Silver Bells by Luanne Rice

Silver Bells by Luanne Rice
Publisher/Year: Bantam Books, 2005
Format: Paperback
Pages: 298
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


The enchantment of the holidays meets the pure storytelling genius of New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice as she presents readers with a special gift for the season and a Christmas favorite in the making…

On a quaint, snowy Chelsea street, librarian Catherine Tierney and a widowed Christmas tree seller from Nova Scotia will rediscover the magic of the season, in a chance encounter that leads to a holidays surprise of love and hope powerful enough to last a lifetime.

What I thought

Update – 2020

Still found this a charming, easy-to-read Christmas tale. While nothing remarkable, this book is a cozy and enjoyable read–perfect for some light reading during the holidays! I love the thought of Christmastime in NYC!

Initial review – 2010

There is just something about this semester that has me craving brain candy and sweet-and-sappy stories. This is obviously not going to become the next literary classic, but if you’re looking for a story to get yourself in the holiday mood, I recommend giving Luanne Rice a try.

This is one of the rare (and I mean very rare) occasions where I’ve seen the movie before reading the book. I actually had no idea that this book existed until I had watched the Hallmark movie adaptation. I liked the movie a lot, and quickly added it to my Christmas movie repertoire. I was then planning on checking this out of my library until I realized that I owned a copy. D’oh.

When I first started this, I wasn’t too sure about it. It just didn’t grab me like I had been hoping it would. Once I gave it the time to develop the plot a little bit, I started enjoying it immensely. I found myself looking forward to the little breaks I had in between homework assignments so that I could curl up with this. I eventually found myself surprised at how much they had changed or left out from the movie, even though that shouldn’t really surprise me.

The plot of the story always kept me interested, but be forewarned that it can get pretty cheesy. However, despite that, it was not predictable at all. The chronology of the book is completely different than the movie, so it even had me guessing from time to time. The only thing that I found a little predictable was the location of the silver bells, but it was easy to look past that.

This was such a heartwarming story, and one of my favorite parts about reading this book was that it completely transported me to NYC at Christmas time. I’m not quite as familiar with NYC as the author, so some of the streets and area descriptions were lost on me. I did get chills though when she described the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting. Rice really had a handle on the hustle and bustle of the city during the holiday season, and I enjoyed the escape from end-of-semester work that this book gave.

I also enjoyed each of the characters. Rice gives enough background to let the reader know her characters and to get a feel for the way that they would act. We know and understand why Catherine is haunted, why Christy can be hard on his son, and why Danny wanted to escape to NYC so badly. The dialogue was written effectively, too. It just seemed completely natural, which made it easy to forget that I was actually reading a book. I heard the voices perfectly, even down to the inflections of the words.

Overall, it’s the perfect book to curl up with if you’re in the mood for some cheesy holiday fun! It’s an easy read if you’re looking to take your mind off of some stress, and will be guaranteed to leave you with a smile.

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids (Amra Thetys #1) by Michael McClung

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids (Amra Thetys #1) by Michael McClung
Publisher/Year: Michael McClung, 2012
Format: E-book (Nook)
Pages: 204
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Amra Thetys is a thief with morals–she won’t steal from anybody poorer than she is. Fortunately, anybody that poor generally doesn’t have much worth stealing!

But when a fellow thief and good friend is killed in a deal gone wrong. Amra turns her back on burglary and goes after something far more precious than jewels or gold: Revenge.

What I thought

Ahh, nothing better than a five-star read to approach the end of the year! This book was SO GOOD. I was hooked from the first chapter, and the ending had me feeling not ready to leave this world yet. I’m so ready to dive into the rest of this series!

What I loved most about this book was Amra, hands down. I just really liked her! She was fierce and tough, witty and sarcastic. And she could hold her own–without a love interest and without beauty. I became so fond of her as a character, which I love when I’m reading.

Also, can I just say that it blows me away that this was self-published? It was so well-written. The story hooked me from the start, and the plot moved effortlessly and carried me the rest of the way. The writing was at times poignant and at others hilariously clever. I also loved the world building Amra tells the story and she doesn’t go into any long-winded exposition about her world. You pick up bits and pieces as you go, and I just loved that.

I’d highly recommend this! If you are looking for a good fantasy read, this book is not to be missed!

The Gilder by Kathryn Kay

The Gilder by Kathryn Kay
Publisher/Year: Kensington Books, 2012
Format: E-book (Cloud Library)
Pages: 243
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Set against the exquisite backdrop of Florence, Italy, The Gilder is a compelling and beautifully wrought novel of secrets, friendship, betrayal, and the simple choices that change us forever…

In Marina Nesmith’s skilled hands, even the most tarnished picture frame or objet d’art can be made perfect once again. Her life, too, seems flawless, at least on the surface. But more and more, Marina is conscious of what she lacks–someone to share her joys and sorrows with, confidence in the decisions she’s made, and the courage to tell her teenage daughter, Zoe, the truth about her father.

Then Marina is invited to return to Florence, where she lived years before while learning her trade as a gilder. In those heady days, she wandered the city’s picturesque streets, marveling at the masterpieces in the Duomo and the Pitti Palace. In the church of Santa Croce, she met Thomas, an American photographer who, along with his wife Sarah, introduced Marina to a thrilling, bohemian world of art and beauty. Through them, she also learned about love, lies, and the way one mistake can multiply into many. Now, as her past and present collide, Marina will finally have to move beyond the intricate veneer she’s crafted around herself, and find the life that she–and Zoe–have been looking for.

What I thought

Y’know what–sometimes life, for as beautiful as it can be, can be very messy. Life AND relationships. And that’s what this book touches on. I really enjoyed it! I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into this, but I enjoy stories that involve the complexities of relationships. I also really enjoyed how atmospheric this was, too. I’m always up for some armchair travel, and the descriptions of life in Florence really transported me. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.

Undead by John Russo

Undead by John Russo
Publisher/Year: Kensington Books, 2010
Format: Paperback
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐



George A. Romero’s classic 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead, launched a new era of gut-munching mayhem, relentlessly terrorizing the hearts of moviegoers and launching the zombie movie phenomenon. Screenwriter John A. Russo turned the flesh-eating frenzy into two horrific, blood-drenched novels…


A cemetery in rural Pennsylvania. A brother and sister putting flowers on their father’s grave. A strange figure shambling toward them–eyes dead and teeth gnashing. So begins a night of endless terror that would live on in infamy. Seven strangers locked inside a small farmhouse fight off an army of walking corpses. Who will survive? And who will have their flesh devoured…?


Not long after the first zombie outbreak, a bus crashes in a small American town. Local churchgoers rush to the scene to save the living–and destroy the dead. But they’re too late. A terrifying new plague of undead has been unleashed. A new horde of victims has been infected. And this time, they are ravenous…


What I thought

I’ll admit–I originally picked this one up because THAT COVER! And once I saw that there were two classic zombie stories inside, I was sold. I’m glad I picked it up because I did enjoy it. I will throw a disclaimer out there–if you’re looking for a truly frightening read or something with outstanding writing, this ain’t it. Night of the Living Dead is a novelization of the movie, and Return of the Living Dead is a novelization of a screenplay for a sequel idea (not the movie most are familiar with). So, that translates into a lot of tell vs. show writing and a lot of campy horror. If you can go into this with your expectations in check, you’ll enjoy two fun zombie tales for what they are–groundbreaking tales for their time. I dunno, I thought this was a fun, easy read. It would be good to read around a campfire!

Lake of the Ozarks by Bill Geist

Lake of the Ozarks by Bill Geist
Publisher/Year: Grand Central Publishing, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 195
Rating: ⭐⭐


Before there was “tourism” and souvenir ashtrays became “kitsch,” the Lake of the Ozarks was a Shangri-la for middle-class Midwestern families on vacation, complete with man-made beaches, Hillbilly Mini Golf, and feathered rubber tomahawks.

It was there that author Bill Geist spent summers in the sixties during his school and college years, working at Arrowhead Lodge–a small resort owned by his bombastic uncle–in all areas of the operation, from cesspool attendant to bellhop.

What may have seemed like just a summer job became, upon reflection, a transformative era when a cast of eccentric, small-town characters and experiences shaped (some might suggest “slightly twisted”) Bill into the man he is today. He realized it was this time in his life that had a direct influence on his sensibilities, his humor, his writing, and ultimately a career searching the world for other such untamed creatures for the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and CBS News.

In LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Emmy Award-winning CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Bill Geist reflects on his coming-of-age in the American heartland and traces his evolution as a man and a writer. He shares laugh-out-loud anecdotes and tongue-in-cheek observations guaranteed to evoke a strong sense of nostalgia for “the good ol’ days.” Written with Geistian wit and warmth, LAKE OF THE OZARKS takes readers back to a bygone era and demonstrates how you can find inspiration in the most unexpected places.

What I thought

This book was so difficult to rate! First, there’s that dilemma on “how to rate/review” memoirs. And then there’s the fact that this book was not what I was expecting or hoping for, which is certainly not the fault of the author. I picked this one up because I have a fascination with this time period–’60s/’70s–but also with coming of age stories during this time. So, I think I was hoping for something that would give a more generalized view of the times, whereas what this turned out to be was one man’s individual tale of his summers spent at Arrowhead Lodge. Which…duh…this is his memoir, so of course it’s individualized. I dunno what I was thinking (or if my rambling even makes sense), and that isn’t the fault of the author. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book wasn’t what I was hoping it would be. But I did end up enjoying parts of it, namely Bill Geist’s humor. There’s no better way to describe his writing than to call it humorous–the guy’s funny. And honestly, this year we can use all the humor we can get. There were also moments of poignancy, and I did enjoy his reflections on how the people and places we grew up with change through the years. Overall, although not what I was expecting, this memoir was full of humor and wit, and it made for an enjoyable read.