Reapers

Friday, November 17, 2017

Review & Spotlight for "The Monster Of Selkirk" by C.E. Clayton

Happy Friday Everyone! Today I'm very excited to share a new read for me, along with a new author I've had the privilege to discover. For more on my thoughts of The Monster of Selkirk, just keep reading. Suffice to say, this is one book you'll want to devour again and again. Be sure to follow along with the rest of the tour via Bewitching Book Tours for more of the story behind this compelling tale.

The Monster Of Selkirk

The Duality of Nature : Book 1

by C.E. Clayton

Monsters come in many forms, and not everyone knows a monster when they see one. After three hundred years of monstrous, feral elves plaguing the island nation of Selkirk, everyone believes they know what a monster is. Humans have learned to live with their savage neighbors, enacting a Clearing every four years to push the elves back from their borders. The system has worked for centuries, until after one such purge, a babe was found in the forest.

As Tallis grows, she discovers she isn't like everyone else. There is something a little different that makes people leery in her presence, and she only ever makes a handful of friends.

But when the elves gather their forces and emerge from the forests literally hissing Tallis's name like a battle mantra, making friends is the least of her troubles. Tallis and her companions find themselves on an unwilling journey to not only clear her name, but to stop the elves from ravaging her homeland.

Amazon | BN | Kobo | iTunes | Smashwords | Goodreads

My Review

5 of 5 Stars

The Monster of Selkirk by C.E. Clayton really surprised me. I'm not sure what I was expecting from the premise, besides wicked elves and what sounded like a historical Scottish setting. What I found was a kick butt heroine who not only knows how to fight (thanks to her Knighted cousin), but a cast of colorful characters in a very grounded fantastical world. Selkirk is actually an island, largely forested, where the humans have kept elves at bay for hundreds of years. Ever since the elves went feral and lost their ability to speak intelligibly, humans have treated them like animals. They even host frequent clearings, destroying the elves homes and killing without mercy. So is it any wonder the elves might decide to fight back? 

Our main heroine, Tallis is somewhat unconventional from a small age. Her eyes are a little too big, her hair a little wild, but everyone seems willing to accept her as their own. Her village is poor but this doesn't stop Tallis from soaking in as much she can through books in the nearby abbey, learning how to fight from her cousin Donovan, and causing mischief whenever she gets the chance. From the beginning we can already see hints of what Tallis may become, but this doesn't detract in any way from each reveal. 

It's been a while since I've read a story that takes the time to give you backstory like this. As we grow up with Tallis, we are drawn deeper and deeper into Clayton's imagination until we feel every injustice she witnesses just as keenly. Besides Donovan, Tallis draws a makeshift family of her own through her pick-pocket friend Rosslyn and monk-in-training/inventor, Tomas. Everything is set up for a hero's journey and we know we will see these characters see Tallis through to the inevitable end. 

I can't say more without giving away spoilers for the book, but suffice to say, this was a privilege to read. Not only am I anxious to read the sequel, but I would highly recommend this series for fans of Shannara Chronicles and The Wheel of Time Series.

About the Author:

C. E. Clayton was born and raised in Southern California where she worked in the advertising industry for several years on accounts that ranged from fast food, to cars, and video games (her personal favorite). This was before she packed up her life, husband, two displeased cats, and one very confused dog and moved to New Orleans. Now, she is a full time writer (mainly in the fantasy genre), her cats are no longer as displeased, and her dog no longer confused.

More about C.E. Clayton, including her blog, book reviews, and poetry, can be found on her website:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mad Magic Blitz Tour with Xpresso Book Tours

Mad Magic
Nicole Conway
Published by: Month9Books
Publication date: November 14th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Mad Magic is a beautifully dark and rich Young Adult fantasy from Nicole Conway, bestselling author of the Dragonrider Chronicles.
Josie Barton is a high school student living in terror. Invisible creatures torment her everywhere she goes, constantly getting her into trouble at school, and even haunting her apartment. But just when Josie thinks things couldn’t get any worse . . . she meets the guy from across the hall.
Zeph Clemmont is a changeling with enemies in all the worst places, fighting to undo a curse that threatens to end his life. Survival means he will have to swallow his pride and trust Josie with all his darkest secrets.
With the help of a gun-slinging shaman and the enigmatic Prince of Nightmares, Zeph and Josie are only a heartbeat away from defeating one of the most diabolical faerie villains their world has ever known.

Book Excerpt


    “A weeping stone.” Eldrick was reading over my shoulder.

    His closeness made me jump in surprise. “A what?”

    “It goes back to our pilgrimage into your world,” he explained.
“A very, very long time ago, even before the first songs. Our kind
came into this world through an ancient gateway, fleeing from an
unspeakable terror that was ravaging our own realm. Our home had
become a place of darkness and fear—a place without moonlight.”

    My skin prickled. “What … kind of terror?”

    Memories flickered in the depths of his silver eyes. “There is no
word for them in the human language. We called them skiia—the
devourers. They cannot be bargained or reasoned with. Their only
motive is to drain every drop of magic they possibly can, and as they
do, they spread like a plague.”

    I swallowed and sank back in my seat.

    “We came here as refugees after our own world was overrun,”
Eldrick murmured. “Humankind looked upon us with awe and
adoration. We made our home here, eager to share this beautiful
world with you, but not before sealing away the ancient gateway so
that the evil destroying our own homeland would never find its way

    “The Fibbing Gate,” I whispered.

    Eldrick’s body shuddered at the name. “I was very young when
it happened. My memories of it have all but faded to nothing. In
that same way, such stories of the gateway have become myths. My
father told them to me as a child.” He ran one of his fingers over the
drawing on the page. “Weeping stones were said to guard it. They
stones are made of iron, which as you know has incredible power
against faerie magic, so that no one would ever be able to open it

    “Why would my dad be interested in it?”

    His expression steeled as he studied the page. “I don’t know,” he
finally admitted. “But there’s someone else who might.”

Author Bio

NICOLE CONWAY is an author from North Alabama. She graduated from Auburn University in 2012, and has previously worked as a graphic artist. She is happily married and has one son as well as a cat and a dog. She enjoys blogging, traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Author's Playlist

“Shatter Me” (feat. Lzzy Hale) – Lindsey Stirling
 “Turn Me On”  – David Guetta & Nicki Minaj
 “Lights” (Bassnectar Remix) – Ellie Goulding
 “It Was Always You” – Maroon 5
 “Confident” (Deluxe Edition) – Demi Lovato
 “Closer” (feat. Halsey) – The Chainsmokers
 “Little Bad Girl” (feat. Taio Cruz & Ludacris) – David Guetta
 “Break Your Heart” – Taio Cruz & Ludacris
 “Break Free” (feat. Zedd) – Ariana Grande


Click on the link below for a chance to win a 
$25 gift card to any place of the winner's choosing:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Book Blitz & Review for Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Book Release Celebration for
Christmas Secrets
By Donna Hatch

Donna Hatch is bringing readers some sweet romance this holiday season...

Christmas Secrets
by Donna Hatch
Historical Romance
Paperback & ebook, 260 Pages
November 9th 2017 by Mirror Lake Press LLC

A stolen Christmas kiss leaves them bewildered and breathless. A charming rogue-turned-vicar, Will wants to prove that he left his rakish days behind him, but an accidental kiss changes all his plans. His secret could bring them together...or divide them forever.

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; finally earn her mother's approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss...even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost.


My Review

4 of 5 Stars

Christmas Secrets, a Regency-Era Romance by Donna Hatch, is a heart-warming historical fiction about family and forgiveness. The Christmas house party drama plays out like a well-staged romantic comedy, filled with misunderstandings and one very lovely ghost.

There are plenty of shades of Jane Austen to satisfy fans of the genre. Will Berry is as worthy a hero as any Knightly with the gravitas of Darcy. As the youngest child in my family, I connected with Holly's struggle to be the perfect daughter. But also appreciated how any major conflict between family members is overcome in light of the season. While the romance is very clean in line with the expectations of the era, simple moments like the touch of a hand become swoon-worthy.

It's been some time since an author made me believe their characters like this, but Donna Hatch writes it so beautifully I was quickly drawn into the idyllic past. My only criticism would be several typos near the beginning, but don't let this deter you from enjoying the story. Many of the tropes are familiar but this makes it almost more enjoyable when these characters do something unexpectedly lovely.

A delightful holiday read for anyone in need of a little sweet romance this season.

Exclusive Excerpt

This scene takes place when everyone on Christmas Day takes a turn kissing their spouse or sweetheart underneath the mistletoe ball. Now the group turn to Will and Holly, who have only known each other a few days, and start goading them into sharing a mistletoe kiss... 
“Come now, don’t be shy,” her sister called. “It’s tradition.”
The others called out encouragements.
Apology edged into Will’s uncertain expression. “Do you mind?”
Holly’s palms grew sweaty inside her gloves, and her smile probably came out wobbly. “Who are we to go against tradition?” Did she sound desperate in her desire to kiss him?
Will held out a hand. She placed hers in it and walked at his side to the kissing ball. They stood, hand in hand, facing each other. His neck cloth shifted as he swallowed. He leaned in. Her heart stumbled and her knees shook. She closed her eyes. Aching, she lifted her face. His cinnamon-spiced breath warmed her mouth.
He kissed her cheek.
Stunned, she opened her eyes. The watching guests groaned and some chuckled.
“No, no, that won’t do at all,” Joseph’s voice rang out. “Give her a proper kiss.”
Will froze. That intensity she occasionally saw in him returned. “Holly.” He swallowed again but instead of nervousness, a hunger that sent a flurry of shivers through her overtook his expression. “May I?”
She nodded. It didn’t matter if he saw how much she wanted this, wanted him. Let him know. Let the whole world know.
 He touched her chin, lifted it, and leaned in. Again, she closed her eyes. This time his lips touched hers, pliant and unbelievably gentle. Heat exploded at the contact and shot through her all the way down to her tingling toes. Different from her mystery kiss, this one sang of affection and respect and a deep longing to be accepted. Sweeter, more chaste, more filled with caring, Will’s kiss brought her a level of joy she’d never known. All the world faded away leaving Will and the power of his affection, his touch, his kiss. Every moment of her life seemed to have been designed to bring her to this single, perfect moment of bliss and wholeness.
“Ahem.” Father cleared his throat conspicuously.
Will pulled away all too quickly. A tiny sound of distress caught in Holly’s throat. It was over too soon. But oh, what a glorious kiss!

About the Author

Donna Hatch is the author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series,” and a winner of writing awards such as The Golden Quill and the International Digital Award. A hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, she discovered her writing passion at the tender age of 8 and has been listening to those voices ever since. She has become a sought-after workshop presenter, and also juggles freelance editing, multiple volunteer positions, and most of all, her six children (seven, counting her husband). A native of Arizona who recently transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband of over twenty five years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

Tour Giveaway


- 1 winner will receive a Mistletoe "Kissing Ball" Ornament, an ebook
of A Christmas Reunion or Mistletoe Magic (winner's choice) and some of Donna's favorite Christmas recipes
- Open to US/CAN only
- Ends November 13th

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#HoHoHo Readathon Updates & Challenges


Who would have thunk a Christmas readathon in November could be so much fun? Course, this could be the lonely working-from-home mom in me giddy over new friends + new books. But I think it's more than that. I think it's the Spirit of the Season already infecting me with each new page I turn. (also the classic holiday music playing in the background)

Below you'll find my reads & reviews two days into #HoHoHoRAT and my answers to some of the challenges. Stay tuned for more wintery loveliness!

Review for Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

4 of 5 Stars

Christmas Secrets, a Regency-Era Romance by Donna Hatch, is a heart-warming historical fiction about family and forgiveness. The Christmas house party drama plays out like a well-staged romantic comedy, filled with misunderstandings and one very lovely ghost.

There are plenty of shades of Jane Austen to satisfy fans of the genre. Will Berry is as worthy a hero as any Knightly with the gravitas of Darcy. As the youngest child in my family, I connected with Holly's struggle to be the perfect daughter. But also appreciated how any major conflict between family members is overcome in light of the season. While the romance is very clean in line with the expectations of the era, simple moments like the touch of a hand become swoon-worthy.

It's been some time since an author made me believe their characters like this, but Donna Hatch writes it so beautifully I was quickly drawn into the idyllic past. My only criticism would be several typos near the beginning, but don't let this deter you from enjoying the story. Many of the tropes are familiar but this makes it almost more enjoyable when these characters do something unexpectedly lovely.

A delightful holiday read for anyone in need of a little sweet romance this season.

2nd Review for Her Heart's Secret Wish by Juliana Haygert

4 of 5 Stars

Note on Cover Art: I feel this could do with an updated design. While this photo fits the love and holiday themes, the people in it don't match their characters very well. 

2017 Review: 4 Stars

I re-read this as part of my #HoHoHoRAT challenge. It has been four years since I read this and my impression remains the same. Excellent characterization and holiday fluff piece. The theme was implied without being too over handed and the cute romance with shades of gaming lingo interspersed made it extra fun for me. Since I last read this I met and married a gamer so much that was lost in translation last time is clear as rain. All in all an easy light read rife with enough college nostalgia it literally carried me back to that special time in my early twenties when anything seems possible still, but especially at Christmas.

2013 Review: 5 Stars

I bought this book on a leap of faith and was not disappointed. 'Her Heart's Secret Wish'
is a short but juicily sweet piece of fluff fiction, with enough weight to keep it grounded in reality. Haygert manages to throw you into her characters' lives and convince you they're living and breathing. Loved the seasonal theme and setting, which were handled exceptionally without too much cheese. A lovely holiday treat, both in and out of season.


I participated in the "Make a Sentence From Your List" Mini Challenge, hosted by Reviews by Martha. Basically we had to come up with a sentence using words from our book list titles. I chose to use my #hohohorat books because I like keeping in theme ;) Here are my results! Can you make a better sentence? 

HoHoHoRAT List

1. Shore Lights (Paradise Point #1) by Barbara Bretton
2. Billionaire For Christmas by Claire Adams
3. Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch
4. Her Heart's Secret Wish by Juliana Haygert
5. The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia #1) by C.S. Lewis


Her Billionaire Lion of Christmas Paradise Wish  for the Secret Wardrobe by the Narnia Shore Lights.

Stay tuned for future updates and challenge fun, and don't forget you can follow the #HoHoHoRAT fun on Twitter using the hashtag! 

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review of A Court of Wings & Ruin by S.J. Maas

A month or so ago, one of my online besties, Nada and I were talking about A Court of Mist & Fury and how we just genuinely adored it, and SJM for her talent for transcending her own series'. A Court of Wings & Ruin had already been sitting on my bookshelf for a few months by that point. I just hadn't gotten around to it yet, so I proposed, once she finished ACOMF that we form a mini-book-club and read Wings & Ruin. All the years I've been an avid reader I've always done it solo. But it was so much fun reading with someone and being able to fangirl over silly little details while we read. We exchanged theories for how we thought the book would end, while also dreading the inevitable end. 

I don't know about you, but I love the Court books by SJM. I've read all the Throne of Glass books and while I adore the epic scope of them, there's just something about the Court books and Feyre's character that I resonated with more. They've been my favorite SJM books so far. So I was beyond ecstatic when I learned there wouldn't just be more novels in the same world she had created for us, but multiple novellas as well. 

My Official Review

4 of 5 Stars

The epic conclusion of the Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy is rife with intrigue, adventure, romance and a battle between gods and souls that will have you on the edge of your seat. 

Favorite moments in the book included all the big Game of Thrones-esque moments between the High Courts. The face-off between opposing forces, Autumn vs. Night, pretty much everyone vs. Night for that matter. Words and magic both come into play in greater measure. Whereas Feyre spent most of ACOTAR dazzled by Tamlin and the Spring Court's beauty, and ACOMAF seduced and romanced by the wonder of Rhys and his Court of Dreams, in this latest installment she comes to terms with herself and her magic. Where before she was uncertain of her place in the Fae world, or if she even wanted a place among them, now she finds the courage to claim her power. 

Central themes to this book are not being afraid of who you are meant to be, to accept both the bad with the good and to savor every moment with the family you are born into and choose. I loved how the Night Court finally revealed their true selves to the other Courts. Much of this book was about unveiling the masks we wear to protect ourselves and others. I loved the fact Nesta and Feyre finally lowered their guard enough to truly be sisters again, and how Elaine overcame her trauma in surprising ways.

Big favorite moments for me included Lucien and Feyre's journey, the library chase, every scene with the Bone Carver and the ancients. While the Rhys/Feyre romance is still strong in this book, it takes something of a back seat as the war looms over Prythian. Instead we have a lot of Nesta and Cassian teasers. For me, I would have loved to see some real Lucien/Elaine bonding, but while I enjoyed the romance elements in this series, I wasn't disappointed with the lack-of. What I would have enjoyed more of was a little less Courts and more adventuring. Several times side characters leave on their own adventures and part of me wanted to go with them instead of more research and talking with Feyre. Although Helion was a pure delight and the Bone Carver had me wishing Feyre would steal him away and adopt him into the Night Court. And Amren continued to be both the most surprising and fun character to read. I wasn't satisfied with the results of the battle for reasons I won't mention due to spoilers.

It is difficult to write or review the third book in a trilogy because it is impossible to satisfy everyone. While there were many elements I would have rather seen SJM leave off or do differently, I can't say I didn't love this book, in spite of its flaws. I loved the beauty and ugliness of the world SJM wove. And I would be lying if I said I didn't just go and pre-order the novella companion. Excited for more adventures and fresh perspectives as we explore more stories from the Court of Thorns and Roses universe.

*Spoilers Ahead Mates*

Things I liked / didn't like: