book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: December 2021 Mini Reviews

It may be January 5th, but we still have the important matter of the December Mini reviews to deal with. Now quite a lot of the month was taken up with trying to finish the 50 states challenge for the year – the results of which can bee seen in this post from Sunday. However, in the quest to tick states off, sadly some of the books that I read in December were somewhat disappointing. And this leaves me with less than usual to talk about in my mini reviews. Which is sad, but considering how many posts I’ve written recently, I’m hoping you won’t feel short changed.

Board Stiff by Kendel Lynn

Cover of Board Stiff

Elliot Lisbon works for a charitable foundation based on an island in South Carolina. Her usual jobs include keeping the peace between foundation members and smoothing over potential problems. In her spare time she’s working towards her PI licence – very slowly. Then the chair of the foundation’s board is accused of murder and her bosses as her to try and sort the situation out. Trouble is the new in town detective leading the investigation is her ex-boyfriend and he really doesn’t want her sticking her nose in. Trouble is if she doesn’t Elliot is likely to be out of a job. This one joins Double Whammy in the list of books that are trying to do similar things to the Stephanie Plum series (and I did read the last but one in the Plum series in December too and the less said about that the better). This has a few issues, but it rattles along at a nice pace and there’s plenty of potential here for the series. I have the next one cued up ready on the Kindle.

Oh. What. Fun by Chandler Baker

Cover of Oh. What. Fun.

This is another Christmas-themed short story – I know, I know, I said that last week was the limit, but that was for Books of the Week. Or at least I’m allowed to bend the rules if I want to! Anyway, Tyler, Channing and Sammy have returned home for Christmas. Their mum Claire has always brought the holiday magic in their family – with traditions galore that she just loves doing for them all. Or does she. Maybe they should all have been paying more attention to her because this year is about to go very differently. This is a witty but thought provoking look at Christmas and the people who make it special and whether we should be appreciating them more – or if you are the Claire, whether you should be getting more help!

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R King

Cover of Dreaming Spies

Yes, I know, another rule that I’m breaking – with a later book in a mystery series, where you really need to have read the earlier ones to make it all work at it’s best. But it’s been one of those months, so the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series makes another appearance on the blog. As with several times before in this series, the timeline is jumping about somewhat – it opens immediately after the events of Garment of Shadows (the previous book in the series) but a large section of this takes place between the events of The Game and Locked Rooms five books earlier. This fills in what happened when Mary and Sherlock were in Japan – events which have been hinted at before. And it’s a delicious mix of everything you have come to expect from the series – with lashings of early 20th century Japanese culture thrown in. I don’t know enough about the reality to be able to say how accurate it all is, but it certainly makes for a rather delightful reading experience. Do start at the beginning of the series though – with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Just don’t think too hard about the age gap between Mary and Sherlock.

Release the Beast by Bimini Bon Boulash

Bimini was the breakout star of the second series of Drag Race UK – even if they didn’t win – and this is their debut book – all about their views on gender, class, capitalism, the patriarchy and more. If you enjoyed watching them on Drag Race, you’ll probably enjoy reading this too and getting more of a perspective on their life and their art. This the latest addition to my shelf of books about or by drag queens, and although I don’t like it as much as I like Legendary Children, it’s interesting and it’s a good way of throwing some coins the way of a Queen while the pandemic is making times hard for live gigs.

And in case you missed any of them, the Book of the Week posts in December were Basket Case, Double Whammy, Christmas in Paradise and The Christmas Card Crime. And here are the rest of the year’s mini reviews: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October and November.

Happy Reading!


books, Chick lit, fiction, historical, reviews, romance

Christmas Short Story Round-up

As I mentioned in October, the Christmas themed books are stacking up.  Now the big day is approaching, I thought I’d start with my run down of the best of my Christmas reading so far.  And to ease myself into the festive mood, I’ve been reading short stories.  Some of these are new this year, some are from last year which I didn’t get around to until I was out of the Christmas mood and consequently held on to ready for this year! So as we hurtle towards December, here are my top picks of the Christmas novellas so far (in no particular order):

Now a popular theme this year has been the Christmas novella following on from a successful non-Christmas book.  I actually find I prefer these novellas to the full length Christmas themed sequels in quite a lot of cases – the shorter form means there’s (often) no need to break up a couple who you’ve really got invested in in the first book just to provide enough drama and plot for the novella. Sealed with a Christmas Kiss by Rachel Lucas is a good example of this.  I read Sealed with a Kiss a year or so ago before it was picked up with Pan and really enjoyed it.  So I was pleased to reacquaint myself with Kate and Roddy and to read about the latest developments in the plans to save the Island.  As always with these things, probably best to have read the original book first.

Unlike Christmas Kiss, I hadn’t read the book that preceded Secret Santa by Scarlett Bailey but that didn’t stop me from enjoying Sue Montaigne’s struggles to organise the Nativity Pageant in Poledore.  This novella is festive but without being cloying or sickly – which is always good.  One of my favourites of the Christmas themed reading so far – and I’ve gone and put one of the other Poledore books on my to-read list.

At the historical end of the Christmas market, The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation by Erica Ridley is another novella that’s Christmas themed without being too saccharine.  It’s a prequel to her Dukes of War series (the first book of which is waiting on my Kindle) and focusses on the organisation of a Christmas ball.  Standalone and fun, this is worth a look if you want a bit of Christmas themed historical romance.

Being a fool, I forgot that I’m several books behind in the Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander and managed to spoil a couple of plot developments for myself by reading Star of the East.  I still enjoyed it though – but suggest it’s only for people who are up to date with the series.

On to the non-novella but still Christmas and short section – and Trisha Ashley’s Christmas offering is a collection of her short stories – Footsteps in the Snow.  These are stories that have previously been published in various magazines and are definitely at the shorter end of the market, but they still display Ashley’s trade mark wit and flair and I would say are perfect for reading in the tube or on the bus.  I paid 99p for this and was perfectly content – but I wouldn’t want to pay overly much more than that – the back third of the book is a preview of her next novel.

Jill Mansell’s A – Z of Happiness is similarly short – but has the bonus of being free (or at least it was when I downloaded it and still was when I wrote this).  It’s not stories, it’s more musings with an author Q&A, but if you like Jill’s writing, it’s definitely worth a look – especially as it’s gratis.

So there you have the best of my Christmas short stories so far to ease you into the Festive Season.  Still to come, I’m planning a round-up of Christmas novels – ideal for curling up in front of the fire with once you’ve finished work for the holiday.