Christmas on Becca's Books | Ten Christmas Reading Recommendations by Emma Crowley

~ Ten Christmas Reading Recommendations ~

By Emma Crowley

Hi, my name is Emma Crowley. I live in Waterford in the south-east of Ireland. I've loved reading for as long as I can remember and can get through three or four books a week if time allows.I  do regular guest reviews at  www.shazsbookboudoir.blogspot.co.ukI'm a primary school teacher teaching first class in my old primary school. For me, Christmas time is so special teaching six and seven year olds preparing for nativity plays and becoming so excited absorbing all their enthusiasm for Santa and Christmas. After much indecision I have selected ten Christmas reads that I have enjoyed and would hope you might try one or two yourselves over the Christmas holidays. Admittedly, I only started reading Christmas themed books two or three years ago. As each year passes, this genre seems to get bigger and better with so much to choose from. I've picked some books from this year which I have already read and some previous releases, and a little gem from way back in 2006. I hope you enjoy my selection and may find something in there that will whet your appetite for all things festive. 
I'm also on Twitter @emthebookworm if anyone wants to chat. I'm sure there are lots more different books people would have picked so if you beg to differ why not let me know on Twitter. Many thanks to Becca for having me as part of her festive feature running throughout the month of  December.

There was no way I could write a list of Christmas book recommendations without including A Christmas Tail by the lovely Cressida McLaughlin. Originally released in four parts over the course of 2015. The novella's got a full paperback release at the beginning of November. I read each part as it was released and was dying to find out the ending. The title is perfect for all parts together and I just love the Christmassy cover with the canine stars of the show given prominence. Right from the beginning I fell in love with Cat Palmer, her friends and the many dogs featured. Disco, Chalky and Olaf will always be in my heart. Don't worry, this is not all about dogs as the story follows Cat and the residents of Primrose Terrace over the course of four seasons. Cat is adjusting to her new life as a dog walker after an unfortunate yet funny incident at the local nursery where she worked. In each section with their very clever titles we follow Cat as she heals and grows during the year. She encounters many problems but her inquisitive, kind hearted nature shines through and she does her utmost best to help anyone in need. There is plenty of romance and adventure thrown in and developed really well throughout the book. So many events and ups and downs occur that to say anymore would only spoil what a fabulous story that is in store for you. Should you buy this book? Trust me, once you pick this up you won't be able to put it down, as all aspects of the story get inside your head and refuse to let go until the very last page. Next year, Cressida turns her hand to a totally different set of characters and setting. The Canalboat Cafe series is one of my most eagerly awaited releases for 2016 and if A Christmas Tail is anything to go on, I am in for another wonderful journey from Cressida.

Merry Mistletoe by Emma Davies is the only novella I have included in this list. I came across this by accident one day whilst browsing on NetGalley and for once I was accepted. This really is a delightful find this year as this is a little gem of a book. Short and sweet as they say, but with real substance, depth and emotion to the story. I had never heard of the author before but really enjoyed her writing style and the overall theme of the novella. Freya has been involved with the selling of Sherbourne mistletoe for as long as she can remember. But now, both the business and house she loves so dearly are under threat.With the recent death of her father, her personal life has been very tough and now the business appears to be going the same way, not to mention her love life. Amos, a man she had given refuge to, is determined to help Freya out and not see her hard done by, especially if the Henderson brothers get their way. Amos was a real enigma throughout the book. It was as if he was a guardian angel sent by Freya's dad to aid her through the rough path she was embarking on. Honestly, he was one of the best characters I had read of in a long time. Emma Davies managed to fit so much into this special story considering it was a novella, but it didn't feel rushed or parts out of place. If you have a spare hour or so, you won't go wrong picking up this lovely, absorbing story that captures the magic of Christmas perfectly. What's more, at the time of writing it's only just over £1 on Kindle.

 I should be ashamed of myself that Every Time a Bell Rings is the first book I have read by the incredible Carmel Harrington. I had heard remarkable things about her previous releases but had never gotten around to picking up one of her books. This book is only recently released this year and inspired by the classic film It's a Wonderful Life (which I have never seen). The storyline packs such an emotional punch and it's evident for the reader to see that Carmel has put every bit of her heart and soul into producing such a high calibre of a novel. Admittedly, there is a little element where you have to suspend disbelief (I am the most cynical of people when it comes to things like this) but the writing here was just of such a high standard that I simply let this pass. Belle and Jim first met in a foster home many years ago. After a long period where they did not see each other for years they are now happily married. Although they do not have any children of their own, they are fostering and throwing all their love, affection and time into helping other children the way Tess did for them. But this year is different after a tragic turn of events and Belle is forced to re-evaluate her whole way of thinking, her life and her attitude to what is ongoing on a daily basis. There are so many levels to this story that one couldn't give any more details other than what I have just briefly mentioned. It's not all full of sadness but there are hard hitting, harrowing parts which do more than pull at the heartstrings. Yes, it's not the lightest of Christmas reads but who says everything has to be formulaic and clichéd in this genre. Carmel's book certainly sets itself apart from all the rest of the Christmas books being released this year and is really a book that should not be missed.

 Alexandra Brown is one of my favourite authors so I had to include a book from her.Previously she had published the Carringtons series which did include a Christmas book. But last year saw the first in the new Tindledale series The Great Christmas Knit Off and it was mind-blowingly brilliant. Definitely my favourite Christmas book of 2015. I remember spending a whole afternoon over the Christmas holidays curled up on the couch devouring this book. The characters, setting and storyline stayed with me for a long time and I adored the follow up released this summer The Great Village Show. Alexandra can't write quick enough about Tindledale for me and I am so glad there is a whole series planned with The Mystery of Orchard Cottage coming in May 2016. The Great Christmas Knit Off introduces us to Sybil, heartbroken after being jilted at the altar. She is saved from the depths of her sorrow by her knitting obsession. But having committed the cock up of the century, she abandons her house and retreats to the special place that is Tindledale. Tindledale, within a few pages, will capture your heart and not let go, even long after you have finished the last page. Alexandra makes you feel as if the village is real and by god you wish it was. In the village, Sybil discovers Hettie's house of Haberdashery, a unique shop dedicated to the world of knitting and needle craft. But the shop is a picture of it's former self, as Sybil is old and the shop has not moved forward with the times. When Hettie sees Sybil's wonderful, wacky Christmas jumpers and places it in her window display, that is just the beginning of a turn of events which will see the community pull together through the power of knitting. This is a story not to be missed, but be warned, savour every minute of it. I devoured it too quickly and was bereft to have finished it.

I had to pick a book by Jenny Colgan as recently, in the past few years, she has published some great books. I'm not a fan of her very early books but since she started doing mini series, such as the Cupcake Cafe and The Little Beach Street Bakery, I have become a fan and look forward to these releases every year. Christmas at Rosie Hopkins Sweetshop is the follow up to Rosie Hopkins Sweet Shop of Dreams which I loved. Follows ups can be hard to do, as they can either be a roaring success or a complete failure. Thankfully, this book recaptured all the magic of the first. Rosie Hopkins now lives in the little village of Lipton and runs the sweet shop once owned by her Aunt Lillian. She is happy with her life and feels at the heart of the community. Now Christmas is here, Lipton is covered under a blanket of snow and the shop is filled with candy canes, selection boxes and lots of other mouth-watering treats. I have to say, the descriptions of sweets and the recipes scattered throughout the book were delectable. You definitely need something sweet to hand whilst reading this book. Rosie is content in her life with her boyfriend Stephen, and her family are about to fly in for Christmas. But everything is turned upside down when tragedy strikes the village. The residents must pull together and put that warm, community spirit to the test. Rosie's plans are blown apart, not to mention the future of the sweet shop. Can things work out okay? Buy this to find out. This book was released in 2013, so last year we had a third follow up. The Christmas Surprise is out in paperback this year. I hate saying this but, truthfully, the third in the series was really not needed at all. It felt in a way that Jenny was cashing in on the success of the previous two books. The book was boring and dragged out, and failed to recreate the magic from the first two books. So I would read the first two Rosie Hopkins books but not the third. Jenny is back in February of next year with a new book The Little Shop of Happy Ever After. I've read the blurb. It sounds intriguing and is already on my wishlist.

 Oh, how I love love love Scarlett Bailey's books (yes I know it is a pseudonym) and just wish she could write two a year. We have had nothing from her since last years novella Secret Santa, but if you have never read anything by her, what are you waiting for? Her books are simply brilliant. She writes the best stories. They are not all centred around Christmas though. She has written four full-length novels and two novellas, and each is better than the last. I picked Just for Christmas because it was the first book I had read by Scarlett and it really is the most perfect book to snuggle up with. Scarlett nails the Christmas mood and just about everything with this book is perfect – the setting, the characters, the atmosphere, the plot. God, I could go on and on. Alex Munro learns the love of her life is getting married to another woman, so she decides to up-sticks and leave Edinburgh, and settle somewhere far away from the memories. Alex moves to a Cornish cottage which comes with the world's scruffiest dog Buoy who steals the book. She is the new harbour master in the village of Poldore. Poldore has to be one of the best creations ever. I want to move there so badly. Sexy Ruan sets Alex's heart a flutter but Ruan has had his own heartache to deal with and really doesn't want anyone getting all that close. What follows is a fantastic tale with lots of love and adventure and a real development of the small coastal village feel. Innumerable laugh-out-loud moments, filled with an outstanding cast of back-up characters that you won't forget in a hurry. This book has to be read and can't be left forgotten on a shelf. Thankfully, Scarlett fulfilled many of her readers wishes and has written a follow up Two Weddings and a Baby, and Secret Santa is also set there too. Described as the Queen of Christmas chick-lit, for me Scarlett more than deserves that title.

 
Twelve Days of Christmas was the first book I read by Trisha Ashley. Admittedly, I have only read four of her books, including this year's Christmas release A Christmas Cracker, which I would highly recommend. I found this book in a charity shop in perfect condition, in the week after Christmas and what a treat it turned out to be. Holly Brown is a widow, so needless to say Christmas is not her most favourite time of the year. So when she is asked to look after a remote house on the Lancashire Moors, she jumps at the chance. What better way to get away from the festivities she dreads? Sculptor Jude Martland is determined that Christmas is cancelled after his errant brother ran off with his fiancé, so he avoids the family home, but must return for the Twelfth Night festivities famous within the village. Holly soon finds herself agreeing to help organise the festivities as the village and it's residents have a way of sucking you in. So, when Jude arrives home he is not best pleased. What makes it even worse is that they get snowed in at the house. Trapped together, Jude and Holly get a lot more than they bargained for. This book had a cast of brilliant characters that you instantly warmed to and made you root for a positive outcome. I could picture myself there, snowed in at the house, fighting to give in to temptation at all the feelings Jude would have been inspiring in me. Trisha Ashley has a great way of writing and I really should read more of her books. Having read A Christmas Cracker recently, I was delighted to see more than a brief mention to Jude, Holly and co. which was the perfect way to see how they are faring now. Twelve Days of Christmas is definitely one to enjoy with the fire lighting, some nice chocolates and a few Yankee Christmas candles to get you in the festive mood whilst reading.

This is the little gem from way back in 2006 that I referred to in my introduction. I don't think many people will have heard of it or the author. In fact, Annie Sanders was actually a pen name for  two women writing together, Meg Sanders and Annie Ashworth. I say was because they haven't written anything in years and so must have turned to other things. In total they wrote 7 books and I loved them all. I stumbled across their first book 'Goodbye Jimmy Choo ' in the library and was hooked. The Xmas Factor has such a brilliant title and a great play on words considering the tv programme most of us love. I'm not quite sure it was around though, when this book was first published. To be honest, I had forgotten about this book until I was looking through my bookshelves trying to decide what books to select for this feature. But I do remember that at the time it was a great read and probably one of the first Christmas adult books I would have ever read. I must have stopped reading in this genre for years, and only the year before last got back into it. The book follows two women who have a totally different outlook and approach to the festive season. Beth is hyperventilating at the thought of organising the annual Christmas Eve village bash and it's only September. This was usually the job of her husband's former wife, so she has a lot to live up to, not to mention entertaining her step-children who are really not that enamoured with her. On the other side, you have Carol who is all glitz and glamour, a magazine editor who has no intentions of publishing a festive edition. Due to the ongoing failure of the magazine, she is searching for the ultimate scoop that will save it. So Christmas for Carol had been forgotten until she books a quaint cottage for herself and her son in a small village. What happens when the two woman meet? Will their lives be changed forever? The Xmas Factor is full of warmth, humour and important life lessons surrounding Christmas. If you do pick it up this year, I'm sure you'll fall in love with Annie Sanders' writing and want to pick up all  her back catalogue to read.

Again, All I want for Christmas is a book I'm not sure many people will have heard of. It was published four years ago and I just happened to see it in my local bookshop just after Christmas, when I wanted to spend my book tokens. So, when I saw it on my bookshelves nestled next to Amy Silver's other release One Minute to Midnight I had to pick it for my selection. It is just the most gorgeous, warm, feel-good book surrounding Christmas. It's Bea's first Christmas with her baby son and she wants everything to be perfect. She runs a cafe, The Honey Pot, and is under a lot of pressure with the festive period fast approaching. There is also the added fact that she has invited the whole neighbourhood to a party on Christmas Day. So she really doesn't have time to fall in love or care for Olivia when she gets knocked over outside the cafe. Does she? Chloe has such a hectic life and now her fiancée's family is arriving for Christmas, from Ireland. How will she manage? Lastly, we have Chloe, whose affair with a married man has alienated her and left her with no place to go. But The Honey Pot, especially at Christmas, is a magical place where anything can happen. Friendships are formed, problems solved and hearts heal in a place where the door is always open. You will be very surprised to discover that Amy Silver has taken a totally different direction with her writing and actually published one of the biggest hits this year. Amy Silver is in fact Paula Hawkins, acclaimed author of The Girl on the Train (still waiting patiently on my Kindle to read I'm afraid) so has clearly gone for a huge genre change. Having only published two books under Amy Silver, I really wished she had written more as both are brilliant.


 I had to pick a book from an Irish author considering I'm Irish myself and Maeve Binchy was the first adult book I read many years ago. So I have chosen this delightful read from Emma Hannigan Driving Home for Christmas. I've loved Emma's books right from her first release Designer Genes and just think she is a remarkable woman, considering she has battled cancer nine times and is still able to put her heart and soul into every book. This book was released two years ago and last year, a follow up The Heart of Winter. Driving Home for Christmas has the perfect title and that cover is stunning, drawing you in. Although I admit I'd rather be inside by the fire reading this book as opposed to driving down snow-covered lanes. This book follows the ups and downs of the Craig family as the battle to save their family home Huntersbrook House begins. Can they save it for Christmas? There are lots of characters in the family to get to know and it was a pleasure to do so. Each had their own problems and issues, but all had the common goal of keeping the family home and livery yard going. The descriptive scenes around Christmas and how the family celebrate were gorgeous and I fell in love with Pippa, Joey and Lainey, and their mum and dad. Huntersbrook House has offered refuge to the children when they needed it and now they feel they can't let their parents down and will do anything to help them. Driving Home for Christmas is a wonderful tale of family and love, filled with plenty of humorous moments too. It would be a lovely introduction to Emma's writing if you haven't read anything by her before.You have the added bonus of enjoying The Heart of Winter continuing on the family's story straight after you finish this read. I wasn't that lucky, I had to wait a year but that wait was worth it.

You can find Emma on Twitter | shazsbookboudoir



2 comments :

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    1. Haha, I know right, Kath? Some fabulous books there, I can't wait to dive in!
      B xox

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