Christmas selection box 2016

 A selection amongst many Christmas books read and reviewed before December so that you can take your pick …


Christmas under a Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin

This was the first book on my list of Christmas reads. I was hoping for a warming, curl up on the sofa with hot chocolate and mince pie read, and this ticks all the boxes. Easy to read without being asinine, Holly Martin has created a hearty Christmas story that is transportive in both place and season. The reader is quickly introduced to Piper Chesterfield who has the somewhat difficult and wonderful job as a mystery hotel guest, which suits her inability to make anywhere ‘home’ just perfectly. When Piper takes her next trip to Juniper Island, it brings back memories in floods, and she is faced with dealing with them head on. Meet Gabe, where memories begin and this new adventure seems to start from.

Once Gabe and Pip set off down memory lane and reignite their old flame, it all gets a bit 52 shades which I found rather hilarious, and hilariously unbelievable sadly. It is almost as if this part of the book has been written by someone else! Apart from this outlandish sexually segmented departure from what is otherwise a romantic Christmas book, I found the story to flow beautifully and in a comforting way. Get me to Juniper Island!

A Christmas story from the heart, and with characters the reader can relate to, Holly Martin has achieved the perfect Sunday afternoon book.


Murder at Mistletoe Manor by Holly Tierney-Bedord

Murder at Mistletoe Manor is a mystery novella by Holly Tierney-Bedord, given to me for an honest review by Hello ChickLit.

Right from the first page, I was standing in the Manor foyer, waiting for Klarinda Snow, owner, to let Myrtle light a fire and order a Christmas tree. What is a young single woman doing in the middle of nowhere running a rundown Hotel? Life can just be like that sometimes. So when the bookings diary reveals a group of separate individuals all randomly checking in for a Tuesday night stay, Klarinda is suspicious but also highly grateful. Fantasies of doing up the guest rooms and having some professional marketing overwhelm her, so that when an envelope of money is delivered, who is she to turn it and the guests away.

On that fateful day, the games begin. A classic fun and enjoyable whodunit, with plenty of snow and added flirtations to keep the story alive. What unfurls is an outline of smalltown American life, living remotely, and how people around you truly count. I adored this novella – a perfect Sunday afternoon read, all “Christmassy” and “murdery”; good old fashioned (Victorian Britain) excitement.


What Light by Jay Asher

This is a young adult novel, where we meet Sierra in her senior year about to have changes in her life that only parents can make – a change of Christmas tradition. Sierra’s family have a Christmas tree farm, and go to California for a month each Christmas to set up their tree lot, so Sierra has two lots of best friends and doesn’t want to leave either of them behind.

At the start of the story, Sierra is saying goodbye to Rachel and Elizabeth for the season, and is going off with her parents to their traditional Christmas home of a silver trailer, parked next to the tree lot where she has her other best friend Heather. There they set about double dating for Christmas, and Sierra happens to choose the mysterious Caleb with a bad reputation.

This is a rambling Christmas tale of trees and twinkle lights, teenage angst and young love. It has family friendly prose, and a sanitised story line, which is actually extremely endearing in a world of stark and crude media with no PG rating. There is no major plot line, just the subtle development of friendship, the gaining of trust, the joy of Christmas spirit, the warmth of a ‘cheap mint mocca’, and the pleasure of giving. An unexpected delightful Christmas read from Jay Asher.

This book was provided to me free by NetGalley.


Comfort & Joy by Cathy Bramley

From the get go I just want to say that this is the first Cathy Bramley book I’ve read and therefore my first perusal into Plumberry and the School of Comfort Food. It is a standalone Christmas tale, no need for having read any others in the series, although I may well do now.

Verity Bloom is anticipating a very quiet, almost too quiet Christmas with her man Tom, who she has just moved into a cottage with. Used to rowdy family Christmas Days and yet loving the intimacy of her fairly new relationship, she is anguished by new traditions and etiquette until the moment arises when there is no time for all of that!

This is a short, joyful tale of Christmas in Yorkshire, when things can go horribly wrong, but then great moments make everything all right. A quick read, devoured in a couple of sittings only breaking for regular chores and to make cups of tea, Verity is a likeable character who lives in a beautiful village. The author Cathy Bramley has given me the quick uplifting fix of Christmas joy in a season where time is at a premium, and the whole thing had me reaching for a glass of merlot and a mincepie. Thank you Cathy, just wonderful.


Christmas at Quill Court by Charlotte Betts

Another wonderful historical tale from Charlotte Betts, albeit short and sweet. We meet the Stanhope family on the brink of Christmas 1815. With a colourful recent past, Emily’s best friend Selina is sure to upset the very tentative engagement between Emily and her fiancé Captain Hugh Seymour, whom she loves desperately, but who knows how this will all end.

A heart warming, engaging and traditional Christmas, this beautiful story is enchanting.


The Christmas Spirit by Susan Buchanan

The clue is in the title … Natalie Hope (not her real name), guardian angel looks after a popular Bakery in a small town near you. The hard working proprietor has to go into hospital for an operation, so Natalie is able to help her by keeping her business going during the busy season. This help is just the tip of the iceberg for Natalie – she has a list of people she is ready to help, and now she gets to meet them. One by one they come into the Bakery and she works her subtle and enchanting magic.
This is a cheery short story, with lots of good-will, warm hearts, snow and cakes. I loved the variety of people that star in this little tale. The author recognises young attitudes as well as the loneliness of the elderly. It hits all the Christmas spirit buttons – the characters, the scenery, the cakes and hot drinks. Quick paced and yet wholly fulfilling in a Christmas way, what more could you want at Christmas?
Return of the Christmas Spirit by Susan Buchanan
It was a real joy to meet our cheery little guardian angel again, although this time she has called herself Star, and she is working maternity cover for a Librarian in the local public library in a small town near you. Once again she has a list of people she is ready to help, and she gets to meet them as one by one they come into the library. It is here that she gets to work her glittering magic –  and why couldn’t she? It is a library after all – the place of book magic.
Although this is a sequel to a cheery short story, it can be read as a stand-alone book as well. The truth is, I enjoyed this  book even more than the first one. It’s a perfect hand-warmer for the Christmas season, and a reminder that Christmas can’t be found at the local supermarket or under the Christmas tree. The characters are all experiencing loss, loneliness, emotional hardship in some way, and the author recognises with emotions with compassion and subtlety.
As a librarian, library and total book lover, this book ticked all the boxes and really infused me with Christmas spirit. Well done Susan, another champion. All librarians will love this!



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