December 2023 Reading Wrap-Up

Welcome, book friends!

If you’d prefer to listen to these reviews, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. 

I’d love to know your thoughts on any of these books if you’ve read them. I invite you to hop over to my Instagram or X (aka Twitter), where you can comment.


December was a wonderful reading month for me. I got a total of 22 books in. I listened to a lot of short audiobooks, which helped. I had a mix of fantasy books, a non-fiction book, a few graphic novels, and a ton of Christmas books in various genres. I really explored my reading taste during this time of year. I’ll absolutely continue to read Christmas books during the holiday season, but maybe not as many as last year. But I had so much fun reading these festive, heartwarming, and entertaining novels.

I list the non-Christmas books (5) first, and then all the holiday books (17).

December Reading Wrap-Up

Non-Christmas Books

These books are not listed in any particular order.

Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

My GR Rating: 4
Format: Hardcover
Genre: YA Romantasy
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GR Description: The only life Tress has known on her island home in an emerald-green ocean has been a simple one, with the simple pleasures of collecting cups brought by sailors from faraway lands and listening to stories told by her friend Charlie. But when his father takes him on a voyage to find a bride and disaster strikes, Tress must stow away on a ship and seek the Sorceress of the deadly Midnight Sea. Amid the spore oceans where pirates abound, can Tress leave her simple life behind and make her own place sailing a sea where a single drop of water can mean instant death?

My Brief Review: This was my first Brandon Sanderson book, and it was quite delightful. Not being familiar with his Cosmere, I did feel a little lost, like I was missing some small details. It didn’t impede my reading experience with this book, but I felt like my knowledge was lacking, and I was an outsider looking in. But otherwise, this was an enjoyable coming-of-age story. It was very whimsical, silly, and outlandish, but in a really fun, sweet way. It was well-written and pretty clever.

However, I thought it would be more fantastical than it was; it felt more sci-fi for the majority of the story for me. I’m not a seasoned reader of the sci-fi/fantasy genre, so it took me by surprise, but it was rather interesting. There were some science-related details that I didn’t care about knowing, so I became bored in those areas, and I wish more happened with the fantasy parts of the book. The middle was a bit slow. I wish there was more action and different locations explored during the journey through the spore oceans. The majority of the book is on a pirate ship and not a lot happens. The story about the spore seas was interesting, but then I got bored hearing about them. The last quarter of the story picked up, and I wish we had more of those types of action sequences earlier. The ending took me by surprise. I didn’t expect the big reveal, which was a nice touch. It all came together seamlessly and had a satisfying conclusion.

Overall, it was a fun, exciting adventure with some humor, touching friendships, heartwarming characters, and found family elements. It also felt a bit cozy at times and very charming. I think it was a good introduction to the Cosmere, and now I want to read more and explore this world further.

Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

My GR Rating: 4 (4.5)
Format: Hardcover
Genre: YA Historical Romantasy
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GR Description: After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again. But eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow just wants to hold her family together. Her mother is suffering from addiction and her brother is missing from the front lines. Her best bet is to win the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.

To combat her worries, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them beneath her wardrobe door, where they vanish—into the hands of Roman Kitt, her cold and handsome rival at the paper. When he anonymously writes Iris back, the two of them forge a connection that will follow Iris all the way to the front lines of battle: for her brother, the fate of mankind, and love.

My Brief Review: This book had so much hype around it that I had to pick it up to see if it lived up to all the glowing reviews. So did it? Yes and no. I think it was a bit overhyped in general for what the story is, but the romance in this book was absolutely five stars. I wish it focused more on the main couple and their romance, but it veered off into the war element a lot. Once Iris gets to the frontline, it feels more like a historical war drama than a romantasy. This story is very fantasy-light, and I wish we had a lot more fantasy elements. There was a tiny bit of magic, and I wished we explored more of this magical system because it was very unique and interesting. For these reasons, I couldn’t give it five stars, but it was really, really close.

The writing is beautiful, lyrical prose. It was easy to imagine this world and the story taking place. I was fully immersed from the beginning, and invested in the characters. They were very easy to like and root for. The character development was done very well. There was so much depth and emotion once the relationship took off.

The romance is a slow burn and doesn’t pick up until about halfway into the story. But once it begins, it’s very romantic, almost poetic. I loved the anonymous letter writing back and forth where they learned more about each other, and ultimately, it’s what helped them fall in love with each other. However, I wished those parts were longer. It felt too short. I wanted more of the letter writing and bonding.

I can’t remember any language. There was one bedroom scene, but it was more of a fade-to-black scene. There were some spicy details at the start of the scene that felt like they were starting to blur the lines, but then it jumped to the next day. Personally, I don’t feel comfortable reading spice in YA books, and in this case, they are teenagers at 18 and 19 years old. That just feels a little icky to me. So I’m glad things didn’t go further in that scene. It is a clean, closed-door romance, which I appreciated.

There are some pretty graphic war scenes, but it’s not too brutal. The depiction of the war was done very well, but it just wasn’t something I was expecting or wanted to read in a romance fantasy story. I wanted more of the pining, wooing, and romance parts of the story. I didn’t care for the parts during the war and at the frontlines. I wished it just focused on the couple in the city competing at the newspaper and writing their secret, magical letters to each other (a la You’ve Got Mail vibes). We don’t get too many details about the warring gods, so I didn’t really care about that element of the story. Maybe that will change in book two, but I thought it was just an annoying side plot that took away from the romance that I wanted to read about.

Another huge turn-off for me was some character choices that felt like a push from a woke hand. There is a lesbian couple who are married and are side characters. It felt like forced diversity to me, but that’s modern publishing for you (*rolls eyes). It didn’t add anything to the story or play an integral role.

But overall, I really enjoyed it. It was easy to get lost in this story and swoon over this young, budding romance. It also felt like historical drama/romance/fantasy around the early 1900s, which I enjoyed. It ends on a cliffhanger, so I’m eager to continue this duology and read the sequel.

If you like light fantasy, war drama (WWI-esque setting), and young love, then you’ll probably enjoy this book. Highly recommend!

Every Woman a Theologian: Know What You Believe. Live It Confidently. Communicate It Graciously. by Phylicia Masonheimer

My GR Rating: 4
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Phylicia Masonheimer
Genre: Non-Fiction – Christian
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GR Description: Phylicia Masonheimer believes that every woman should be a theologian and a student of the heart of God. Learn the basics of theology and why it’s so important to continue your biblical education one step at a time. Discover how deeper scriptural knowledge can help you navigate the world, answer your toughest questions, and engage culture in loving ways. All of us have guiding principles at work behind our choices, even if we don’t realize it. We hold beliefs about the world, ourselves, and God–beliefs perhaps we may have adopted unknowingly based on experience or culture’s messages. But God has revealed Himself through Scripture so it can transform how we view and navigate the world–how we think, act, love, work, marry, and parent. When we do that, we become theologians. No, we’re not wearing tweed suits or giving lectures; we’re driving to our corporate job every morning, or juggling babies on our own, or connecting with our communities. We are women who want to know who God is and how He answers our toughest questions. Through engaging stories and compelling truths, Every Woman a Theologian will help Identify your existing beliefs about God, salvation, and the Christian life. Learn how to lovingly communicate Christian truths to those who disagree. Understand theological concepts without feeling overwhelmedGrow closer to the heart of God Step in that direction with Phylicia Masonheimer as your guide, and you will grow as a woman able to discern truth, who knows what she believes, and who lives her faith boldly in a post-Christian world.

My Brief Review: I found this to be a very helpful and insightful look at Christianity and the bible. There is so much valuable information from learning the basics and fundamental aspects of the religion to reading answers to some hard questions believers and non-believers may have. The author also tackles various distinctions of the faith through historical context and explains much about the theology in layman’s terms so that it’s easier to understand. 

However, I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by the author herself, and she does a wonderful job, but it was a lot of info dumping to keep up with. I almost felt like it was a school lecture where I needed to take notes. Soon, it became overwhelming so I stopped around 60%. But it’s not because I didn’t enjoy it, it was just not the right format for me to consume this information. So now, I want to buy a physical copy to read so I can annotate and highlight all the good bits because there are a lot! I’ve been exploring my spiritual beliefs lately and have been very curious about the bible. This will be a wonderful resource as I consider this faith and religion.

Plain Jane and the Mermaid by Vera Brosgol

My GR Rating: 3
Format: NetGalley ARC – eBook | Publishes May 2024
Genre: Graphic Novel – Historical Fantasy
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GR Description: Jane is incredibly plain. Everyone says so: her parents, the villagers, and her horrible cousin who kicks her out of her own house. Determined to get some semblance of independence, Jane prepares to propose to the princely Peter, who might just say yes to get away from his father. It’s a good plan!

Or it would’ve been if he wasn’t kidnapped by a mermaid.

With her last shot at happiness lost in the deep blue sea, Jane must venture to the world underwater to rescue her maybe-fiancé. But the depths of the ocean hold beautiful mysteries and dangerous creatures. What good can a plain Jane do?

My Brief Review: This was a magical, whimsical graphic novel that provided a good moral to the story, beautiful illustrations, and a fun plot. I enjoyed the stunning artwork and all the different characters. I really enjoyed the seal, which gave some comic relief to a heavy story. I love anything with an ocean and underwater scenes. However, it could’ve used more bubbles or something to make it feel like we were underwater occasionally. But it did use colors in a great way to show the depth of the ocean and how far down the characters went. I also really enjoyed the myths and folklore that were explored in this story. There were quite a few sea creatures, each with their own personalities and quirks that were entertaining. 

However, it felt a little disjointed for me because this is set during a historical time period, perhaps the Victorian era, but it was trying to tackle today’s societal issues and standards around aging and beauty. I also didn’t care for the blatant feminist perspective, always making the men look like the bad guys or weak guys. I think female leads can be made to look like a heroine without the story taking a feminist angle. 

But Jane is an enjoyable main character who ends up saving herself as she tries to save the man she thinks she loves. She endured quite a bit of bullying and verbal abuse about her looks and weight, which got tedious at times, but she finally stood up for herself and realized her own beauty within. So I did like the overall messaging, but it could’ve been executed a bit better. It felt a bit preachy and the messages could’ve been conveyed more subtly.

Overall, it was an entertaining and pleasant story to read. I wished it focused more on the myth/folklore aspect of the story and less commentating on social issues. I like my fantasy stories to be lighthearted and fun, not so heavy and serious.

Kodi by Jared Cullen

My GR Rating: 5
Format: eBook
Genre: YA Graphic Novel
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GR Description: Katya and her Meema are spending another normal summer at their cottage in Alaska when a chance accident leaves Katya face-to-face with the biggest creature she’s ever seen… an enormous kodiak bear, soon to become her closest friend. But when Katya must suddenly return home to Seattle, the two are torn apart, leaving Kodi to do whatever it takes to reunite with his fragile human friend.

My Brief Review: This graphic novel was an unexpected five-star book that snuck into my top ten graphic novel list of 2023 at the last minute (read it in December). I absolutely loved this cute, adorable novel. The artwork is my favorite – watercolors and cartoony “bubble” illustrations. It’s gorgeous and reminded me of Disney or Pixar animation. The whole story played out like one of those types of animated movies. I had such a good time reading it. I read it on my library app, and now I want to buy a physical copy for my collection. I could see myself rereading this book a few times a year when I need a quick, cozy, and cute read. I can’t get over the artwork!! I took my time with it because it’s just stunning!

This story is about a friendship between a bear and a little girl, and it’s extremely heartwarming and heartfelt. There’s not a lot of text and it focused on the artwork to tell the story, which I loved. This would be perfect for kids and new readers since there are minimal words. I loved all the characters and the adventure the bear went on to find the little girl when she had to leave after her summer break with her grandmother in the woods.

It was a really quick read. I read it in about 20 minutes. It was very touching and hugged my heart. Highly, highly recommend!!

Christmas Books

These books (minus the graphic novel) are listed from my least favorite to my most favorite of the month.

The Nutcracker & the Mouse King by Natalie Andrewson

My GR Rating: 4
Format: eBook
Genre: MG/YA Graphic Novel
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GR Description: Of all the gifts under the tree on Christmas Eve, only one captures Marie Stahlbaum’s heart: a humble nutcracker.

He’s a curious little man, with kind eyes, sweet red cheeks, and a friendly appearance.

And as midnight nears, he comes to life, revealing a fairy-tale world of magic and wonder, wicked princesses and fierce battles . . . and an ancient curse that can only be broken with the help of a true friend.

With the evil Mouse King looming and her dream world threatened, Marie will have to find the strength to stand up for her nutcracker—no matter what it takes.

My Brief Review: This is basically a Nutcracker retelling. The author explains her inspiration in the author’s notes at the end of the book, which helps to understand why she created this story and her motivation for writing it. 

For the most part, I really enjoyed this whimsical story. The illustrations were beautiful. I loved all of the artwork; however, the colors didn’t quite feel like Christmas time. There were more oranges, blues, and greens, than the typical red, green, white, and gold that we see around the holidays. So I was a little bummed that it didn’t feel more like a Christmas story. But the colors were bright and vibrant and helped to tell the story.

The novel is split up into chapters, so it was easy to read and quickly get through. However, at times, it got word-heavy with too many word bubbles in the tiles. I prefer the artwork to shine more than the content in graphic novels. 

I’ve never read the original Nutcracker story, but I have seen the ballet in person and have watched a few movie adaptations, so I am familiar with the story. This was a fun, creative, and compelling retake of this classic fairytale. However, when the Nutcracker fights the Mouse King, it gets a little graphic and shows the violent fight with blood from the wounds the mouse obtains. So it did get a bit dark and graphic during that scene. I wouldn’t recommend this for very little kids, but middle grade and older could definitely handle it. 

The first part of the book feels like the typical Nutcracker story, but once Marie gets sick and her uncle tells the story of how the Nutcracker came to be, I enjoyed it more because we are whisked off to this fantasy land. I preferred this part of the story and wished it happened sooner and that we spent more time in the fantasy realm. Because I did get a little bored in the first half of the book. I also didn’t like the disruptions of the storytelling. Because the uncle tells the story over several nights, the story keeps getting interrupted which pulled me out of the story and became annoying. So then it made the general story feel disrupted and disjointed. 

But overall, this was an enchanting, lovely retelling of a beloved classic Christmas story. I listened to the Nutcracker soundtrack while I read this graphic novel, which made it even more fun and entertaining. Highly recommend doing that as you read this book. I don’t know if this will become part of my annual Christmas reading tradition, but I’m glad that I experienced it once during the holidays. Definitely recommend it!

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

My GR Rating: 2
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Patti Murin
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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GR Description: It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, and everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

My Brief Review: Unfortunately, this was one of the worst books I read in 2023. These just may not be the authors for me. I read another one of their popular books and didn’t care for that one either. I thought I would give their holiday book a try, and it did not work out at all for me.

I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator did a great job, but I almost DNF’d this around the 50% mark. I had so many problems with it. If I was reading a physical copy of this book, I would’ve stopped reading. But since it was an audiobook, I forced myself to power through it and see what happened. I did increase it to two times the speed just to get through it. It wasn’t worth it. I should’ve just stopped at the halfway mark.

First, off there was way too much language. I don’t care for vulgar language and crassness. It just feels like lazy writing. The way the characters spoke was cringy, immature, and lacking intelligence. I also didn’t like the main character at all. I couldn’t connect to her. I thought she was really whiny and annoying. She only cared about her own happiness, not any others. The rest of the characters were one-dimensional, flat, and boring. No one stood out. There were also a lot of characters to keep track of. It was especially difficult to keep everyone straight via audiobook.

The romance was done poorly and wasn’t convincing at all. I tried really hard but couldn’t buy into the main couple actually being in love with each other. There was zero chemistry. This is also an open-door romance with some pretty spicy scenes. I prefer closed-door romances, so another turnoff for me. I did fast-forward through those scenes in the audiobook. It felt more like lust over love. They moved very quickly from flirting and liking each other to jumping in bed together. I prefer a little more of a slow burn with some cute pining, wooing, and tension buildup. 

I was extremely disappointed at how terribly the Groundhog Day trope was executed. I adore that movie; it’s one of my all-time favorite romcoms that I watch every single February. So I know the trope inside and out, and this couldn’t even compete on the same level. There were maybe three loops or time jumps in the entire story. I expected much, much more. I wanted to see many different scenarios play out and see some life lessons learned along the way. We didn’t get that in this book. Most of the time, the time-looping didn’t even make sense. The plot felt all over the place and messy. I didn’t even really understand the point of this book.

I wouldn’t call this a woke book, but it has wokeness in it, which induced some eye-rolling. There are obvious liberal-leaning comments made and some checkboxes marked off, which is a huge turnoff for me.

Overall, the whole story was super boring. Honestly, most of the time while the audio played, I half listened to it because it could barely keep my attention. There’s not a lot happening. It’s not funny. There’s hardly any action sequences. There are some holiday activities, but they are boring. It didn’t feel Christmasy at all for a holiday book. 

Poorly written and not worth your precious time. Do not recommend at all – skip it and find a much better Christmas romance book!

The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict

My GR Rating: 3
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Ana Clements
Genre: Mystery & Thriller
Read more on GoodReads.

GR Description: Twelve clues. Twelve keys. Twelve days of Christmas. But how many will die before the Twelfth Night?

The annual Christmas Game is afoot at Endgame House, the Armitages’ grand family home. This year’s prize is to die for–deeds to the house itself–but Lily Armitage has no intention of returning. She hasn’t been back to Endgame since her mother died, twenty-one years ago, and she has no intention of claiming the house that haunts her dreams.

Until, that is, she receives a letter from her aunt promising that the game’s riddles will give her the keys not only to Endgame, but to its darkest secrets, including the identity of her mother’s murderer.

Now, Lily must compete with her estranged cousins for the twelve days of Christmas. The snow is thick, the phone lines are down, and no one is getting in or out. Lily will have to keep her wits about her because not everyone is playing fair, and there’s no telling how many will die before the winner is declared.

My Brief Review: This was my first time with this author, and unfortunately, it didn’t go very well. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator did a great job. I love British voiceovers, but I struggled with the story. It had a very slow start. I never wanted to stop listening, so it did keep my attention. I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next, but the pacing could’ve been executed better.

Once we get to the halfway point, the pacing picks up and the story gets much more interesting. Then the bodies started to drop, but I was disappointed that it took up to the 50% mark to get our first dead body. I thought that was way too long before anything interesting happened.

Listening to the audiobook, I didn’t really care about the puzzles and riddles that were part of the family’s annual Christmas game. Maybe if I had a physical copy of the book, it would’ve been more entertaining, but just listening to it, that part of the story didn’t stand out for me. I had a hard time figuring them out and couldn’t quite understand them via audio. Therefore, I wasn’t fully invested in the game everyone was playing.

As for the characters, I had a hard time connecting to any of them. They all felt one-dimensional and bland. They all lacked any personality and were poorly developed. I wasn’t fully invested in anyone, except maybe Lily. I was able to sympathize with her, but she was also hiding her own secrets, which intrigued me. 

This is definitely a case of “rich people behaving badly.” They are all terrible to each other and just horrible human beings in general. I would never want to be part of this family (lol)! There was so much lying, betrayal, deceit, and backstabbing (literally), but once I got to the part where bodies started to drop, I found the story more compelling. The murder mystery element was rather predictable though. I guessed some of the big reveal earlier in the book. Then other reveals were just eye-rolling induced and ridiculous. 

The best part of the book for me was the setting of the story – out in the remote English countryside, at a big, lavish estate/mansion, during winter with bad weather. It created the perfect dreary, creepy atmosphere that I enjoy with winter thrillers. At one point, they become stuck in this area and locked in the house. I love these isolated elements in mystery and thriller books. However, it didn’t feel Christmasy at all. There were a few scenes that passively felt holiday-ish, but I wanted a lot more. This story could’ve taken place any time during winter. I didn’t get Christmastime hardly at all, which was very disappointing. 

Overall, the plot sounded rather intriguing but unfortunately, it wasn’t executed that well. I felt like so much more could’ve been done with the story. I wanted over-the-top drama to make it really captivating, but instead, it was slow, dreary, and lackluster. At times, I was bored with it and just wanted something to happen. I also thought it would be a light-hearted Christmas mystery thriller, but it felt heavy and dark. It took itself a little too seriously. 

Even though I had problems with this book, I didn’t hate it. There were parts that I enjoyed. I say read at your own risk. If it sounds interesting to you, maybe give it a try. But I’m not sure if I’ll pick up another book by this author in the future, unfortunately.

Faking Christmas by Kerry Winfrey

My GR Rating: 3
Format: Paperback
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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GR Description: Laurel Grant works as the social media manager for Buckeye State of Mind, an Ohio tourism magazine and website. She is most definitely not an owner of a farm…but one tiny misunderstanding leads her boss, Gilbert, to think she owns her twin sister Holly’s farm just outside of Columbus. Laurel only handles the social media for the farm, but she’s happy to keep her little white lie going if it means not getting fired.

And keep it going she must when Gilbert, recently dumped by his wife, invites himself over for the farm’s big holiday dinner (as advertised on Meadow Rise Farm’s Instagram, thanks to Laurel herself). Laurel immediately goes into panic mode to figure out how she can trick Gilbert into thinking she’s basically the Martha Stewart of rural Ohio and keep her job in the process.

Laurel and Holly come up with a plan–all Laurel has to do is pretend to own the farm for one dinner. But when Laurel shows up at the farm, an unwelcome guest is there: Max Beckett, her nemesis since Holly’s wedding. The annoyingly attractive man she hates will be posing as Laurel’s husband just for the evening, but when a snowstorm traps them all for the entire weekend, Laurel is going to have to figure out how to survive with her job and dignity intact. Whatever the case, this promises to be the most eventful Christmas in ages…

My Brief Review: This is one of the cheesiness romance books that I’ve ever read. At times, it was hard to read and continue because it became too much. This was over-the-top cheese with an extra side of cheesiness times two. But if you like that much cringe and sweetness, then you may enjoy this book. For me, it was just mediocre. 

I intentionally picked up this book because it’s set in the Columbus, OH area and the author is from Columbus, and I’m originally from Columbus. So I was excited to read a story based on my hometown, but unfortunately, it didn’t feel much like Ohio. This story could’ve been set anywhere in the north with a farm and snow. I was hoping to read references to places in Columbus that I knew or heard of or read about Ohio culture that I could relate to, but it was very minimal, which was disappointing. 

If you’ve ever watched the old classic holiday movie, Christmas in Connecticut, this is basically a retelling of that story but with the enemies-to-lovers romance trope. It was very predictable, but it was fine because there were many humorous sequences as the family tried to keep up the charade of Laurel and Max being married, having kids, and owning a farm. I always enjoy the fake dating/marriage trope because there are usually funny antics that happen, and this story is no exception. It’s one disaster after another that kept the story entertaining and interesting. It did make me smile many times, and keep me wondering what was going to happen next.  

However, I had a problem with Laurel. She kept protesting about Max staying with them and being in the role of her husband because she doesn’t like him due to something she heard him say at her sister’s wedding years prior, and we don’t get the full story until almost the end of the book. So for the majority of the story, we don’t know why Laurel hates Max so much. Usually, I really enjoy the miscommunication trope, but it wasn’t executed very well in this book. I found myself getting impatient with the lack of details and how Laurel was acting the whole time. Her meanness felt unnecessary and didn’t make me like her character as much as I would’ve liked her. At times, I felt sorry for Max and the way she was treating him. 

There’s also not a lot of romance for a quirky romcom, which was disappointing. I like to root for the couple to get together in the end, but in this case, I didn’t really care if they did or didn’t. Both Laurel and Max were decent characters to like, but I wasn’t overly invested in them and couldn’t relate to them. So when it ended, I was glad it was over and ready to move on.

One Day in December by Josie Silver

My GR Rating: 4 (3.5)
Format: Audiobook – Narrators: Eleanor Tomlinson and Charlie Anson
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Read more on GoodReads.

GR Description: Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah, and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

My Brief Review: I had a hard time rating this book because overall, I really enjoyed the story and how it played out over the course of a decade. We really got to know the characters and watched them change and evolve throughout the ten years. We experienced many highs and lows with them, and it was interesting to see what life threw at them and how they handled those experiences. I was intrigued the whole time and kept wanting to know what was going to happen next. However, I do not like the cheating trope and found it very problematic. 

With that being said, this is basically a love triangle between two girl best friends and a guy with many, many layers to sift through and uncover. This complex love story was much more than I expected, and it’s definitely not an insta-love romance, which I was thankful for because I hate that trope. 

I found Laurie a likable character, but she has questionable morals and values. However, I loved watching her with her best friend, Sarah. They are more than best friends; they are more like sisters. Their devotion and love for each other is so heartwarming and inspiring. They were always there for each other and supported one another. We also witness them growing up and maturing from college girls to young women starting careers and living their lives as adults. We also get to watch their friendship grow, develop, and mature through time and how it affects each woman. Even though poor decisions were made by the characters, I still really enjoyed reading about their friendship. 

As for Jack, the main guy character, he was hard to like at first. I thought he was shallow and arrogant. He was the good-looking guy that women gushed over but didn’t have much depth to him. He was just a pretty face. But then, he starts to open himself up to Laurie over the course of their friendship which evolves throughout the years. It did feel like Laurie was more into him than he was into her, but, there was no denying their connection and chemistry together. It really came through the pages for me. I listened to the audiobook and loved the two narrators since this is a dual-POV story told by Laurie and Jack. I thought the narrators did an amazing job and highly recommend listening to this book. 

Overall, it was an addicting, angsty love story told over multiple years that takes your heart and emotions on quite a rollercoaster ride. I was completely immersed in the characters and their lives during these ten years. The ending was predictable and I wish it was a little longer because it ends abruptly, but it was satisfying.

The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews

My GR Rating: 4
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Kathleen McInerney
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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GR Description: When newly divorced Ivy Perkins buys an old farmhouse sight unseen, she is definitely looking for a change in her life. The Four Roses, as the farmhouse is called, is a labor of love―but Ivy didn’t bargain on just how much labor. The previous family left so much furniture and so much junk, that it’s a full-time job sorting through all of it.

At the top of a closet, Ivy finds an old Santa suit―beautifully made and decades old. In the pocket of a suit she finds a note written in a childish it’s from a little girl who has one Christmas wish, and that is for her father to return home from the war. This discovery sets Ivy off on a mission. Who wrote the note? Did the man ever come home? What mysteries did the Rose family hold?

Ivy’s quest brings her into the community, at a time when all she wanted to do was be left alone and nurse her wounds. But the magic of Christmas makes miracles happen, and Ivy just might find more than she ever thought a welcoming town, a family reunited, a mystery solved, and a second chance at love.

My Brief Review: I really enjoyed this cute, charming Christmas story. I love reading about women starting over, especially when they are newly divorced or their husbands have passed away, and finding themselves and new loves as they begin a fresh, new chapter of their lives. 

I loved the setting for this story because I love the small town feel of smaller communities. It gives such a warm, homey, and comforting feeling. And with this story set during Christmastime, it felt even cozier and more heartwarming. There are many Christmas elements in the story, so it’s perfect for a charming, quick holiday read. There are multiple Christmas activities and festivities going on that make it feel like the Christmas season. There are many romance Christmas books that don’t feel like Christmastime, but this one does. 

I really enjoyed Ivy as the main character. She was easy to like and root for. I loved how curious she was, and she was a very kind-hearted individual who wanted to help others. I also loved getting to know this town and all its quirky yet relatable characters with Ivy. We’re exploring this new town with her, which was a lot of fun. I also loved the mystery element of the story, which made it unique from other contemporary romance Christmas books. I wanted to find out as much as Ivy about the note found in the Santa suit and learn more about the family who previously owned the old farmhouse. This mystery element gave the story more depth and layers to uncover, which was entertaining and kept my interest. 

While I didn’t swoon during the romance scenes, it was a cute romance story, but I wish there was more of it. I wanted to explore the budding relationship between Ivy and Ezra more and wanted more scenes of them together. But I usually enjoy the boy (or girl) next-door romance trope, which we got in this story and did like it. It did feel like a Christmas Hallmark movie, with a little bit of cheesiness, and was very predictable, but I favor these types of stories around the holiday season so I didn’t have a problem with it. There’s not much depth, but I’m not looking for deep characters or a complex plot during this time of year. It was a delightful, light-hearted romcom with a bit of mystery and love. 

I listened to the audiobook and found the narrator delightful. It was also a very quick listen at around 5-6 hours. Definitely recommend!

You Make It Feel Like Christmas by Toni Shiloh

My GR Rating: 4
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Jasmine Walker
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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GR Description: Starr Lewis reluctantly returns home for the holidays jobless, single, and not at all prepared to be dragged into her sister’s wedding activities–or to witness her sister’s marriage to Starr’s ex-boyfriend on Christmas Eve. But when her brother’s charming best friend, Waylon Emmerson, attends their family Thanksgiving, Starr begins to believe that maybe coming home isn’t so bad.

As Starr endures wedding preparations, she takes comfort in Waylon’s presence and finds the perfect distraction in helping him keep his late mother’s Christmas shop afloat. As the spark between them grows, Starr must decide what she wants out of life–to go back to New York City or to stay and pursue a new dream.

My Brief Review: This was a very quick, festive, and fluffy Christmas romance novella. I listened to the audiobook. While I enjoyed the narrator, she needs to work on the voices she uses for men. They all sounded the same, and at times, her delivery almost felt mocking of men, and it turned me off. 

This is a very sweet, cute Christmas Hallmark-esque romcom. Typically, I enjoy these types of stories, especially during the holiday season, but this story was almost too much, even for me. At times, it was extremely cheesy and almost too charming, if that’s possible. I didn’t feel like there was too much depth to the characters. Some of the side characters felt very immature and shallow. But I did really enjoy the family dynamics and experiencing the holidays with such a large family. All families have some dysfunction and this one was no different, but it was entertaining to be with them throughout the story. At the end of the day, they were always there for each other. 

This was my first brother’s best friend romance trope. Even though it was very insta-love, which is a huge turnoff for me, it was tolerable and the main couple was very likable. I was rooting for them the entire time. I just wish the book was a bit longer so we could see the buildup and tension of their budding relationship. I prefer to read about the pining and wooing during the beginning stages of a new romance. It’s an extremely predictable romcom, but it was still enjoyable to listen to. I usually prefer light-hearted, sweet, and heartwarming romance stories around Christmas. So I’m glad I added this novella at the last minute to my December holiday reads. This will definitely put you in the Christmas spirit, and there is quite a bit of festive holiday cheer and Christmas vibes throughout it. 

This is a Christian romance fiction book, and it was pretty heavy on the faith. It was almost too much for me (since I’m new to Christian fiction), but I did appreciate it. There was quite a bit of talk about praying and God. Once I got used to it, it was fine. 

This was my first Toni Shiloh book, and now I’m ready to read more by her. Definitely recommend!

The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss

My GR Rating: 4
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Elizabeth Knowelden
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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GR Description: When it comes to relationships, thirty-four-year-old Kate Turner is ready to say “Bah, humbug.” The sleepy town of Blexford, England, isn’t exactly brimming with prospects, and anyway, Kate’s found fulfillment in her career as a designer, and in her delicious side job baking for her old friend Matt’s neighborhood café. But then her best friend signs her up for a dating agency that promises to help singles find love before the holidays. Twenty-three days until Christmas. Twelve dates with twelve different men. The odds must finally be in her favor…right?

Yet with each new date more disastrous than the one before–and the whole town keeping tabs on her misadventures–Kate must remind herself that sometimes love, like mistletoe, shows up where it’s least expected. And maybe, just maybe, it’s been right under her nose all along…

My Brief Review: This was a fun, festive Christmas romance book, which got me into the holiday spirit. It was the first holiday book of the season for me and my very first Christmas romance, so I was excited to get into the holiday cheer with this one, and it didn’t disappoint. Even though it’s a little cheesy, very Hallmark romcom, and totally predictable from the first few pages, I still had a good time with it and let it play out in my head like a fluffy romcom movie that I adore and love to watch/read about during this time of year.

There is a decent amount of language that I didn’t care for; however, it is a clean, closed-door romance, which I prefer. There was plenty of humor that made me smile and laugh out loud at times. Each dating scenario was pure entertainment; however, I felt like 12 were too many dates, which made the book a little longer than it needed to be. I could’ve done with half of the amount of dates. There are also some long descriptions that could’ve been shortened, and some parts were a little boring and dragged on a bit. But overall, very cute and easy to get through, and it put a smile on my face the entire time.

I loved the English setting of the story. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator was British, so that helped me visualize the story even more with all its wonderful imagery that was being described. I really enjoyed the narrator as she read this book to me. It’s perfect to listen to as you snuggle up with a fuzzy blanket while drinking hot cocoa with the glowing lights of your Christmas tree nearby. It’s very cozy and heartwarming with some humorous moments. I also loved all the descriptions of the holiday season, seasonal foods and drinks, and the small town vibes.

I really liked all the characters. They were easy to relate and connect to, even though it was quite obvious from the very beginning that this was a best friends-to-lovers romance trope. For a modern romcom, the characters were pretty well-developed and were fun to hang out with. However, I was turned off by some of the feminist comments made here and there, but that’s today’s modern books for ya. Always gotta get those woke jabs in where they can (*eye rolling). 

If you’re looking for a light-hearted, charming, and sweet Christmas romcom, then pick this one up. It’s magical for this time of year and will definitely get you into a holly jolly mood. 

Now, I want to read more from Jenny Bayliss! Definitely recommend!

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

My GR Rating: 4
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Stephanie Cannon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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GR Description: All they want for Christmas is a different life.

When chef Charlie Goodwin gets hit on the head on the L.A. set of her reality baking show, she loses a lot more than consciousness; she also loses her ability to taste and smell–both critical to her success as show judge. Meanwhile, Charlie’s identical twin, Cass, is frantically trying to hold her own life together back in their quaint mountain hometown while running the family’s bustling bakery and dealing with her ex, who won’t get the memo that they’re over.

With only days until Christmas, a desperate Charlie asks Cass to do something they haven’t done since they were kids: switch places. Looking for her own escape from reality, Cass agrees. But temporarily trading lives proves more complicated than they imagined, especially when rugged firefighter Jake Greenman and gorgeous physician’s assistant Miguel Rodriguez are thrown into the mix. Will the twins’ identity swap be a recipe for disaster, or does it have all the right ingredients for getting their lives back on track?

My Brief Review: This is a sweet, cute, typical Christmas romcom with twin sisters who switch places. It reminded me of the movies, The Parent Trap and The Princess Switch. Again, another predictable Hallmark romcom-type story, but it was very enjoyable. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed the narrator. It was a quick, lovely, and quirky romance story with dual POVs from both sisters. 

I really enjoyed the sister dynamic and how they were there for each other. Once they switched places, it was funny and entertaining as they both struggled to play the role of their sister and live her life. Plenty of mistakes and mishaps were made that made me laugh out loud. One of the sisters made quite a few big (and questionable) decisions on her sibling’s behalf without consulting her about them, so that felt a little icky, but it made for some engrossing familial drama and tension between the two women. Of course, in the typical fashion of these types of stories, everything works out in the end, but to get there was a delightful ride. 

I also really enjoyed the two men who were the love interests. They were both completely different from each other, which helped to set them apart, but they were both what each sister needed in her life. They were mature, established men who really cared about these women and only wanted the best for them. This is a closed-door romance, which I prefer and enjoy, so no spice (and don’t remember any language either). All the characters were likable, relatable, and easy to connect with.  

I enjoyed the baking environments and each setting was unique to set them apart from each other where it didn’t feel that similar (big city vs. small town). I also loved the small town vibe with the bakery. All of the food descriptions made my mouth water. Anything with food in it, and I’ll love it. 

If you’re looking for a sweet, cute, and funny fluffy holiday read, then pick up this light-hearted romance book. It’ll give you all the Christmas cheer and put you into the holiday spirit. It’s a perfect novel to read by the fire or Christmas tree while sipping on a hot chocolate curled up in a warm, soft blanket. 

Now, I want to read more books by Maggie Knox. Definitely recommend!

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

My GR Rating: 4
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Erin Spencer
Genre: YA Romantasy
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GR Description: On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change…

My Brief Review: This was a unique retelling of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, set in modern times in New York during Christmas. A Christmas Carol is my favorite “ghost story” and Christmas story. I’ve seen almost every movie adaptation, including the retellings, so I was a little skeptical about how this one would rate against other stories that I’ve seen. But I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out much better than I thought it would. It didn’t disappoint at all. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed the narrator. 

The plot and world-building are intelligent and immersive. This was such an interesting, clever way to retell this story. I loved learning about this world and how things worked. I’ll admit that it is predictable and a bit cheesy at times, but it was delightful, nonetheless. There is a bit of a twist at the end, which wasn’t so predictable, that caught me off guard, but made for a satisfying ending to an entertaining and magical story. 

Since this is a young adult (YA) book, it definitely felt and read YA at times, especially with the romance. You can tell it’s a juvenile book for teenagers and young people. It was a little too sweet and immature for me, but it was still tolerable. It is a clean romance, no spice, and I don’t remember any language. If there was, it was very mild. I didn’t swoon or ship the main couple, but it was cute.  

Even though Holly is a selfish, spoiled, entitled brat, I was rooting for her the entire time and wanted a redemption story for her. She’s an unlikable character who is easy to like (if that makes any sense). Her humor is dry and sarcastic, which I found funny and entertaining. Ethan, the love interest and this year’s “Scrooge,” also felt the same way – an unlikeable character who was easy to like because of his charm, charisma, and wit. I was challenged with settling on each of their motivations and deciding if I liked them or not, but ultimately, I did and wanted them both to “learn the errors of their ways.” The ending may not be what readers wanted to happen, but I was still content with the resolution. 

If you’re craving a reimagining of a Christmas classic that is a bit silly but will make you feel good, then pick up this book. It’s sweet, heartwarming, whimsical, and perfect for the holiday season when you want to get into the Christmas spirit. Definitely recommend!

Murder at the Christmas Cookie Bakeoff by Darci Hannah

My GR Rating: 4
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Amy Melissa Bentley
Genre: Cozy Mystery | Murder Mystery
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GR Description: With the spirit of the holidays wafting through the Beacon Bakeshop, Lindsey thinks she has the recipe for the sweetest Christmas ever–winning the town-wide cookie bake-off. Unfortunately, striving for a picture-perfect December in Beacon Harbor is a lot like biting into stale shortbread. Low on staff and bombarded by visits from family, Lindsey can barely meet demands at work, let alone summon the confidence to face fierce competition…

Self-appointed Christmas know-it-all Felicity Stewart is determined to take the top spot in the bake-off, and she’s not afraid to dump a little coal in everyone’s stocking to do it. Just as the competition heats up, everything falls apart when the judge is found dead–and covered in crumbs from Lindsey’s signature cookie!

Solving a murder was never on Lindsey’s wish list. But with her reputation on the line during the happiest time of the year, she’ll need to bring her best talents to the table in order to sift out the true Christmas Cookie culprit.

My Brief Review: This was another fun cozy mystery from Darci Hannah, who is quickly becoming a favorite cozy mystery author of mine. I also really enjoyed the narrator, who is the same woman from book four that I read in October last year.

You can read the books in this series out of order; however, I don’t know if I would recommend it now having done it myself. I read book four first (which I loved and gave five stars), then I read this second book. I could feel a difference between the books, not in the writing, but within the story – the town, the community, and the characters. Compared to the fourth book, the characters didn’t feel as established and certain things hadn’t happened yet which I knew from reading the later book. So while I really enjoyed this book, it wasn’t quite on the same level as book four for me; therefore, I had to give it a lower rating. It didn’t quite have the same charm, close-knit community feeling, and coziness as the later book. 

However, I still loved being back in this small Mid-Western town solving a murder mystery case during the Christmas season. I loved all the festivities going on, along with all the holiday decorating and seasonal food being prepared. My favorite parts will always be the food descriptions, and this book did not disappoint. The food sounded delicious and made my mouth water. 

I loved being back with the same characters and meeting new ones. Of course, I always love reading parts with Welly, her dog, in them. And the murder mystery parts were fun to explore, trying to figure out the mystery along with the characters. However, in this case, I had guessed who it was before they figured it out, whereas in the other book, I had no clue until the person was revealed. So it was a bit predictable, but still a fun, entertaining read with a bit of humor, love, and quirkiness. I still had a really good time, and am excited to read the other books in this series and her newest book, coming out this year (2024). 

It’s an easy, light-hearted murder mystery that’s perfect to read during the holidays to get you into the Christmas spirit. Absolutely recommend!

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

My GR Rating: 4
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Stephen Fry
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
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GR Description: You are about to read the true story of Father Christmas.

It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible.

If you are one of those people who believe that some things are impossible, you should put this book down right away. It is most certainly not for you.

Because this book is FULL of impossible things.

Are you still reading?


Then let us begin…

A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and an eleven-year-old boy called Nikolas, who isn’t afraid to believe in magic.

My Brief Review: This was such a fun, whimsical, and entertaining story. I had both the audiobook and the physical paperback, which had illustrations throughout the book. So I did a tandem reading and loved it. Actor Stephen Fry was the narrator, and he did a phenomenal job. It was one of my favorite audiobooks of the year. I loved all of his different voices for various characters. It made me laugh and chuckle so much while he read the book. Highly recommend the audiobook. 

I had seen the movie on Netflix but didn’t remember most of it, so it was like hearing the story again for the first time. It was well-written but definitely reads like a middle grade book and has some juvenile humor that kids will love, maybe not so much for adults. But it was a funny and unique story about the origins of Santa Claus or Father Christmas. 

It was a bit dark and heavy at the beginning. It felt a little mature for young kids, but then as the story progresses, it gets more whimsical and outlandish, especially once Nikolas finds the elves in the woods as he’s looking for his father. Nikolas is an easy character to love and root for. His life has been rough, but he still has such a positive attitude. I loved the messages about good and bad, kindness, friendship, believing in yourself, and believing in magic. It was such an enchanting story! 

I have the entire trilogy and plan to continue it next year. Carey Mulligan narrates the second book, so I’m excited to listen to that audiobook next Christmas season. Definitely recommend!

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

My GR Rating: 5
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Dennis Boutsikaris
Genre: Contemporary
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GR Description: Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences–and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that have become part of our holiday tradition.

My Brief Review: I predicted to myself that this would be a five-star read, and it was. I knew it! The movie, Christmas with the Kranks, is one of my favorite Christmas movies that I watch every year… without fail. So knowing that the movie was based on a book, I had a feeling that I would love the book if it was still pretty similar to the movie, which it was. Honestly, the movie doesn’t veer off much from the original source material. There are definitely differences, but they are so tiny and subtle. I’m glad the movie adaptation stays so true to the book. The whole time I listened to this book, the movie was playing out in my head. I knew each and every scene so there weren’t any surprises for me, but it was still a fun, entertaining, and funny read. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed it. It’s very comical and had me laughing out loud so many times. 

I don’t know if I would read or listen to this book again, but I’m glad that I did once. However, I prefer the movie with Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis. They are so good together, and I love their chemistry. So I prefer to watch this story than read it. But I do recommend reading (or listening) to it at least once, even if you watch the movie every year, like me.

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock

My GR Rating: 5
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Sarah Zimmerman
Genre: Christian Fiction | Contemporary Romance
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GR Description: As a first-year law associate, Sydney Batson knows she will be updating her resume by New Year’s if she loses her current court case. So when her grandmother gets inexplicably ill while she’s in court, Sydney arranges for a cab to get her to the clinic.

The last thing cab driver Finn Parrish wants is to be saddled with a wheelchair-bound old lady with dementia. But because Miss Callie reminds him of his own mother, whom he failed miserably in her last days, he can’t say no when she keeps calling him for rides. Once a successful gourmet chef, Finn’s biggest concern now is making his rent, but half the time Callie doesn’t remember to pay him. And as she starts to feel better, she leads him on a wild goose chase to find a Christmas date for her granddaughter.

When Finn meets Sydney, he’s quite sure that she’s never needed help finding a date. Does Miss Callie have an ulterior motive, or is this just a mission driven by delusions? He’s willing to do whatever he can to help fulfill Callie’s Christmas wish. He just never expected to be a vital part of it.

My Brief Review: This book has my entire heart, and I fell absolutely in love with Finn Parrish. He was one of my favorite characters of the year. This was such a sweet, heartwarming story with a charming romance. I listened to this on audiobook, and it was wonderful. Highly recommend listening to it because the narrator does a fabulous job, especially as Miss Callie. But get a tissue box before you sit down to listen because this one is a tear-jerker. 

I loved how a simple act of kindness became the catalyst for a life-changing moment for Finn. He is quite a caring, compassionate, and selfless man. He could have just left this sassy, blunt old lady who suffers from dementia alone and forgotten, but he has a heart of gold. He can’t leave her and wants to make sure she is okay. From there, he becomes part of Miss Callie Sydney’s life. He’s annoyed at first because half the time, Miss Callie forgets to pay him for being her personal driver. Then she ropes him into a mission to find her granddaughter a date for Christmas. But as he keeps showing up for these two ladies, he creates a bond with both of them, and they become a little family. 

It is a dual-POV story, so we also get to know Sydney as well and begin to understand what is going on in her life. She is a very sweet character but is overwhelmed and stressed with challenges at work and then caring for her ill and failing grandmother alone. She is struggling herself and feels bad for leaving Miss Callie alone so much, but she can’t lose her job. Then she befriends Finn as he keeps showing up, and a spark forms between them. 

I loved this sweet, wholesome story so much. There’s even a bit of faith elements weaved in, which was nice. I can see myself listening to this audiobook every year as a Christmas reading tradition. Highly, highly recommend if you want a different, heartfelt romance Christmas story. This one really stood out from all the other cheesy, commercial Christmas romance books.

The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Tale by Philip van Doren Stern

My GR Rating: 5
Format: eBook
Genre: Classics | Fantasy
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GR Description: For almost seventy years, people the world over have fallen in love with Frank Capra’s classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. But few of those fans know that Capra’s film was based on a short story by author Philip Van Doren Stern, which came to Stern in a dream one night. Unable at first to find a publisher for his evocative tale about a man named George Pratt who ponders suicide until he receives an opportunity to see what the world would be like without him, Stern ultimately published the story in a small pamphlet and sent it out as his 1943 Christmas card. One of those 200 cards found its way into the hands of Frank Capra, who shared it with Jimmy Stewart, and the film that resulted became the holiday tradition we cherish today. Now fans of It’s a Wonderful Life, or anyone who loves the spirit of Christmas, can own the story that started it all in an elegant, illustrated edition that’s perfect for holiday giving. It includes an Afterword by Stern’s daughter, Marguerite Stern Robinson, that tells the story of how her father’s Christmas card became the movie beloved by generations of people around the world.

My Brief Review: For a short story that you can read in about 15 minutes, it was very powerful and impactful. It was interesting to compare the source material to the Hollywood movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. You can clearly see the similarities and differences. The movie is a Christmas staple in my holiday movie-watching season. I watch every single year as part of my old Christmas movie weekend, always the weekend before Christmas. I’m glad that I finally read the original story that inspired the timeless iconic movie that the world loves.

Wonderful Memories of “It’s a Wonderful Life” by Jimmy Hawkins

My GR Rating: 4
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Jimmy Hawkins
Genre: Non-Fiction
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GR Description: Actor Jimmy Hawkins, who played four-year-old Tommy Bailey, takes you behind the scenes of the movie classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, to meet Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Frank Capra, and all the people who made Bedford Falls America’s favorite small town. Their memories and anecdotes take you through the movie’s creation.

My Brief Review: After I read Stern’s original story, I came across this audiobook that was written and narrated by Jimmy Hawkins, who plays little Tommy Bailey in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. It was less than two hours, so it was easy to listen to quickly, especially if you increased the speed. I loved hearing original sound clips and interviews from many of the actors, the director, and other people who worked on this movie. It was fun to go behind the scenes and learn more about how they made this classic movie and people’s thoughts and opinions about it. There are a lot of little “fun facts” that are told. There are even audio sound bites from the movie itself. Highly recommend if you’re a fan of the movie! I love it!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

My GR Rating: 5
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Classics | Historical Fantasy
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GR Description: A Christmas Carol was first published in London by Chapman & Hall in 1843. It has become a Christmas classic and has been continuously in print since its first release, as well as being made into numerous plays and movies. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. After their visits, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, gentler man. It explores themes about the treatment of the poor and the ability of people to reform themselves. It is worth reading every Christmas.

My Brief Review: I don’t think there is much to say about this book. Everyone knows it. We’ve all seen 20 different movie and TV versions of it. But I’m so glad that I finally read this timeless classic. I felt like I had already read it because so many passages have been used in movie adaptations. I would say the movie adaptation that I’ve seen which is closest to the book is Disney’s A Christmas Carol from 2009 with Jim Carrey. 

I could definitely see myself reading this every Christmas season and making it a reading holiday tradition. Snuggle up in bed with a hot cup of cocoa and a few Christmas cookies. It’s super short and easy to read. I love being transported back to merry old England. Historical fantasy books are one of my favorite genres. I absolutely loved this book and really enjoyed looking at all the illustrations in this version. It helped bring the story to life!

If you’ve never read this book, I highly recommend it. It will give you all the warm fuzzy festive feelings and get you in the Christmas spirit.

Get Cozy with the Podcast

To listen to this podcast episode, head over to The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform. You’ll also find full book reviews, reading topics, self-care tips, and a whole lot more.

You can also find pictures of book covers, book tag graphics, and other visuals on Instagram

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Come soak up all the warm, fuzzy feelings! My name is Kelly, and I’m excited to share my thoughts and opinions with you about books, movies, and TV series. I’m also obsessed with all things comfy cozy, self-care, and personal development.

Join me as I snuggle up with my favorite blankets and yummy beverages, and talk about my favorite forms of art.


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