Christmas Reads 2017 part 2

Christmas has thrown up in my house and in the world around me.   I worked Black Friday to come home to an erected tree with twinkling lights and ugly ornaments I made with my son as a Thanksgiving craft and lights strung around my porch.  I know my husband just did it because our son loves it and there are only a few magical Christmas years ahead for our little family.  So we will enjoy it, exhausting as it is, while it lasts.

In keeping with this, the two Christmas reads to kick off December are both heavy on the family.  Lots of grown up siblings entangled in the dramas of their own lives.  Perfect and fun if that is your thing.

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The Christmas Wedding, James Patterson

Also, this is my first James Patterson book.  I have mentioned before I am trying to be better about giving a chance to the super popular authors whose work sells in Wal-Marts and in impulse buy lanes and end up in the donated books in the box in the break room.  Trying to reduce my own prolific snobbery. So this one can break the seal on that.

And break the seal it did.  It is about a widow who asks her four grown children to return on Christmas to attend her surprise second wedding with an unknown groom.  There is the usual family drama to keep things interesting, but this is a heavily Christmas-y, heart warming Christmas tale, I think done pretty well with a man writing from the point of view of an older woman who has raised four children.

It was exactly what it promised to be.  The sweet diversion of a book just under five hours with some drive time and walk time in there.  There was enough family drama without it being too nerve wracking and intense. I have to admit I was not completely on edge about who the bride was going to choose because the story was more than that, and I cared about other plotlines just as much as her little story about choosing one of three men who had all asked her and were waiting to be chosen.  And it felt more solidly Christmas related than the Holly Martins that I very much enjoyed that I reviewed last week.  Maybe because this story was more American?  Don’t know, but I am glad the library had it on audio for me to borrow.

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Winter Street, Elin Hilderbrand

I had bought this one last year for the parade of Christmas reads and did not get around to it.  Was apparently reading about too many other wet panties, I guess.

This one was very similar to The Christmas Wedding in that it had to do with a grown up family coming together for a rare adult sibling Christmas.  The drama in this one is actually around a stepmother leaving a father and their son serving in Afghanistan who all the kids are worried about, as well as the ex wife.

Every sibling has their own story, their own love story or professional story, and you get to hear everyone’s piece: about how the family was started and how it changed over time to make the characters in the story giving each other sensible adult gifts and fervently wishing the best for one another.

This is actually the first in a series and I might read more of the series as I go.  I did like it, it was fun without being overdone.  I love the stories of families.  I think it is why I work with them professionally, and I think about how characters in stories become who they are because of how they started off in a family.  Another recommend.  It has some love stories but it’s about all kinds of love.

Next week is more Christmas reads.  I will be attending a Santa breakfast and doing all sorts of holiday related stuff with my son.

Thinking about what my reading in the new year is going to look like and what my goals are for 2018.  Also, I have like a read and a half for Read Harder to make it through.  I swear I am still working on it. The last two categories I am reading might kill me.



Christmas Reads: Because Thanksgiving is Over

My best friend is a firm believer that there is no Christmas until Thanksgiving is over.  This is because he is not a parent and he loves Thanksgiving infinitely more than he loves Christmas.

I don’t have the luxury of a statute of limitations.  If I don’t get a head start Christmas is even more exhausting than usual.  I have wrapped gifts downstairs and I have to get to PetSmart because my son asked Santa to be sure he brought things for the dog, so I have to keep the magic alive.

Christmas seems to be a falling in love season.  The first time I fell in love was the fall, but I get why seasonal Christmas reads have been focused around a couple finding love in the holiday of love and light.

And I have to admit the ones I discuss today helped me give romance novels a bit of a break. I want romance novels to end in healthy relationships, and both of these books end in healthy relationships where people are growing together as people.  And while there was sex, it wasn’t erotica.  And no wet panties. I don’t like discussions of wet panties.

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Christmas Under a Starlit Sky, Holly Martin

So both of these Holly Martin books are set at Christmas, but Christmas does not feel as central to the plot as other holiday romances I have read.  Otherwise, though, I like her settings of remote British Isles that are vacay spots.  Vacay spots do increase the festivity rating of a book.

This one had more conflict in it than the other one I am reviewing.  There are two plotlines where the resolutions are drawn out longer.  I looked and it was written later than the other one, which makes sense that there are two distinct plot lines with the conflict heaped on, in contrast to the other.

One couple is trying to make something work after a breakup because the guy moves away to be an actor and another is trying to figure out if they can take a chance on love when it might turn long distance and they are both healing from other failed relationships. Both involve how to manage the long distance thing and I like that it does not always work out that the couple feels that their true place is home.  I get annoyed with authors who end romances with home being where people belong and not on their adventures.

But I liked the characters, I like that the women did not have to be movie star beautiful and they are competent and hard working and feel fulfilled by their work already.

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Christmas at Lilac Cottage, Holly Martin

I could definitely see that this was an earlier novel of hers, but sometimes a little less conflict is a good thing and it’s relaxing.  I like that her books involve family themes and wanting to be part of families.  I like finding Mr. Right instead of Mr. Right now or Mr. Wish FulFilment.  I mean these guys were good looking but they weren’t bad boys at hear and I have never been into bad boys. I like something easy and seasonal and fun.

This was just one plot line about a woman finding her place in a ready made family and the conflict was centered around that more than it was around poor behavior from the guy.

I would recommend both of these for curl up Christmas reads as a break from holiday bustle.  She has a lot of books out for low prices on Kindle, and they are series, so that makes it even easier to binge.


Happy kickoff to Christmas!  More holiday reads next week.



Feel Good Christmas Stories

Let’s continue to get in the Christmas spirit by returning to the throes of unapologetic chic lit.  We did some classic Christmas in the last two posts, but in case that is not your thing, today is all the chick without the tinge of classic.

I could be listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas album on prime music right now as I write this.  I really could. It’s not even light out at 630 and I am writing by the twinkle of our artificial tree.

Funny and brief aside:  when I got with my husband in 2010, he tolerated Christmas as a necessary evil.  He would string maybe a string of lights in the apartment we shared and call it good.  I had to tell him not to just give me what he bought me on Black Friday and to wait and wrap it. Now that we are on our son’s fifth Christmas season and he’s getting it, as in loving the lights and asking when Santa comes, husband has warmed considerably to the whole idea. I love how parenting a child he treasures has softened him over. I don’t fault childless men if they are not that into the season. They are hard to buy for.  He is still deciding what the wife gift will be this year.  Otherwise its necessities and a bottle of Crown Whiskey.

We might be getting away from classics but not redemption, at least in the first of the books I read for today’s post.

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The Christmas Pearl, Dorothea Benton Frank

I had a hard time with this one.  Not due to it’s chick lit nature; in fact, it is not as chick-y as other things I have explored for the season.  But it takes place in the South and told from the perspective of an old woman at the end of her life wishing for Christmas to be as it was when she was a child in the early 1900s.  I can see where the Christmas in the big Southern homes might look pretty on the outside around the 1900s, but I see it also as a pretty blanket to cover the realities of how such beautiful holidays were pulled off, whose sacrifice of time and resources it was.  Like a glittering frosting of freshly fallen snow.  I have a hard time romanticizing the American South of a hundred years ago.

And it is not completely romanticized. The narrator talks about always wanting more time with an at times distant and socialite mother and the tragedies that hers, like all families, experience.  Her modern day family is a self centered and dysfunctional mess and she is trying to get it back to some semblance of order. It’s entertaining and well written, and the audio brought it to life with a narrator with a Southern accent. So I could get through the three hours of listening.

So despite it being realistic, there was one issue that I had a hard time with, and if you have read Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, which I am reviewing in a month or so, you know about her frustrations with black people in movies being marginalized themselves but playing a magical role in the advancement of white people’s lives (think Whoopi Goldberg’s character in Ghost).  She calls it the magical N word (that word will not appear on my blog) and this book actually has a magical N.  Legit a kitchen servant comes back from the dead to help this ancient white southern woman whose family has gone to crap pull it all back together.  As if my top priority if I was granted 48 hours back on Earth would be to get back to my job and straighten out some treatment plans at Christmas.  Not that I would see my own descendants and get to say things to them that I never got to say.  Nope.  I would make sure that all the signature sheets were updated and tucked safely in their charts for all the people who are doing my job.

This is probably why a man I had been on two dates with once told me that I wouldn’t fit in if I moved to the South.

A little less crabbing, a little more of the sex:

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The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap, by Donna Kaufmann, Kate Angell and Kimberly Kincaid

Here we go.  Christmas and love centered.  Not too complicated for anyone, cozy. Everyone’s nipples at some point in every story standing at attention . (Did I ever say this was a family centered blog?  Christmas romances are hard to make PG sometimes)

All three of the women start off at the beginning of a snowstorm in a tiny mountain town with cookies, career dreams, and an appreciable lack of sex.  It is the Christmas season and the women are facing the prospect of celebrating alone until the next two weeks brings them all the perfect men in their travels through life.  I liked that the women bond with these men through sharing dreams and vulnerabilities through losses or family dysfunction and the men love them just as they are.  One is full figured and her man can’t get enough, one is rigid and plays by the rules but the man really appreciates her directness, one always feels awkward and her man makes her feel feminine and has been harboring a secret crush for years.  These are pretty healthy romances, as holiday romances go.  No one has to change who they are and there are emotional connections before the sex is delved into.  No one seems to be struggling with consent issues.

I haven’t decided if the next post is going to be one more round of holiday books or the year end lists and coveted Donovan Reads awards.  I have two books to read until I finish my reading challenges.   At this moment I have no other Christmas books finished to report on.

Shares/likes/comments get me in the holiday spirit.