Saturday, 3 December 2016

Favourite Festive Reads - 2016

Well this must surely be one of the most diverse joint blog posts we’ve ever produced! Christmas is all about accepting everyone into the fold and boy we’ve gone wide with our favourite Christmas reads.
From new writing, fresh off the press, to nostalgic choices, which we hope might jog some happy memories too. We’d love if you might share some of your own personal favourites…

Rae - It was impossible for me to select only one festive read, so have limited myself to two!

One of my 2016 reading resolutions was to read more short stories and so was delighted to discover that four pieces, originally written for newspapers and magazines, by PD James have been made into a collection entitled The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories. PD James was a master of setting and characterisation and her writing very much reminds me of illicit evenings spent under the bedcovers reading Agatha Christie by torchlight. This collection is perfect if you are short on time, but still wish to enjoy pitting your wits against a fantastic crime writer.

I really struggled with my second choice as there are so many
sparkling Christmas reads out there (and so many pretty covers to enjoy). So I've opted to share one which I hope to find tucked in my stocking on Christmas morning - Christmas Under The Stars by Karen Swan. Set in Banff, amongst the majestic snow-topped mountains of the Canadian Rockies, I was immediately drawn to its location, as I was lucky enough to visit Banff a couple of summers ago and adored its alpine feel. (I also live not far from Banff - Scotland!) It's the story of couples, of tragedy, of secrets, of jealousy and love. If I'm unable to celebrate Christmas in the Canadian Rockies, then enjoying Christmas Under The Stars sounds like the next best thing. Happy reading!

Gill - I’m going to choose 2 books for this – the first came out only a few weeks ago, the second was practically the first book I ever fell in love with and it was old even then. So, quite a contrast! My first choice is Stella’s Christmas Wish by Kate Blackadder. I’ve read Kate’s short stories and serials before but this is her first full-length novel and it’s truly lovely. Family problems, a gorgeous Scottish setting (of course!) and a great love story. To me it felt like a modern-day D E Stevenson novel, and I can’t praise anything much higher than that.

My second selection is actually a children’s book, but one I return to year after year at Christmas-time, like many other Chalet School fans. It is Jo Of The Chalet School by Elinor M Brent-Dyer, and contains one of the most perfect
evocations of a traditional Christmas ever. It is set in Austria in the 1920s but the warmth of the characters and the beautiful snow-filled setting are timeless. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without it!

Neil - The other half Audrey has taken the reins for this one... over to you Audrey.

Audrey - I must admit I have never knowingly bought or read a festive story since becoming an adult, so this week I received a £2 thank you credit from Amazon.

I decided to be brave and try an E-Book that I could read on my phone, and if that wasn't enough, I
downloaded The Cosy Christmas Teashop by Caroline Roberts.

It wasn't until I scrolled through reviews that I discovered this was the second in a series, however it didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the read.

Ellie the main character has breathed life into the teashop at Claversham Castle, expanding her business into wedding cakes and planning. The descriptions of delicious cakes in the teashop will have you reaching for the biscuit tin. I read the majority of this whilst sitting in a coffee shop, so the ambient noise added to Roberts wonderful descriptions of the tearoom. This novel was filled with the just the right amount of Christmas cheer, along with a few weddings and the emotional ups and downs that these bring. The Cosy Christmas Teashop was a fantastic introduction to festive reads.

Merry Christmas, when it comes… Audrey

Jennifer - I’m not a seasonal person. Not that I don’t like Christmas — far from it — but I don’t feel obliged to do everything in a particularly Chrismassy way. You’re more likely to find a summer fruit pavlova on our table on 25 December than a Christmas pudding, and I’m as likely to wear tinsel in summer as in winter.

That applies to reading, too. Over the year I’ve been building up a to-be-read pile so long that it’s a mercy it’s on a Kindle, because I certainly don’t have room for it on my bookshelves. But because it’s been accumulated over so long, there’s no real seasonality about it. I won’t be tucking into A Christmas Carol for the umpteenth time, just because it’s December. 

But I will read. I will read at times I never normally read. I’ll sit down after breakfast with a book. I’ll
read if I wake up unusually early. I’ll read while everyone else is sitting through Love, Actually. And I won’t get through the long list of books, but I’ll make a dent. So, in no particular order, here are just some of the ones I hope to tick off my list:

The Bowes Inheritance by Pam Lecky
The Family at Farrshore by Kate Blackadder
A Way From Heart to Heart by Helena Fairfax
The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains by Brevet Col J C Fremont 
Courting the Countess by Anne Stenhouse
The Last Dreamseer by Katy Haye
The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Linda - I'm going off piste with my choice of  'Christmas Reads'. I have yet to have a Christmas where I have time to read much beyond the TV listings even though I doze off in front of what I've chosen
anyway. So.... I've gone for children's Christmas stories, which I do find a window of time to read aloud.  My first choice is Raymond Briggs' classic Father Christmas. My copy is rather dog-eared and the white of the cover and the pages rather less than that now. I bought it for my own children and I now read it to my grandchildren. What I - and they - love is the cartoon-strip way the story is told. The artwork is as good as the writing (imho!!) There is minimal dialogue, which means that the children are happy to have a stab at reading it by themselves. I like that Father Christmas has not one, not two, not three, but four (!!!) bottles of wine on his Christmas dinner table. Well, he would need a stiff drink after all that present-delivering worldwide, wouldn't he?

My other choice is a thick card book, written in rhyme (sort of, more doggerel really) which my five-year-old granddaughter
will happily look at any time of the year. The artwork is simple but bright and very engaging for a child. I've been known to read this one six or seven times in a row.... thank goodness there are only fourteen pages! And my excuse for choosing these over the hundreds of Christmas novels and novellas there are out there is that Christmas is for children. We have to make the time magical for them, I think, and that doesn't mean being swamped with expensive presents. What could be better than snuggling up with Grandma under a fleecy blanket, listening to a story, munching on Christmas chocolate?

Please don't be shy, we'd love to hear what will make it to the top of your festive reading pile... from all at Novel Points of View


  1. I never thought I'd say that my favourite Christmas book is, quite simply, wordless! But The Snowman by Raymond Briggs takes children into a world of their very own imagination, and what could be better than that? But then I still live in a world where Santa comes down the chimney, rubbing the soot from his beard... And I hope I always will. What a lovely blog post.

    1. My youngest was given The Snowman book and soft toy as a baby and we now own quite a Snowman collection! There's the Snowman mug, lap tray, festive puzzle... We've even been to hear Scotland's Symphony Orchestra, the RSNO, perform whilst images from The Snowman were projected on stage - just brilliant! So The Snowman still plays a sizeable part in our family Christmases too. Thanks of the reminder. : )

  2. This may sound a little strange, but for me it would have to be the Mandy annuals. I know, I know, it is a not novel, but as a child a Mandy annual was a regular gift from Santa (he knew me well!) Inside were stories about feisty heroines, orphans escaping from their wicked guardians and girls my age solving mysteries. It was just prefect for me. I was between the ages 8 and 12 years old. I think, even now, I would enjoy curling up on the sofa, with a roaring fire warming my toes and re-reading an old annual. It would conjure up very festive, fond memories for sure.

    1. This brings back great memories of getting the Mandy comic weekly. Such joy! But oddly i don't think I ever got the annual.

    2. My husband has a theory that all children should receive at least one annual, giving them something to retreat behind when the joy of Christmas all gets too much and adults begin squabbling in the kitchen! I still treasure my Twinkle collection and the the Beano and the Dandy were/are firm favourites with our boys.

    3. I never had the weekly comic, only the annual so it was a real treat to find it in my stocking.

  3. Well, I am thrilled to be on Jennifer's tbr for the Christmas break. Thank you. I used to look forward to getting an annual and then real books. The doting aunties were truly taken aback by the speed I read them though. Three cheers for libraries. Anne Stenhouse

    1. Lovely to see Courting the Countess shining as a great Christmas read, Anne. I still hope for books as a Christmas gift and start dropping broad hints from end November onwards!

  4. As children my mum would always read me and my sister Enid Blyton's The Christmas Book at bedtime. A chapter a night, planned so the exciting scene when Ann meets Santa Claus as he comes down the chimney lands on Christmas Eve. Oooo, I can feel those goose bumps even now!

    1. Hello Wendy, thanks for dropping by and sharing happy memories. I thought I'd read most Enid Blyton novels but The Christmas Book managed to pass me by. Off to search on Amazon!

    2. I loved Enid Blyton's books as a child. I think I had all of the Famous Five series. I also had some of the Secret Seven, but I preferred the five cousins. Ahh happy memories.