Holiday Reads (Part One)

Okay, yesterday I fell short of my “try to post something positive once a day through December leading up to Christmas” goal, and I’m not going to let myself beat myself up about that. It wasn’t a great day, that happens, and when my husband suggested we go see The Arrival, I jumped at the chance and it was a brilliant movie.

Not exactly a holiday movie, but I’ll take it.

But! Speaking of holiday stuff, I thought today I’d start my annual revisit of some of my favourite holiday books. I re-read like crazy in December (it’s a leftover from Christmas retail, where I couldn’t bring myself to focus long enough when I wasn’t working, so I re-read for pleasure).

So, what are my favourite holiday re-reads?

So glad you asked.

A Coventry ChristmasA Coventry Christmas, by Becky Cochrane

My original review: I stayed up to nearly midnight finishing “A Coventry Christmas,” and laughing all the while (much to the chagrin of the attempting-to-sleep husband beside me). Keelie is a blast. She’s an assistant manager for a grotesque boss at a bookstore, and Christmas is coming, with all the attendant issues thereof (you can tell that Becky Cochrane has book retail history, and the scenes in the book store made me chuckle for their accuracy). She’s tired, cranky, hates Christmas, and just wants… well, something. Anything. Preferably being swept off her feet (and out of the bookstore) by the handsome beefy security fellow who picks up the morning deposit. But, with a broken ankle and time off at Christmas for the first time since her retail career began, Keelie has the chance to walk… well, hobble… into a new sort of Christmas.

With the superb group-of-friends style that I’ve come to know and love from Cochrane and her compatriots in other works, the ensemble cast is just the right mix of people, and the plot kept me laughing, smiling, and interested. Empathizing with Cochrane’s characters isn’t hard – somehow, regardless of how out-there some of the characters might be, you click with them and get pulled in for the ride.

If you’re having anything like a rough Christmas period, snap this book up. I do warn you that it will eat up what little spare time you have, might make you stay up late, and your husband might take it from you and say things like, “No book right now, talk to me,” but don’t worry – it’s worth it. And you can always steal the book back when he falls asleep.

FirflakeThe Firflake, by Anthony Cardno

My original review: I love tales retold cleverly.

I’m not one who loves Christmas in a traditional sense these days – working retail often leaves much of the “ho-ho-ho” replaced by “go-go-go” and the end result is being tired. I’ve made it a point to find new traditions for myself and my family and friends whereby I can enjoy small pieces of the holiday.

“The Firflake” just became one of those traditions. It’s a lovely story, taking pieces of Christmas tales and turning them just a little sideways, so the light can shine on them from a new angle – one that’s refreshing and cheerful from the new point of view.

The characters are charming, the magic sparkles in the words, and I finished the tale – which is more like a half dozen tales woven together into a whole – with a genuine smile on my face.

It takes a lot to give me a sense of Christmas cheer, but the author did so. The Firflake has earned a place beside the traditional Christmas stories, where it can shine every year.

Blame it on the MistletoeBlame it on the Mistletoe, by Eli Easton (and performed by Jason Frazier)

Original review: It’s amazing how much I used to struggle with trying to love Christmas. Then again, if you’ve ever worked retail, you probably get it. So it’s nice to return to Christmas and find it actually enjoyable.

Also – Christmas stories.

That said, this isn’t one. Or rather, there’s a very tenuous Christmas component to it, but it’s not a story that really has Christmas centre-stage. And even post-retail me is okay with that.

Eli Easton’s Blame it on the Mistletoe is a fun novella-length audiobook that I listened to in a single afternoon worth of household chores, and it was a lovely way to pass the time. The narrative set-up is pretty simple: a jock has a roommate who’s a super-smart (and rather cute) nerdy type. They’re very close, and when the nerd learns that jock has the reputation of being the best kisser on campus, he asks for lessons.

Yup. That’s right. Lessons.

The reason why, and how the two end up together (there’s no spoiler there, as anyone who’s ever read any gay romance will know they’re on a collision course), is actually quite adorable. Even better, the (as-yet) straight jock character doesn’t come across as a gay-for-you character at all (a trope I have little patience for), but rather a character who has successfully managed to not-think-about-it for a very long time—until his roommate’s request makes him realize what’s going on.

It’s sweet. It’s fun. And it’s performed wonderfully by Jason Frazier, who I honestly think is one of the best audiobook performers out there. Seriously—everything I’ve heard him perform is elevated by his skill as a narrator. If you’re at all an audiobook enthusiast, check him out.


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