All but one of my December reads were novels. There was an inevitable focus on holiday themed stories, most of them absolutely delightful. I should perhaps point out that the books are reviewed in the order in which I read them and not in any other order!
The excellent – really well written novels with exactly the kind of holiday cheer we all want at this time of year, especially after what 2020 threw at us! Buy them and save them for next December!
Wonderland by J Scott Coatsworth***** The zombie apocalypse, a helpful ghost and a snowed up cabin provide the background for a heartwarming mm romance.
Eight Nights in December by Keira Andrews***** This mm romance is built around Hannukah rather than Christmas and it’s always good to see other traditions given the star treatment.
A Cop for Christmas by Jamie Fessenden***** The relationship starts badly when the cop gives a speeding ticket to someone returning to the small town for the holidays. A lovely family centred mm romance with Rufus the dog to make it even more charming.
Finally Home by K-Lee Klein***** Josiah only went ‘home’ for Christmas to sort out his dad’s estate, but his childhood friend Wyatt might make him change his mind about selling.
Tic-Tac-Mistletoe by NR Walker***** Ren finds an Australian tourist whose rented car has gone offroad in a snowstorm. Another ‘snowed up together’ mm romance but beautifully done.
December Roses by Fiona Glass***** I’d probably give this six stars if I was willing to break my own rules. Nat was badly injured in Northern Ireland (during the ‘troubles’) and after hospital treatment is sent to Frogmorton Hall for rehabilitation. The story of how he meets Richie, who may not be all he seems, in the gardens of the hall encompasses glorious descriptions of the garden past and present, interesting personal issues, and an exploration of PTSD plus a reaction to injury. The world and character building are superb. Whilst Nat’s story is at times difficult it ends on a gloriously hopeful note.
Christmas Lane and Gingerbread and Mistletoe by Amy Aislin***** These two stories, each following a separate mm romance, bring the little town of Lighthouse Bay to life with all its characters and its holiday celebrations.
Cupcakes and Christmas by RJ Scott**** This is the only holiday story that lost a star. Not because of the plot, characters or style, all of which are excellent. The problem lay in the proof reading which surprised me. RJ Scott’s novels are usually exemplary. But here it was with changes of tense and person that I could imagine from a first draft but not in the finished publication. I can only think it was published in haste. As I said, the normal great plot, character development, etc. It takes place during a baking contest and the competition itself is fascinating, quite apart from the growing romance between Brody and Justin. However, I couldn’t honestly give it five stars because of the typos. Worth reading all the same.
Engines of Privilege by Francis Green and David Kynaston**** When I subscribed to New Statesman the subsscription offer included a book on the UK economy. They never sent that but gave me this instead. I didn’t open it for ages but once I did I was really interested. It’s a long and detailed study of the effects of the British Public School system and attempts, historical and current, to alter the situation. It has various suggestions for a way forward. I was particularly interested because I went to a Public School. I didn’t recognise all the aspects they described but then my school was a church school with a very small number of pupils, in the north, and was at the time for girls only so some of the things that apply to e.g. Eton and Harrow weren’t really applicable. I did recognise some things and was fascinated to read about studies that showed just how these affected our society in general and education in particular. I can recommend the book to anyone who is interested in education in UK as it provides a detailed overview and offers some new perspectives. It lost a star by being perhaps too long and too detailed for an overview.
The readable. Don’t pay for them but if you find them in the library you might be interested.
The Sitar by Rebecca Idris*** I struggled with this book. It contains romance but is mainly concerned with teenagers from ethnic minorities growing up in the Midlands, and how some of them are led into extremist groups and terrorism. The story was interesting, as were the main characters, but the author was clearly not a native English speaker. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but she really should have found a better editor because at times the misuse of vocabulary, tense, etc. made the text hard to read.
Nemesis by Philip Roth*** This is one of those minor famous novels I had always intended to read. I was disappointed. It is set during the polio epidemic in the middle of last century and tells the story of a group of people from a small town caught up in the situation. The main focus is on a young teacher who survives but spends the rest of his life suffering the effects of survivor guilt. I found the story long-winded and repetitive and got impatient with the amount of introspection. The story was sad, and had, I think, lessons for our pandemic, but was not, in my opinion, worth all the hype attached to this author.
The Ice Monster by David Walliams*** This is a children’s book but I was disappointed. A great deal of the humour (often what is collectively described as ‘toilet humour’) is directed at a particular age group, probably roughly 9-13. The reading level of the text certainly suggests they are the target group. However, a lot of the humour seems forced, and as though the author has one eye on the parents/teachers who might be reading the book alongside the child, hoping to make them either snigger or express shock. The story itself would, I think, be better suited to a slightly younger age group but in that case the actual telling is too long. The ice monster of the title is a frozen mammoth, and there is an attempt to suggest some serious research but this sits oddly with the general tone of the book. Altogether a very mixed up offering but worth skimming if you think any children in your life might enjoy it.
I made the picture as a social media icon. It’s a heavily Photoshopped version of a birthday card that only gave the publisher and not the artist. The original was on the back of the card, not as a main picture so it was about icon size anyway. Enlarging it for use here has made it a bit fuzzy.