The Festival of Festive Reading

Each December I read nothing but festive themed books. This year, because, well 2020, I began my festival of festive reading early – and am I glad that I did. My kindle is loaded with Christmas themed novels and all of them guarantee plenty of Christmas cheer and happy endings and I don’t know about you, but I need both of those things this year.

Okay, so what did I read in November? I’m glad you asked…

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day, by Milly Johnson

I love everything by Milly Johnson and where other authors have the potential to get a tad lazy (and who could blame them) Milly just keeps getting better.

This book was the perfect beginning to my festival of festive reading – and every time I see the title, I can’t help but sing the song. If you don’t know it, it’s by Wizzard and you’ll find it here. It brings back pre-Christmas in England for me as it was blaring out of every second shop in Oxford Street and I’d sing it every time… but I digress.

This novel is the magic of Christmas in word form and I loved it so much that it is my festive read of the month.

Granite Springs Christmas, by Maggie Christensen

This is the only book on my festive reads list written by an Australian author and set in Australia. I’d say that maybe I need to write my own, but I began Escape To Curlew Cottage as a Christmas novel and look how that turned out – spoiler alert, it has very little to do with Christmas.

Not only is this by an Australian author set in Australia, the author lives right here on the Sunshine Coast and yes, this photo was taken inside a real-life plane.

This is part of the Granite Springs series and Maggie writes more mature characters extremely well.

Christmas at the Island Hotel, by Jenny Colgan

I love Jenny Colgan’s writing so much. The characters, the short scenes, the multiple viewpoints, the island of Mure. It’s not deep POV (that’s point of view in the industry…look at me go, I’m learning the difference) but the way she writes reads as if you’re coorie doon around a fireplace in Scotland with a plaid blanket and she’s telling the tale. Naturally you would have noted my casual use of the Scottish coorie (or courie) which is to nestle or snuggle. Yes, I did learn some words on duolingo this year. I can also order a whisky in Scots Gaelic – a most useful phrase I would think.

Anyways, that’s how this book feels. Lovely.

Together By Christmas, by Karen Swan

The thing about Karen Swan Christmas novels is that Christmas isn’t really the point and the covers tend to belie the more serious themes within.

That being said, she is a go-to author for me, especially at this time of the year and this one is a good one – and came very close to beating Milly for my read of the month.

I began it on a Saturday night on a week where I’d averaged less than 5 hours sleep a night and was tired to the bone. Before you ask, nothing is going on I’m just not a great sleeper and am currently sleeping worse than I usually do – worrying about a few things that I probably don’t need to worry about and forget in the light of day that I was worrying about them. Anyways I woke at 12.30 am and picked up this book again after dreaming about it. There is nothing soft and fluffy about this – yet the storyline and characters are compelling. So too is Amsterdam in December 2020 – where there are crowds and no masks. I have to say, that’s surreal but how would she have known when she turned this into her publisher probably back in 2019? That part feels weird but I’m happy to pretend.

Christmas on Primrose Hill, by Karen Swan

Okay, I was confused at the outset by this one. The spiel reads:

Christmas is for giving … Christy Montgomery thinks flashing a bra strap is showing her wild side. So when footage of a mishap at work goes viral and Christy wakes to find she’s become an online sensation overnight, she’s not prepared for the attention that follows. Christy can’t set her phone to airplane mode, yet all of a sudden she has her very own hashtag and a celebrity ‘following’ her on Twitter – the gorgeous frontman Jamie Westlake. To keep her trending – and the charitable donations pouring in – Christy and her friends devise a twelve-day ‘Christmas Countdown’ programme of charity challenges that attracts a growing global audience. Christy is hot property and Jamie’s interest is piqued but can this online crush lead to sparks when the pair eventually meet?

I had a couple of problems with this – the first (and most important) being that the protagonist’s name is Nettie Watson and Christy Montgomery doesn’t appear in the book, and the second that it glosses over the main theme which is a tad more serious than the blurb would have you believe. 

There were passages that felt quite Notting Hill-ish (although I don’t really have a problem with that) and while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t my favourite Karen Swan read.

The Christmas Lights, by Karen Swan

Yes, another Karen Swan and this one was much more like it. 

The story follows two instagrammers/influencers who travel the world based on photo opportunities. Their life and relationship is both contrived and curated. What happens, though, when one party no longer wants to live their life through a (filtered) lens?

A great read – and set in very snowy Norway. Speaking of which, that’s another reason I really enjoy (most of) Karen Swan’s books – the settings. This one was on a Norwegian shelf farm – something I’d never heard of but am now fascinated by. Go on, google it…I did. 

The Trouble With Christmas, by Amy Andrews

What can I say about an Amy Andrews novel that I haven’t said before? Super fun, super sexy, and this one has a super hot cowboy. And snow. And enough Christmas lights and kitsch to keep even me happy.

One More For Christmas, by Sarah Morgan

Another author who is a go-to for me and who somehow manages to get all the Christmas feels. This one begins in New York and winds up in Scotland for Christmas in one of those droolworthy Scottish ancestral homes – like the one in Monarch of the Glen (does anyone else remember that show?).

Take one perfectionist mother who is a sort of Brene Brown  self-help guru, her estranged daughters, a recently bereaved and financially strapped Scottish family and a few reindeers and this is a recipe for Christmas cheer. It also made me want to book next Christmas in the Scottish Highlands…but that’s a whole other story.

Christmas For Beginners, by Carole Matthews

A sequel to Happiness For Beginners, this isn’t your typical Christmas story, but in Matthews’ hands, that’s not a bad thing. I fell in love with these characters in Happiness For Beginners and just adore the capricious alpacas and Anthony the anti-social sheep.

Christmas Gifts at the Beach Café, by Lucy Diamond

The month was finished off with this novella. Short, sweet, predictable, but absolutely perfect for a couple of hours by the pool.

So, that’s my Festive reads for November, I have more planned for December. If you want to know what festive reads were on last year’s list or the year before, check out this post and this post.

Author: Jo

I write, I bake, I chase sunrises.

5 thoughts

  1. Ha! You beat me to it! I am pressing publish on my festive reading post next week 🙂 I seem to have spent most of this year being behind on all things blog! Some great titles here, I’ve just ordered a kindle so will have to grab some of these titles when it arrives. I can’t wait to read Milly’s and Carole’s festive offerings – two of my favourite authors!

  2. This is a fun list of books, Jo, and a great way to get into the holiday spirit. Binge reading, in a good way. Great reviews. Thank you for sharing. x

  3. My book club grumbles that we read too many heavy duty books. Going to offer up some of these titles for our mid-December read. We are just starting on In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren. Enjoyed her Unhoneymooners. Hope this one will be a light read, too.

  4. Jo, Thanks for these great reviews. They save me time to decide which festive reads to borrow from the library. With your list, Sammie’s list and Deb’s book reviews, I’m in very good hands.

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