I did at least finished two of the three books that I selected for this holiday challenge and both titles gave me a truly tasty start to the season.
First up was A Cup of Holiday Fear, the tenth entry in Ellie Alexander's Bakeshop Mystery series, where Juliet "Jules" Capshaw is celebrating Christmas with her newly married mother and charming stepdad police detective that everyone calls "The Professor", plus her family of staff members old and new at the beloved family bakery Torte.
The whole town of Ashland,Oregon is more than happy to embrace the holiday spirit(which also helps the local economy) but other than regular grouch Richard Lord, the only other person around who has no interest in the festivities is theater director Lance. Jules is determined to get him into the swing of seasonal things but Lance is not too keen on that, especially since his family ties are rather frayed at the moment.
What does perk him up a bit is a murder that lands right in front of them, as the annual Dickens feast at the Winchester hotel is plagued by a number of mishaps, including the shocking death of Cami, an unwelcome guest planning to buy the hotel and tear the long standing building down. While Jules wants to help the present owners, Mr. and Mrs, McBeth, with their situation, she can't help but wonder if someone much too close to them is the chilly culprit.
I do like how Lance manages to regain the Christmas spirit with the opportunity to solve a case and that Jules didn't have to push him too hard into getting out of Scrooge mode. Their friendship is one of the high points of the series and just listening to their engaging debates is part of the fun here:
What is always on focus is the holiday mood,from the local Christmas parade to the charming details of the Dickens feast that has live carolers, specially chosen ornaments given out by Santa to the guests and of course, appearances by Ebenezer Scrooge(wouldn't be right without that classic character around!).
Plus, this being a foodie mystery, the recipes described here are merrily mouth watering. I'm not much of a cook for many reasons but this is one book that does tempt a person to try making some of these sweetly scrumptious treats.
Or you could just watch Ellie Alexander's 31 Days of Cookies videos online this month as a holiday release special. Since her next Bakeshop Mystery won't be available until June of 2020(Nothing Bundt Trouble, I adore that title!), these videos are a good way to keep your reading spirits bright until then:
This book takes place while Hannah is home from college during the holidays, hoping to help her despondent mother Delores deal with the recent death of much loved husband and father , Lars. Thanks to a pair of local ladies, the chance to liven the spirits of a longtime resident of Lake Eden seems to do the trick.
Elderly widow Essie Granger takes a bad fall and has to stay in hospice until a better living arrangement can be found for her. Her reminiscences of the Christmas Ball, once held at a hotel in need of revival, that also had a Christmas Cake parade inspires Delores to bring that tradition back. She recruits just about everyone about her to take part, especially Hannah who loves to bake.
Hannah is not only happy to see her mother take part in the world again but she's ready to make a major life decision for herself. Upon the disappointing romance that she had with a professor at her school, Hannah wants to leave college to start up a bakery of her own in town. Delores is more than thrilled at that notion and eager to help her daughter in that endeavor. Given their usual tension in the books, it's nice to see Hannah and Delores bond like this.
It's also great to check out the cake recipes that Hannah and friends are looking into for the parade of cakes, with a major one being an "unbeatable" lemon bundt cake. Bundts are perfect picks for this time of year as they make for excellent wreath cakes, if you ask me:
The plot of that work in progress involves a woman on the run as her husband was targeted by gangsters. While Hannah is completely engrossed in the story, she has a sneaking suspicion that what she's reading is more than an attempt at fiction.
The overall story,however, is very laid back and a completely relaxing read for the holidays. It's fun to see Hannah before her official sleuthing days(and boyfriends to choose from!). Fluke does have several Christmas themed Hannah Swensen books and while I haven't read them all, this one may become my favorite, right after Plum Pudding Murder, that is!:
Thanks again to Michelle Miller for setting up this readathon(and again, sorry for the lateness of this post!) and I am making plans for Winter's Respite this upcoming January. In the meanwhile, if you are seeking a Christmas themed movie that hasn't been played over a thousand times on TV by this point, I highly recommend The Man Who Invented Christmas.
Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens plays a charming but not too sugar coated version of Charles Dickens as he struggles to write A Christmas Carol. Plenty of great English actors such as Christopher Plummer in the cast, with a nice whimsical take on the writing process and that old school British vibe makes for a delightful cinematic surprise here. Happy Holidays, folks with good reading to all and to all, a good holiday movie tonight!: