We’re reaching the bitter end of the holly jolly Christmas season, but there’s still some time to curl up with a good holiday read. What’s that? Oh you don’t have time to read, huh? Come on, do you really need to spend your precious free time assembling that complicated gingerbread house with the kiddos or battling angry shoppers at the mall? Give yourself a break. Order those last-minute gifts online, tell the kids to amuse themselves for a while and spend the day curled up with a good, Christmassy book. You deserve it!
My editorial assistants, Gizzy and CeeCee, picked out a few hits and misses from our holiday reading list. Put down those car keys, grab some naughty nog and start filling up your e-reader with some Christmas cheer. CeeCee and Gizzy give you full permission to treat yourself!
Christmas Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley
I am so glad I impulsively purchased this $1.99 nugget of ghoulish holiday fun! The book of short stories is meant for the younger set, but it’s far creepier than anything you’ll see in the children’s section. It’s like the British version of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. These morbid tales of killer snowmen, demonic dolls, and caroling ghosts, are perfect for a night around the campfire surrounded by the winter woods. Come to think of it, that would be the most perfect Christmas Eve ever. Hmm…mental note for next year. Anyhoo, this book is definitely worth the peanuts that it’s going for online. If you’re a fan of gothic, atmospheric ghost stories by British authors like Susan Hill (Woman in Black) or Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book), give this one a read. Just remember to keep an eye on that fireplace. That persistent scuffling noise might just be pesky rats…but I wouldn’t be so sure!
Christmas is Murder by CS Challinor
Of all the many renditions of Agatha Christie’s seminal masterpiece And Then there Were None, this is one of my faves! Set in a secluded Victorian Inn in the English countryside, the mystery revolves around a motley crew of characters – all with secrets to hide. Lo and behold, a man is poisoned to death and many others end up joining him in his eternal dirt nap. Trapped by a blizzard, the doomed guests are unable to escape the wrath of a cold-blooded killer stalking the halls. It’s up to Rex Graves to ferret out the murderous fiend before his own goose is cooked. Gee, does this all sound familiar? If you love a good game of Clue, or if you read cozy mysteries, you must be well acquainted with this tried-and-true mystery formula. But like a favorite Christmas song, it never gets old when the mood is just right. What I love about this recycled Agatha Christie story that it has all the great elements that make up the perfect Christmas cozy: A stately old English manor, a rescued puppy, and cozy nights by the fire amidst the backdrop of a raging snowstorm. It’s a great book to cuddle up with on a cold winter’s night with a hot cup of tea and a purring fat cat on your lap.
All Is Calm: A Lonestar Christmas Novella by Colleen Coble
Don’t do it. That’s my advice if you’re a sucker for Christmas-themed books filled with horses, romance and mystery. I made the grave mistake of listening to this turkey on audio, and it was AWFUL. The narrator was just fine up until she switched into her little kid voice. She sounded like that creepy psychic woman from Poltergeist. I’m telling you, it was ridiculously bad. And then there’s the plot…or lack there of. It’s set in Texas, but it might as well have been anywhere USA. When you set a book in Texas, you need to have a good grasp on the culture, the twang, the rugged landscape. Perhaps it would have done her some good to pick up a title by Larry McMurty. Aside from ignoring all things Texan, she didn’t put much effort into puzzling together a murder mystery. She threw out a couple of clues here and there, but it’s pretty easy to identify the killer early on. The romance (or as my fellow bloggers call it “insta-love”) was way too sugary sweet. As for the leading lady, she fell flat as a pancake right from the get-go. All in all, this story is a total waste of time. I’ve seen more substance in a Lifetime movie starring Tori Spelling.
Murder of a Stacked Librarian by Denise Swanson
This is my first Scumble River mystery and I’m pretty sure it’ll be my last. It wasn’t horrible per say, just very lackluster. If you ask me to recall anything about this book a month from now, forget about it. The story is so forgettable, probably because the characters were either unlikeable or just plain boring. It seemed as though the murder mystery took a backseat to all the mind-numbing wedding planning. If the author focused more on the festive Christmas atmosphere and less on the inane wedding details, it would’ve been more tolerable. As for improving the murder mystery plot, that would require an entire overhaul. I figured it out the second the murderer was introduced. From that point on it was just a painful slog through wedding-planning follies and disjointed red herrings. On a side note, I was a bridesmaid at a Christmas wedding. It’s pretty much the worst time of year to get married – especially in a city like Austin where it takes at least an hour to get across town. Everyone is stressed, broke and overwrought with burgeoning to-do lists. Bad idea, y’all!