Christmas Reads! Short and not always sweet

These two reads for today have been sitting on the TBR since, like, 2015. The ones waiting last week were bought in 2018 but these two have languished for years!  I don’t know why.  Neither of them have audio, of course, so that could have something to do it.  And they aren’t light, which has its place, but we also know how much I’m willing to do not light reads.  Thankfully, both are short.

They are heartwarming but you really have to work for it in a big way.  So get ready to work for it!

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Comfort & Joy, Kristin Hannah

A woman betrayed by her husband and sister impulsively decides to go on a trip for Christmas.  Her plane crashes, leading her on a series of events that lead her to her true home.

There’s a decent twist in this one so my synopsis is short.  I didn’t read much about this book so I didn’t even know there was going to be a plane crash, and that part was pretty intense. There were periods in this book where it felt slow.  I was like okay, where is this really all headed? And I almost lost steam completely before she tosses in the twist that kept me going. I read Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, and I wasn’t that impressed, feeling that could be slow in parts, too.  Even though it was slow, I do still find myself thinking about parts of it, so it did make an impact, even if in the moment I didn’t know that it would. I see now that she has two books that have really taken off, The Nightingale and The Great Alone, and I do at least want to get to The Nightingale.   Anyway.  I had this book for a few years, and I was glad I got to it, although it has themes that are really larger than the Christmas holiday.  It is a romance, and there is falling in love at the holiday, but the love is built on something larger than the holiday and the main character goes through more drastic and notable change than can sometimes be found in romances.  Plus romances don’t usually involve graphic airplane crashes, at least not in the ones I have read. 

I had issues last year wanting to sit and read, largely preferring audio, and that’s why this one kept getting missed. This year my compulsive reading has left me time to read a few of them, so I have been working through the backlog quite nicely.  It’s been a good year for reading.

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An Angel’s Touch, Heather Graham

A childless couple dies in an accident on Christmas eve and must perform three miracles by midnight in order to be allowed to be angels.

So this is terrible quickly and is terrible a few times.  I almost didn’t want to do it, but it’s only 221 pages and I got traction with it rather quickly.  The momentum carried me through.  It went from a book I almost put down to something I did in about 24 hours, which I think speaks to the credit of the book that I wanted to turn away and then couldn’t.  I didn’t think it was predictable but I also wasn’t trying to figure out the end as I went.  A classic story of redemption at Christmas. And what is Christmas about, if not light and redemption?

More Christmas reads next week.  It will be the weekend the small town I live in does their parade and their Santa breakfast at the elementary school and their tree lighting and my son gets to be part of decorating the tree.  Christmas explosion in my life.  People have been hanging lights since before Thanksgiving outside which I absolutely love in the dark drives home from work.

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Christmas Reads! Heartwarming Romances

So the Thanksgiving has passed enough for Christmas to start to happen.  No more statute of limitations. The tree is probably on its way up at my house today while we are waiting for Snowmaggedon and I’ll be making chex mix.  I kind of want to get me a bottle of sweet local wine to get through the day but I don’t know if the store opens before the heavens do.  Looks like they may happen at the same points in time.

It’s a great day to post on heartwarming Christmas romances from England. These two sat on the TBR last year because I wanted to listen rather than read, so now they need their time.

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The Christmas Wish, Tilly Tennant

Esme, a young woman in the throes of an emotionally abusive relationship, decides to go against her boyfriend’s wishes to go on a vacation to Lapland that she was planning to take with her grandmother before the grandmother’s unexpected death.  Her trip changes her life in all the best ways possible, and as with anything marketed as a heartwarming Christmas romance, you can rest assured that the right man is duly located in the course of the story.  

So, I definitely got sucked into Esme’s story trying to find who she is and be true to that person and even though I knew she eventually had to ditch the jerk boyfriend, I wanted to know how it was going to play out and the secret that the man she is interested in seems to be withholding the whole time.  I liked her and I wanted her to be okay. I related to trying to find and stay true to oneself. The ending was gratifying and I loved the creativity of the trip to Lapland. I love how heartwarming romances incorporate elements of wish fulfillment that don’t have to do with romance: creative jobs, cool trips and settings, fun friends. Those things said, there were some slow pieces in this book that were redundant, could have been expressed in dialogue, and reduced.  Places were we were being shown enough where I didn’t think we needed quite as much telling. It’s good for light, distracting fun and to get you in the mood for the magic of the holiday.

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Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel, Karen King

A single young woman, Saffy, is prevailed upon by her older sister to throw a big Christmas party for singles at Christmas in her absence.  When she goes out to do this, she meets Logan, a handsome single father and a neighbor of her sister’s with his own heartbreak and disappointments.  This is a romance so you can figure out the end of the story, yes? It takes place in England, too, so there are the little word differences too.

This was definitely fun and lighthearted.  There was the usual romantic conflict, but nothing too intense and the parts that have you chewing your fingernails are not drawn out to the point of torture.  I have read enough romances to see differences in how much the author is willing to put you through before they give you what you want. This one has the drama but wants to keep it light and I appreciated that.  

I think the characters were the strongest part, especially her best friends in the middle of a romantic conflict themselves that didn’t torture too much.  And they made the party working out more feasible. It helped that Saffy was in her late twenties, and even though she was career focused and spent a lot of time out with friends, her friends were also moving into more serious relationships, so it helped set the stage for her getting more responsibility.  It would have been cringey to me to have her be the first one of her party friends to leave that world behind and be younger, as I didn’t move into a more settled life until I was close to 30. It was one of the low priced kindle reads and I have a hard time resisting, and it sat unread for a year because I really focused on what was available on audio last year.  It’s worth picking up for the Christmas spirit.

Are you warming up for the season?  My husband is trying to get the plow truck to work before the tree goes up.  And my son is resenting me for telling him to make Christmas cards for some grandparents so I have time to send them out.

Next week the Christmas reads may not be so light of heart.  Higher on the drama.

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Christmas Reads! Victorian Times

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving week to kick off the holiday season.  If you haven’t kicked it off already, that is!  This week, for me, will be about making treats and desserts!

I mean, maybe an image of a turkey isn’t completely in line with my theme here but I like his salty look and it is their week to shine, anyway.  In a morbid sort of way.

I have decided that a strict policy on no thought to Christmas until after Thanksgiving is for those who are not parents.  I have already taken advantage of time away from my son to start picking up gifts here and there and being mindful of getting only what I think he will really love.  And won’t make me bonkers.  He doesn’t make a Christmas list because he will fill it with things he won’t play with.  And I’m going to make a list of fun things he can choose from to do in the coming year that aren’t me buying things and see if I can’t make that a tradition too.  Because I do a lot with him in the winter months and that should be represented too.

But this is not a blog on how I mom.  This is a blog on how I read.  And read I do!

Christmas isn’t the same for me without some reads from Victorian times in white people land.  They embody for me the darkness that was the whole reason Christmas came about…bringing light with the birth of Jesus.  I’m not super religious either, but anyone who has done a few seasons here with me know I’m all about the light of Christmas.  Christmas is perfect for romances too because Christmas is about love and light.

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Mr. Dickens and His Carol, Samantha Silva

This is a fictionalized version of how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol.  In it, Charles Dickens finds himself in the beginning pushing back against the holiday, of all the excess and people asking him for things even though he’s a little short this year himself. He has to find Christmas again for himself, and does, while writing this, his most famous work.

Now, a few years ago I did all his Christmas stories for this blog, so I know that this was not a standalone work.  And in this story, Dickens is under pressure from his publishers to come out with something Christmas and a little less bleak (because to be fair he does write some really bleak stuff…do I need to insert a Bleak House joke here?) and has his own Scrooge-y character arc.  And Silva clearly did her research on the context of the holiday and that it was changing, being redefined at that time, revived from the puritan interpretations that had prevailed, which was cool, because I love social history of I’m finding just about everything.  Even Dickens in this story has to find the meaning of the holiday again.

Also, this was a cool book to be reading for NaNoWriMo.  It embodies the amazing highs and the terrible lows of being a writer.  I was going to say gifted, but some writers have had some pretty big success without being considered gifted.  Even seasoned writers have to go through a process to get to their material.  And it blends with the upcoming Christmas season, so I’m imagining, since I bought this one on audio, it will be revisited on other years.

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A Christmas Revelation, Anne Perry

An impoverished young boy in Victorian England spies a lovely woman in distress, right before Christmas.  As he has been taken in himself to be cared for, he is concerned for her and co opts the book keeper of the ‘clinic’ that he works and lives at to help him figure out what’s wrong and help her.  The book keeper has his own shady past, so he understands that this woman’s situation is likely one they want nothing to do with, but part of his taking part in this has to do with the spirit of Christmas, and wanting to keep some hope and wonder alive for this boy.  He is correct that she is embroiled in something unsavory, an unsolved mystery and wanting to avenge her father’s death.

This is the second of Anne Perry’s Christmas stories that I have read, the first one being A Christmas Hope.  Anne’s books are a blend of the Christmas holiday against the backdrop of darkness:  the shoestring lives of the poor and marginalized in Victorian England and some dark murder mystery.  I love the light and hope of Christmas but I’m also duly attracted to my darker reads, and if the number of historical fiction novels set in Victorian England is any indication, I’m not alone in my love of that context.  As much as I can’t romanticize it and consider myself a reasonable human being, I’m still drawn to that time and place. My library has them on audio sometimes and they are nice and short. I listened to this mostly on a Sunday afternoon following the letdown of reading nine of the same cozy mystery series and it was a nice transition into the Christmas reads. I have a feeling I’ll eventually work through all of these because it’s a delightful combination for me, and I love the sweet and light reads but they aren’t all I read. Even though they have been much of what I have read this year.

More Christmas Reads for the next few weeks!  Cozy heartwarming romances are a MUST, even though today’s reads were not completely heartwarming.  Christmas came to warm cold hearts, though, so it gets in the idea.  Stay tuned.

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