Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Bookalicious Babe's Top Ten Books of 2021

     It's here! My Top Ten! Where did this year go? I think I'd like to just blank out 2020 & 2021 and jump right to 2022.  Only problem is then I would have to forget all the wonderful books I saw, touched, read, and yes, dreamed about reading. 

The end of the year is always a time of reflection for me as I look back and think about my DNF's, titles I bought and are still sitting on a shelf (or in a pile on the floor); the books I said I'd read and review and didn't. I look at other bloggers and sometimes feel like I'm not reading the books I should be reading. It can all become a downward spiral pretty quickly, until I stop myself and think about why I've been blogging for over 11 years. 

I do it because I like to talk about what I've been reading. Sometimes I read the popular books, and other times I like to read books that didn't get the spotlight but are absolutely wonderful reads. Sometimes I get on a kick and only read one type of book until that phase ends and I'm on to something new. Here's what I've noticed in my reading for 2021:

1. I am having difficulty concentrating on reading--doesn't matter what genre or how long of a book. 

2.  I'm definitely reading books and authors that bring me comfort. 

3. Non-Fiction reading has been almost completely absent, save for a few titles. 

4.  I haven't read very many ebooks and haven't listened to any audio books. 

5.  I'm burnt out on book clubs. Meeting in person is just exhausting to me. Running a book club is exhausting, too. I've been in book clubs for 20 years, and I need a break from being in charge! 

Reading is still my go-to comfort and my stress reliever. I still read every night before I shut the light off. I'm still borrowing books from the library, and buying books every month from my favorite bookstore. I still want to come home from work and sit on the couch and read (I try, but dang it I get distracted!). I haven't lost my love of reading, and my love of books. Phew. 

I was a bit worried I wouldn't have a top ten this year, but once I began looking at my list, I quickly realized I did and then the task began to try and decide my top read for 2021. That's the toughest part of all. 

Here it is--my Top Ten Reads of 2021:











And my #1 Top Book of 2021:


There were a lot of other books I read and enjoyed so much, but I have to go with my first, instinctive picks as I go through my reading list. These books rose to the top. Some books made me cry, some made me laugh; others kept me up at night! They all, most importantly, kept me grounded when I needed it. 

I don't know what 2022 is going to bring, and I can't even begin to even try to guess. What I do know is that I'm enthusiastic about books that are coming out this year, and I've already got a big pile for January that I won't even begin to get through. But I will try. My focus on 2022 is to read what brings me joy and captures my attention; push a little bit on the tough reads, and know when to set something down and walk away. I'm going to try an online book club which allows me to participate when I want and however much I want--and I'm not in charge! Wahoo! 

I wish you all a safe, happy New Year. Thank you for following my blog; it means the world to me! If I've pointed you in the direction of a good book, I'm so thrilled. It's what I love to do. Let me know what your favorite read was for 2021, and what you look forward to reading in 2022. 

I'm going to take a few weeks off to rest, relax, and reset. I'll be back with reviews in Mid-January. 

With much affection-

The Bookalicious Babe 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Christmas by the Book by Anne Marie Ryan

To purchase from Amazon, click here
 There's nothing I like better than to recommend books to people. It's no surprise, then, that this novel gave me all the feels and a lot of sighing over my "if I could do it all over again" wish to own a bookstore in a small town. 

Nora and Simon operate a small bookstore in the village of Stowford, England. Nora inherited the shop from her mother, and they've been a cornerstone of the village for thirty years. 

Unfortunately, unpaid taxes and a slowdown in sales has meant Nora is keeping some important news from Simon: they are in danger of losing the shop if payments aren't brought up to date by the end of the year. 

Simon is oblivious to the financial pickle they're in because Nora is worried about his heart (he had a minor heart episode previously) and won't let him help much in the shop. 

An elderly man stops in and purchases a special book--it's the one book that has gone unsold in the shop for thirty years. He's buying it for his grandson, who has a school project due and is ill. 

This, along with a late night bottle of wine, gives Nora and Simon the idea to give six books to random people who have been nominated by others in the village. It's a way to spread the happiness that books can bring and hopefully drive more business to the shop, too. 

Nora picks out the books and delivers them to each recipient. All the books are wrapped and the same size, so she doesn't know who gets what book. However, book magic happens, and each person who receives a book gets exactly the book they need at that time. From a young actor struggling to get a break, to a single father who's lost his job and worries about presents for his twins, to a retired school teacher who feels lost and alone, each person discovers something important in the book they receive. For all of them, the books are life-changing in small yet significant ways. 

As Christmas approaches, Nora stresses about losing the shop and how to tell Simon. Will she finally come clean to Simon? Can they save the shop or will they be forced to sell it? 

I absolutely loved loved loved this novel. Gentle, warm, full of books; a village full of interesting characters, and holiday cheer. People looking out for people. The magic of books and the way they bring people together. Heck, there's even a snow storm on Christmas Eve. Some folks who receive the books have serious problems: depression, grief, loneliness. But the bookshop brings them together in a really wonderful way. 

I hope you get a chance to read this novel. It was perfect to read in the week leading to Christmas. I have a few more holiday books here, but I think I'm going to end my holiday reading with this novel. I have a few non-holiday books I'm going to try and finish before the end of the year, and I'll have my top ten reads out before January first. 

Rating: 5/6 for a novel about the power of books, community, and the Christmas spirit. Book lovers will enjoy this book very much. 

Available in paperback and ebook. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**

Saturday, December 11, 2021

A Magical New York Christmas by Anita Hughes

To purchase from Amazon, click here
 I've read quite a few Anita Hughes novels and she has a way of putting me right into glamorous places that I'm pretty sure I won't have a chance to experience in my real life. And that's exactly what I enjoy about her novels. 

This one is particularly interesting because it takes place over the Christmas holiday at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. It also involves the author of the Eloise books, Kay Thompson. A little bit of literary history tossed in with the magic of New York City at Christmas time--and romance, too.

Sabrina is a struggling writer who is just scraping by when she gets hired by renowned art dealer Grayson Prescott to help write his memoir. Part of the deal is staying at the Plaza Hotel for six days and nights on his dime. Sabrina is thrilled not only for the paycheck, but also because Eloise is her favorite heroine from childhood.

 What makes it even more appealing  are Grayson's stories of his time as a butler at the Plaza, and taking care of Kay Thompson herself. 

Sabrina's first night at the Plaza has her bumping into Ian, who is there as personal secretary to his friend Spencer, a member of the British peer. Young and handsome, Ian is working on putting together a collection of Braxton family jewels at the Met and keeping an eye on Spencer, who has a big heart and is always falling in love. 

Ian, however, is smitten with Sabrina, and she mistakenly assumes he's the man with a title--while Ian assumes Sabrina is a wealthy woman staying at the Plaza and wouldn't be interested in him. Along with their romance, Grayson recounts his time with Kay at the Plaza in the early 1960's and his romance with the lovely Veronica. 

It sounds like a lot, but it actually all goes together pretty well. I had to Google Kay Thompson to read about her life, and she was a pretty amazing woman! And she did live at the Plaza for a number of years at one point in her life. 

As per usual Anita Hughes novels, there is a lot of high end clothing, swanky places to dine and drink, and frequent mentions of Tiffany and Co. And of course the Plaza is the best place to stay in NYC at Christmas time. Sounds like a marvelous experience. 

This was a fun holiday read, for sure. My only annoyance was the mistaken identity plot went on a lot longer than it should have and got a bit old. But I did enjoy feeling just a bit luxurious for a few days!

Rating: 4/6 for a novel set in a magical place: the Plaza Hotel during Christmas. Themes of lost love, taking chances, and recognizing the good things life brings us are all woven through the tales of Kay, Grayson, and Sabrina. Grab a comfy throw, light the fireplace, and sip some tea while you enjoy this novel. 

Available in paperback, audio, and e-book. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Christmas Dress by Courtney Cole


To purchase from Amazon, click here
 My holiday reading continues with this entertaining tale that takes place in Chicago. 

Meg Julliard has returned to Chicago after her father dies and leaves her to manage the apartment building he's owned and managed for decades. It's an apartment building for senior citizens, and Meg grew up there with her family but  fled to New York City after her sister died and the memories were just too painful. Now she's had to leave her fashion career to take on the management of the apartment building and she's got her hands full. 

This is no ordinary building, and the residents are no ordinary residents, either. From sassy Sylvie who knows all about running the building, to beautiful and elegant Ellie who once, a long time ago, had her heart broken on Christmas Eve at that very same building--the people who populate this novel are all warm, caring characters. 

Of course, there's the handyman with a heart of gold and a good-looking face, too! Logan is immediately drawn to Meg, and together they discover some important historical facts about the building that may just save it from disaster.

Did I also mention the Christmas dress? It's a bit of magic, for sure--not only does it perfectly fit any woman who wears it, but it inspires Meg to create a line of women's wear that may revive her career and win her some much needed funds to repair the building. Gosh, there's a lot going on in this novel, but it all flows together and made this a very enjoyable read. 

Holidays are always a bit sad for anyone who has lost loved ones, and this novel touches on that quite a bit. Meg is grieving her father, and also her sister and mother, too. Ellie is also grieving her long-lost love, and as we all do as we age, we think about what might have been and if the right choices were made. 

This was a really good read--the mark of a good story for me is if I can't wait to pick it up again and keep reading. I'll find a few minutes here and there in my day to read a few more pages. I especially liked the history involved in the apartment building and how that was worked into the plot and ended up being the big driver of the story. I'm always happy when a historical building can be saved, and its history uncovered. 

Rating: 5/6 for a novel that has a bit of history, some romance, humor, fashion, and yes, a bit of holiday magic, too. It also faces head on the grief people experience during the Christmas season, but happy memories help soften the sadness. 

Available in paperback, e-book, and audio. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

A Christmas Feast and Other Stories by Katie Fforde


To purchase from Amazon click here
 As I've said before Katie Fforde is one of my go-to authors when I want a comforting read. 

I was pleased to find this collection of short stories from 2014 a few months back, and have faithfully kept my promise not to dip into it until the Christmas season arrived. 

However, I ripped into it a few days ago, and as the author promises in the forward, these short stories are perfect for those times you want to read but can't settle down for very long. A bite here, a bite there of stories involving women during the holidays in a variety of settings: Scotland on New Year's Eve, moving into a new cottage the day before Christmas Eve; going away on a post-Christmas vacation with a partner that seems to have lost his spark. 

Each story is short: anywhere from ten pages up to 25 or so. Just enough to whet your appetite. It was fun to read stories where romance bloomed in a short time, in a variety of circumstances. Who knew you could meet the love of your life bumping into his cart in a grocery store? Or, failing to do your PR job correctly with an author book signing, and deciding to track him down to sign bookplates to redeem yourself--and instead, finding out he's not so bad, after all. 

I found myself reading stories before bed, at lunch, while waiting for supper to finish cooking. They really are quick reads with guaranteed charming endings. It was refreshing to read a collection of stories and to take a break from a longer novel. 

Thanks Katie Fforde for delivering a lovely collection of stories centered around Christmas. Perfect for anyone who likes a bit of gentle romance.

Rating: 4/6 for short, contemporary Christmas stories that help set your mood for the holidays. Take a break from your busy days and read one while the cookies bake!

Available in paperback.