The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

It’s well past Christmas but this only just came in for me at the library and I had nothing else to read, so… And you know what? It was still delightful to read about Christmassy things and it’s still winter and snowy, so that’s nice. This book was completely ridiculous and predictable and I loved it.

Identical twin sisters, both incredible bakers, one on a tv show when in their hometown at their family’s much loved bakery. The town, Starlight Peak, might as well be Stars Hollow. I mean, town square with gazebo and twinkly lights and everyone knows each other and it’s so small that their bakery just gives every family a free loaf of their special holiday bread on Christmas Eve? Unrealistically charming. After a head injury the twins swap places and of course both find a wake up call to the life she wants, as well as love.

Perfect light holiday fare. And added bonus if you enjoy food or baking or food tv shows, because there are many details of the delicious foods they all bake. Very enjoyable.

Blame It On the Mistletoe by Beth Garrod

Things I loved about this book:

it opens with Holly reading a letter she wrote to herself at the end of Christmas the previous year. As an avid 5 year diary keeper and writer of letters to my future self (end of school year, to beginning of next year) I think this is a SPLENDID idea and can’t believe I don’t already do this. I love this idea of starting the holiday season by reading a letter from the previous year. (I have occasionally left myself notes in the decorations.)

the descriptions of adorable British Christmas

Things I didn’t love about this book:

Sometimes it was actually hard to keep track of the characters. The point of view switches back and forth between the Brit in America and the American in England. It really shouldn’t have been that complicated to keep them straight, but somehow it was. Does that mean the characters weren’t different enough?

The American brother’s “secret” was not very believable. Basically all the family stuff seemed dumb.

OK, I suppose there were a lot in this book that was fairly silly, or just too shallow in terms of its place in the story. So, not the best. BUT I did really enjoy the holiday spirit and it’s not like it was a taxing read. I also found the idea of a teenager trying to have thousands of followers on IG and have her account be a thing just kind of nauseating. But the jolly holiday spirit triumphs and the playlist at the back is fun.

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

This was totally delightful-like a Hallmark Christmas movie. In fact, I’d bet it’s already being turned into a movie. If you like snowy cabins and Christmas traditions and a little romance this book is for you. Best of all, it has a time loop (Groundhog Day) premise. I found out about this from an IG friend who said she liked it a lot, but wished there were more of the repeated days and I agree with that.

Maelyn’s family has spent every Christmas at an idyllic cabin in Utah with her parents’ college friends. This tight group has grown up together and though they are family Maelyn has long had a crush on one of the sons. Now they are in their 20s. This Christmas ends terribly-she hooks up with the brother of the guy she really likes and she finds out the cabin is being sold. She desperately wishes for things to change and poof! she wakes up at the start of the trip.

Pour yourself some hot chocolate and stir it up with a candy cane and get cozy on the couch with this nice easy holiday read.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss

I’d intended to read this in the lead up to Christmas because I do love a holiday romance each December. However, it was so popular that I only just got it now. I figured I wanted to read it more than I needed it to be read in December, so I dove in. What an absolute delight!! This just ticked so many boxes of the perfect paperback holiday romance: British, quaint village where the main characters seem to be beloved by the town, ample snow, a dream job that seems like people don’t really get to just have (fabric designer for Liberty of London), a charming house (again practically happened into), a best friend foil who has young children but still has time to come over with a bottle of wine, a manor house straight out of Downton Abbey, plenty of holiday sweets (many truffles and mince pies), a neverending stream of Irish coffee, tea, mulled cider, and other booze, quirky family characters who don’t bring the story down. And of course, the actual romance.
One of they ways this fits a lot of that in (gingerbread houses! caroling! wine!) is with the actual premise–12 dates that each have a theme and activity and pair our main character with a different man each time. It’s actually a brilliant party planning/dating service/holiday activity business plan (and must have cost a fortune.)
Highly recommended.

The Christmas Wish by Tilly Tennant

Paul thoughtfully brought this home from work and the cover and the premise and my love of light holiday romances really made this seem like I’d love it. I can’t say I loved it, and I did end up skimming a bit at the end to get to the end, but it was ok.
Basically Esme has been in an emotionally abusive relationship with a man who controls her. She finally breaks free, recovers with her beloved Grandma, but then Grandma dies. Esme and Grandma were meant to take a special liftime dream trip to Finnish Lapland to see the Northern Lights. A.B. (Abusive Boyfriend) refuses to go and Esme bravely takes off on the trip without him. Of course she makes friends there, a possible interest, and tries to work out whether she is still with A.B. or not. I really wanted more more details about Lapland and the magical Christmas land and I found Esme a bit tedious after a while. It just seemed to take everyone so long to reveal anything.

Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

What a delightful treat! This is the second Christmas novel I’ve read in the past couple weeks and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but it was actually nice to be looking ahead. I honestly don’t remember if I’ve read any (a few? zero? who knows?) Shopaholic books, but it was no matter. This was just a very fast, light and satisfying book with these elements: British village, shopping, group texts, parents in a hip new setting, friend who is titled, etc etc.  Becky comes off as a bit of a flaky twit, but she really is a good person at heart. Also, if you are like me, you are going to need to put aside your disbelief that anyone would think that each year they need to go buy all new Christmas decorations, ornaments, etc. I found it weird that Becky’s family seemed to have no Christmas traditions of their own?? But just go with it and it’s fun and lovely and just right with some peppermint hot cocoa.

Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by Maureen Johnson, John Green, & Lauren Myracle

snowMost years I like to treat myself to buying a holiday romance collection. Somehow I missed this when it originally came out and was thrilled to discover it on a table at BJ’s this season.  Unfortunately, despite the promise of three superstar YA authors combined with holiday romance, this was nowhere near as good as this year’s current YA holiday collection, My True Love Gave to Me.

The first story, by Maureen Johnson, I liked the best. It sets up the premise for the interconnected stories (which, by the way I didn’t realize were interconnected because when I bought the book I literally didn’t even bother to read the back description! )It’s Christmas Eve and through a hilarious and bizarre circumstance Jubilee has to get on a train to go to her grandmother’s. A big snowstorm stalls the train on the track stranding everyone in a small town. Other characters on the train-a cheerleading team, a handsome boy-aren’t prominent in the story, but are in the other two stories.  Story #2 by John Green is mostly about two boys and a girl, all best pals, on a quest to go meet those cheerleaders by making their way through the snow to the shining oasis of the Waffle House. Story #3, well, I don’t even know how to describe. It seemed to involve a teacup pig and regret over cheating on a boy. Honestly, I was skimming by that point. I did like how it wrapped up with all the characters from the different stories coming together.

Overall, this was a bit disappointing.

My True Love Gave to Me ed. by Stephanie Perkins

trueloveThis was a terrific collection. I adore Christmas story collections and each year try to find one to buy or check out (I’m partial to Christmas Regency romances.) This year I bought a YA collection, as well as got this new one from the library. A couple were just ok for me, and I skipped two, but these were the standouts I really liked:

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell-solid Rowell story. I liked checking in with the characters on each New Year’s Eve

Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han-I can only describe this as “girl Elf.” A human child who Santa found as a baby and raised at the North Pole? Except she’s sadly aware that she’s human and everyone else is not. I loved the details about the elves and life with Santa (aka “Papa”).

It’s a yuletide miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins- you know how in Anna and the French Kiss and the other two Perkins book I say that her characters are so ridiculously talented in interesting and quirky ways that you can’t help but be jealous of these make believe people? I felt this story had that hallmark because Marigold is a super talented animated video creator. But beyond that I just loved this. Her hoarder like apartment (not hoarding-just the entire contents of a house left by movers in the same spot for over a year), the hunky guy and his family’s tree farm, it was all just lovely.

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White-like a Hallmark Christmas movie! Seriously, this should be a tv movie. A tiny town that’s not even a town it’s so small, a teenage girl who can’t wait to get out and leave her mom’s annoying boyfriend, they’re poor, everyone is crabby, and then a new cook comes to town who somehow knows just what people need to make them happy and cooks it. And then the wonderfully touching ending that, if you’re sappy like me, brings a tear to your eye.

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter-also ripe for a tv movie. Swapping identities on the spur of the moment and going to a small town in Oklahoma where everyone thinks you’re an Icelandic exchange student but you’re really a superstar hiding out. Away from fame and your creepy manager you love the warm and big family that welcomes you. The perfect ending. This was like watching a wonderful and funny tv movie.

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor- initially I thought this was a terrible choice for the last story in this holiday collection. It’s very fantasy and dreamy and really not Christmassy at all. Very different from the Hallmark Christmas movie entries. But! Laini Taylor is an awesome writer and you get so caught up in this beautiful and strange story that who cares where it is? I really liked it. It was like a magical fairy tale.

Twelfth Night Secrets by Jane Feather

12thnightI do so love a Christmas Regency romance and every year I try to read one in December. This one had an interesting spy plot to it, though in all honesty it wasn’t that compelling. Still, I enjoyed the historical details and no historical Christmas romance would be complete without a lovely snowfall and scenes of traditional celebrations. Lady Harriet is spending Christmas with her stern grandfather and two younger siblings. Ever since her brother died things have been tough-they were so close and acted as parents to the younger siblings.  Harriet has been approached by the gentlemen her brother worked for (as a government spy) and asked to keep an eye on the gentleman who will be spending the Christmas holiday at her grandfather’s estate. Apparently he was close to her brother, but they fear he may have been the cause of her brother’s death, acting as a double agent.  Harriet is at once intrigued, but also ready to hate this man because she can’t bear to think he may have caused her brother’s death. And of course, they are attracted to each other.