Tag Archives: 2021 Christmas Reading Challenge

christmas 2021 reading challenge wrapup

Wrapping up 2021’s Christmas Reading Challenge

Oh man, this Christmas Reading Challenge turned out to be huge and I hadn’t really realized that it would when I came up with the idea. I just blithely thought, “Oh, I’ll read all those Christmas books that have been hanging out on my TBR for several years.” What I didn’t consider is that the list of Holiday books hanging out on my TBR has been growing every year for several years, as I randomly add one here or there, then one more, and then just one more.

The result was that I had close to fifty (including the short stories). So, I reassessed and said, “Well, I’ll aim to post one review a day between December 1 and Christmas Day and just try and read an many of them as I can.” That felt more manageable and would still put a dent in the list of Holiday books I have apparently been hoarding.

If you need a reminder, here is a link to my initial Challenge post where I set out my goals.

A Christmas Reading Challenge

Here’s the thing about reading challenges. Once you set one, you tend to subconsciously be on the lookout for books that match it (or at least I do). I told myself not to add anymore Christmas books to the list (no more Hanukkah or Yule or Solstice books either). I had enough. But I have so little self control in the book department. So, I ended up adding to the list this year too. I rationalized this mostly by telling myself that the majority of the books I’d had for a while were contemporary romances, from back when I used to read more of that genre (which I don’t now-a-days). I wanted some variety, so I picked up some historicals and some paranormals.

By the time Christmas (today) rolled around, I had 62 stories or books to read. No way could I read all of them, even if I did start way back in something like September! Not even once I removed the five I opted to not read. christmas stories removed (I removed A Wedding in Twinkle Falls, Careened, Illicit Activity, The Greatest Gift, and Family because they are all latter books in series and I’ve not reached the point where they fit in those series yet. I would have needed to read multiple books before getting to them. I didn’t have the time to do that. So, I set them aside. That left me 57 stories/books—still a mighty challenge.)

Here’s the thing though, I got close . I got SO close. Much, much, much closer than I thought I would. As of today, I have 14 books left on the list. That’s still a decent number. But only having 14 left, out of 57, is impressive, if I don’t say so myself (which I do).

I feel like this is so close to actual completion that if I hadn’t added any this year (like I said I wouldn’t) I would have managed to read them all. I considered extending the challenge to New Years Eve and finishing it off. In fact, I did. I told myself it was OK to do that. But then I decided to clean off my short story shelf instead. So, there will be 14 Christmas books on the list for next year’s Holiday Reading Challenge.


Outside of just my absurd tendency to collect more books than is reasonable, the challenge was also just a lot of fun. When you sit down and read 44 Holiday stories almost in a row (mostly Christmas) you start to see similarities and differences. Of course, how an author depicts a holiday isn’t necessarily indicative of their own traditions. But it was fun to see so the holidays celebrated in many different ways. Different foods eaten, different times to open presents, different ways to acquire and exchange them, different ways to decorate and times to do so, different levels of formality, different prayers (or none), different customs, attire, costumes (or not), and amusements. Characters traveled, stayed home, and went to events. Characters visited family or found new ones, went to the beach or built sled courses, found new love or clung to old.  There was such a variety, even when ostensibly reading about the same thing. I appreciated the heck out of that.

I also got the chance to read several books that had been featured on Sadie’s Spotlight, which is something I make an effort to do. Both because “Ah, back-links are so satisfying” and because it’s a little something I can do for those who have been on the blog. I don’t offer reviews over on Sadie’s Spotlight. But that doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to what’s there to review here.

Do you want to see what I actually read? I read and reviewed 14 short stories (which is what I categorized as anything under 100 pages) and 30 books, which I’m linking in the order I read them. Here they are in the order I posted the reviews, which is largely the order I read them.

2021 Reading challenge: Short Stories (<100 pages)


Book Review: Holiday Haunts, by Imogen Markwell-Tweed & Wendy Dalrymple

Book Review: Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, by Jenny Colgan

Book Review: Smokin’ Hot Cowboy Christmas, by Kim Redford

Book Review: Where We Begin, by Janey King

Book Review: The Remaking of Corbin Wale, by Roan Parrish

Book Review: Second Chances, by Kiska Gray

Book Review: Sleigh Spells, by Bella Falls

Book Review: A Christmas Date, by Camilla Isley

Book Review: Mine To Five, by Tara September

Book Review: In Case Of Emergency, by Keira Andrews

Book Review: A Christmas Promise, by K. C. Wells

Book Review: A Wolf Is Not Just For Christmas, by J.F. Holland

Book Review: A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong, by Cecilia Grant

Book Review & Giveaway: Last Blue Christmas, by Rose Prendeville

Book Review: Christmas Lites II, edited by Amy Eye

Book Review: Merry Elf-ing Christmas, by Beth Bolden

Book Review: The Plight Before Christmas, by Kate Stewart

Book Review: A Hopeful Christmas, by Walker, Bessey, Kelly & Jensen

Book Review: Mr. Frosty Pants, by Leta Blake

Book Review: The Christmas Lights Battle, by Skylar M. Cates

Book Review: Dreaming Of a White Wolf Christmas, by Terry Spear

Book Review: Solstice Surrender, by Tracy Cooper-Posey

Book Review: Charley’s Christmas Wolf, by C.D. Gorri

Book Review: The Problem With Mistletoe, by Kyle Baxter

Book Review: Fighting For Us, by Bella Emy

Book Review: To Linzer & to Cherish, by Jen Fitzgerald

Book Review: Frosting Her Christmas Cookies, by Alina Jacobs

Book Review – Bittersweets Christmas: Arvin & Tina, by Suzanne Jenkins

Book Review: Christmasly Obedient, by Julia Kent

Book Review: Highland Stranger, by Kerrigan Byrne




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Book Review: Highland Stranger, by Kerrigan Byrne

I picked up a copy of Kerrigan Byrne‘s Highland Stranger as an Amazon freebie in an attempt to add a little variety to my Christmas Reading Challenge. (It’s been very contemporary romance heavy.)
highland stranger cover
His heart was made of ice…

Born a nameless bastard into the Berserker horde, Finn is the measure of strength, ferocity, and brutality at the Temple of Freya. Sent to the Highlands bent on revenge and murder, he stumbles on an infant deserted in the snow. What he chooses next may seal his fate.
Her life was cold and empty…

Rhona McEwan has lost everything. Her husband, her child, and soon she fears she must relinquish her dignity in order to survive the bitter Highland winter. When the most fearsome, mysterious, and breathtaking man seeks the help she can give to the child in his arms, she’s unable to turn them away. Even though she’s not certain he’s entirely human.
Three of the world’s Unwanted…

On a snowy Solstice night during the magical Yuletide season, their need for each other may alter their destinies forever. In the third installment of the best-selling Highland Historical Series, Kerrigan Byrne weaves a tale of blood and vengeance, of love, redemption, and the bonds that make a family.

my review
This is the first of this series that I’ve read and I was able to follow it admirably well. I was a tad confused on what, exactly, a berserker was (it’s quite a ways into the book before it’s explained). But that was the only issue with having not read the first two books.

I have a soft spot for supernatural men who are just a tad broken and cling desperately to their love (be it a mate, a wife, an amour, whatever). And Finn is just that. I liked him quite a lot as a hero. I appreciated Rhona too. She’s been through the wringer and come out stronger for it. But I’m not a huge fan of female characters written as if they’ve somehow never discovered their own bodies. Similarly, I cringe when “her womanhood,” “his manhood,” etc is repeatedly used as descriptions in sex. It seems super limiting.

Regardless, for a 150(ish) page novella it was a satisfying enough read.

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Other Reviews:

A Date With a Book: Unwanted (aka Highland Stranger)


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Book Review: Christmasly Obedient, by Julia Kent

Julia Kent‘s Christmasly Obedient was featured on Sadie’s Spotlight last Christmas season. The promo material included a copy of the book. However, I was in the middle of a kitchen remodel last December and didn’t do any purposeful Christmas reading. But I happen to be doing a Christmas Reading Challenge this year, so it got read at last.

Tree picking in glorious, downeast Maine. Snow. Santa. Roaring fires, people you love, and a good life. What more could a guy want?

Or, rather, two guys?

Mike and Jeremy have a quiet life with Lydia, on her parents’ family campground in Verily, Maine. It’s a little boring, sure, but after the craziness of their old lives, what’s wrong with boring?

Besides, Jeremy and Mike find Lydia anything but.

As Christmas looms, and an unexpected oops leaves them all in a state of uncertainty, they have to ask themselves: is it time to let life be a little less boring?

And what’s inside that slim box Lydia’s giving them both on Christmas morning?

my review
When I first went through all my books and picked out the Christmas themed one to make a Christmas reading list, I included Christmasly Obedient. I later took it off the list because it is number four in a series and I neither own nor have read the previous three books. I didn’t think I had the time to do so during the period I’d allotted myself for the reading challenge. Then, I came across two reviews that stated the book had been read as a standalone and it was fine. So, I put it back on the list and read it.

Turns out the book does stand alone. Now, I won’t pretend I didn’t feel the lack of those previous three books. By this point the threesome is established, the characters have had three books to grow and get to know one another, etc. And yes, you notice that. But the plot contained within this book does stand alone and it’s quite sweet.

I liked seeing everyone come to terms with the situation. I liked the family cameos. There wasn’t a lot of sex, but it was the right amount of spice for a short read. I did think the guys came across as unlikable at times. But I also sensed that their gruff personalities were meant to have been tempered in previous books. So, what I was supposed to see was that the situations wasn’t unrealistically hearts and roses, not just grumps.

All in all, I enjoyed it.

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