On the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth days of Christmas (I got a little behind in my blogging!), we bring you a random array of holiday-infused books for mystery and romance lovers. There’s even a little something for the kiddos who enjoy fun and frothy stories about friendship and dreamy boys. Today, I give you permission to drop those hectic holiday chores and curl up by the fire with one of these festive books. You’re welcome!
Gingerdead Man by Maya Corrigan
Synapsis: A small town caterer lands in the center of a murder mystery when a rather unsavory Santa bites the big one after gobbling a poisoned gingerbread cookie at a Victorian tea party that she was catering. Working in cahoots with her sleuthing grandfather, she must ferret out the mysterious “Ghost of Christmas Past” killer before her catering business is sunk!
What worked: The best part of this book is the Christmassy cover with the skeletal gingerbread men and an equally horrifying Elf on a Shelf. Those things are creepy, right? The cover was enough for me to throw down the whopping $7.99 for a paperback of my very own! Aside from my impulse buy habits, I enjoyed the protagonist’s sweet relationship with her crime-solving grandfather. I also enjoy a good recipe that involves less than five ingredients—that’s the only way I’ll ever bother to cook!
What didn’t work: This is a very paint-by-the-numbers murder mystery, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for cozy lovers who enjoy knowing what to expect. However, I’m sad to say that it’s rather forgettable story.
Overall: This is a solid cozy that is sure to please fans of the genre…and lazy people like me who cannot handle cooking with more than five ingredients.
The Christmas Dress by Courtney Cole
Synapsis: Meg Julliard, a newly orphaned 20-something gets saddled with her deceased father’s crumbling-down apartment building in Chicago. She’s soon enfolded in a circle of kind-hearted elderly residents who help her find her way. With a magical Christmas dress, a new handyman boyfriend and—most importantly—an adorable kitten named Winter, she faces her challenges and follows her fashionista dreams.
What I liked: It started out a little too grim for my liking, but things started to pick up when Meg’s friendships blossomed amongst the elderly folks. I just love the idea of forging an unlikely friendship with an old, wise benefactress like Ellie Wade, the former owner of the mystical Christmas Dress. I don’t have a mother, so I like the idea of having a Jessica Tandy in my life. If you don’t know who I’m referring to, please do yourself a favor and read Fannie Flag’s “Fried Green Tomatoes”! Also, I enjoyed reading the sweet romance brewing between Meg and her handyman. The magical dress plot point was nice, but I most enjoyed the characters in this story.
What didn’t work: I get that Meg’s in her 20s, so I’ll give her a pass because I was A MESS at that age, but she really does wine a lot. Also, she let herself get manipulated by someone who she was explicitly warned about, which made me really doubt her intelligence.
Overall: If you are in the mood for a light holiday read that doesn’t involve too much concentration, read this one! This is my first book by Meg Julliard, and it will not be my last!
Snow Day: A Holiday Romance by Julie Lipson
Synapsis: A train ride to Milan gets delayed, causing the travelers to take a detour in a charming little town in the Italian Alps—oh how I love train travel stories! During their misadventures, two passengers fall under the spell of Christmas romance, which could derail their carefully charted paths in life.
What I liked: I loved everything about this mini novella audiobook, which I scored for free from Audible. I hate that I keep giving money to Amazon, but these little freebies make it impossible to quit my subscription! Really, I’m a sucker for train travel stories, and this one is just fantastic. The elaborate production—complete with multiple actors and sound effects—turn this audiobook into a movie in my mind. Bravo!
What didn’t work: It’s too short! That’s my only complaint.
Summed up: This is just a fun little holiday joyride that I plan on listening to every December to get in the Christmas spirit! It’s the perfect diversion from the hectic hustle and bustle of holiday chores.
Home for the Holidays: Mother-Daughter Book Club Series by Heather Vogel Frederick
Synapsis: Five teens in the Mother-Daughter Book Club must part for the holidays as they embark on their own excursions. Amidst their boy troubles and rifts, they find inspiration and clarity through the Betsy-Tacy stories. Will they resolve their differences before the big reunion shindig on New Year’s Day? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
What worked: I love the concept of a mother-daughter book club! How fun would that be to get together with your bestest friends and talk about books, books, books at a family-owned Jane Austen-themed “Pie and Prejudice” coffeeshop!? I would be so down for that. This was a very fun, yet lengthy, holiday read that took me back to my boy-crazy tween days. I also liked that the chapters revolved from one girl to the next, which helped me keep track of the dozens of characters in this book. Also, some of the girls got rather tiresome, so it was nice to take a break and jump to the next vignette.
What didn’t work: The length of this thing! In this digital age, it takes a lot to capture the attention of middle-grade girls, so I’m just not sure if this would be a hit for target readers. Even for me, it felt really long and slow-paced.
Summed up: This is a cute story about friendship, mother-daughter bonding and the power of literature! Despite it’s slow pace, I would recommend it to mothers of teens and tweens who enjoy G-rated feel-good stories.
My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins
Synapsis: Love is abloom in a dozen of teen-friendly holiday stories featuring a diverse array of characters of different religions, sexualities and identities.
What worked: As with all anthologies, some stories are worthwhile reads while others are entirely skippable. The opening story titled “Midnights” is probably the best in the bunch. I loved how the story jumped from one New Year’s Eve party to the next, allowing the reader to delve into the lives of the two would-be lovers as they sang “Auld Lang Syne” together year after year after year. It really would make for a fantastic Netflix movie! I also loved Stephanie Perkins’ contribution titled “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown,” which involved a down-on-her-luck girl who finds herself in a whirlwind romance with the boy from the street-corner Christmas tree lot. Those two stories were enough to make this book well worth my while.
What didn’t work: Well, like I said before, some stories just didn’t hit the mark, mainly because the characters and the storylines just weren’t relatable. At the risk of sounding like a persnickety old lady, some of the dialogue was little too crass for my taste as well. But that’s the beauty of short stories—you just flip on through to the next and find yourself some real gems!