Oh look, more Christmas fluff from December!!!
Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough. Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it! Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up. For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie – 5*
I’m sure I must have read this one in the distant past as it was vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t remember any of the details as to how it was going to come together. When the grumpy, selfish, miserly, annoying patriarch of the family is murdered there is no lack of suspects from his own household – but he was killed in a locked room. Absolutely loved the way everything came together in this one.
The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox – 3.5*
I’m a BOTM member but skip a lot of months. I decided to go ahead and get December’s book, though, because who doesn’t need another holiday read? This was a fun concept. Identical twins decide to switch lives for reasons that somewhat made sense within the context of the story haha My main frustration with this one – one sister has broken up with her long-time boyfriend, but he isn’t getting the picture. When that sister switches out, she asks her replacement sister (supposedly the more “go get ’em” one) to really emphasize to this guy that things are over – but instead she waffles and puts him off all the time instead of just saying really basic things like “I appreciate you bringing me this coffee, but we aren’t dating any more and you don’t get to decide if I want to talk to another dude or not” like oh my gosh. Meanwhile, the big-city sister has been working on a tv show with an absolutely horrific jerk of a cohost. I found it a bit unbelievable that in 2021 this guy would get away with overt bullying and harassment, like constantly touching her, rubbing her shoulders, putting his arm around her, commenting on her appearance, etc etc, or that she would actually have put up with that. All in all, the story worked and I did enjoy it, but the passive attitude of both sisters about their situations really frustrated me a lot of the time.
Mistletoe at Moonglow by Deborah Gainer – 3*
This one honestly just had me feeling super confused. It starts as though the reader should already know the background of the location/characters, so it’s possible that there was another book or series before this one?? But who knows. It takes place at this inn in a small Montana. The inn is owned by an older lady whose name I can’t remember, and she has this crazy chick named Mist (yes, seriously) working for her. The two women are prepping the inn for their Christmas guests. The owner tells Mist about the upcoming guests, some of whom have stayed there before, and their various backgrounds, most of which have some tragedy involved. Mist is this weird “mystical” character who always seems to magically know what everyone wants or needs, cooks elaborate dinners for the restaurant part of the hotel with seemingly no effort, and sort of floats around vaguely from place to place. However, we’re reassured that she is NOT magic, she just listens to people, and hears their hearts, so in a weird way this book felt a little like it was gently scolding me, the reader, for not being as hospitable, calm, and mind-reader-y as Mist, because she’s just a regular person who manages to do all these things, so why don’t you, o reader?? Maybe I’m broken, but I honestly kept wondering if Mist was smoking weed or something, because she really had a chill, no worries surfer-dude vibe except with out “hey dude” jargon. Nothing ever rattled he and she was always prosing on about basically vibing with the universe. The guests arrive and stay in their perfect rooms that have weird little things in them that they exactly need because Mist didn’t read their minds before they got there but somehow still knew exactly, like, what kind of flower is their very favorite and what kind of chocolate they love, and then… literally nothing happens. Everyone eats the perfect meals that Mist has prepared and comes together to celebrate Christmas, including opening the handmade gifts that Mist perfectly crafted for each of them that exactly speaks to their heart in just the way they need it to because it only takes Mist 24 hours or less to know all about a person’s soul (AND make them a gift!), so why can’t YOU, o reader, make perfect gifts for your loved ones that you have known all your life?? Everyone basically is like, “oh this place is so perfect and healing, all my tragic problems like my son dying and my husband leaving me and getting cancer have all just magically gone away thanks to Mist’s beautiful gifts and the way she’s shown us all the True Meaning of Christmas (TM)!” I can see how some people found Mist to be this special, inspiring character, but her constant life philosophies, her “silent footsteps,“ and the way literally nothing flapped her at all just low-key annoyed me the entire book.
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie – 4*
Like I said, I wish these special editions were more focused on full novels instead of short story collections. This collection was originally put together by Christie herself, but a couple of the stories were farmed out (by HarperCollins) into Midwinter Murder, which I had read earlier in the month. The confusing part was that the versions weren’t exactly the same! The two overlapping stories were the title mystery and one called something like “The Baghdad Chest.” In the pudding tale, here it is much more fleshed out, with more background and other characters, while the Midwinter Murder version was shorter and not as interesting. In the Midwinter Murder version of the Chest story, the story is told by Hastings. In the Christmas Pudding edition, it’s told in the third person and Poirot spends a lot of time lamenting the fact that Hastings isn’t around because he would really enjoy the story! The rest of the stories included were perfectly good short stories, but weren’t remotely Christmasy or wintery, so that was a bit of a letdown. All in all, good stories, but it seems like Christie has written enough that HarperCollins should be able to make these lovely special editions without repeating themselves!
One More For Christmas by Sarah Morgan – 4*
Another lovely tale from Sarah Morgan that focused more on the relationship between two adult daughters and their mother than it did on the romance (although the romance was fun, too). I feel like our current society is prone to label everyone who doesn’t agree with you or who ever hurt your feelings as “toxic” and then write them off forever. And while sometimes you do need to make the giant step of cutting someone off, so many times reconciliation and forgiveness are possible in so many cases. Here, the two adult daughters have a lot of deep hurts from their mother, but when the mother has an accident and starts rethinking many of her life choices (although they seemed the best to her at the time) she desperately wants to reach out and reconnect with her estranged daughters. Both daughters struggle with whether or not they should even let their mother try to come back into their lives, and how that should look. All of this is handled well – it doesn’t become super dark and heavy, but doesn’t completely gloss over the difficulties of a relationship that has always been complicated. I think that’s why I enjoy Morgan’s books – she isn’t afraid to tackle some harder family themes, but doesn’t allow them to drag the entire story down in a depressing spiral of hopelessness like so many stories (both women’s fiction and literary fiction… basically all those books that say A NOVEL on the front) do. My only real issue with this one is that one of the daughters has a daughter of her own. Growing up, the daughters were never allowed to believe in Santa, and the daughter is determined that her little one will always be able to believe in the “magic of Christmas” to the point that she is basically obsessive about her little girl believing in Santa and spends so much time agonizing and worrying about whether or not her mother will tell the little girl that Santa isn’t real. It’s all this huge drama and just… I don’t think Santa = Christmas magic. We never believed in Santa growing up (although our parents also told us we weren’t allowed to tell our friends he wasn’t real) – but Christmas was always incredibly magical in our household. I didn’t like this concept that Santa was the be-all end-all for Christmas magic and Christmas would be RUINED if Santa wasn’t real. Saying that all Christmas magic is pinned on a character who isn’t actually real, to me, implies that Christmas magic isn’t real, either, which just isn’t true. But anyway, all in all I really did enjoy this one. There was a splash of romance, a happily married couple, and a lot of really good discussions about family and forgiveness, all in a fun Christmas setting.