Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Reads #1

Tis the Season! Where I indulge in Christmas reads galore!

I've already read a bunch by this point, and am happy to share my first batch of reads with you. I received digital review copies of a few of these and it is so noted.

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine Books, 2016)

Christmas romances are perhaps the most popular/common subgenre of holiday reads and Debbie Macomber is always reliable to produce a fun one. I especially enjoyed this one because it's about a girl writing a blog as a sort of experiment, but also to try to get a job. She is determined to kill her Scroogey neighbor with kindness. But she soon learns that kindness can have a profound affect on all involved. This little novella is full of Christmas cheer! There are all sorts of levels to Christmas books, and this one is decidedly Christmasy full of all the wonderful events of the season. It's sweet and romantic and it's a Christmas love story so don't expect it to be one hundred percent realistic. Lots of fun! (A digital review copy was provided by the publisher)

What Light by Jay Asher (Razorbill, 2016)

I've enjoyed what I've read from Jay Asher in the past, especially his collaboration with Carolyn Macker (The Future of Us). I was drawn to this because wow the title and the cover is lovely also. And because I'm a sucker for Christmas stories. This one had a unique Christmas tree farm premise in that the family really only went to sell on a lot which means they spend Christmas month (December) away from home every year. But they might have to change that which adds a whole new level of bittersweetness for Sierra as she might be saying goodbye to one huge chunk of her life. This is NOT a save the Christmas tree farm! story, the impending change merely echoes the impending change any teen would be facing around her age and heightens it for Christmas time. Sierra is a super reasonable girl--ready to dump any boy who shows signs of being unsuitable. But then she meets Caleb who gives her all the butterflies but also might be more problematic than any boy she's ever dated. Sierra has to get to the bottom of the truth about Caleb and her feelings and decide if it's all worth the most wonderful time of the year. This book is sweet and Christmasy and delightful and just right for a quick holiday read.

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Leviathan (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016)

I really really enjoyed Dash and Lily's Book of Dares so revisiting this couple a year later at Christmastime was fun! And it WAS fun as the young couple had a lot of growing pains to work through and life issues to sort out. They are just extremely fun and engaging characters who happen to live in New York and it's Christmas time. So there was a definite feel of Christmas cheer in the book but also growing up life stuff, dealing with family changes and intensity of feelings in relationships and general communication. Huge bonus there was an ice skating scene! While I enjoyed this a lot, the unique premise of the first one made it something just a little more special. Still, worth it to read this one!

A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury (Howard Books, 2016)

Okay I used to love the Baxter family...through the first series and a little less as it went on. And then I stopped reading altogether. In fact, I used to love Karen Kingsbury's books in general a lot more. But they have developed a certain formula that I believe makes them beloved by fans but not so much by me. Somehow, I forgot all this and just wanted to read this. I thought I'd enjoy revisiting the Baxters as I used to love the series. I was mostly wrong. Kingsbury has been writing these characters for a really long time and is quite attached to them. She stopped for awhile and this is her reintroduction to the family. There is a lot of family history, but the book says upfront you don't need to know it. Still, I would go back and read the original series if anyone is interested, they are the best. This story was okay but it's not overly Christmasy. All you really need to know is this family loves each other a lot. Fans of the books will probably still enjoy this, though, so don't take my word for it. Overt Christian fiction. (a digital review copy was provided by the publisher)

Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews (St. Martin's Press, 2013)

I have only read the Christmas books in this series! I read Blue Christmas last year and Christmas Bliss this year. The book is a charming southern novel but there is very little Christmasy feel to it. Especially since it is mostly about Weezy's preparations for her wedding and BeBe attempting to get a divorce she thought she already ahd. Still, the characters are fun and there are a few sweet Christmasy moments.

The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere (St. Martin's Press, 2016)

I've enjoyed Donna VanLiere's Christmas books in the past. Something that helps them stand out is that they are not primarily romances, although romances might play a part in them. They are more of the Christmas miracle variety, someone who is down and out on their luck makes a special connection at Christmas that breathes new hope into them. They are sweet sentimental books. I liked this quite a bit as the main character, Lauren, is lonely and looking for a family at Christmas. What I enjoyed is that as she gives of herself, she finds others are giving, too. Sometimes the most unexpected people. And I also like that kindness is a virtue that is cherished in a book like this. Everyone likes to use the word kindness these days, as a buzz word almost. Be kind. We forget, I think, that true kindness springs from within. That it's a daily grind. It's an action that must be performed when we don't feel like it, when there's no reason for it, with no expectation of return. Always be a little kinder than you have to be. There's an act of daily kindness in this story that I think some people would look down at or sneer upon as too sentimental, but it heartened me to think of someone doing such a work. And also the work of paying attention to others.

A Lowcountry Christmas by Mary Alice Monroe (Gallery Books, 2016)

This has been by far my favorite of the Christmas reads this year. It's wholly old fashioned, but in the best possible way. It's about a small family facing hard times within and without. A little boy impossibly wants a puppy for Christmas. A soldier returns home from the war. The family has no money, but Christmas is still coming. They must grapple with their brokenness as this most precious time of the year if anything is to be salvaged. The emotions run deep in this one, and while the book constantly quotes A Christmas Carol, the ending was so reminiscent of my favorite film, it definitely made me cry. Absolutely delightful! And I have never read a single other book in this series so it can one hundred percent be appreciated on its own. (A digital review copy was provided by the publisher)

More to come, but that's what I've read so far!


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