Book The Halls: 28 Holiday Titles To Add to Your Wish Lists

A small sampling of our favorite holiday titles that readers can relax with or give to that special someone

It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love with the best gift of all, a thoughtfully selected book. Offered below is a small sampling of seasonal works readers can relax with or give to that special someone. From general fiction that leans into relationships and romance to complex and cozy mysteries and notable series, here are our holiday suggestions.


 

General Fiction

redstar Anthony, Gretchen. Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners. Park Row: Harlequin. Oct. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780778307860. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488096587. F
DEBUT Violet Baumgartner is proud of husband Ed and daughter Cerise and loves to share how amazing her family is in a Christmas newsletter, smoothing out any imperfections. But the Baumgartners have normal family struggles, including Cerise and Barb’s surprise pregnancy announcement, Ed’s adjustment to retirement, and an investigation of donated funds to Cerise’s work project. Close friends bring more layers of drama and a few screaming fights.
VERDICT Anthony’s debut successfully mixes realistic emotional responses to big life events with a sense of humor, preventing any single character from becoming a victim or a villain.

 

Carlson, Melody. A Christmas by the Sea. Revell. Sept. 2018. 176p. ISBN 9780800722715. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781493415045. CF
After inheriting her grandfather’s cottage in Maine, Wendy Harper and her 12-year-old son Jackson travel from Ohio for a temporary stay. Wendy would like to renovate and sell quickly before returning to the life and job she left behind. But as happy memories resurface and local craftsman ­Caleb Colton becomes an important person to the Harpers, the family’s future residence is called into question.
VERDICT This breezy, entertaining read provides the perfect afternoon getaway during a busy holiday season.

Daley, Melissa. Christmas at the Cat Café. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781250206534. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250118790. F
This sequel to Molly and the Cat Café brings back beloved characters in a holiday
setting. Now Molly and her kittens live with Deb and her daughter Sophie in the Cotswolds’ only cat café. Arriving at the café with a Lhasa Apso named Beau, Deb’s sister Linda is given shelter after leaving her troubled marriage. Despite the conflict between Beau and the cats, Linda adopts an adult Siamese and tension in the house shoots through the roof. Narrated by Molly, the story is told primarily from her perspective.
VERDICT Daley’s cast of two- and four-legged characters is pleasant to spend time with; their caring actions may inspire feelings of generosity.

Hughes, Anita. Christmas at the Chalet. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2018. 274p. ISBN 9781250302175. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250166685. F
Felicity, sole designer for Felicity Grant Bridal, and business partner Raj are in St. Moritz for a bridal gown fashion show and photo shoots the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Even with a long to-do list, Felicity has a hard time not thinking about Adam, her boyfriend of six years, and wondering why they aren’t engaged yet. After she falls on the ice, Felicity meets Dr. Gabriel Innes, and the ease they feel with each other is swift and strong. Is longevity in a relationship more important than current connection?
VERDICT A refreshing setting and characters combine with Felicity’s offbeat occupation to create a sweet story of meaningful relationships.

redstar Hulse, Caroline. The Adults. Random. Dec. 2018. 358p. ISBN 9780525511748. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780525511755. F
DEBUT Coparenting is difficult any time of year, but trying to create a happy, memorable Christmas for seven-year-old Scarlett leads Claire and Matt to make seriously questionable choices. No one remembers who suggested the trip to family fun park Happy Forest, but both parents, their new partners, their daughter, and her imaginary friend Posey, a large purple rabbit, are all set to spend the holiday “having fun” together, or not? All the characters are genuinely likable and relatable, especially in their flaws.
VERDICT A snappy writing style and changing viewpoints make the pages of this debut fly by as readers will want to know what happens next.

Kilpatrick, Sally. Oh My Stars. Kensington. Oct. 2018. 312p. ISBN 9781496710758. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781496710765. F
The people of Ellery, TN, are proud to be part of a small, tight-knit community. Ivy Long returned home seeking help in caring for her terminally ill husband and stayed to be with family. Years later, she’s settled in and chosen to be Mary in the town’s drive-through nativity with Gabe, aka Joseph, who’s planning a temporary stay. But finding a real baby in the nativity cradle upends plans for all the townspeople. Will Ivy’s dream of adopting become her Christmas miracle?
VERDICT Kilpatrick creates a charming town full of lovable oddballs and the story of Ivy, Gabe, and their extended families, making this a yuletide treat that will warm readers’ hearts.

redstarKimmel, Fran. No Good Asking. ECW. Oct. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781770414389. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781773052625. F
After leaving the police force, Eric and Ellie Nyland return to Eric’s childhood home with their two boys, 14-year-old Daniel and five-year-old Sammy, to help Eric’s dad as his memory begins to slip. Spotting a young girl wandering in the snow near the road, Eric stops to help and discovers she lives across the street with a man he’s disliked from his school days, but Hannah’s mom passed away and she has no place to go. With his own family in disarray, can Eric make a positive difference in Hannah’s life?
VERDICT Kimmel’s novel has only a few characters, but they all possess presence and depth and experience honest changes. The strong sense of place serves as an additional relationship for the characters to negotiate.

Lageschulte, Melanie. The Peaceful Season. Freemont Creek. (Growing Season, Oct. 2018. 254p. ISBN 9780998863894. $25.95; pap. ISBN 9780998863887. $13.95. F
Melinda Foster is settling into her new life in Prosper, IA, and plans to buy the farm she’s been renting from Horace, all the four-legged residents included. Managing a farm is a huge responsibility, but Melinda is up for the challenge and has the support of friends, family, and neighbors, so why not take on a Christmas celebration to say thank you to them all? This third book of the “Growing Season” series can be read as a stand-alone; readers who haven’t enjoyed the previous stories will be excited to celebrate the holiday with Melinda.
VERDICT The workings of a farm and the close-knit community will conjure feelings of nostalgia, even for those who’ve never experienced either lifestyle. This gentle read is a great choice for what can be a hectic time of year.

Morgan, Sarah. The Christmas Sisters. HQN: Harlequin. Sept. 2018. 416p. ISBN 9781335946478. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488096488. F
Suzanne and Stewart McBride are getting the best Christmas gift: all three of their adopted daughters will be home this year, and each sister is bringing her own gift of drama along. Relationship ups and downs can become more pronounced under stress and the fear of disappointing those closest to us. This story gives each daughter, plus her parents, an individual opportunity to face these anxieties and concerns in their own way.
VERDICT With the variety of personalities here, it’s easy to find one character in particular to identify with to still root for the entire family. The Scottish Highland setting adds special moments in this tender family drama.

VanLiere, Donna. The Christmas Star. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2018. 240p. ISBN 9781250201799. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250163943. F
Gabe Rodriguez has a checkered past but has found a real sense of belonging at the elementary school where he’s responsible for the building’s maintenance. Maddie, a seven-year-old foster child facing significant personal and educational challenges, has a friend in Gabe. After meeting new teacher Amy Denison, Maddie decides to play matchmaker for Amy and Gabe; she remains committed to the task even after discovering they’ve already married and divorced. Second chances abound in this story, resulting in a Christmas gift worth waiting for.
VERDICT This sweet tale of love and overcoming obstacles offers a festive atmosphere readers will savor.

 



 

Mystery

Brook, Allison. Read and Gone. Crooked Lane. (Haunted Library, Bk. 2). Sept. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781683317340. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683317357. M
Carrie Singleton has settled into a fresh beginning in Clover Ridge, with supportive family nearby and an awesome job at the public library. Even her furry companion, Smokey Joe, finds his happy place as the library cat. But when her absentee father sneaks into her home to ask for help retrieving missing stolen gems, Carrie finds herself sleuthing against her better judgement. A larger cast of characters allows for plenty of quirky asides but doesn’t impede the steady pace in unraveling the mystery.
VERDICT The second book in a new series can be read on its own, but readers are likely to want more and will return to the first title.

Fluke, Joanne. Christmas Cake Murder. Kensington. (Hannah Swenson, Bk. 23). Oct. 2018. 270p. ISBN 9781617732324. $20; ebk. ISBN 9781617732331. M
Set in a time before the Cookie Jar bakery was Hannah Swensen’s home away from home, this newest addition to the series could be thought as the first mystery Hannah ever solved. While dreaming of starting a business, Hannah is distracted by reading Essie Granger’s old notebooks of original crime fiction. Could there be a real-life true crime hidden inside Essie’s writings? Trademark recipes and family banter (or bickering) are sprinkled throughout this whodunit that Hannah helps piece together.
VERDICT Longtime series fans will enjoy this glimpse into the past of their favorite characters and get a few new insights into established bonds.

Haines, Carolyn. A Gift of Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781250193629. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250193643. M
The newest title of this well-established series features happy couple Sarah Booth and Sheriff Coleman Peters at Christmastime as they investigate the mysterious disappearance of a young woman. The missing person is Cece Dee Falcon’s cousin Eve, who seems to have been kidnapped for reasons unknown. Time is of the essence as the ransom note includes a photo of a very pregnant Eve.
VERDICT Haines’s longtime admirers will be thrilled to spend the holidays with their favorite characters. New readers looking for an engaging story can start here or work their way backward, if they don’t mind reading out of order.

Rosenfelt, David. Deck the Hounds. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. (Andy Carpenter, Bk. 18). Oct. 2018. 472p. ISBN 9781250304230. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250198495. M
The latest title in this long-running series has all the elements dedicated readers will be expecting, wrapped up in a festive Yuletide setting. Andy Carpenter is drawn to Don, a homeless man, who is huddled up against the cold air with a golden retriever-mix dog named Zoey. Later that evening, Don and Zoey are assaulted, and Zoey bites the attacker in defense. Andy’s wife and son encourage the reluctant lawyer but committed dog rescuer to step in and help; little do any of them know Don’s been accused of a serious crime and Andy’s work is cut out for him.
VERDICT The untangling of so many twisted tales (or tails?) keeps this story moving at a fast pace; sweet moments of puppy love will have readers smiling.

Shaw, M.B. Murder at the Mill. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Dec. 2018. 448p. ISBN 9781250308269. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250189318. M
Accepting a commission to paint the portrait of crime writer Dom Wetherby over the holiday season means spending time away from her husband, but Iris Grey is looking to make major life changes and now is as good a time as any. On Christmas Day evening, when Lorcan Wetherby locates his father’s body in the mill’s river, Iris discovers her skill for investigating murder. As the number of suspicious deaths increase, so does Iris’s ability to ask the right questions and discard the lies.
VERDICT Complicated relationships create a strong backdrop for a complex mystery, and one hopes, the foundation for more books to come.

Stone, Jean. A Vineyard Christmas. Kensington. (Vineyard, Bk. 1). Sept. 2018. 324p. ISBN 9781496716620. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781496716637. M
Annie Sutton is finally realizing her dream of living on Martha’s Vineyard, when a surprise package is left outside her cottage door. As a nor’easter brings the wind and snow, Annie is startled awake by a loud noise outside. When she opens the door, there’s a baby in a basket. Determined to find out who left this baby and why, Annie works with new friends and neighbors to reconnect the child with her family.
VERDICT The diverse characters, strong setting, and clever mystery surrounding baby Bella brims with holiday cheer readers will relish.

 



 

Anthologies & Collections

redstarThe Faber Book of Christmas. Faber & Faber. Oct. 2018. 288p. ed. by Simon Rae. ISBN 9780571338726. $29.95. F
Judge this book by its attention-grabbing Liberty of London cover with bright colors and festive design; the stories inside will be pretty close to that cheery feel, with pieces ranging from classic to contemporary, funny to sentimental, short to long, and from prose to poem to hymn. Easy to pick up briefly and return to later, this book could solve some holiday angst for dedicated readers who don’t have much spare time.

Ghosts of Christmas Past. Hodder & Stoughton. Oct. 2018. 294p. ed. by Tim Martin. ISBN 9781473663466. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9781473663473. F
Thirteen pieces make up this haunted holiday collection. Some authors will be recognized for writings different than the spooky stories found here: E. Nesbit, Muriel Spark, or Louis de Bernieres. While Neil Gaiman’s and Kelly Link’s contributions will be less of a shock. The varied story lines may find wider appeal with readers looking for a break from the sugary treats of the season.

Hark! The Herald Angels Scream. Anchor. Oct. 2018. 384p. ed. by Christopher Golden. ISBN 9780525433163. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525433170. HORROR
Horror masters such as Kelley Armstrong, Seanan McGuire, and Jonathan Maberry will keep you up past your bedtime, but not because you’re still wrapping gifts. Eighteen original tales inspired by darker elements of Christmas traditions, such as the folklore of Krampus, dominate this anthology.

A Literary Christmas. British Library. Nov. 2018. 152p. ed. by British Library. ISBN 9780712352765. $19.95. LIT
The third edition of this anthology celebrates the stories, poems, and prose primarily by authors associated with holiday classics, including Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Dylan Thomas, Kenneth Grahame,
and Oscar Wilde.


 

 

 


Stacey Hayman began reviewing for LJ nearly ten years ago. She is the coauthor of Better Serving Teens Through School Library-Public Library Collaboration (ABC-CLIO, 2013) and Supervisor of Community Services and Events, Rocky River Public Library, IL

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