Reviews: Festive Favourites

Hello everybody! Today, I’m going to be chatting about some of the Christmas books I’ve been reading, most of which are from this year but the first one is actually one I read last December when I was being rubbish and utterly failing to post reviews. I also want to say sorry that this post is a bit later than intended. Anyway, I’ve really loved reading all of these, so I hope you can find something you like the sound of in here too!

One Christmas Night by Hayley Webster

It’s been a year since I read this, but I still clearly remember so much of it and how much I was moved by it, so it didn’t feel right doing a post about books to do with Christmas and not including it. It’s about a street where some robberies have been taking place in the lead up to Christmas, and the people who live there and the problems they’re having behind closed doors, even though that isn’t what their neighbours see. Having nine perspectives was such a fantastic idea and I loved the message in this that you can never really know what someone is going through. My favourites were Mrs Finch, whose story is so heartbreaking that I still think of it often even a year on, Tash and Rocky, but really I enjoyed everyone’s perspectives and the glimpses we get of the detectives solving the case. I’d definitely highly recommend picking this up for an uplifting, heartwarming Christmas read that will really make you think about things whilst being cosy and comforting at the same time, and I’m looking forward to reading Hayley’s upcoming MG debut Luna Rae is Not Alone, very much.

The Good Bear by Sarah Lean and illustrated by Fiona Woodcock (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This book is indescribable, in that it is so special and lovely I don’t quite have the words. This is a quality I’ve found in every Sarah Lean book I’ve read to date, in fact, but this is so magical and has something even more special about it that it’s definitely my favourite. It’s about a girl called Thea, who goes to stay with her father and his new family in Norway over Christmas, and the runaway bear she meets there who she develops a close bond with, and is desperate to save from hunters. Her bond with the bear is so beautiful, and I genuinely don’t think I stopped crying once reading this, between the ones of sadness and happiness at different points. I was so attached to the characters, and I loved the narrative style of this being a story Thea is telling her daughter on Christmas Eve in the future. The recent historical setting was also great, and I really liked some of the secondary cast too, such as Thea’s step-family who she has to get to know and also Vee. I also just couldn’t put it down- I read it in a couple of settings because I was so worried about the outcome, and the ending felt perfect for the tone of the book, somehow. This has one of my favourite fictional Christmas scenes ever in it, and is easily one of the best things I’ve read all year, if not ever.

Someday at Christmas by Lizzie Byron

I absolutely fell in love with this book, which is the adult debut of the YA author Tanya Byrne (under a pseudonym), whose work I’ve been meaning to read more of after LOVING some of her contributions to short story collections such as A Change is Gonna Come and Proud. It is about a makeup artist named Shell, who is just one of the best romcom heroines I’ve ever read, who works in a department store that is facing money problems as the owner’s very handsome grandson arrives and changes both her professional and personal life. As I’ve already said, I loved Shell so so so much. She is both a person of colour and plus size, and I think it’s long overdue to see some more representation in the romance genre, and I just loved her as a person- she’s caring and funny and very relatable in a lot of ways. I also ADORED Callum, and the flirty banter between them is just perfect. I was very fond of lots of the secondary cast as well, especially Old Mr Duke and Ricky and Denise! The Christmas elements and the fact that a romcom was shooting in the department store was just the icing on the cake (and I liked this book much, much more than cake), it’s just so warm and lovely. I really, really hope to see more romance in this vein from the author, as this very quickly became one of my favourites I’ve read in a year where this genre has been so comforting and I’ve devoured countless of them.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss

This debut novel is about a woman called Kate, who lives in a small village, and what happens when her friend talks her into joining the new “12 Dates of Christmas” dating service, in which singles are paired with a different match on 12 different dates in the hope of finding love over the festive period. I thought this was SUCH a genius concept and it’s very well executed- I loved reading about all the different dates and people Kate meets along the way, as well as getting to know her and her family and friends that she already knows. I also loved all the little subplots that came together and added so much to the book- in a way it kind of felt like reading loads of interlinked short stories. I obviously don’t want to spoil anything, but I thought who she ended up with was perfect and I was rooting for them from the start! I’m definitely planning to read more from Jenny Bayliss, because this was a great debut and I’m excited to see what she writes next.

The Cornish Cream Tea Christmas by Cressida McLaughlin

I actually hadn’t realised this was the third in a series, but I’m still glad I picked it up because it was perfectly easy to understand as a standalone, and it’s given me a back catalogue to discover the stories of some of the secondary characters in. This one is about eco consultants Hannah and Daniel, who fall in love whilst staying at the hotel they’re working for in Cornwall, and also the ghosts that may or may not be haunting the hotel and Hannah’s mysterious connection to the village related to her past. The romance was lovely and I really liked them as a couple, and I enjoyed the romantic elements to the past storyline as well, although it was somewhat more tragic than that in the present day. I loved Charlie and Daniel even more though, and I’m definitely planning to pick up their story soon because they were my favourite characters in here and I really want to see how they fell in love too. The Christmas element to the plot was great as well, and overall I really enjoyed this and would definitely recommend it, particularly to fans of Ali McNamara as being in Porthogolow felt similarly lovely to something I’ve read by her set in Cornwall.

Trouble in a Tutu by Helen Lipscombe

I really enjoyed the first in this series, but this second installment is even more brilliant! It begins shortly before Christmas, so the whole book doesn’t take place in that time period, but it still has a very Christmassy feel to it as the ballet school for spies are studying the Nutcracker during this term, and they’re facing off against an adversary who goes by the name of the Mouse King. Milly is a great main character and I really felt for her in her situation during this book, and it was great getting to see a bit more of her friends, my favourite of whom is definitely Spencer (although Leonora grew on me a lot as the book went on too!). I still think the idea of combining a ballet school story with a spy school one is ridiculously clever and I still loved that, particularly as in this case the two are linked to the Nutcracker, which I’ve never seen but would love to one day as it seems like such a beautiful story. The plot was really exciting, and I loved the twist a huge amount too.

Tinsel by Sibéal Pounder

This is the story of two girls named Blanche and Rinki, and how they are in fact the girls who invented Christmas, as a result of their friendship. It’s such a clever idea and I love the way that it puts a twist on the typical Christmas story, and offers an alternative explanation for so many different traditions. It’s a huge amount of fun, and I loved the world, which is a great combination between ours and one with magic. Rinki and Blanche’s friendship is one of the nicest I’ve read in a while, but I loved them individually too, and the original Carol (you’ll understand why I call her this if you read the book!) and Teddy were two others I liked a lot as well! It felt very gentle and comforting even though the plot was definitely exciting, and this is perfect if you’re looking for a feminist middle grade, with some Christmas magic in the mix for good measure.

A Season in the Snow by Isla Gordon

This was very different to what I’d been expecting when I picked it up purely because I thought it had a pretty cover, but I thought it was a brilliant story and I’m so glad I read it. It’s about a woman named Alice, who relocates to the Swiss mountains with her new dog Bear, who is in desperate need of a home, after suffering the tragic loss of someone very close to her. Alice is a great character and I loved her bond with Bear, as it shows how special dogs can be and how they can bring a little bit of light to the darkest of situations. It was great seeing her gradually rebuild her life as the book went on, and I liked that her issues weren’t magically fixed when she met Marco, her handsome next door neighbour. I did love the romance element though, and the friendships she has with Lola and Vanessa and her friend group from uni were lovely too. The descriptions of the beautiful place she lives in the book were amazing, and I really felt as if I was there alongside her and Bear (even though I’d hate to be there in real life given my fear of snow!). I can’t wait to read more from Isla Gordon, so I’m very glad she has more romcoms published under a different name already.

The Christmas Wish by Tilly Tennant

I bought this last year and have been kicking myself ever since for not getting to it last December, so I’m glad I finally have now. It’s about a woman named Esme, who goes to Lapland to escape her cheating fiancé and to commemorate her grandmother, who has died and had always wanted to go there. I had so much sympathy for Esme as she is in such a heartbreaking situation, and it was horrible to see her thinking she didn’t deserve better than what had happened to her at some points, because she really did and I think this book explores domestic violence in a really nuanced way and shows that it isn’t just physical abuse that can wear someone down and change them into someone else. It also fulfilled what I was hoping for when I picked it up- it’s got a gorgeous setting and an even more gorgeous romance between Esme and Zach, who is one of her fellow solo travellers she meets whilst on holiday. Brian and Hortense also deserve a mention for bringing lots of the book’s humour to the table, and the last chapter- which feels like an epilogue- was so lovely and I really liked how things ended.

The Miracle on Ebeneezer Street by Catherine Doyle

This is so charming and lovely, and I think it’s my favourite version of a Christmas Carol ever. It’s about a boy named George, whose dad cancelled Christmas forever after the death of his mum, and the journey a magical snowglobe that he finds in Marley’s curiosity shop takes him on to Christmas past, present and future. The idea is obviously based on Charles Dickens’ original but it’s definitely very much it’s own story too, as while I loved the nods and winks to the original tale, I also loved the new elements to the story and the characters. I particularly loved Geroge and his Nana Flo, of course, but I have to admit his dad did make me laugh at some points (if you’ve read the book you may know what scene I mean!). It’s such a moving, special story with lots of humour and heart, as well as a good portions of magic, and it’s made me even more excited to finish off the Storm Keeper series once the last book is released in March. If you’re looking for even more books that are perfect for this time of year, I also did a post about wintry books I’ve read in 2020.

What Christmassy books have you been reading this year? Are you planning to pick up any I’ve mentioned before the festive season is over? I’d love to hear in the comments and get some recommendations for what I should pick up at this time next year!

Amy x


Author: goldenbooksgirl

Disabled book blogger who also writes TV, film, music and other posts from time to time | UKYABA Champion Teen 2018 | Email: | she/her

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