seasonal story

Room at the Inn and Of Printers & Presents

It’s Boxing Day here in NZ, and I am not yet ready for Christmas to be over. So, I’ve been prolonging the festivities by mainlining seasonal fiction, courtesy of NineStar Press’s 2017 Seasonal Collection (the same collection The Charity Shop Rejects appears in). I’ve already talked about Handmade Holidays. Today, I’m reviewing Room at the Inn and Of Printers and Presents.

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Room at the Inn by Drew Marvin Frayne is a contemporary story set in the hotel where Jason, the main character, works. The premise will resonate with anyone who has had to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day–the author does a really good job of capturing the mixed feelings of working that particular holiday evokes. Jason’s looking forward to a dull evening, and is reflecting on his dissatisfaction with where he is in life, when a striking guest checks in, sharing the news that there is a bus of disgruntled travellers on their way, and Jason must pull out all the stops to save Christmas.

There’s no conflict, but I don’t think there needs to be–the circumstances act as one, and enough happens that the happy ending feels earned. I was thinking that this is almost like a Cinderella story, which might be why it is so satisfying. Stylistically, the writing reminded me a lot of Holiday Hotel Hookup by Jeff Adams which I read last year.

Room at the Inn at Ninestar | Amazon | Smashwords

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Of Printers and Presents by Asta Idonea is a sweet, uncomplicated office romance. Any other time of the year, I might complain that the story lacked conflict, or that there was too much explaining, but this story was so exactly what I needed to read today, that I just enjoyed it. Sometimes you just need an uncomplicated romance! Especially at Christmas, when things have a knack of becoming exponentially more complicated than they need to be.

Vaughan is shy and crushing on Ford. Ford has anxiety issues, and doesn’t want to compromise his work position by acting on his crush on Vaughan. They’ve been dancing around each other for two years. Can an office secret Santa be the force that finally brings their feelings out in the open?

Of Printers and Presents at Ninestar | Amazon | Smashwords

 

Countdown: 2 days to go!

Three books, three days… I’m sure it comes as no surprise that day two of my countdown is all about Ibiza on Ice, book two of the For the Love of Christmas! series—now only 0.99 US!

Confession time: I have a really big soft spot for Ibiza on Ice. Sure Aston, the main character, isn’t exactly going to win person of the year in any competition—he’s not even going to make the nomination list. He broke up with his boyfriend, Dan over Dan’s hideous Christmas sweater, and for most of Ibiza on Ice,  is trying desperately to prove to Dan and the world that he made the right decision.

So, yeah. Aston, not a great guy.

But there’s always two sides to every story. As a kid whose parents went through a bitter divorce, I learned this really quickly. Even today, with several decades of happiness with new partners between them and the divorce, they both have two very different versions of events. And while they both believe they’re telling the truth, their truths are incompatible with each others. And I don’t think that means one of them is lying, or that their memories are faulty. I think there is more than one truth.

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Take Aston and Dan.

Dan wore the sweater knowing Aston’s reaction would be bad. He had an inkling it would be relationship ending bad—but he went ahead with it, giving Aston the ultimatum, ‘it’s me and the sweater—or not at all.’ Aston responded the way most people do when given an ultimatum. He stuck in his heels—one of Aston’s better traits is his tenacity. He didn’t expect Dan to be serious about his sweater, because Aston could never have feelings that strong for a tacky jumper. So when Dan not only left, but found a new boyfriend, Aston was left scrambling. That’s not a nice place to be, so if Aston lashed out, can you really blame him? Break-ups suck, no matter which side of them you’re on.

The second thing is that if Dan and Aston were meant to be, no amount of ugly sweaters could have prevented them from living happily ever after. That the sweater was enough to precipitate a break up says a lot about their relationship. Aston appreciated Dan’s good looks and healthy lifestyle, Dan respected Aston’s dedication to his fitness regime. They had a mutual interest in health and working out, but is that enough to base a relationship on?

As it turns out, no. And not only are they both better off out of the relationship, but they’re got the potential for happiness that they could never find together—and I think that’s a good thing. Not all relationships work out. Recognising that something isn’t working and moving on is a lot healthier than trying to make a round peg fit in a square hole.

The final clue that the break up was a good thing is the effect Laaksonen has on Aston. From the moment they meet, he’s challenging Aston’s assumptions about what he wants and what he believes. Being around Laaksonen pushes Aston, forcing him to question, and finally grow and change—and I will be the first to admit that Aston has a hell of a lot of growing to do.

But he’s like one of my naughty kids when I taught English in Japan. No matter how disruptive they were in class, or what fresh hi-jinks they’d come up with during the school breaks, you couldn’t help but love them. Aston’s my naughty kid.


Ibiza on Ice.

Tired of being ridiculed as the man dumped in favour of an ugly Christmas sweater, Aston is determined to get revenge–by having his dream vacation at Ibiza’s hottest clubs! He’s even planned a social media campaign to make sure his ex, Dan, knows exactly what he’s missing.

When a snowstorm strikes, and Aston’s media campaign takes off before he does, he finds himself propositioned by his unwelcome roommate Mike: trade vacations, or Mike will out Aston as a fake. Desperate to save his reputation, Aston finds himself in Finland–and falling hard for a man with a sweater almost as terrible as Dan’s. Worse, Laaksonen cares as little about impressing people as Aston cares about being nice. Aston knows he has too much self-respect to fall for a man so hazardous to his reputation. But the long Polar Night poses the ultimate test to his Ibiza club dreams…

Purchase:

Ninestar | Amazon  | Smashwords | Kobo

more than I should

Review: Handmade Holidays by ‘Nathan Burgoine

This is my first holiday read of the season, and I don’t feel precipitate in saying that it’s my favourite. It has so many elements that I love—friends to lovers, slow burn, ensemble cast, people taking on the responsibilities of jobs and families, found families… And they’re put together in a way that is not hit you over the head sappy, but genuine. I was not at all surprised that the author drew on his own experiences in writing it. The story, for the most part, feels true.

To be honest, Burgoine had me at ‘origami crane.’ Nick has got a Christmas tree for his apartment and his first Christmas on his own. It’s only when he gets it set up that he realises he doesn’t have any decorations. Enter Haruto, or ‘Ru’ as he is commonly known, with a box of candy canes and an origami crane. The crane is the first piece in a collection that grows along with Nick’s new family.

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I really love the way the crane shows up throughout the story. Cranes have a special meaning for me. I was still living in Japan when my sister got engaged, and for her wedding, I folded one thousand cranes. It was a really positive experience. When you are folding that many cranes, you get into a rhythm. It’s like knitting or any other repetitive activity–it becomes sort of like a meditation. Your fingers are busy but your mind can wander.

At the wedding, the cranes took on a life of their own. My sister loved them and decided to use them in her decorations. We hung them from the roof, we put them on tables as decoration and even placed them among the bushes in her garden—it was an outdoor wedding. The guests loved them and a lot of people took them home as favours. My sister gathered all the ones that we left and kept them, until another friend was having an event and asked if she could use them. I like to think that a few of my cranes are still out there, kicking around, pressed between the pages of a photo album, or maybe sitting on a shelf or a desk.

But yes, digression aside, I thoroughly recommend Handmade Holidays for a seasonal story that will leave you feeling warm and glowy, without drowning you in saccharine sweetness.


Handmade Holidays

At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.

A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born.

As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.

Of course, Nick might have already missed his shot at the one, and it might be too late.

Still, after fifteen Christmases, Nick is ready to risk it all for the best present yet.

Purchase Links:

Ninestar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo 

When you can’t pick *one* favourite Christmas song…

I’ve shared this before, but not on this blog. Yes, it’s an oldie, but there are still people in the world who haven’t seen this, so for them (and those who haven’t seen it in a while): acapella group Straight no Chaser presents the ultimate Christmas song.

Make sure you watch until 2:12 when it really gets next level. You can stop watching after that, but if you do, you have no soul.

Cover Reveal: The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert

On this day next week, The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert will be released! I’m really looking forward to sharing it. We get to revisit Jake and Dan, as well as spending time with The Charity Shop Rejects, who, by performing in ugly sweaters, are men after my own heart.

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The cover doesn’t really convey what this story is about. It’s beautiful—I don’t think Ninestar’s cover artist Natasha Snow has made a cover that wasn’t—and does a good job of suggesting seasonal without being overtly about Christmas or one of the other holidays represented by the NineStar Holiday Story Collection. The problem is that when you have a collection of stories that are as different as the NSP Holiday Collection (seriously, we have stories revolving around Christmas tree ornaments to stories revolving around dragons), it’s really hard to come up with something that can really capture all of them.

So how to properly convey the train wreck that is The Charity Shop Rejects? It’s a tough one. A really, really, really tough one. I don’t know if there’s even—

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Okay, nevermind.

The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert.

Mikaal Sarhadi has been in trouble since the moment he met guitarist Declan Hyde. Declan treats music like religion, setting high standards for himself and his bandmates. Mikaal struggles to even step on stage. He will do anything to justify Declan’s belief in him—even if that means ignoring the powerful attraction between them.

After a chance meeting with Brandon, Declan’s estranged brother, reveals just how much Declan will sacrifice for his music, Mikaal wonders if he can even call himself a musician. Worse, drummer Hiro’s visa application has been denied. With time running out for The Charity Shop Rejects, Mikaal must conquer his stage fright or lose music—and Declan—entirely.

Preorder from NineStar Press or Amazon (coming to other vendors from December 18th).