Review: Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Graynor and Heather Webb

Summary: It’s August 1914 in England, as Evie watches her brother, Will, and his best friend,Tom, leave to fight in the war. Everyone’s convinced that their boys will be back by Christmas time, and Evie dreams of celebrating the holiday with Will and Tom in Paris. But as months and years go by with the war raging on, Tom, Evie and others grow closer than ever through letters, telegrams, newspaper columns and more. Decades later, Tom returns to Paris to read one final letter, with his and Evie’s past history from the Great War in tow.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

I’ve been craving books surrounding Christmas this December, and Last Christmas in Paris appealed to two of my favorite things: Christmas and historical fiction. The book centers around World War I, as Will and Tom go off to fight in the war, leaving Evie in England with her best friend, Alice. I found Last Christmas in Paris through the Reese Witherspoon Bookclub, which I am part of here on Goodreads.

I really enjoyed Last Christmas in Paris for its unique format, as the book is primarily told through letters between Tom and Evie, as well as exchanges between other characters in the novel through letters and telegrams. I liked the way that Heather Webb and Hazel Graynor were able to weave and connect multiple subplots within this format. We see Tom and Will love and struggle with life as soliders. We see Evie wish she was at the Front herself, as Alice leaves for the war herself. We see Tom try to run his father’s newspaper from the Front, which allowed me to learn about how propaganda and newspapers were influenced by the British government during WWI. I actually read A Last Christmas In Paris over the weekend I was studying for my history exam on the World Wars, so reading the book was a pretty cool way for me to prep for my final. If only my professor would’ve allowed me to cite it as historical evidence!

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So how Christmas-y is Last Christmas in Paris?

On a scale from 1 to 10, I say that Last Christmas in Paris gets a 7 for being Christmas-y. The novel is spilt into 4 parts, which each part designating a year of the war, and before we dive into the letters, we see Tom celebrating Christmas in Paris 50 years after the war has ended. I really liked these narrative sections from Tom because they were quite festive, and they helped glue what we were learning in the letters together. Throughout the letters, we do have the characters talking about Christmas, but more so when the holiday is approaching. I think the book would have had a larger emphasis on Christmas if the book only focused on one year of the war, with Tom and Evie wishing to reunite for the holiday

Overall, I enjoyed Last Christmas in Paris for its unique story on World War I. It took me a little while to get into the format and writing style, but as I mentioned before, I liked how the subplots were able to contribute to the overall plot of the novel (sorry, no spoilers for you!). I didn’t necessarily love Last Christmas in Paris because there were times that the story did drag a bit, and it’s not necessarily a book that will stick with me for a long time—I’ll most likely remember as a quick, historical fiction read on World War I.

Have you read Last Christmas in Paris? Share in the comments!

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Holiday Q & A

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—next to summer, of course! I celebrate Christmas during the holiday season, and Christmas is my favorite holiday, but not just for the gifts. I just love the feel of the season- listening to Christmas music, decorating, baking holiday treats, and getting to buy presents (and okay, receiving them is pretty nice too). Today, I’ll be doing the Holiday Q & A, hosted by The Blended Blog. I’m so happy that they created this Q & A because I had so much fun doing their Fall Q & A last month.

holiday q and a

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Real or fake tree?

Real tree. I love the smell of real Christmas trees too much to not have one.

Favorite Holiday Cookie?

Snickerdoodles! They’re one of my favorite things to make and of course, eat. If you don’t feel like making them from scratch, use yellow cake mix.

Home on Christmas Morning or Travel?

Always home! I couldn’t imagine not being home on Christmas morning and I stay home the entire day in pajamas, watching Christmas movies with my family.

Clear or Colored Lights?

Either! If you’re going for a really festive look, colored lights are the way to go. If you’re looking for a bit more elegant or wintery look, I’d go with clear lights.

Send Christmas Cards?

My family typically sends one out every year with some sort of family photo.

Favorite Christmas Present received?

Santa Claus has always treated me very well, and I don’t think I can decide on just one gift, but I’m going to go with receiving Hamilton tickets last year!

Favorite Christmas Present Given?

My mom and I found classic handheld video games for my dad last year and he absolutely loved them. We gave him Space Invaders and a football handheld game.

Stockings or no stockings?

Stockings! I think stockings are great for giving small Christmas-y treats, like holoiday M&Ms and mini jars of nutella, and for more practical and everyday gifts like, hair ties and fuzzy socks.

Christmas PJs?

Yes!! My grandma gives me a pair of Christmas pajamas every year on Christmas Eve. My favorite pair came with a pair of Christmas shorts with mini Christmas trees and snowflakes.

Favorite Christmas carol?

I love Christmas music so much, and I always start listening to holiday music  on November 1st. This is the hardest question here, so I’m going to go with a few of my favorites: “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” by John Lennon, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Mariah Carey, “Cold December Nigh”t by Michael Bublé, “Do You Hear What I Hear” by Carrie Underwood, and “A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burt Ives

Favorite Holiday tradition?

Decorating the  Christmas tree with my family.

Early Shopper or Last Minute?

Early shopper. This year I picked up one of my siblings’ gifts before Halloween, and I finished up most of my shopping by Thanksgiving weekend. I sometimes pick up a few odds and ends closer to the holiday.

Favorite Christmas Movie or Show?

Another hard question! My favorite Christmas movies include Arthur Christmas, The Santa Clause, A Year Without a Sant ClausNew Year’s EveHome Alone, Elf, and Love Actually. TV-show wise, I always enjoy Full House and Glee‘s holiday specials.

Favorite Holiday Beverage?

It might be considered more of a Thanksgiving drink, but apple cider! If I want something maybe a bit more Christmas-y, I’d go with hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows.

Cookies and Milk for Santa?

Yup! When my siblings and I woke up on Christmas morning, my dad was sure to follow to take a photo of Santa’s eaten plate.

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Now here’s a question for you: What’s your favorite holiday-inspired book? I think mine’s Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle. Share in the comments!

Top Five Wednesday: Characters on the Naughty List

Today’s Top Five Wednesday is inspired by characters who may find some coal in their stockings on Christmas morning. We’re encouraged to talk about our favorite villains or characters that we just don’t like, but I’m going to be focusing on my favorite villains or villain-like characters that Santa would probably have a hard time putting on a the nice list.

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Victor & Eli from V.E. Schwab’s ViciousVicious is my favorite V.E. Schwab book, as well as one of my favorite books of 2017, mainly for ITS AMAZING CAST OF CHARACTERS, VICTOR AND ELI INCLUDED. The important thing to remember when reading Vicious is that our characters aren’t meant to be good (Santa may have a hard time understanding this). I admit that I like Victor a bit more than Eli, but overall, I loved their story AND I CANNOT WAIT FOR VENGEFUL!

Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo- Okay, so I have some explaining to do here: I don’t think at all think that Kaz Brekker is a villain nor do I think he is a bad person. As I write this post, I’m starting to realize how many ‘bad’ characters have redeemable characteristics that don’t exactly make them evil. Anyways, regarding Kaz, he would be another person who Santa wouldn’t exactly understand. I think Kaz would wake up to some coal, but also find a new pair of gloves.

AI from Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff– AI earns a spot on the naughty list because he just flat out terrifies me. He would definitely demand gifts and you know, just take over my entire spaceship and everyone on it if he didn’t receive anything.

 Elle’s stepmother from Geekerella by Ashley Poston- JUST LET THE GIRL WEAR HER DRESS AND GO TO EXCELSICON AND KEEP THE DOG AND BY THE WAY, GET OUT OF HER HOUSE. Please. Geekerella is a true Cinderella retelling, as Elle is bullied by her not-so-nice stepmother and stepsisters, who most definitely should be on Santa’s naughty list. If you’re looking for a book with a lot of fangirl feels, this one is for you.

Top 5 Wednesday is a collaborative group of book bloggers from various platforms who love sharing lists on Wednesdays. The T5W group can be found here on Goodreads.

 

Mystery Blogger Award Round 2

The Mystery Blogger Award was created by Okoto of Okoto Enigmas Blog, and the purpose of the award is to honor bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging. Emme of Literary Lattes ever-so graciously nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award. This is actually my second time doing the award, as I was previously nominated by Rebecca of mylifeasasportsfangirl, but I wanted to do it again after Emme’s nomination. Plus, Emme is inspiring me to write more in December, as she isparticipating in Blogmas!

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The Rules:

  • Put the logo/image of your blog.
  • List the rules.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award and link their blog.
  • Tell your reader 3 things about yourself.
  • You have to nominate 10-20 people.
  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question.

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3 Things about Haley of Fangirl Fury:

1.My favorite album of the year is a tie between Paramore’s After Laughter and Taylor Swift’s reputation. I’m so happy Paramore and Taylor came out with new music this year, and I can easily listen to both albums from beginning to end. Honestly, the only song I don’t absolutely love on After Laughter is “No Friends”, and my favorite songs off reputation include “New Year’s Day”, “I Did Something Bad”, and “…Ready For It?”

2. I love baking, especially during the holiday season. My go-to holiday treats are snickerdoodles and magic cookie bars. This year I’m going to make gingerbread for the first time, and I’m so excited to make them with my holiday-themed cookie cutters.

3.My favorite shoes to wear during the winter are Uggs! I’ve been obsessed with Uggs since I was younger and they’re still one of my favorite gifts to receive on Christmas. My favorite pair of Uggs are my Dakota Moccasins. If you have small feet like me (I’m anywhere from a US women’s size 5 to 7), buy your Uggs in kids’ sizes to save money! For most Uggs, you can’t even tell the difference between a kids’ shoe and an adult size.

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Emme’s Questions:

What is one of your New Years Resolutions (or goals for 2018)?

I don’t really have any resolutions for the new year right now, but one of my reading goals for 2018 is to continue, or start based on what I read in December, my Throne of Glass reread in anticipation for the final ToG book in 2018.

One thing you’ve learnt while blogging?

It’s really amazing to be involved in a community of people who have the same or similar interests. In this case, it’s books! I was (and still am) a really big Booktube viewer before creating my blog, but because I didn’t create my own bookish content, I felt that I wasn’t too involved in the community. Creating my own blog has allowed me to not only share my voice in the book community, but to also create friendships with some pretty awesome bloggers.

Do you have any book/fandom merchandise? If so, what?

I do! I have a ranger of book/fandom merchandise, including plenty of bookish totes, bookish pins, Funko Pops, mugs, a To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets Sixteen Candles card I received from Jenny Han at Book Con, a poster of the map from Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series, t-shirts, and probably a few other things I am currently forgetting. The bookish merchandise I am most proud of is my lanyards from Book Con 2015 and Book Con 2017. I keep the majority of bookish pins on them and I display them on my bookshelves.

Pick two random books from your shelf. What are they? Would you mash the two together to create a separate novel?

I’m picking two books that are fairly close to each other on my shelf and are written by the same author: Cress and Heartless by Marissa Meyer. Since both books are fairytale retellings, I could somehow see them working together. Maybe instead of just introducing the story of Rapunzel/Cress in Cress, Cath, based on the Queen of Hearts, from Heartless could also be introduced in Cress’s story. She could be Cress’s companion on the satellite!

How do you stay organized (with school/work/blogging, etc.)?

When balancing blogging with school and work, I am a huge believer in scheduling. I like to schedule my blog posts at least two weeks in advance, with all, if not the majority,  of the posts written and graphics and/or photos ready to go. During the school year, I take Fridays to go into WordPress and schedule my posts for the next week, and I tend to write most of my posts on the weekends. If I blog during the week, I make sure it’s after all of my schoolwork is done for the day.

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Since this is my second time doing the award, I am not going to be nominating anyone this go-around. Thanks again to Emme for nominating me! I had fun answering her questions, and be sure to check out Literary Lattes!

Review: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Summary: Baking is in Issy’s blood- if not, there’s definitely plenty of sugar and butter! Raised by a baking extraordinaire of a grandfather, Issy can whip up the most delicious cakes and treats. After being laid off from her desk job, she decides to open up her own café. But Issy soon learns that running a business, even one inspired by her passion, isn’t a piece of cake.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts: 

As someone who loves British contemporaries and books featuring baking, I am in shock that I had never heard of Jenny Colgan’s books until a recent trip to the library with my mom. I was perusing through the adult books section of my library, planning out how I was going to read ALL the books during my winter break, when I found Jenny Colgan’s Meet Me at the Cupcake Café sitting on the shelf. I was going to put off this book about baking until my winter break, but I couldn’t help myself from going back to the library later in the week to pick it up. I am quite happy with my decision because I absolutely adored Meet Me at the Cupcake Café.

As you can tell from above, Meet Me at the Cupcake Café has a huge emphasis on baking, as Issy opens her own cupcake shop. The most unique element of the book is that it features recipes of many of Issy’s treats that she makes in the book. They filled me with desire to bake, especially for Christmas ( I may have been looking up gingerbread recipes when I should have been writing a paper), and I really want to try to make the Nutella cookies. They recipes are really special and important to the story because Izzy’s grandfather, Gramps, sends them to her through letters. Issy and Gramps have a super close relationship, as her grandfather raised Issy and he influenced her to fall in love with baking. The most heartbreaking element of the novel is seeing Gramps suffer from dementia, but through it all, he supports Issy’s opening of the café. Issy’s moments with her grandfather often brought tears to my eyes, and by the end of the novel I was full-on crying—the first book in a while to make me do so!

Moving on to the more heart-warming aspects of the novel, Meet Me at the Cupcake Café has such a funny and supportive cast of characters for Issy. Pearl and Helena were my favorite side characters, as they brought a lot of humor to the story, but they also supported Issy the most. What really made me laugh out loud were the interactions between Caroline and Pearl’s son, Louis. The following argument between the two made me laugh out loud:

“ “Caline,” said Louis seriously, leaning over to make his point. “Bad cake, Caline.”

“No, yummy cake, Louis,” said Caroline tightly.

“No, Caline,” said Louis. Issy hastily got in the middle before it turned into a genuine argument between a forty-year-old and a two-year-old.

There is a bit of romance in the novel, as each woman in the novel deals with their own relationships. I didn’t mind the romance, with the exception of Issy. Her relationship with her on-and-off again boyfriend, Graeme, frustrated me to no end, especially since she had a much better suitor throughout the story. However, the romance really doesn’t affect my opinion or rating of the novel that much because the baking and storyline made up for it immensely. I just fell in love with Issy’s story, the people in her life, and of course, the cakes. Although it’s an adult novel, if you love the baking aspects of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I Loved Before trilogy and want a book with even more of an emphasis on baking, pick this one up immediately!

I want to read ALL of Jenny Colgan books now, especially the ones that have to do something with baking and food! And she has so many books centered on Christmas, including the sequel to Meet Me at the Cupcake Café!

Do you enjoy books about baking? Have you read anything by Jenny Colgan? Share in the comments!

Fierce Fangirl Friday: British Contemporary Love & Recommendations

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Fierce Fangirl Friday is a weekly post created and hosted by Jackie of Too Much of a Booknerd. Jackie created Fierce Fangirl Friday for us fangirls to have the opportunity to discuss our latest or favorite fangirl obsessions. Today, I’ll be talking about one of my all-time favorite genres: British contemporary.

Let’s just start off by saying that I am a contemporary books girl at heart. Yes, I love a good fantasy or historical fiction, but the majority of my TBR pile is primarily made up of contemporary novels. I admit that lately I have begun to lean toward adult contemporary over young-adult contemporary—a person is NEVER too old to read YA, but I think as I become a bit more mature, I find myself relating to adult contemporary more. And as you might guess from my FFF’s title, British contemporaries are the best kind of adult contemporary reads.

So why do I love British contemporaries so much?

1.British culture AKA I WANT TO LIVE IN A VILLAGE

Okay, so maybe it’s because I have always lived in the US and haven’t experienced what it’s like to live in the UK, but I love reading about the cities and villages our characters live in. In most novels, villages are often where our protagonists journey or return to, and I love how many villages feature cute, close-knit communities.

2. They often feature strong/hard-working/hilarious FEMALE protagonists

Many of the British contemporaries I’ve read feature a protagonist who is down on her luck and is trying to figure out where to go next in her career, relationships, or life in general. They’re often very relatable, and they tend to get themselves into some funny situations as they try to head in the right direction

3.They are the perfect books to not put down

Do you like comfort food? If you do, then you’re in for a treat, as British contemporaries are the literary equivalent. Whenever I’m really in the mood to read and I want a book that will keep me glued to its pages, I go for a British contemporary because I often find myself needing to know what is going to happen to our characters. Will they choose the village over city life? A new career? The perfect cupcake recipe?. I find that these books make the perfect beach reads or rainy day reads—basically whenever you can devote a lot of time to reading?

So who & what do I recommend??

If you’re just branching out into the genre, I’d say your first stop is Sophie Kinsella, the QUEEN of British contemporaries. I recently wrote in my review of The Undomestic Goddess that I firmly believe that everyone needs a Sophie Kinsella book in their life. Her books often feature characters down on their luck and trying to figure out their next step, as well as hilarious, heart-warming casts of characters. I have yet to pick up her Confessions of a Shopaholic, even though I really enjoy its film adaptation, but here’s what I read from her so far: Finding Audrey, I’ve Got Your Number, My Not-So Perfect Life, and The Undomestic Goddess.

Cecelia Ahern and Jojo Moyes are also classic British contemporary authors. Jojo Moyes has a variety of contemporary novels, the most well known being Me Before You. I have a few more of her books in my TBR pile, but I recently enjoyed her book, One Plus One – if you like family-driven novels and road trips, this one is for you. If you’re looking for books focused on relationships and feels, Cecelia Ahern is perfect for you. I loved P.S. I Still Love You and Love, Rosie back in 2016, and I want to pick up One Hundred Names soon.

A new favorite contemporary author of mine is Jenny Colgan. If you love books about or featuring baking, then Jenny Colgan is your girl! Many of her books feature characters who are passionate about cooking and baking. I found her books while perusing the shelves of my local library and I’m so glad I did! I’ve only read Meet Me at the Cupcake Café so far, but I plan on picking up more of her books very soon!

I’ve also read Giovanna Fletcher’s Billy and Me and loved it as well, as it focuses on the relationship between an A-list actor and a small-town girl. I really want to read more of Giovanna Fletcher’s books, as well as Paige Toon, but their books are unfortunately hard to find in the US.

Do you like British contemporaries? Have you read any of the books above? Do you have any recommendations for me? Share in the comments!

Top Five Wednesday: Bookish Things I’m a Grinch About

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You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch! Today’s Today Five Wednesday is taken in all light-heartedness, as I’ll be reflecting on five bookish things that I’m not the biggest fan of — I wish Santa would just put them on the naughty list!

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Being on hold for a book in the library- I admit that waiting for a book to be available through my county library system doesn’t happen to me often- it typically occurs with popular books or new releases- but I still get a tad impatient when it does happen. Yes, I realize that I could probably go out and buy the book myself, BUT WHERE’S THE FUN IN THAT? I’m currently in this situation while being on hold for Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak. I really want to read some festive books in honor of Christmas and my TBR craves this one. Library users, PLEASE READ FAST.

The cover changes for Beth Revis’s Across the Universe series-  I really do not like cover changes mid-series to begin with, but the cover changes of the Across the Universe series made me especially upset BECAUSE THEY DECIDED TO CHANGE THE COVERS AS THE FINAL BOOK CAME OUT.  One of the first YA series I ever picked up, the Across the Universe trilogy begins abroad the spaceship Godspeed, which holds frozen passengers who will wake up 300 years in the future on a new planet. Seventeen-year old Amy wakes up 50 years before she should have and must adapt to life and society on the Godspeed. The covers of the first two books fits the space vibe perfectly. AND THEN THE THIRD BOOK TAKES ON THIS INDUSTRIAL VIBE THAT DOESN’T FIT THE FIRST TWO BOOKS AT ALL. But don’t worry, we’ll fix the first two books by MAKING THEM LOOK THE SAME AND FORGET THE ORIGINAL,FITTING COVERS. I’ll end my rant by showing you the original covers vs. new covers below:

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Running out of bookshelf space- I think this is every bookworm’s worst nightmare and one that I am currently living! I did unhaul a few books from my collection over Thanksgiving break, but with Christmas and a brand new year of books approaching, any space that I have left is in danger. ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS THAT BEAUTY AND THE BEAST SIZED LIBRARY!

Not being able to give half-star ratings on Goodreads- I remember when Goodreads updated their site earlier in 2017 and being so excited over the fact that you could finally keep track of your rereads. I thought for one minute that with the new updates, you could finally give half star ratings on Goodreads, but alas, I was wrong. I admit that I’m not the biggest fan of star ratings in general, but I wish I could provide my true star rating without having to write it in my review post on Goodreads.

The fear of my paperbacks or hardback covers being ruined in travel- Packing for college obviously entails packing books! When I travel between home and school, I often have books packed in one of my bags and throughout my journey, I drive in fear that one or more of my books will be ruined from being packed with other items. However, I think my fear could be resolved with an increasingly popular book sleeve!

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Top 5 Wednesday is a collaborative group of book bloggers from various platforms who love sharing lists on Wednesdays. The T5W group can be found here on Goodreads.