Some Christmas books, Some Powerful Fiction, and a few unexpected gems I read this month

Happy last official Show Us Your Books for 2021 – besides the “best of 2021” post in a couple of weeks!! This has been a great reading year. I’ve definitely done more audiobooks than ever before mostly due to driving to work instead of taking the bus, but I’ve enjoyed so many of them.

Here’s what I’ve read since the last link up with Steph and Jana and what I thought of these books:


It’s super mean to recommend this first one because it doesn’t come out until July 2022, but hop over to Netgalley and request an ARC! I loved it!!!

The BodyguardThe Bodyguard by Katherine Center
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read a couple of chapters of this book, then got a bit distracted for a few days, and then binged the rest of it in one sitting. I’ve loved all of Katherine Center’s books (my forever favourite is Happiness for Beginners and this one was no exception. It was wonderful! So well written, so emotional at times, funny at other times, it made my heart clench and soar and it just felt like a cozy hug coming home to brand new but somehow still familiar-feeling characters. How does she manage to accomplish this through her writing?!

In this book, we quickly meet Hannah, who works as an executive protection agent (aka a bodyguard). She mainly works with oil tycoons in Texas but a new assignment is thrust upon her in the form of protecting WORLD FAMOUS actor Jack Stapleton from a crazy stalker woman while he is home in Texas with his family. Hannah is a strong and admirable woman (with such a cool job that she does so well!) but there are a lot of layers to her character. She and Jack end up having more fun than either of them expects and the story takes off from there.

I loved the way this story played out and like I said, I found it really easy to connect with all of the characters. I know this will be a big hit for this author next summer and I can’t wait to witness all of this book’s success. 🙂

Thank you so much to St. Martins Press and Netgalley for the VERY early ARC 🙂 I appreciate it so much because this book made my entire month 🙂

The Mistletoe MotiveThe Mistletoe Motive by Chloe Liese
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After absolutely falling in love with Chloe Liese’s Bergman Brothers series in the last year, I was delighted to hear that this Christmas book was coming and just as delighted to receive an e-ARC from Valentine PR and the author via Netgalley. Thank you!!
I always read a bunch of Christmas romances around this time of the year and I think of all I’ve read, this is one of my definite favourites. I *so* loved everything about this book: the characters, the pace of the plot, a few interesting twists, the SETTING (in a bookstore at Christmastime!), and of course, the love story. It feels like it has been a little bit since I connected with characters the way I did Jonathan Frost and Gabriella Di Natale – the way these characters’ traits and insecurities and thoughts just jumped off the page made me want to head to the bookstore and sit and talk to both of them about Jane Austen while sipping candy cane hot chocolate with Gaby. The friends and side characters were fun too and Chloe Liese always makes those side characters funny in some way, which is so enjoyable for the reader.
If you are looking for a shorter (under 200 pages) book to devour this Christmas season, I can’t recommend this one enough.

Once Upon a WardrobeOnce Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last week, I spent several incredibly perfect hours listening to this book. As a lifelong lover of the Narnia world, it was lovely to be immersed in this fictional story. In this book, we meet teenager Megs, who has an ailing 8 year old brother named George who reads the recently published The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and becomes remarkably obsessed with the Narnia world. FOrtunately, Megs attends Oxford where C.S. Lewis works as a professor and she succeeds in asking him about how Narnia came to be so that she can report back to her sick brother at home. Everyone involved learns a little something about the power of story magic in this book, and it was powerful to witness. Megs and George and Padraig all warmed my heart immensely as did C.S. Lewis and his brother. This story was magical, and it felt so real to honour this prolific writer and his imagination that has reached so many readers worldwide for years and years.

The audiobook was absolutely beautiful as well and if you’re a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, I urge you to check out this new release and go live in C.S. Lewis’ world for a little bit – I am certain you won’t regret your time spent in these chapters 🙂

FUN FACT: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is actually one of the first books I really remember – my grade 2 teacher read it aloud to us and it stayed with me all these years.

We Are Not Like ThemWe Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I binge-listened to WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM recently and was thoroughly hooked on this incredible story of two friends and those in their lives affected by various events surrounding race and policing. It was interesting to read a book jointly written two IRL friends – one Black and one white. I also loved chatting with the authors on Zoom and hearing about how this book came to be!

The way this story was told made it nearly impossible to put down and it raised a lot of questions for me and my (and many of our) role as a white ally. Though purely contemporary fiction, there is oodles of very poignant reality in these pages and I expect this one to be very popular and well received in book clubs everywhere. The narration of the audiobook was excellent as well with a cast of narrators including Marin Ireland. I won’t say too too much about this book’s plot for fear of spoilers but I highly implore everyone to check this book out.

Hang the Moon (Written in the Stars, #2)Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved Alexandria Bellefleur’s first book and this one was JUST AS GOOD IF NOT BETTER. I just so enjoy these characters and the setting of Seattle and the banter and cute moments. These romances remind me a lot of what I have enjoyed in past Christina Lauren books, if you’re looking for a bit of a comparison read to guage the steam & plotline. Brendan and Annie were a fun couple and though the entire book felt very quick in terms of the timeline of the plot, it was real and emotional and well written too. Highly recommend these books, which do standalone but would be more fun read in order. Can’t wait for the third!

AstraAstra by Cedar Bowers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently spent an enthralling 9 hours (4.5 on double speed, actually) listening to Astra – which had been on my list for a few months after several friends loved it. This was QUITE the story and told in such a unique way – I am blown away by Cedar Bowers’ debut. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the story, but once I got the hang of the format (a life story about a girl/woman named Astra told from the point of view of 10 people in her life), I was really quite intrigued about the character as well as all those close to her.

Despite not loving all of the subject matter, I did truly feel that the writing in this book was absolutely exquisite and it was fascinating to imagine what one’s life could be like after being raised the way Astra was (by her father who was not the best father figure overall on a commune in BC).

This story is unforgettable and the way it was told was so unique – definitely recommend for fans of literary fiction. It’s hard to believe this one was a debut!


Escaping ChristmasEscaping Christmas by Marie Landry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve enjoyed a few of Marie’s other books so I was delighted when she sent me an early copy of this book to read. Escaping Christmas was such a fun and delightful (and steamy! and heartfelt!) Christmas romance. Joss and Liam were easy to love, and any book with an incredible polite child in it automatically wins me over.
One thing I love about reading romance is that it is predictable (and so comforting!) to know that the main characters will end up together, but sometimes in the middle of a book you really have no idea quite how they’re going to sort all of that out – and this book was quite satisfying that way at the end. It made me smile and laugh and want a mug of hot chocolate, so I think this book definitely did its intended job in bringing about some Christmas spirit.
There are also a few more serious issues here (TW: cancer, alcoholism) and those were well handled and so well written.
I definitely recommend this one for your holiday reading list!!

Why She LeftWhy She Left by Leah Mercer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started this thriller, I was pretty sure of how it all ended up – but I was definitely in for a surprise. I enjoyed these characters and the setting and the way the plot unfolded. It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it definitely held my interest and would recommend for fans of the domestic/family secret/not gruesome or terrifying type of thriller.

Thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Party CrasherThe Party Crasher by Sophie Kinsella
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This light-hearted comedy was typical Sophie Kinsella and it was fun to listen to, especially on a heavier emotional week while spending a lot of time in the car. Overall, it was a little bit silly – considering the entire book takes place over one weekend-long house party, but there were a lot of hilarious moments and it was pure entertainment too.

Magic Lessons (Practical Magic, #0.1)Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me forever to read this book, which was partially me and not the book, but I just felt the pace was not for me and maybe I need to be a bit more in love with/familiar with the whole Practical Magic story to really connect with the characters.

However, I still enjoyed the plot overall and will likely pursue the others at some point when I’m in the right mood!! It was interesting to follow along with the history of this magical family and I have a feeling the others will sit with me a bit better.

Never Fall for Your Fiancée (The Merriwell Sisters, #1)Never Fall for Your Fiancée by Virginia Heath
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise behind this book was hilarious – an earl lies to his mother about a fiancee named Minerva and then when his mother decides to come back for a visit, he has to magically make a Minerva appear. Pure historical romance gold in that premise – and it was well executed despite being the typical predictable type of storyline. All of the extraneous characters provided a lot of comic relief and I am happy to see it will be a series because the writing is on the wall for some of the other characters and I’d be curious to read about them too.
THank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Duke, ActuallyDuke, Actually by Jenny Holiday
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve enjoyed many of Jenny Holiday’s previous novels and this one was no exception. I enjoyed it much more than her 2020 royalty Christmas novel because these characters just felt a bit more relatable and enjoyable to me. Max and Dani were fun and the friends to lovers aspect felt real. We had a chance to chat with Jenny Holiday on zoom for book club and that was SO FUN to hear about why she wrote this in a particular way – I loved it. There is a third book to come with these characters too and I’ll be checking that one out for sure.

The Christmas EscapeThe Christmas Escape by Sarah Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is it even Christmas time without reading Sarah Morgan’s newest Christmas fiction book?? I’ve enjoyed one of hers every year for the past few years now. In The Christmas Escape, there is a “marriage improvement” storyline and a second-chance storyline for romance and both of these were really well done and entertaining to read. There is also some family history afoot and an adorably busy child which (like I said earlier this week), is really just always the icing on the cake for me. 

Of all of hers I’ve read, this one was not my number one favourite (I really REALLY loved The Christmas Sisters and I still have A Wedding in December on my list), but if you’ve enjoyed her other holiday books I think this one would bring about some Christmas spirit this year. Thank you to HQN and @this_is_edelweiss for the ARC! 🙂 I actually listened to most of this via @hoopladigital and it was well narrated! 

Miss Moriarty, I Presume? (Lady Sherlock, #6)Miss Moriarty, I Presume? by Sherry Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For years now, I have enjoyed Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series. This series, which reimagines Sherlock Holmes (And Moriarty and Watson etc!!) as a female Charlotte Holmes is smart, captivating, funny, and enjoyable. The most recent addition to the series didn’t move along quite as fast as the previous 5 for me, but I still appreciated the story and the characters. I also think I need to remind myself that I strongly prefer this series on audiobook & I will not request an e-ARC next time around 😉

In this book, Charlotte comes face to face with Moriarty and becomes somewhat intertwined in his family life. At times, the book felt a little bit disjointed, but it all came together nicely in the end and left us fans patiently awaiting the next book in the series which could be more than a year away. I’m unsure what will happen with these characters but I’m definitely invested in the series 100%!

Currently reading Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire to my kiddos, an ARC of The Maid, and Meet Me Under the Northern Lights on audio 🙂 Will try to maybe squeeze in one more Christmas book before 2022! We’ll see! 😉

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?!

15 responses to “Some Christmas books, Some Powerful Fiction, and a few unexpected gems I read this month”

  1. Looks like you had some really good reads! I’m really curious about The Mistletoe Motive now. And I own Written in the Stars, and hope to read it soon – so I’m glad the author’s next book is great too.

    Lauren @


    1. Yes loved both of those! I think you’d really enjoy The Mistletoe Motive 🙂


  2. Looks like you read a few good books this month. I’m definitely interested in The Mistletoe Motive – you had me at “bookshop”. Lol.


    1. Right!? Impossible to ignore a good bookshop book. lol


  3. Looks like you had a lot of good reads! Duke, Actually sounds really cute!


  4. Okaaaay I am intrigued by Astra. That sounds like something I would love


    1. I definitely think you would enjoy it. It’s very character-driven but I found it hard to put down


  5. Why She Left sounds like a definite page-turner!


  6. I just finished a different Sarah Morgan Christmas book and just added The Christmas Escape to my to read list. I didn’t know Katherine Center had a new book coming out. I’ve loved all of her stuff and also added this one to my to read list.


    1. Yes I’m so excited she has a new book! And even more excited that my favourite of hers (Happiness for Beginners) is being made into a movie!


  7. I know you talked about a lot of books but I am entirely focused on the fact that Katherine Center has a new book next year! Now I just need Abbi Waxman to do the same, and my lighter reads docket is full.


    1. Wait! Abbi Waxman DOES have a new book coming out next year! Hooray!


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