Book Review: The Trouble With Christmas

christmasTitle: The Trouble With Christmas
Author: Amy Andrews
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Pages: 400
Format Read: Book
Standalone or series: Book 2 of Credence, Colorado series
Where I got the book: BookishFirst
Date finished reading: September 21, 2019

Goodreads Description: All Suzanne St. Michelle wants is an over-the-top, eggnog-induced holiday with her best friend in Credence, Colorado. But when her hoity-toity parents insist she come home for Christmas in New York, she blurts out that her sexy landlord is actually her boyfriend and she can’t leave him—Joshy loves Christmas. The more twinkle lights the better.

Rancher Joshua Grady does not love Christmas. Or company, or chatty women. Unfortunately for him, the chattiest woman ever has rented the cottage on his ranch, invited her rich, art-scene parents, and now insists he play “fake rancher boyfriend” in a production of the Hokiest Christmas Ever. And somehow…she gets him to agree.

Apparently, he’ll do anything to get his quiet life back. At least there’s mistletoe every two feet—and kissing Suzy is surprisingly easy. But in the midst of acres of tinsel, far too many tacky Christmas sweaters, and a tree that can be seen from space, he’s starting to want what he lost when he was a kid—a family. Too bad it’s with a woman heading back to New York before the ball drops…

My Review: This book becomes available to the public today! Even though this book is the second book in a series, it works pretty well as a standalone. I think the first book might just give you a bit more background into the town and some of the supporting characters in The Trouble With Christmas. I think my favorite part of this book was the town and its interesting characters, so I feel the author has got the setting right for sure.

Suzanne St. Michelle escapes New York City for a holiday in Credence to inspire her to create her own artwork (legal art forgery is a thing and is Suzanne’s main job in NYC). She ends up renting the cottage at the ranch that Joshua Grady runs. The attraction between the two main characters, Suzanne St. Michelle and Joshua Grady, is definitely there, but it takes so long to get there. The first 100 pages were slow and somewhat boring. Much of the character development actually happens when the story picks up, so I don’t really see the need for such a long plot setup. The one big plot point from the first 100 pages that plays a recurring role throughout the story is that Joshua Grady appears to be Suzanne’s muse, so she paints him A LOT. She paints him as Michelangelo’s David, Da Vinci’s The Vitruvian Man and even on a cherub. Once he discovers these paintings, he is horrified and wants those paintings (I assumed to dispose of). She ends up using the paintings as a bribe to get him to play her fake boyfriend for her parents over the holidays. I can get behind the fake boyfriend concept, but the paintings were a bit much. If I found out that someone painted me without my permission, I would definitely do what I could to legally take them and destroy them. It’s creepy and a bit stalker-like. It was a plot point I found a hard time moving passed, but I can admit that it is unique for sure.

When Suzanne’s parents arrive, the story really picks up and becomes a lot of fun. The side story is that Suzanne’s parents’ marriage is on the rocks, and so they are in Credence for their relationship as well as for their daughter, and you can’t help but support their reunification. At this point in the story, the two main characters really start to display their attraction for each other, and the line between this being a fake relationship and a real relationship gets blurred. At the end, Suzanne uses her paintings again to manipulate Joshua, and it works one more time to give the reader a nice happy ending.

I think I would have loved the story a bit more if it was just a bit shorter by cutting much of the first 100-150 pages. However, it is a romantic story with a holiday setting filled with snow and Christmas decorations. It is a nice way to start getting in the holiday spirit!

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

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Book Review: A Christmas Date

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Title: 
A Christmas Date
Author: Camilla Isley
Genre: Holiday Romance
Publisher: Pink Bloom Press
Publication Date: October 25, 2018
Pages: 231
Format Read: Kindle ebook
Standalone or series: Book #3 of First Comes Love series
Where I got the book: NetGalley
Date Finished Reading: January 2, 2019

Goodreads Description: Even Little Miss Grinch, Nikki, a successful and independent woman, must face her bachelorette status at the most horrible time of the year.

December is her personal version of holly-jolly hell: a merry torture made of couples kissing at every corner, forced vacation days, and an inescapable family reunion.

And when her baby sister announces she’s engaged—to Paul, the man Nikki is secretly in love with—and that he’s spending the holidays with them, Christmas starts looking bluer than ever.

Nikki can’t possibly survive an entire week trapped home as the family’s spinster. But she has no time to meet men or to try the newest dating app, she’s too busy working as a video producer for an advertising agency.

So what’s a girl to do?

Nikki has the perfect solution: to hire a fake boyfriend.

Luckily, her job gives her access to an endless catalog of gorgeous actors to choose from.

But Nikki will soon discover that keeping business and pleasure from mixing isn’t so easy, and that she might not be immune to a little mistletoe magic. Especially not when she picked out the perfect man as her Christmas date…

A fun, festive romantic comedy with lots of bad behavior and Christmas spirit. Like a creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, you won’t want to put this deliciously hilarious novel down. Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Sally Thorne, and Jo Watson.

My Review: A Christmas Date is a holiday romance with some humor. Though it is the third book in a series, you can definitely read this as a stand alone, as I did.

I always enjoy watching and reading rom-coms. If you have seen the movie The Wedding Date, you will see a lot of similarities in Camilla Isley’s A Christmas Date. There are some slight differences though that created some enjoyable scenes. When Nikki hires a man to accompany her home for Christmas, she insists that he moves in with her for a couple weeks prior to the homeward visit, so they could spend as much time getting to know each other, and their relationship would be believable. I enjoyed Nikki’s roommate’s reaction to this plan and her protectiveness of Nikki.

I do wish that there had been less build up to Nikki actually taking her fake boyfriend home for Christmas and more focus on the time spent at home, because I really enjoyed the second half of the book a lot. The scene when Nikki’s sister, Julia, cooks a vegan dinner for the family made me laugh out loud. This scene leads into another great scene between the two sisters. I can totally relate to Christmas family drama.

Overall, I would recommend this fun holiday romance.

My Rating:  ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

Happy Holidays: A Year in Review 2018

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As the holiday season is in full swing, and we are getting ready to go on vacation, we wanted to put together a note to let all our friends and family know what we have been up to in 2018.

We continue to build and grow our lives in Houston. It has been a bit of a struggle to grow accustomed to life back in the States after living in Italy for a few years, but we feel that we are finally adjusting.

Earlier this year, Sarah left her position at a local public library to become a Grants Administrator at MD Anderson Cancer Research Center. After nine months at this position, she is thriving and really enjoying her work. MD Anderson has been named the top cancer hospital in the United States and, as of this year, can also boast of having a Nobel laureate as one of the faculty members. The work that MD Anderson does is very important in caring for patients with cancer and researching a cure for all cancer. This summer, Sarah realized first hand how important this work is, as her aunt passed away from lymphoma cancer.

Aunt JoAnn meant a lot to us. We have been fortunate enough to have spent quality time with her in Arizona, Texas and when she visited us in Italy. We shared many wonderful moments and laughs with her. We admired her love of life, family and friends. We love her and miss her every day.

Greg had a lot of traveling this year to exciting locations like Paris France (see pictures below) over the summer (the absolute best time to get out of the Houston heat) and Sao Paolo Brazil, as well as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.  He also had a trip to Cincinnati, so not all of the travel is to somewhere exotic.  Fall 2018 was his first semester teaching undergraduates, and he had 130 students in an intro to physics course.  It went well overall, and every week was able to get a laugh during class (which means the students were awake).  The reviews aren’t back yet, but the students probably learned something!  He’s been doing research with two really good students on neuroscience and the physics of the cytoskeleton as well.

While Greg did travel a lot for work this year, we didn’t travel collectively for fun that much, mostly because of Sarah’s new job. We did visit Greg’s brother and sister-in-law in Ohio for a weekend, but that was our only real travel adventure this year. As we are big adventurers, we had to rectify this, so after spending time with Sarah’s family on Christmas, we will be heading on a Caribbean cruise. We are looking forward to island-exploring, basking in sun, and lots of rest and relaxation.

I hope you all have an enjoyable holiday season! Feel free to drop us a line below to let us know how you are doing. We love you all!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

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Have A Happy 2018!!!

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 10.49.48 AMI am bummed that I did not manage to get a holiday message out last month, but I hope y’all had a wonderful and safe holiday season. We were fortunate enough to have our immediate families all in Houston and enjoyed spending time with everyone.

2017 was an interesting year for us. My husband and I are adjusting quite well to our new location and jobs. I continue to work for a public library, which I am enjoying. Why would I not enjoy being surrounded by books all the time?! I also work with a wonderful group of people. My husband taught his first graduate class in Statistical Mechanics (the kind of physics that describes large numbers of interacting particles) last spring. It went very well, and he was later told by a new student that he had been deemed “the cool professor.” He is teaching the same course again this year, which means he’s able to build off of last years work.

My husband also attended many conferences last year all over the place, including Tel Aviv, Israel; Aspen, Colorado; Washington, DC; and 2 in New Orleans. I sometimes got toIMG_20170116_195111071 tag along on these trips, so I was able to explore Israel, DC and New Orleans, while he was unfortunately working. Israel was fun and interesting. We were only there for a couple of days, but the conference actually set up a night excursion to Jerusalem (see picture on the right), which included a dinner; a walking tour; time at the Wailing Wall; and a lights display, so at least my husband got to see some of Israel. I also got to do a day tour to the north side of Israel that included Nazareth, Capernaum, and the Galilee Sea. The tour guide was very well-versed in the history and religious symbols of each area we went to, so I enjoyed it immensely.

Unfortunately, work kept my husband very busy all year, so we did not take any extended vacations together. However, I took a road-trip around England with my best 20431586_470116973362867_389937866817083112_nfriend. This trip was actually inspired by my love of all things Jane Austen, since there were special events being held to honor her for the 200th anniversary of her death. However, we did other things besides Austen events, including visiting Stonehenge (see picture below this paragraph); going on a Harry Potter walking-tour of Oxford; visiting some tourists sites in London (British Library, Westminster, 221b Baker Street); and meeting up with a few friends who reside in different areas of England. Our road-trip did not just include bigger cities like London, Bath and Oxford. We also spent some time in the countryside in the Peak District (see picture above on the left of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire), which may have been my favorite part. Plus, we were fortunate to have absolutely perfect weather for most of our time there.

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We continue to love our new house (see picture at the bottom of this post). It has been a learning experience, being first-time homeowners, but we it has been completely worth it. We remodeled my husband’s home office, so he has a comfortable space to work. We 20170827_175305also had our roof replaced, which luckily held up during Hurricane Harvey. Harvey was a very stressful time for us, as we did experience some damage to our fence, which probably can be attributed to nearby tornadoes. We also watched as high waters turned our street into a river (see picture above on the right of a main street in our subdivision). After all that, we then were evacuated for fear of a potential breach of the Brazos River. Luckily, that breach never happened, and we were able to return to our home that had very little damage and no flooding. We were spared when so many others were not, and we find ourselves very blessed and thankful for that.

I hope 2018 turns out to be a great year for everyone, filled with lots of happiness and preferably no hurricanes!

LOVE YOU ALL!!!!  ~The Morrisons

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10 Movies I’ll Be Watching This Christmas

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One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is watching as many Christmas movies as I can. These are some favorites that I hope to see this month:

  1. Elf
  2. Happy Christmas
  3. It’s A Wonderful Life
  4. Miracle On 34th Street (1994)
  5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  6. The Night Before
  7. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  8. Office Christmas Party
  9. The Polar Express
  10. White Christmas

What are your favorite holiday movies???

The Sights, Sounds, and Smells of Christmas – Budapest, Hungary (November 2015)

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I know the holiday season can be overwhelming in the United States. These days, decorations are up and holiday music is being played everywhere before Halloween is over. By the time Christmas comes around, people are sick of the holiday. However, this is not how it is in Europe. Decorations don’t go up until end of November or early December. In Lucca, Italy there are some Christmas lights and decorations but not much else to get you in the holiday spirit. Many people have told me that if I want holiday markets and more, that I need to go to Germany or Austria. Imagine my surprise when I found holiday markets and so much more in Budapest, Hungary. If you need a good dose of holiday spirit, which I desperately did, you should go to Budapest.

The picture above is of a holiday market in front of St. Stephens Cathedral. This market has everything needed to put you in the holiday spirit. It has shops, food, mulled wine, a market_standgiant Christmas tree, lots of lights, a nativity scene (pictured at the bottom of this post), an Advent wreath, and an ice skating rink. This market is minimal compared to the one that starts at Erzsébet tér that goes on for blocks and blocks. This DSC3367agiant market was a great place to try warm beverages and popular Hungarian pastries called kürtőskalács. They are to die for! I am not exaggerating when I say that with all the markets serving street food and beverages, that the entire town smells like Christmas with strong scents of cinnamon and nutmeg.

I got to experience the lighting of the Christmas tree in front of the Parliament building. It was stunning. Many buildings are decorated with twinkling lights, and the streets are all decorated with classic lights as well. As you walk along, admiring the lights, it is notDSC3293a surprising to hear Christmas songs being sung by carolers. If all these things are not enough festive holiday moments, you can also view a performance of The Nutcracker Ballet at the National Opera House, which is beautifully done with realistic sets and excellent dances. Plus, who doesn’t like sitting and listening to Tchaikovsky music for a while?!

If you live in a location that does not do a lot for the holiday season and need a reminder of all the joys of the holidays, you should consider a visit to Budapest, Hungary. Boldog Karácsonyt! Merry Christmas!

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