Friday, December 18, 2015

Mini Reviews: Two Christmas Cozies

Romance and chick-lit aren't my typical genres of choice, but I just can't resist Christmas novels. I love how they help enhance my feelings of Christmas cheer, and with the holidays being such a busy time it's nice to read something fun and light. I managed to squeeze in two Christmas books this year and, though their ratings are only a half-star apart, I definitely enjoyed "The Great Christmas Knit-Off" more than "The Mistletoe Inn" -- and not just because it has "knit" in the title! ;)

"The Great Christmas Knit-Off" by Alexandra Brown
First published in the U.S. in 2015
300-some pages (didn't write it down, and I don't think Goodreads' listing of 400 is correct)
3.5 stars
Image from Goodreads

"The Great Christmas Knit-Off" features just-ok writing, a predictable plot, and a cheesy holiday romance -- and yet, I had so much fun reading it! It's a fluffy confection meant to imbue Christmas cheer and it does just that.

The characters are likable, the story is heartwarming with an obligatory happy ending, and it was surprisingly funny and charming. Plus I enjoyed the storybook English village setting and the many British-isms, like Christmas pudding and Wispa hot chocolate.  And, as a knitter myself, I liked that plot point -- but don't fear, despite the title it doesn't factor in nearly enough to put off non-knitters.

Sybil's life is in shambles. Left at the alter, stuck in a mind-numbing job she hates, and possibly at fault for a huge "cock-up" at work, she grabs her sweet little dog Basil and they flee London for a weekend trip to the countryside, where her best friend Cher is managing a pub. It turns out that Cher is away for a work trip -- but that may be the best thing that could happen to Sybs because the kind, welcoming and slightly kooky residents of the tiny village of Tindledale are exactly what she needs to get out of her funk, particularly elderly Hattie and her floundering yarn shop. Handknitted sweaters featuring Christmas puddings, gallons of mulled wine, a cute village doctor and a ferret all make appearances.

This was a fun, festive and cute read and I definitely recommend it if you're looking for a light Christmas story.

"The Mistletoe Inn" by Richard Paul Evans
First published in 2015
300 pages
3 stars
Image from Goodreads

I've only read a couple novels by the "king of Christmas fiction," as the cover proclaims, but I have to say I don't think "The Mistletoe Inn" was his strongest effort.

It was hardly the worst book I've ever read, but the writing was plain and repetitive (I was so tired of reading the phrase "not surprisingly"!), the story was utterly predictable, the romance was unrealistic, it was a total sap-fest, and I never really felt connected our main character. The whole thing felt a bit of half-assed.

Kimberly Rossi's mother committed suicide when she was a child and that's had a sabotaging effect on all Kim's romantic relationships because she feels both unworthy of love and that she has to cling on with all her might to keep from being abandoned again.

"The Mistletoe Inn" finds Kimberly working as a finance officer at a car dealership with some mean-girl co-workers by day -- a job she hates -- and writing a romance novel by night. She's just gotten out of an abusive marriage. Her father has some terrible news for her. Bearing all this weight, Kimberly attends a romance writers conference in Vermont where her favorite writer -- a reclusive man named H.T. Cowell -- is scheduled to give his first appearance in years. "Not surprisingly," (hehe) the conference proves life-changing for Kimberly in every way -- on the friendship, romance, self-discovery, making-peace-with-the-past and book-writing fronts.

This is a pretty harsh review, but I think an author who makes a living off writing Christmas novels could surely have done better. That said, it really wasn't a bad book, and if you're looking for the literary equivalent of a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie this is it! (And don't get me wrong, I like Hallmark Christmas movies just as much as the next person! This is the time of year to veg out with something easy and festive with an assured happy ending.)


  1. Sooo...tell us what you really think. :) I do like the cover art!

  2. I have been curious about Richard Paul Evans' books but have never read one. It is too bad The Mistletoe Inn wasn't better.

    "The Great Christmas Knit-Off" sounds like the better read by a landslide.


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