Hello everybody! Today, I have some reviews to share with you, which are all wintry things I’ve read since I finished uni, and I really enjoyed them. They’re mostly adult books as I was reading MG for some other posts at the same time, but there is an MG and a YA as well. Onto the post!
Mistletoe on 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson
This was something I borrowed from my library after having read A Season in the Snow by the same author last year, and it was a great book to kick off my festive season with. It’s the story of a woman named Olivia, who doesn’t exactly dislike Christmas but just doesn’t really see the appeal, as she gets stuck in New York after a work trip due to heavy snowfall. Her friend Jon also happens to be there, and Olivia ends up caught in a quasi-love triangle where she must decide between Jon and a man she meets in America. Olivia is such a fun main character and she made me laugh constantly with her narration while reading this, and the camaraderie between her and her colleagues was one of my other favourite parts of the book, particularly her rather tempestuous relationship with Jasmine. The New York setting was also a wonderful part of the story and it was very easy to believe that it really could change someone’s mindset. And I have to say, Jon is just an absolutely lovely romantic interest and if Olivia hadn’t picked him for some reason, I would have been SCREAMING at her through the pages. Overall though, just a really fun Christmas romcom that was perfect to snuggle up under the duvet with!
The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict
I read this over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, because is it even Christmas without a little bit of murder? (Fictional, of course!). It’s the story of a woman named Lily, who must return to her ancestral home which she left behind when her mother was murdered, and participate in the annual “Christmas Game” of riddles set by her aunt Liliana, alongside her cousins, only rather than compereing to find extra presents, they’re aiming to win the deeds of the house and Liliana promised Lily that she would also find out who killed her mum by the end. And then, because of course they do, the murders start…! I have to admit I was pretty useless at solving the riddles, and at the anagram and finding words games you learn about at the beginning of the book, but I really enjoyed them nonetheless and I thought it added even more layers of mystery and intrigue, which was what exactly what I was looking for from it. I did, however manage to guess the killer pretty early on, but I don’t think it was obvious so I’m very proud of myself there! And there were a good few twists I didn’t see coming as well, including one very early on that left me a wee bit shook. I also think the writing style was really engaging and I liked the descriptive style, and Lily was a fantastic protagonist who I loved spending time with. The ending was hopeful and satisfying, and I’d definitely like to read more from Alexandra Benedict.
Merry Kissmas to You by Jenni Jennings
I have read both of Jenni’s middle grade books, as well as her adult books under a different name, and I think it’s safe to say at this point I am a HUGE fan. Her first YA book is the story of a trio of friends- Milly, Sam and Robert- who are all going through their own difficult situations that mean it’s hard for them to get in the festive spirit. I loved all four of our POV characters, the fourth being Milly’s love interest Laurence, and they all felt so distinctive and couldn’t even pick a favourite of them to be honest with you, because all of their storylines were engaging and fun and moving in equal turns, and the romances are VERY ship-worthy. As well as being a gorgeous, fluffy romcom, this also tackles some really difficult themes such as food banks and what it might be like to have a family member in prison, and on a lesser scale, being cheated on and dealing with unrequited love, and I think that all of these were handled sensitively and reinforced the book’s overall message about why Christmas is special. And as a sidenote, the festive swearing game was honestly hilarious, I am generally not a fan of altered swear words in books but this along with Jennifer Killick’s books is the best example I’ve ever seen. I’ll read anything Jenni writes, to be honest, because every single time she gets me right in the feels and makes me fall even more in love with her writing!
Raven Winter by Susanna Bailey
I read both of Susanna Bailey’s books in very quick succession last year and have been eagerly awaiting something new from her, and Raven Winter was a lovely, lyrical middle contemporary to enjoy as well. It’s the story of a girl named Billie, whose father has been sent to prison and whose mother has gotten a new boyfriend named Daniel, who is abusive to both her and Billie. She finds an injured raven in the woods, and despite the danger it puts her in, she takes him home to care for him whilst also trying to find a way to escape and find her dad, who she shared a really special relationship with. My heart honestly broke for Billie at so many points of this book, but I loved the hope and slice of happiness that Bird brought into her life, and as ever, I just love stories about animal/human bonds. Nell was such a good friend to Billie too, especially given their slightly rocky beginning, and I loved her gran a great deal too. The writing style is just as beautiful as you’d expect if you’ve read Susanna’s other books, and I love the slightly literary quality it has to it. I’m now back in the same position of being very excited to see what this author does next!
The Winter Cottage by Rachael Lucas
I’ve been reading Rachael Lucas for 2 or 3 years now and her books are always such a cosy treat to curl up with, and her first self published book was no exception. It’s the story of Rilla Clark, who must return to Applemore House in the highlands to clear her recently deceased, semi-estranged father’s cottage, and when she arrives she reconnects with the estate’s residents the Fraser siblings. Rilla is a wonderful main character and I just really wanted everything to turn out well for her, and Lachlan Fraser was a BRILLIANT hero and I’m half in love with him myself to be totally honest with you. Their second chance romance was really lovely to read as well, and having did as such a big part of the plot made this book even more of a win for me, as did the subplot about their parents (if you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean here!). The supporting cast of the Fraser sisters were also phenomenal, and I can’t wait to get to know Charlotte, Beth and Polly better in future books of the series which will focus on them and their love stories (and I’m just going to put it out there now that I can’t wait to meet their love interests and see who they end up with!!). This was just a perfect book to pick up a couple days before Christmas, but it would be great for any time in autumn/winter really.
Midnight in Everwood by M.A Kuzniar
In her first adult fantasy book, the author of the middle grade Ship of Shadows series tells the story of Marietta, a ballerina who is being forced to abandon her passion ahead of her upcoming betrothal to a deeply sinister man named Dr Drosselheimer (I’ve potentially spelt that wrong, in which case I apologise!). It’s a retelling of the Nutcracker, which I haven’t actually read or seen the ballet of, so I acknowledge that I may not have picked up on references etc to that but I really enjoyed it as a story in it’s own right. Marietta ends up going through a portal to Everwood, a fantasy land made of confectionery that seems sugary sweet, but ends up being a sickly, rotting prison when she is made to become one of King Gelum’s imprisoned women. The sisterhood she forms with the other women in the same situation, Pirlipata and Dellara, is stunning and probably my favourite part of the whole book; it’s a beautiful example of women coming together to fight against injustice and the bond they share is so special. The world the majority of the book takes place in is deadly, but the descriptions are gorgeous and so well-done, and I thought the workdbuilding was amazing in general. The historical element of the book and the acknowledgment of the challenges different minority groups faced in that time that are still relevant today was also handled very well, and I’m excited to continue reading this author, regardless of which genre she is writing in.
This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens
I meant to pick this up around New Year last year and didn’t quite get round to it because the other seasonal book I chose was longer than I’d realised, but this year I was determined and I did it. It is the story of Minnie and Quinn, the latter of which is infamous in Minnie’s family for stealing her name AND the prize money he won for being the first baby born on January 1st in the 90s. Of course, this is a romcom, so they very quickly form a friendship that then turns to something more…! Minnie and Quinn have such fantastic flirty banter right from the beginning, even though it isn’t particularly smooth sailing for their relationship, and I was rooting for them all the way. The female friendship at the heart of this between Minnie and Leila was so beautiful too, almost a love story in itself, in fact, and I loved Minnie’s complex but ultimately supportive relationship with her parents too. And the thing with the clocks really made me laugh, I must admit! To sum up, this time next year, I, I hope I’m reading a book as good as this one!
A Winter in Wonderland by Isla Gordon
I read this at the beginning of January, so it technically wasn’t the festive season any longer, but as you can see from my review of Mistletoe on 34th Street above, I’m a big fan of this author’s work, regardless of which name the book is under (she has three different names she writes under, and the only one I’ve not yet read a book from is the Lucy Dickens pseudonym). Its about a woman named Myla who really struggles with Christmas due to previous negative experiences in her life taking place during the holidays, as she loses a bet and travels to Lapland to work as an adventure guide, where she meets a very handsome surgical nurse who is constantly in character for his job as an elf. The Lapland setting was just unbelievably beautiful, and honestly kind of magical. I loved learning more about Santa Claus village and the types of holiday you can go on there, as well as just picking up some information about the place itself. Myla is a character I definitely felt sympathy for and really enjoyed reading about and Josh is a lovely hero; I don’t think I’ve ever seen grumpy/sunshine where the woman is grumpy and the man is sunshine, but I loved it and it definitely added to the cosy, fun vibes even though the book does tackle some darker themes. On that note, I don’t want to give anything away either, but I hope it’s alright to note that I very much appreciated the fact that Myla’s issues don’t magically disappear when she meets Josh; her experiences in this book do make her want to heal, but she acknowledges that she needs to put in the work in therapy for that to happen.
Thank you so much for reading! Which wintry books have you picked up this year? Do you have any thoughts on the ones I’ve read and included in this post? I’d love to hear in the comments!