Books · Holiday · Reviews

SRP Reviews: Holiday Edition (Part I) – Twelve Days of Christmas, A Christmas Wish (Hallmark Movie), and Double Deck the Halls

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

Happy Holidays! This year, I feel the need to start my holiday reading and viewing early. I don’t know what it is (okay I do but I don’t want to mention it and poke a hole in my happy bubble) so I decided to jump right into the entertainment that always cheers me up and boosts my spirits–Christmas/Holiday reading time. I’m going to shake things up a little bit this year by also including some reviews of Christmas/holiday movies (mainly Hallmark). As always, if you have suggestions and want to share your favorite holiday reads and movies, leave a comment. Now on to the reviews,

twelve days of christmasTwelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber.

The heroine in this story, Julia, loves the holiday season, actually she loves being cheerful and bubbly all year round. It’s who she is and can’t imagine anyone wanting to go through life in a sour mood and not acknowledging people–like her neighbor Cain. When he takes her newspaper by mistake (or maybe even deliberately) it’s not the action that pushes Julia over the edge but his lack of remorse and refusal to apologize. She vents to her best-friend and is given the idea of killing Cain with kindness. Since Julia needs an idea to blog about for the end of the year, she agrees. It doesn’t seem to work at first, but over time Julia finds the kindness magic working on Cain–and surprisingly on herself. This was a heartwarming holiday story that fits nicely into the spirit of the Christmas season. At times, I found Julia a little over-the-top in her actions, but as I got to know her more, I understood what was driving her. It was the perfect, sweet Christmas romance to get my seasonal reading off to a happy start.

a christmas wishA Wish for Christmas (A Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas Movie)- Sara is the type of friend and co-worker everyone that I know would love to have: conscientious, friendly, helpful and agreeable…but sometimes too helpful and agreeable to where she is taken advantage of. After an idea of hers is stolen by her boss, Sara makes a wish that she was braver. How I understand that! There are many times in my life that I wish I could’ve stood up for myself more or been honest when asked directly about how I felt about something, or if I could do something for someone, I’d say yes because I didn’t want to disappoint or upset the other person even though it meant giving up something I wanted to do. Well, with the help of Santa, Sara is finally able to speak her mind. What I loved most about this movie, (there are two things but one involves Sara) is that even though Sara is tougher she never loses her niceness. She is able to stand up for herself without being rude or mean about it. I have read/seen other books/movies with this theme and the heroine usually has a huge chip on her shoulder and what she says and does is quite mean. Not in a Wish for Christmas Wish, the spirit of the holidays (kindness, love, thinking of others) is still there while Sara learns she can be both strong and kind. The other thing I loved about this movie was Molly. When Sara tells her best friend how she’s been taken advantage of her, instead of Molly throwing a fit and ending the friendship, she realizes Sara is right and apologizes and changes her behavior. This is one of new favorite Christmas movies of this season (so far). I don’t know if it’s because of the “realness” of the characters or the message that strong doesn’t equal mean or selfish and you can look out for yourself while still caring and doing for others.

doubledeckThe last review for this edition is Double Deck the Halls by Gretchen Archer. First, I must say isn’t that about the cutest holiday cover you’ve ever seen? I know I love it and wish there was an ornament for it…but I digress. This is a short crime caper story in the Davis Way universe but features Granny Dee as the point of view character. The story is set around Christmas Time where Granny is visiting her granddaughter and two great-granddaughters for the holidays…and to play in a slot tournament. I don’t want to give away too much lets just say that a Christmas personality that one usually trusts is up to some horrible shenanigans and Granny Dee must save the day. It was an enjoyable story, cute, not too much angst (how I love my holiday reading) and the perfect “size” to get in some needed holiday themed reading if you only have a short amount of time (like waiting in long lines, baking cookies, etc.).

Stay tuned for more holiday reviews of books…and a few movies. I’m always eager to add to my holiday book and movie collection so please share! Happy Almost Holidays!

Books · Holiday · Reviews

Top 10 Reads of Christmas Past

Since 2011, I have posted holiday reviews on my blog. Usually, I start the week of Thanksgiving and end the first week of January. I’m starting early this year as I’ve found a need to read some cheerful books to pick up my spirits. The last year has been a little stressful at times and I want to be in the right frame of mind for the approaching holiday season.

To start off my holiday reviewing season, I’m going to list my Top 10 holiday reads from 2011-2016. The reviews for my Christmas past reads can be found by clicking on the category tags and selecting reviews.

Happy Holiday Reading!

Top 10 Reads of Christmas Past

  1. On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts
  2. Orphaned Hearts by Shawna K. Williams
  3. Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber
  4. Lakeshore Christmas by Susan Wiggs
  5. Santa’s Sleigh is on its Way to West Virginia by Eric James
  6. Bah, Humbug! by Heather Horrocks
  7. Lowcountry Bordello by Susan M. Boyer
  8. Home for Christmas by Melissa McClone
  9. All I Want for Christmas by Nora Roberts
  10. Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson

 

Books · Holiday · Reviews

SRP Reviews: Holiday Edition (Part II): The Reading Group: December, All Was Calm, and Santa’s Sleigh Is On Its Way to West Virginia

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

I had some unexpected holiday plans pop up at the end of last (couldn’t turn down seeing Moana with my two favorite little people) so I didn’t get around to posting more holiday reviews. And then yesterday, I conducted the great holiday gift hunt of 2016 which resulted in my husband finding the missing gifts in the living room where I had been wrapping. The only place I hadn’t torn apart searching for the missing movie gifts. (Next time, it’ll be the first place I look though I’m hoping there isn’t one.) On to the reviews for Part II of my holiday reading.

reading-group-decemberThe Reading Group: December by Della Parker: This book is set during the Christmas holiday and features Grace, a member of the reading group. The holiday season isn’t very happy for Grace as her family is struggling through a lot of hardships, but Grace doesn’t want to damper anyone else spirits so bears the burden alone. This story is about what happens when the facade Grace has constructed cracks. I don’t want to give the plot away, but there is a light in the dark for Grace and her family, and she sees the holiday spirit come alive.

all-was-calmThe next book in this edition is All Was Calm by Julie Carobini. This is a cozy mystery set during Christmas time. Tasha’s friend is on the suspect list when the owner of the camp she works for dies and it doesn’t seem the police are looking at anyone else so Tasha is on the case for the truth. I loved reading about the camp and the small town where Tasha now lives. Reading the descriptions of the normally, quiet town made me wish I had a trip planned in a mountain cabin resort (even though I’m not big on cold or snow). There were also many sweet moments between Tasha and her boyfriend which helped give the book a holiday feel.

santas-sleigh-on-its-wayMy last book for this post is Santa’s Sleigh Is On It’s Way to West Virginia by Eric James. Every year, I try to read a new to me children’s or middle grade book. I saw this one at Sam’s Club, and since it had West Virginia in the title, I had to get it. I absolutely love this book. It has the perfect balance of rhyme in the narration and the illustrations are delightful. I love how the story incorporates so many of the cities in West Virginia. (Note: The book is available for every state.) Currently, this is my favorite holiday read of the season.

 

 

 

Books · Holiday · Reviews · Uncategorized

SRP Review: Holiday Edition (Part 1): An Island Christmas, A Christmas Bonus, All I Want For Christmas

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

It’s holiday reading time! This year I’m a little behind schedule (two illnesses, multitude of Christmas gift crafting, writing book 6 in the Scrap This series, and preparing for the tax season is to blame) and I hope to get some more reading done now that two huge items on my to-do list are complete (mermaid tail blanket and tax courses). But I did manage to work in some reading time to save my sanity and give my overworked brain a rest.

an-island-christmasMy first book of the season was An Island Christmas by Nancy Thayer. This book took place during Christmas time on Nantucket, and it also has a Christmas wedding. The Gordon family comes together over the holidays for a wedding and there is some meddling and doubts that might put a damper on the big day. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away so all I will say is that this was what I’d consider a perfect Christmas story–family angst (but not too heavy), wonderful descriptions of the holiday appearance of the town, family get together, and most of all a sweet holiday spirit where there are lessons learned and a great understanding and appreciation at the end. It was the perfect book to start off my holiday reading.

achristmasbonuscoverThe next book I read was The Christmas Bonus by Patty Froese. Millie agrees to help her boss, Andrew, with a work project over the Christmas holiday and finds herself swayed into staying with his family. There is plenty of family angst in the story, and one of the issues is very heavy but is handled in a way where it doesn’t take away the hope and spirit of the story. At first, everything seems simple in the characters lives but like real people, the reader starts to learn of the struggles each one faces. I loved seeing how over the holidays, a time usually spent with family, Millie and Andrew not only come to realize how well they do know each other, but also learn some important (if at times not flattering) things about themselves and realize their roles in some of the issues they are facing.

all-i-want-for-christmasThe last book for this edition is All I Want for Christmas by Nora Roberts. This was a cute, sappy, heart-warming Christmas story…think Hallmark Christmas movie…which means it was written just the way I love holiday stories. The story takes places over a few months time but the Christmas hope is spread throughout the book as it’s centered on the twins big gift for Christmas which they are keeping a secret from their dad. The one thing twins Zeke and Zach want for Christmas is for their single dad to fall in love so they can have a mom. I loved the antics of the twins and how the issue keeping the couple apart felt real but wasn’t too traumatic as to dampen the sweet spirit of the story. I found myself smiling while I was reading this book.

I hope to have another edition up by the end of the week. Now that I’m all done with my courses and test taking for the upcoming tax season, I have more reading time. I can’t wait until it’s time to turn on the Christmas lights, sit in the recliner, and let myself enter into the world of another book.

 

 

 

 

Holiday

Christmas Craft Projects

It’s the time of the year when I plan out–and hopeful start –the Christmas gifts and decorations I want to make. So far, I have five on my list (four I’ll mention as one is gift that I think she reads my blog). I’m debating on a sixth but with a book in progress, tax training to complete, and wanting to spend time just enjoying the holiday season, I don’t want to become overwhelmed. I enjoy crafting and don’t want a long must-make-list to turn it into a chore.

ornament-for-christmas-project-postProject One: Christmas Ornaments for our ornament exchange party.

Last weekend, I attended a wonderful craft day and learned to make this ornament. It was a fun and simple process, and even better I have most of the supplies on hand. All I need are some plastic ornaments, but I couldn’t pass up this fabric ornament-materialwhen I went in search of supplies for Project Two. I think this design will make an awesome Christmas decoration. The only problem will be I’ll probably want to keep them instead of adding them to the ornament exchange.

 

harry-potter-fleece

Project Two is one that was a request: Harry Potter Fleece tie blanket. I had made one as a birthday gift and my daughter requested I make another one as hers has been permanently borrowed by a very adorable little girl.

She hopes that gifting one to the borrower will mean she’ll get her blanket back. To make sure that happens, I bought the exact same fleece and will make it the same size. I’m a little concerned if I make it in a child size that  the little one will want to keep the larger blanket.

mermaid-tale-blanketAnd that isn’t the only blanket I’m making this year. For Project Three, I’m crocheting a Mermaid Tale Blanket. I have started it and am halfway done with the first section of the tail (the main body–the easy part). I’m hoping when I get to the fins, it goes as smoothly. I’ve only made basic blankets and I’m hoping I can decipher the pattern enough to have it look like a mermaid tale.

The final project on my list (that I’m going to talk about) are gift tags. I made some cute ones last year for a giveaway and am planning to do the same this year–and keep some for myself. I really enjoyed making them especially since I can use my Cameo and/or Cricut Explore Air 2 (which is on its way to me) to cut them out.

Books · Holiday · Reviews · Uncategorized

SRP Review Holiday Edition (Part IV): The Perfect Gift, Snowed In, and A Very Country Christmas

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

The holiday season is over and with it comes the packing up of our Christmas decorations and putting away the holiday theme and setting books until the end of the year. While I’ll miss reading them, I’m looking forward to reading mysteries, romances, and whatever else catches my eye that is set during any time of the year and explores other themes.

the perfect giftThe first book to finish up the list for this (last) year’s holiday reading is The Perfect Gift by Serenity Woods. In this story, Brock has been grieving for his deceased wife for two years and wants to explore getting into a new relationship; he still loves and misses his wife but yearns to have love in his life again. Erin had met Brock online through a chat group for parents who have children that have chronic illnesses and while hesitant at first, agrees to see if their online friendship can blossom into anything more. This book has a holiday setting and I enjoyed seeing Christmastime taking place in another country. And reading about Christmas in a warmer weather fit this year as where I live we had record highs. I liked how the Christmas season blended into the story without it overshadowing the growing romance or having Christmas being the sole reason for the couple being together. Note: This book does have steamy scenes.

snowed innThe next book was Snowed In by Danielle Lee Zwissler that had a Christmas theme and setting to the story. The heroine Lacy is on her way to visit her family for Christmas when her car breaks down on a snowy road. Grayson happens to be driving and stops to help the damsel in distress. Lacy isn’t so thrilled with being rescued but agrees to accompany the stranger when he mentions he’s heading to the inn where she was planning on staying. When she arrives, Lacy is greeted with warmth and love, something she has longed for all her life. Even though she was heading to her family, she never felt a sense of belonging and she does with Grayson and his family. This was a sweet story with a lovely message about finding and accepting love from where it’s offered. I felt that the holiday theme was so strong that the story was a little rushed at times.

a very country christmasThe last book for this holiday reading binge was A Very Country Christmas by Zara Stoneley. Christmastime. Couple in love. Horses. Wonderful setting. What more could a girl want in a holiday story? Lottie is looking forward to having a lovely, romantic Christmas dinner (cooked by her) with her fiance…before she knows it, the romantic meal has turned into a large gathering of friends and family. I loved the antics of the secondary characters and wish I could say more, but I don’t want to give away the ending. This was an enjoyable, feel-good read and was the perfect book as this year’s last holiday read.

 

 

Books · Holiday · Reviews

SRP Review Holiday Edition (Part III): The Gift, Mistletoe and Murder, and Home for the Holidays

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

The end of the year is upon us and with that I’m winding down in my holiday reading. I’ll have one more edition of my holiday reviews before I reenter the world of non-holiday stories. the giftThe first book for this edition is The Gift by Lisa Mondello. I really enjoyed this book. The plot had a wonderful blend of a Christmas setting and a Christmas spirit theme that I enjoy (and prefer) in holiday books. Neither the holiday setting or theme was heavy-handed, and the two elements worked perfectly together. I loved how Allison and Derek meet and how their conflict naturally stemmed from the first encounter, though I do wish Allison had been more forthcoming I understand why she kept the knowledge to herself. I would’ve like for Allison to have her own ah-ha moment in the book instead of it just being Derek, but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book. It was a lovely read and stirred up my Christmas spirit.

mistletoe and murderThe next book was Mistletoe and Murder by Laina Turner. This is a cozy mystery short story and is set during Christmas time. The heroine Presley goes home for the holidays and agrees to help an ex-boyfriend discover the truth behind some financial shenanigans going on at his business which then evolves into having to track down a murderer. The mystery element is the strongest one in the story. Presley has a charge-forward, look back later personality which lands her in trouble and in humorous situations. I enjoyed getting to know her.

home for christmasThe last book for this edition is Home for Christmas by Melissa McClone. This was my favorite holiday read (so far) this year. It had the perfect balance of Christmas spirit/heart and Christmas setting. I loved Rachel and Nate. Rachel was a heroine who was equal parts spunky and vulnerable which made me connect to her immediately and wanted me to see her happily-each-after happen. Nate was strong and protective, and yet had a soft side to him that was endearing. The couple played perfectly off each other and I loved how their romance played out.

The Bar V5 ranch was perfect for a Christmas setting. The descriptions had me longing for snow (and I usually don’t look forward to it), and made me wish I could take a vacation there. It felt so real to me. The Christmas spirit was so alive in this book and made it so enjoyable to read. I took my time reading this story as I wanted to stay at the Bar V5 for awhile as it was such a heartwarming place. Yes, I know I’m gushing but it’s the way this book made me feel when I was reading it. The last scene had me releasing a long, satisfied sigh as it tugged at my heart. I can’t wait to read another story about the Bar V5 ranch.

 

 

Books · Holiday · Reviews

SRP Review Holiday Edition (Part II): The Carpenter’s Gift, Lowcountry Bordello, and Unwrapping Her Perfect Match

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

carpenter's giftMy house is decked out in its holiday attire, and the books I’m featuring in this edition of my holiday reads all feature great Christmas settings. The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel is a children’s tale that tells the story about the Rockefeller Center Tree. Every year I’m including a children’s Christmas/holiday story to read. I find that children stories usually have a sweet holiday spirit message in them that aren’t heavy-handed. What drew me to this book was the lovely illustrations that reflected the time period and Christmas setting beautifully. The pictures are gorgeous and complement the story. I had a real sense of the time and place. I loved learning about the Rockefeller Tree and seeing the act of kindness that started so much good and happiness in a lot of people’s lives.

lowcountry bordelloThe next book I read was Lowcountry Bordello by Susan M. Boyer. This is a mystery that happens around Christmas time. I loved reading all the description of Stella Maris during the holidays and seeing Liz navigating through the regular holiday events on top of planning a wedding–and trying to solve a murder. The mystery is the strongest element of the story and what I enjoyed most about the holiday setting was how it fit into the main storyline without overtaking it or having Christmastime just being a backdrop. The story wouldn’t have been the same if it was set at a different time. I like how Liz’s everyday life was still happening even though it was the holiday time. It’s very much how most of us have to navigate the holiday season.

unwrapping her perfect matchThe last book for this edition is Unwrapping her Perfect Match by Kat Latham. This is book is set during the holidays and starts with our heroine Gwen going to a fundraising auction to bid on a rugby player. Gwen has instructions on who to bid on but all doesn’t go as planned as meeting a handsome rugby player changes her mind. I loved the holiday descriptions in this book and they made me want to go to London one Christmas. It was a sweet love story and I have to admit it’s one of my favorite endings in a romance. Just a little note (disclaimer if you will) that this is a sexy story so if you prefer sweet reads (no sex on the page) then you might want to pass on this on or skip those sections.

giveaway · Holiday · Uncategorized

My 31 Days of Holiday Movies

Holiday Movie CollectionI love holiday movies. Holiday movies are one of the things I love most about this time of year. I love the spirit, and yes the uncomplicated problems which turn into such angst-filled movie plots. While I love dramas, during the holiday season I prefer to watch movies that are a lighthearted.

I’ve always had a couple of my favorites on DVD but wouldn’t have called it a collection. When we switched cable providers and no longer had the Hallmark channel I missed the fun, whimsical, and yes at times cheesy, but always with happy ending holiday movies that were shown every night and all day on Sundays. There are a couple of other networks that run holiday movies (even all day on Sundays), but some of them didn’t have the same lighthearted feel as the Hallmark movies.

I caught a horrible respiratory infection at the beginning of the holiday season last year and really missed my holiday movie binges. To cheer me up, my husband bought me a couple Hallmark movies–and my collection started. (The summer is a good time to snap up holiday movies at a discount on Amazon.)

It was so great to pop in a Christmas movie when the ones on Lifetime or UP just didn’t feel my particular holiday viewing need. When it was time to relocate the holiday movies back downstairs, I realized I hadn’t watched all the movies in my collection. This year, I wanted to make sure I enjoyed all my movies (and my collection had grown since last Christmas) so I created my own holiday movie schedule to include in my Christmas planner. 2015-12-03 12.20.16I will switch them around if I decide I really want to watch a particular one. There are just some days where nothing but Elf or Christmas With the Kranks will do. I love having all the movies written down (and some days have more than one listed) and knowing that I’ll be visiting each set of characters during the holiday season. My family was amused, and I believe a little perplexed, at this addition to my Christmas to-do lists. I already have my cookies to bake list, appetizers for Christmas Eve list, shopping list, decorating list, and now I have created my own holiday movie guide. I know some people find all the planning and to-dos that come along with the holidays stressful, but I love it. I look forward to the day after Thanksgiving as I know it’s time to display and show my holiday/Christmas love. (Bring out the Christmas sweaters!)

GIVEAWAY: If you’d love to start your own holiday movie collection, I’m giving away a copy of Christmas With the Kranks (based on the book Skipping Christmas by John Grisham). To enter, comment with the name of your favorite holiday movie. Currently, I have 46 movies in my collection and would love to make it 50. Help me add some titles to my wish list. I’ll draw a winner on December 7.

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Books · Holiday · Reviews · Uncategorized

SRP Holiday Review Edition (Part I): Do You Believe in Santa, Bella’s Christmas Bake Off, and Get Yourself Organized for Christmas

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

I’m so excited! It’s the time of the year where I pull out all my holiday themed books (and sweaters…yes, I’m one of the people who wear them and I don’t care that it’s a no on every fashion list) and settle into to do some serious reading. I seem to read more at this time of the year than any other. If you have any suggestions for titles (adult, young adult, children books) please let me know as I can never have too many holiday books.

do you believe in santaThe first book for this year is Do You Believe in Santa? by Sierra Donovan. Stories with a Christmas theme or setting are my favorites. Every year, I look forward to diving into these types of stories as the happiness and goodwill melt away all my cares and contribute to my enjoyment of the holiday season. What I enjoy most about holiday stories is the magic weaved into them through details of the setting, atmosphere, and the love-of-Christmas embraced by the characters. Do You Believe in Santa? fit perfectly into my holiday reading needs.

From the first introduction of Mandy and the store she works in, I knew I was in for a magical time. I loved seeing Mandy as a little girl and knowing that as an adult, she still embraced—and found a way to make a living—from her love of Christmas and Santa Claus. The only thing missing in Mandy’s life is true love. It’s hard for her as the eligible bachelors in town, remembering about her defense of Santa, don’t take her seriously or want her to change.
When a new man arrives in town, Mandy decides to step out of her comfort zone and agree to a date. The romance is written in a sweet and honest way. (I had started to type an example but deleted it, not wanting to spoil the story.) I loved seeing Mandy show him her town, and her love for the holidays, and watching Jake fall under the spell of Christmas. Do You Believe in Santa? kept the Christmas spirit throughout even though the majority of the book took place before the holiday season.

bella's christmas bakeoffThe next book was Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson.  Amy is blissfully baking away and looking forward to Christmas when her husband arrives home and announces he’s leaving her. The timing comes as a shock to Amy, though not the news itself as she knows their marriage has been on the rocks for a while, but how could he leave her before the holidays. I thought the same thing. Why tell her then when he knew how much the holidays meant to his wife? Then again, why would a man who’d run around on his wife care about her love of a particular season?

Amy turns to her favorite holiday program to try and gain back some of her positive and happy feelings of the holidays, even though it does bring some bittersweet memories as the host was her childhood best friend Bella. The girls had a falling out, which Amy caused, and the friendship never recovered. It is one of the regrets of Amy’s life. When watching the show, Amy learns that the recipes Bella uses were Amy’s mother. A war is now on. With some maneuverings, Amy wins a contest and be spending some time with her former best friend. Amy plans on using the time to right her wrongs, have Bella’s wrongs righted, and maybe with the Christmas spirit in the air some hearts and minds will open.

I’ll admit I was a little worried if the book would fulfill my holiday reading needs. While the book has some heavy moments and painful pasts for the characters, it never took over. When I’m in a holiday reading mood, I want a book that will refresh my spirit, make me a little teary because of love and goodwill not sorrow. I want a story that will showcase the best of the holiday spirit: love, second chances, wonder, happiness, and of course scenes showing Christmas in all its beautiful (and sometimes dysfunctional) wonder. Bella’s Christmas Bake Off fulfilled all my needs.

get yourself organized for the holidaysAnd the last book for this part of my holiday reviews is Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp. I like planning and am always on the lookout for ideas on how to improve upon my current methods. And since Christmas is my holiday love and I go all out–decorating, baking, movie watching, reading, clothing, etc– I figured a book just on organizing for the holiday was a perfect read for me. I even started a holiday planner to keep notes of everything I need to do, want to do, and should be doing as in my quest to get it all in, I sometimes miss something that gives me a little pang of regret.

The one thing that the book advises doing, and that I’m having trouble with, is downsizing the must-do list. I don’t know if I can, or even want to give anything up. Except for the holiday season (okay and book launches), my life is pretty tame and one day rolls into the next. For the holidays, I like feeling that every day is special and I have something fun and different to do. The one take-away I do keep in mind is not to let my plans overwhelm my family. I make sure that I have some must-dos holiday-specialness activities that I can do on my own…reading, watching movies, crafting. Something that gives me the feeling I need and doesn’t make the holidays something my family comes to dread.

The way the book is organized made it very easy for me to include those specific ideas into my Christmas planner so I could spend more time decorating the planner rather than trying to make sure I included all the categories I’d need.