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 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.

The Fortune Cafe (Tangerine Street Romance #1) by Julie Wright, Melanie Jacobson, and Heather B. Moore

The Fortune Cafe (Tangerine Street Romance #1) by Julie Wright, Melanie Jacobson, and Heather B. Moore
Publisher/Year: Mirror Press, 2014
Format: E-book (Nook)
Pages: 235
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Welcome to Tangerine Street

Tangerine Street is a must-see tourist stop with a colorful mix of one-of-a-kind boutiques, unique restaurants, eclectic museums, quaint bookstores, and exclusive bed-and-breakfasts. The Fortune Cafe, situated in the middle of this charming collection of shops and cafes on Tangerine Street, is a Chinese restaurant unlike any other because, well, to be honest, the fortunes found in the cookies all come true…

MIS-FORTUNE: Emma, a waitress at The Fortune Cafe will do anything to avoid opening a fortune cookie. Each fortune is rumored to somehow magically come true. Being a girl grounded in reality, she doesn’t have time for that kind of nonsense. But when trying to prevent a food fight at the cafe, Emma accidentally cracks open a fortune cookie: “Look around, love is trying to catch you.” If there is one thing that Harrison, her former best friend in high school is good at, it’s catching her unaware.

LOVE, NOT LUCK: Lucy has always been lucky…until her parents meet her fiance’s parents at a disastrous lunch at The Fortune Cafe, and she breaks her lucky jade necklace. Even worse, her fortune cookie reveals that “True love is for the brace, not the lucky.” How is she supposed to read that? She’s always considered it lucky how she met her fiance. But after breaking her necklace, Lucy’s luck takes a dive. And when her fiance dumps her, the only person she can turn to is Carter, the unluckiest guy she knows.

TAKEOUT: Stella is content in her new life of taking over her mom’s jewelry shop. No more boyfriend to worry about, and as long as she stays busy, she doesn’t have to dwell on her non-existent love life. When Evan comes into the shop with his young daughter, Stella is charmed. But she is reluctant to complicate her straightforward life, so when she reads her fortune after ordering takeout from The Fortune Cafe, she completely ignores it. After all, how can a fortune as vague as “Do the thing you fear and love is certain,” apply to her?

What I thought

Okay, so THIS is why I’m always downloading Nook freebies! I thought this was SO cute. This was an easy-to-read, light-hearted collection, perfect for fans of Hallmark movies. And surprisingly enough, even though the first story was my favorite, I still really enjoyed all of these stories as a whole. I would certainly read the next collection in this series–I am ALL about small town romance stories. All in all, I thought this was a really cute collection of sweet romance stories. My only wish was that these characters could have their own full length stories–I didn’t want to be done with these characters yet!

Six Months in Montana by Pamela Kelley

Six Months in Montana by Pamela Kelley
Publisher/Year: Piping Plover Press, 2013
Format: E-book (Nook)
Pages: 147
Rating: ⭐⭐


Molly Bishop loves living in Manhattan and managing a boutique luxury hotel. She’s about to be promoted to her dream job of General Manager, the roles she’s been striving for her entire career.

There’s only one thing standing in her way.

The will of her childhood friend, Christian Ford’s grandfather. She hasn’t even seen Christian in over ten years, but a recent run-in with his grandfather during a rare visit home, resulted in a new condition to the will. Christian will only inherit the ranch he’s been running and the real estate development business that he has expanded if he marries Molly and stays married for at least six months…

What I thought

Another Nook freebie that just didn’t do it for me. The only thing it did do was make me hungry. It was cute and simple enough, but in the end, I just thought it was okay. I’m sure there are others who would enjoy this one–it just wasn’t my cuppa tea.

The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry

The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry
Publisher/Year: Simon & Schuster, 2020
Format: ARC – paperback
Pages: 308
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


She’s got spunk. She’s got charm. She’s got the goddess Venus on her side. But can she save her city and her love life one letter at a time?

Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Where’d You Go, Bernadette in this hilarious and heartwarming novel about twentysomething Roxy, an unlucky-in-love Whole Foods employee, aspiring artist, and sometimes-vegan, who teams up with her two best friends to save Austin from gentrification–and to save Roxy’s love life–in whatever way they can. The Roxy Letters is a hilarious and heartwarming novel told through the letters that the charming and hapless Roxy, a twenty-eight-year-old Austin native, sends to her ex-boyfriend (and current roommate), Everett.

Roxy is underemployed, sexually frustrated, and uninspired. Tired of her job as a deli maid at the original Whole Foods, Roxy daydreams of breaking out of her funk and finding a job that will get her creative juices flowing. She also wouldn’t mind finding love and finding herself off the brink of financial ruin–though Everett’s late rent payments aren’t helping her with the latter.

On top of it all, gentrification is slowly changing her beloved Austin in new and evilly corporate ways. When a new Lululemon pops up at the intersection of Sixth and Lamar where the old Waterloo Video used to be, Roxy can stay silent no longer.

Encouraged by her ex-deli counter comrade Annie–now assistant to the Whole Foods CEO (Chief Ecosystem Officer) and planning an animal rights revolution from the inside–and her new friend Artemis–a vivacious and mercurial man-eater with a string of personas and paramours all over town–Roxy decides to take action. But can this spunky, unforgettable millennial keep Austin weird, avoid arrest, and discover good sex, true love, and her purpose in life in the process?

What I thought

Thank you to Simon & Schuster and Shelf Awareness for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Oh friends, this was a wild ride of a book! I never thought I could have this much fun reading a book in 2020. Let me pause before I go any further–if you are someone who is easily offended, especially by swearing or sex, this is not the book for you. If, however, you fall into the wicked category like the rest of us kids, you will find this book laugh-out-loud funny. Initially, I wasn’t sure about the epistolary format, but once I got used to it, I enjoyed it. Roxy is one helluva gal. At first, I found myself feeling increasingly frustrated with her, but after I put my Enneagram 1/Reformer self to bed, she became so endearing to me. You can’t help but root for her. The plot is too wacky to be even remotely believable, but I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a book, so I just went with it and ended up having a great time. If you’re looking for something totally off -the-wall and different, but also heartwarming, Roxy’s your gal!

Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie

Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie
Publisher/Year: St. Martin’s Press, 2020
Format: ARC – paperback
Pages: 324
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Agnes Murphy Nash is the perfect Hollywood wife–she has the right clothes, the right career, the right friends, but the wrong hot-shot movie producer husband.

Surrounded by menopausal adolescent moms, TMZ videos gone wild, and a tween with DOATM (Disgust of All Things Mom), Agnes is riding the escalator down to the bowels of divorce hell. Her only way out is to throw a grenade the size of a Beverly Hills diamond onto anyone that gets in the way of taking back her life.

A fabulously fierce and hilarious romp, Been There, Married That delivers an irresistibly outrageous blend of Crazy Rich Asians meets Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.

What I thought

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

I seem to be in the minority here. While this book was not at all what I was expecting, I did think it was a wickedly funny satire of a Hollywood divorce, which made for an excellent escapist read for the moment.

I won’t lie, I found this rough-going at the start. It took me a while to get used to Levangie’s choppy, almost stream-of-consciousness style. But her little quips and asides and one-liners were so damn funny to me that I felt like I had to keep going.

Once I did get into the story, it really did feel like escapism at its finest. This book 100% read like a trashy Hollywood TV drama, if you’re into those. There weren’t really any likeable characters, although I did root for Agnes, flaws and all, and I did really like Fin. The Hollywood lifestyle here is so over-the-top ridiculous as to be completely unrelatable, but it truly was like a TV show, so ridiculous and cringeworthy that you couldn’t turn away. Side note, I totally pictured Agnes as Kristen Wiig–which probably had to do with Agnes being SO HILARIOUS to me.

All in all, I had mixed feelings about this one. I liked it for its entertainment value, but it really was all over the place. So, if you need something right now that reads like The Kardashians, then yes, I recommend it. But if you, like I did, go into this expecting a heartwarming, redemption story of a rom-com, you might look elsewhere.

Small Town Rumors by Carolyn Brown

Small Town Rumors by Carolyn Brown
Publisher/Year: Montlake Romance, 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 289
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Everyone is talking about Jennie Sue Baker and the mess she made of her life in New York. The former high school queen bee–and wealthy darling of Bloom, Texas–has returned home after all these years, riding on a common bus and bearing two bounced alimony checks. In a town that thrives on gossip, Jennie’s fall from grace has shamed her mother, set the town buzzing, and caused old, jealous enemies to whisper in delight. They say she’s taken a job as a housekeeper, gotten a garage apartment, and might be crushing on Rick Lawson, a simple farmer with modest dreams.

As romance starts to bud, Jennies relishes what it means to follow her heart, find real new friends, and finally be herself–regardless of all the lying town chatter. But fate has another twist in store. Rumor has it that Jennie now stands to lose what matters most…unless she can convince Rick of one true thing–and that’s love.

What I thought

Sometimes, you just need a sweet, comforting escape read. This was my first time reading Carolyn Brown, and while I wouldn’t call this book life-altering, now I know that I can turn to her when I’m in the mood for a Hallmark-movie read.

Small Town Rumors was a nice and simple read, something that would be perfect for porch sitting with a glass of sweet tea or lemonade. The writing might be a little simplistic, and the characters were a bit like one-dimensional caricatures, but y’know I did really enjoy this one. I’ve been a bit stressed lately, so it was nice to kick back and relax into something Mayberry-style. Stories like this one always make me wish I had grown up in a small town. The humor wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it did make me smile, especially the banter from Lettie and Nadine. I wasn’t sure how the romance would be, but it was of the closed-door variety. This was a cute, if not entirely believable, story, and just like a good Hallmark movie, it gave me all the warm-and-fuzzies. My favorite part about this book was probably all the bookish references. Between a small used bookstore, a small town library, and a male lead who drives a bookmobile and builds little free libraries (swoon), my bookish heart was content.

If you’re in the mood for something light and comforting and guaranteed to make you smile, Small Town Rumors is sure to fit the bill.

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey
Publisher/Year: Thomas Dunne Books, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 471
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


An unforgettable historical novel about true love found and lost and the secrets we keep from one another

Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying on just the right side of scandal, while running from the life her parents have planned for her.

Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who is drawn into Selina’s orbit one fateful night, beginning a chain of events that will have a profound effect on them both. But talent and ambition are not enough to earn Lawrence a place in Selina’s gilded world, and there are consequences for girls like her who break the rules. When tragedy strikes, Selina finds herself choosing what her head tells her is safe over what her heart knows is right.

Spanning two decades and a seismic shift in British history as World War II approaches, Iona Grey’s The Glittering Hour is an epic novel of passion, heartache, and loss.

What I thought

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Thomas Dunne Books for the free finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review to be featured as part of the blog tour.

Let me begin this review by simply stating that this book made me cry. More than once. I finished it this morning around 5:30 AM, sitting in my bed before work, with silent tears rolling down my face. Maybe to some this doesn’t sound like much, but for me, that means this book was a big deal. I’m a weeper–I weep at the merest commercial, but I very rarely shed tears over a book. So for me to cry in response to this story, that should tell you that this is, indeed, a special book.

Make no bones about it, The Glittering Hour is a slow-burn of a heartbreaking novel about love–love found, love lost, and the definition of what it truly means to love. This rich, evocative story reminded me of The Notebook and, at times, The Time Traveler’s Wife, although The Glittering Hour is strictly historical fiction. Iona Grey’s simple yet lush writing style transported me to the England of the mid-1920s and the mid-1930s, squarely between two World Wars. London came to dazzling life, and so did the struggling, foreboding Blackwood Park.

What made this book so touching and moving to me, though, was the characters. I became attached to bright, feisty Selina and brooding but passionate Lawrence. And even though I guessed how their story would end fairly early on, I still hoped with my heart of hearts for another outcome because their love was so romantic and intense and sweet and believable and true. I will take a step back, however, and say that while certain aspects of this story were predictable, there were enough that weren’t to keep the story moving. Back to the characters. I loved dear, sweet Alice and my heart absolutely ached for her. I was also very fond of Polly and Mr. Patterson. My only complaint with this book, and what kept it from five-star status, was that I wished the rest of the characters had been a little more fleshed out and a little less black and white.

With that being said, I think fans of historical fiction will definitely want to add The Glittering Hour to their winter TBR. This would be the perfect read for a long winter day spent cozied up by the fire. The Glittering Hour releases Tuesday, December 10, 2019 and has been picked as a BOTM December 2019 selection. You’ll want to make sure that you don’t miss out on this one!

About the author

IONA GREY is the author of the award winning Letters to the Lost. She has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters.

Keepsake by Kristina Riggle

13005984Keepsake by Kristina Riggle
Publisher/Year: William Morrow, 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟





From the critically acclaimed author of Real Life & Liars and Things We Didn’t Say comes a timely and provocative novel that asks: What happens when the things we own become more important than the people we love?

Trish isn’t perfect. She’s divorced and raising two kids–so of course her house isn’t pristine. But she’s got all the important things right and she’s convinced herself that she has it all under control. That is, until the day her youngest son gets hurt and Child Protective Services comes calling. It’s at that moment when Trish is forced to consider the one thing she’s always hoped wasn’t true: that she’s living out her mother’s life as a compulsive hoarder.

The last person Trish ever wanted to turn to for help is her sister, Mary–meticulous, perfect Mary, whose house is always spotless…and who moved away from their mother to live somewhere else, just like Trish’s oldest child has. But now, working together to get Trish’s disaster of a home into livable shape, two very different sisters are about to uncover more than just piles of junk, as years of secrets, resentments, obsessions, and pain are finally brought into the light.

What I thought

Even though I ultimately enjoyed this one, I have to say–this book stressed me out!

Hoarding doesn’t affect me personally, but I found this to be a very fascinating and informative account of this disorder. With that being said, much like what happens when I watch the show, when I read this, I just wanted to go through my home and throw everything away. I think part of what interests me so much about hoarding is that I can’t wrap my head around it–it’s so hard for me to understand. I think that is part of where Riggle excels with this book. She takes an inaccessible topic and makes it understandable through the perspective of her characters.

Where I struggled with this book was with the characters, which was unusual for me. I get the whole “making a character unlikeable makes them seem more realistic” thing, but this time, it was hard for me to swallow. Mary had her own set of problems, but I found myself more sympathetic towards her. I just really could not stand Trish. Riggle tries, through various reveals, to get the reader to understand her. And I do…on some level. But I still do not get why she was so nasty, so defensive and such a woe-is-me-everyone-gangs-up-on-me kind of martyr. I also REALLY disliked her influence on Jack and how she was seemingly unaffected by the fact that she was turning him into a little hoarder.

Overall, I really did enjoy this read. I don’t think it’s something I would re-read, but if you are at all interested in hoarding and are looking for a family drama, this one is for you. The ending was tied up a little neatly, but I think this was a great look at a psychological disorder & an emotionally-investing look into a family with its own problems but that ultimately pulls together in the face of adversity.