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Christmas reads new and old

Readers of Book Time know I am a fan of Christmas and once December comes I start read the same books each year. I have already read two Richard Paul Evans‘ titles (Promise Me and Mistletoe Promise) and have several more to go from that author and various others. For the last couple of years, thanks to PGC Books, I have read a Karen Swan title.

Recently, I picked up one of her older titles and I quite enjoyed it.

The Christmas Present is about a woman named Laura who has a past that haunts her. She says she just wants to lead a quiet life with her boyfriend, Jack, their dog, Arthur, and her best friend, Fee, creating custom-made jewellery. As that business takes off, she is approached by Rob Blake, who wants commission her to make a necklace for his wife, Cat, made in charms – one representing each of the important people in her life.

Laura interviews each of the people in Cat’s glamorous life, spending a weekend in Verbier with the friends.

“By the time she has to identify the final charm, Laura’s metamorphosis is almost complete. But the last story left to tell has the power to change all their lives forever, and Laura is forced to choose between who she really is and who it is she wants to be.”

The Christmas Present was an interesting read. I never guessed Laura’s secret until the author told me at the end and then, suddenly it made sense, although I hope to never have to find out if it would have been the choice I made. Saying that, some of the choices Laura makes along the way wouldn’t have been the ones I have made.

The characters were great and while you really got to know Laura, the secondary characters – and in this case there were a lot of them – were fully developed as well. I didn’t really like Cat, but thought Kitty, a friend, was great.

And of course, there is a happy ending. Perfect for a Christmas read.

Front cover image of The Girl Who Saved Christmas, with a skinny girl holding a chimney sweeping tool with an elf and a black cat in her legs set on a red background with snow falling
The Girl Who Saved Christmas is the second book in the series by author Matt Haig

The Girl Who Saved Christmas

I read The Boy Called Christmas – twice – when it came out in November 2016. I try to find a new Christmas read each year and picked up The Girl Who Saved Christmas as both my son and I liked the first story.

Both are by Matt Haig. I would say you need to read the first one before you read this one as not everything is explained. I would also suggest re-reading the first one before the second one as details, at least for me, were lost.

Otherwise, it was an enjoyable read about the girl, Amelia, who first gave Santa and the reindeer the magic to fly around the world to deliver presents to boys and girls. But when her mother dies and she is forced into Mr. Creeper’s workhouse, Amelia begins to loose hope and Santa realizes in order to save Christmas, he has to find Amelia and restore her hope.

I enjoyed this book. I liked that we got to meet author Charles Dickens, and perhaps learn the inspiration for Ebeneezer Scrooge, Queen Victoria and Prince Edward (and their relationship and learn more about Santa and his magic. Then there is the message of hope and the importance of it in the lives of children every where.

Christmas gift guide – all about books adult, young adult, middle grade and children’s

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy books and that is almost the same thing.”

One of my favourite Christmas memories is receiving a copy of Anne of Green Gables in my stocking. I remember being pulled into the story of Anne while be surrounded by talking and the lights on our Christmas tree. It was a magical moment.

Today, no Christmas is complete without a book or two.

Here are some of the books I have read if you are looking for a gift for the book lover in your life.


Amazing Grace and The Spoon Stealer by Lesley Crewe and Nimbus Publishing and Vagrant Press.

I first came across Lesley Crew with Amazing Grace, which was an amazing and put me into a long book slump. The Spoon Stealer was equally great. Both are books about people, relationships, and love. They are just great.

Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up by Alexandra Potter and PGC Books

This is still one of my favourite books, and I recommend it often. It was funny and relatable, both situations and the people. I loved the relationship between the characters.

Pippo and Clara Diana Rosie and PGC Books

I read this one this year and while I wouldn’t say it was happy and uplifting, it was great. I cried, multiple times. It showed me a part of the Second World War I didn’t know a lot about. Great characters, interesting perspective, great read.

Sirens of Memory by Puja Guha and PGC Books

What a rollercoaster of emotions this book was. It was suspensive and frightening. It gave me nightmares, but the characters and the hope that everything would turn out OK in the end pushed me through. Plus, it was a fast read – a couple of days and I could shake out the memory the main character had to lived through.

Together by Christmas, the Secret Path by Karen Swan and PGC Books

I really like Karen Swan’s work. Her books are destination heavy, meaning if feels you are living right beside the character. Her characters are great and the stories often have a twist. I have liked everything she has written that I have read and loved even more.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

I am a big fan of books about bookstores and books about people who love books. They just get it. This one is about a bookstore that is on a boat and a man who takes his bookshop to find out what happened to the woman he loved.

Other titles:

A Discovery of Witches trilogy by Deborah Harkness

How to Walk Away, Katherine Center by PCGBooks

Kate Morton books

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan, PGCBooks

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Middle grade and young adult

Harry Potter

No list should be complete without Harry Potter. I read the books the first time as an adult, and they were magical. That magic was repeated – and almost better – when I read them to my son. I got to experience the magic through his eyes.

Marina Cohen (Raincoast Books) always makes these lists because her books are so different and always on a bit of the creepy side. I loved The Inn Between as well as Box of Bones. I liked The Dolls Eyes as well, but my son didn’t enjoy that title.

The List by Patricia Forde and Raincoast Books

While the first book was better, the second book was also good and I would recommend both. And while it’s marked for middle grade don’t let that stop you. It is an interesting concept – how many words does one need? – and great read.

The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel and Raincoast Books

We are waiting for Book 3 to come out of this middle grade series. The first and second books were consumed quite fast – first by me, who reviewed them, and then by my son. We keep checking, and hoping, the next book will come out soon.

Other titles

Body Swap by Sylvia MicNicoll

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

Soldier Doll and On the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Picture Books

Here are 24 of my favourites.

Other titles

All I Want for Christmas is Ewe, Rose Rossner and Raincoast Books

An Emotional Menagerie, Feelings from A to Z by The School of Life

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet Ahlberg

Self help, coffee table books, activity book

Canada Above & Beyond, aerial photography by George Fischer and Nimbus Publishing

Coastal Nova Scotia, a photographic tour by Adam Cornick and Nimbus Publishing

Galapagos, A Traveler’s Introduction by Wayne Lynch and Firefly Books

What Next? DK Books (I highly recommend this career book)

Wild Things, Over 100 Magical Outdoor Adventures by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks and Raincoast Books

3 Christmas books reviewed

I have read a significant number of Christmas books this year. I read my usual, plus whatever new one Karen Swan puts out and then three others.

So, This is Christmas

This book feels so much different from what I usually read. I found it a little slow to start, but once I got to the reindeer part, it got better – and funnier.

Finley decides to go home to Christmas, Oklahoma, to spend the holidays with her family and to pluck up her courage to tell her parents that she no longer wants to attend her New England prep school where she isn’t fitting – not academically or socially.

Working at her Grandma Jo’s Hoyden Inn, she is surprised to find her classmate, Arthur Chakrabarti Watercress and his aunt Esha have decided to spend the holidays at the inn.

“And if the greatly enhanced website for the town – created by Finely to impress her snobbish classmates – is to blame, how can she produce the perfect American Christmas experience their guest expect.”

There was a significant amount of stuff going on in this book – parent news, ex-boyfriend and best friend, and a host of other colourful characters. I laughed out loud in a number of points, and I love how everything came together.

So, This is Christmas is by Tracy Andreen and Viking Books and retails for $23.99.

The Christmas Dress

I wasn’t sure at first about The Christmas Dress by Courtney Cole. I wasn’t loving the writing at the beginning, but I am glad I continued reading it because it was a fun.

Meg Julliard returns to Chicago after the death of her father, leaving her without family and without a job having left here high-stress job in the fashion industry. Her father owns a historic, albeit rundown apartment building, filled with interesting older people with nowhere else to go and who need her attention immediately. One tenant, Ellie Wade isn’t feeling the Christmas joy because she is packing up her belongings as her daughter insists she move to a nursing home. As she packs up her items, she hesitates to put away a dress that “represents both the best and worst night of her life.” Instead, she offers it to Meg if she promises to wear I to the building’s Christmas party.

“The dress magically fits, and while it eventually leads to the best night of Meg’s life, it also inspires Meg to follow a lifelong dream of her own – a dream that will help save the crumbling Parkview West, restore it to its former glory, and keep it as a safe home for all the current tenants.”

There were some truly laugh out loud moments, particularly with drunk texting. I loved all the characters, including the eccentric tenants who look out for each other and always know best.

The Christmas Bookshop

I love books about bookstores and book lovers. They get me. I really enjoyed this one by Jenny Colgan and it looks like bookstores may be a favourite of the writer’s as well. In this book Carmen, who gets laid off, begrudgingly goes to live with her “perfect” older sister, Sofia, who has found her a job with one of her clients, Mr. McCredie, whose ancient bookshop on street in Edinburgh, needs to make a profit so it can be sold.

“The store is dusty and disorganized but undeniably charming. Can she breathe some new life into it in time for Christmas shopping?”

I want to be in this bookstore. It sounds amazing as does Scotland itself. The book started off fast, was a bit slow in the middle, but turned out just how I wanted it to.

Sofia and Carmen’s relationship shows, once again, why I am grateful I didn’t grow up with sisters: so much jealousy and hard feelings. It seems like such an energy drainer. I loved how their relationship changed, and Carmen herself changed as she grew up a bit. I also really liked the secondary characters, particularly those who had minor roles, but who were more amazing than those who had bigger roles.

As a note, Colgan lives in a genuine castle in Scotland. How cool is that?

A copy of So, This is Christmas was courtesy of Viking Books for an honest review. The opinions are my own.

Book Time: 7 summer reads

This blog was first featured in and reprinted with permission here.

These are books that you can put down and fall right back into when you pick them up again, says columnist Lisa Day.

It takes a special kind of book for me to consider it a summer read. To me, summer reads are those that hold your interest so that when you put it down to jump into a pool or lake, you are able to fall right back into its story. 

Here are 7 books that are perfect reads for our Canadian summers.

The Secret Path, and The Hidden Beach

I am a huge fan of Karen Swan’s work. I have no idea how she does it, but the author often writes two books a year – a Christmas read and a summer read. Considering how detailed her settings are, and how many characters she weaves into books, it’s impressive.

The Secret Path. In this book we meet Tara Tremain, a 20-year-old doctor trainee who is engaged to an American biology student, Alex Carter. Tara considers her life perfect, until Alex betrays her. Fast forward a decade and Tara is with the man of her dreams and has a successful career. She has also successfully avoided returning to her family’s vacation escape in Costa Rica until an unmissable event pulls her back in. Once back in Costa Rica, Tara she finds a sick child, whose only hope is a several day hike through the jungle and the only person who can help her is the man who betrayed her.

Swan’s books flip between past and present where you get to learn more about what happened with Alex and Tara as well as the years between. The characters, as always, are wonderful and the scenery spectacular, although I don’t think I will be hiking through a jungle any time soon – too many creepy crawlies.

The Hidden Beach. This book is set in Sweden, which seems like a wonderful way to spend a summer. Bell Everhurst is working as a nanny for Hanna ad Max, which is great until the phone rings and she finds out Hanna’s husband has woken up from a coma and he wants his family back.

With a plot like that, how can you go wrong? The Hidden Beach was a quick read and a great one. It is one of my favourites.

Karen Swan’s books are from PGC Books – .

The Promise, and Something to Tell You

Lucy Diamond is another author who seems to write a book a year, and they rarely fail.

The Promise. In her latest book, which I can’t say much about in fear of spoiling something, we meet Dan, who is trying to be the best brother-in-law and uncle he can to his brother’s family after Patrick dies. As he is managing Patrick’s finances, a secret comes to light and Dan wrestles with what to do about it. Dan is a great character as are many of his brother’s tenants, particularly an older lady who develops a relationship with Dan. I really like Dan’s character. Others not so much.

Something to Tell You. The Mortimers are a big, tight family, who we get to meet and get to know throughout this book. We also meet Frankie, who receives a message from her late mother about the truth of her birth.

“As secrets tumble out and loyalties are tested, the Mortimers have to face up to some difficult decisions. With love, betrayal and dramatic revelations in the mix, this is one summer they will never forget.”

Both Lucy Diamond books are from PGC Books – .

Haven Point, and Hurricane Summer

I have read two great summer reads recently: Haven Point by Virginia Hume and Hurricane Summer by Toronto’s Asha Bromfield, both are from Raincoast Books .

Haven Point is set on the Maine coast where women and children gather each summer for traditional clam bakes, sing-a-longs and sailing.

The book flips between 1944, 1970 and 2008, with Maren Larsen as the main character throughout. Maren is a wartime nurse from a farming community when she meets Dr. Oliver Demarest, whose family has a home on Haven Point, in 1944. In 1970, Maren spends the summers with her children on the point, where their 17-year-old daughter Annie falls for a man her parents disapprove of. When tragedy strikes the family, Annie vows never to return to Haven Point. In 2008, it’s Skye, Annie’s daughter, who returns to spread her mother’s ashes on the point.

“Maren knows that her granddaughter inherited Annie’s view of Haven Point…But Maren also knows that Annie never told Skye the whole truth about what happened during that fateful summer.”

Great characters in this quick read with Maren being smart, funny and wise.

Hurricane Summer. Tilla and her younger sister leave Toronto for a summer in Jamaica to spend two months with their dad, who leaves the family every six months to return to the Caribbean country, breaking Tilla’s heart in the process.

Asha Bromfield’s debut novel was excellent with great characters (and terrible ones), along with a great “coming-of-age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic and what it means to discover your own voice in the centre of complete destruction.”

What Tilla goes through at the hands of family is terrible, but what Tilla discovers at the end is pretty powerful.

Confessions of a Forty-Something F##k Up

One of my favourite books from last year was Alexandra Potter’s Confessions of a Forty-Something F##k Up. This book made me laugh, often out loud in public settings. I could also completely relate to it. In this book, we meet Nell Steven’s who returns to London, England, to realize her friends have all moved on, rent is overpriced (she ends up renting a room) and she is jobless.

“…In a world of perfect Instagram lives, she feels like a f*ck up. Even worse, a 40something f*ck-up. But when she lands a job writing obituaries, Nell meets the fabulous Cricket, an 80something widow with challenges of her own, and they strike up an unlikely friendship. Together they begin to help each other heal their aching hearts, cope with the loss of the lives they had planned, and push each other into new adventures and unexpected joys.”

I highly recommend this one from PGC Books – .

Lisa Day is the author of two book blogs, Book Time, where she reviews a variety of books for a variety of readers and offers author Q&As, and . Follow her on Twitter @LisaMDayC, Instagram @LisaMDayC and @LisaMDayReads, and check out Book Time at and on facebook at

The Christmas Secret is more about plot and character than the holiday season

While The Christmas Secret is set around Christmas, it is not a Christmas book nor would I add it to my list of books I read every holiday season.

Which is not to say I didn’t like this book by Karen Swan ($24.99, PGC Books, Pan MacMillan,)  because I did and I would certainly recommend it for others to read.

The book follows the story of Alex Hyde, a successful executive coach with months-long waiting list, who drops everything to accept a highly lucrative crisis to help the troubled head of an esteemed whisky company in Scotland: Lochlan Farquhar, CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, is a maverick, an enigma and a renegade, and Alex needs to get into his head before he brings the company to its knees.

When she gets to the remote Island of Islay, Alex finds herself out of her comfort zone. For once, she is not in control – Loclan is unpredictable and destructive and her usual methods don’t work. She must win his trust and find a way to close the deal before her Christmas deadline.

But as she gets closer, boundaries are blurred and Alex is faced with an impossible choice as she realizes nothing is as it seems.

Alex Hyde is a strong, successful, powerful woman who has a story of her own, as everyone does, but of which you gets hints of throughout the story. The hints are enough that it leaves you wondering what else there is to Alex Hyde and what secrets she is holding close to her chest. Lochlan is…unpleasant…but he, too, has a story and for all his faults you have to admire a person who is who he says he is.

The story was really interesting. Unlike The Rome Affair, also by Karen Swan, I did guess the end, but it wasn’t enough to spoil the story and I like how it wrapped up.

I interviewed Karen Swan. Read her Q&A here.

A copy of this book was provided by PGCBooks for an honest review. The opinions are my own.

Celebrating First Nations culture and talent with Canadian MP Carolyn Bennett’s #GiftingReconciliation and #IndigenousReads campaign

I can’t remember when I first started to get excited about First Nation culture, but it was in early adulthood that I spent a lot of time researching and reading about Canada’s first people.

I took a course at Humber College, and had a teacher who was as excited about First Nations culture and history as I was. My son became interested in First Nations culture at school last year; our particularly area of the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) has a significant connection to the Ojibwe people. He wanted to learn how to speak the language.

I found a fabulous teacher affiliated with the board, who came to my house for a hour each week, teaching my son how to speak Ojibwe, and sharing her culture. He got to drink cedar tea, smell the burning of sweet grass and create medicine wheels and dream catchers. He could sing songs and speak basic words (and count) in Ojibwe. He listened to an entire presentation at Bronte Creek Provincial Park just so he could speak to the elder in Ojibwe. I think the man was surprised this little boy was speaking to him in his own language. It was pretty fantastic.

I also read a lot of First Nations books, so when Second Story Press told me about a new campaign by Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, to celebrate and promote First Nations literature, I was pretty excited.

Bennett, who launched the campaign at Mables Fables in Toronto on National Child Day Sunday, Nov. 20, is asking people to offer their suggestions for Indigenous books or authors using the hashtags #GiftingReconciliation and #IndigenousReads.

“Reconciliation is a journey for all Canadians,” Bennett said in a press release. “It can begin through gestures large or small, including reading an Indigenous book or author and learning about Indigenous issues, culture and history…I invite all Canadians to share their own recommendations on using hashtags #GiftingReconciliation and #IndigenousReads. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season. I know that as we move forward into Canada’s next 150 years, we can build a better, stronger Canada by working hard to learn what we were never taught in school.”

You can follow Bennett on twitter @Min_INAC and visit to sees some of her selections.

And here are my suggestions:

I recently reviewed Second Story Press‘s The Mask that Sang and I am Not a Number, both fabulous books.


Hawk by Jennifer Dance, published by Dundurn Press

A wonderful young adult book about Adam, who reclaims the name Hawk, given to him by his grandfather, who is diagnosed with leukemia. Hawk “begins to fight, for his life and for the land of his ancestors and the creatures that inhabit it. With a little help from his grandfather and his friends, he might just succeed.”


the hill by Karen Bass, published bed Pajama Press
Another fabulous young adult book, the hill was creepy – and kept me reading to the end.

Jared’s plane has crashed in the Alberta wilderness, and Kyle is first on the scene. When Jared insists on hiking up the highest hill in search of cell phone reception, Kyle hesitates; his Cree grandmother has always forbidden him to go near it. There’s no stopping Jared, though, so Kyle reluctantly follows. After a night spent on the hilltop – with no cell service- the teens discover something odd: the plane has disappeared. Nothing in the forest surrounding them seems right. In fact, things seem very wrong. And worst of all, something is hunting them.


Moonshot Vol. 1
This book made Bennett’s list as well. I reviewed it for Book Time.
Moonshot is a beautiful graphic novel written or illustrated by Indigenous writers and artists in Canada and the U.S

GWJacketCover final - SSP

Gray Wolf’s Search by Bruce Swanson, published by Second Story Press
This picture book, published in 2007, is part of the Second Story Press’ First Nations Series: Coming of the Age in the Wolf Clan.
Gray Wolf lives on the Pacific Northwest coast with the other members of the Wolf Clan. His uncle, the clan shaman, tells Gray Wolf that his future success depends on completing an important task… Gray Wolfe must find a very important person and get to know him well. In his search for this person, Gray Wolf enlists the help of his brothers and sisters in the woods and waters – Eagle, Bear, Whale, Beaver, Owl, and Wolf. Each of them gives Gray Wolf an important clue to the identity of the person he seeks. When he returns to his clan, an older and wiser Gray Wolf takes the talking stick from his uncle and shares his new wisdom.

Do you have an #IndigenousReads suggestions?

Note: Book publishers and distributors send me books, but the opinions are my own.

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