Mini Reviews: Christmas Edition

So, I don't know if anyone's noticed, but it's nearly Christmas.
And, as someone who is STILL TECHNICALLY A CHILD (I have three more Christmasses until I have to adult, you guys) it is my duty to get ridiculously overexcited. I'm trying to keep my festive posts as small in number as possible, because I know some of you out there don't celebrate and probably don't want to be bombarded with it, but ... well, there are going to be a few.

In the weeks leading up to the big Ho Ho Ho, it's incredibly important that one takes the time to get one's head in the game. Otherwise you won't enjoy it properly, which is obviously tragic because there are only so many Christmasses to be enjoyed in one person's life. I like to prepare by spending hours of my life rehearsing for Christmas concerts, singing Mariah Carey in as many people's faces as possible ...

... and, of course, reading incredibly festive books like these two.

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

What's it About? The latest instalment in Robin Steven's Murder Most Unladylike series, follows two 1920s English boarding-schoolgirls as they stay at Cambridge University over the Christmas Holidays. And - um - solve several murders. As you do.

Before I say anything else, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK UNLESS YOU'VE READ THE REST OF THE SERIES. There are just too many facets of Daisy and Hazel's friendship that you would miss, and I feel it is my duty as a benevolent overlord to warn you of this.

Anyway. On with the review.

If we're going to go with settings first, then ... I loved Cambridge, but I'm afraid it does pale a little in comparison to Deepdean. Where are my hockey sticks? What about the lack of boarding school slang? THERE WEREN'T EVEN ANY MIDNIGHT FEASTS!

Okay, I shall calm myself - it was delightfully Christmassy, and there is a certain magic about 1920s university life. As always, the food descriptions were on point - during a few particularly intense Christmas dinner scenes, I kept having to stop for snacks. What made me super-impressed though, was how sexism was expressed through comparing the men's and women's colleges. It wasn't subtle, but that's because it wasn't subtle in real life either. St. John's and Maudlin's had Hogwarts-esque dining halls and home-cooked meals and servants on every staircase. St. Lucy's had heating that was only on for two hours a day in the depth of winter, Christmas Eve dinner out of tins, and a horrible red-brick exterior that was basically a wart on the side of Cambridge's beautiful, historical buildings.

As for the characters, I really felt for Hazel in this one. I won't say too much, but thanks to the Junior Pinkertons being there, she was even more in Daisy's shadow than usual. And then, of course, you have your obligatory racist character, which can be problematic when you live in 1920s Britain and your surname is Wong. But, in typical Hazel fashion, she captured my heart and made me smile all over again.

As for the plot, well. Those murders did not disappoint.

I'll Be Home For Christmas by Tom Becker, Julie Mayhew, Benjamin Zephaniah, Holly Bourne, Sita Brahmachari, Kevin Brooks, Melvin Burgess, Katy Cannon, Cat Clarke, Tracy Darnton, Juno Dawson, Lisa Williamson, Non Pratt and Marcus Sedgewick

What's It About? A collection of short stories (+ a poem because Benjamin Zephaniah is divergent, clearly) based around homelessness and not feeling safe/like you belong at Christmastime. In aid of Crisis.

Firstly, I absolutely loved the concept of the collection. It's so easy to buy into the myth that Christmas is always laughter-filled and jolly, that everyone is always happy and that troubles are just ... forgotten. That isn't true for everyone, especially not those who have no home to go to for Christmas dinner. Every story interpreted the idea of being outcast in its own, unique way, and I adored that because it recognised that there's more than one way of ending up without a place of safety. It turned homelessness away from a stereotype to focus on individual people and stories, which the world needs a lot more of, quite frankly.

As for the actual stories, well. They were pretty strong all round, with maybe only one I didn't properly like. (The Associates by Keven Brooks wasn't at all terrible. I just felt like the characters were stereotypical, unlike absolutely every other story, and I wasn't that sure what the plot even was, let alone where it was going.)

Juno Dawson's Homo For Christmas was hands-down my favourite. It's got a ridiculously clever title; a funny, likeable protagonist, and an ending that put a smile on my face for hours. That said, I also absolutely adored Family You Choose by Cat Clarke, because it had crazy, diverse characters who truly cared about each other and also a Sachertorte (complete with GBBO references).

Honourable mentions go to Holly Bourne's The Afterschool Club for RIPPING MY HEART OUT, Routes and Wings by Lisa Williamson for a main character who's still with me, and Amir and George by Sita Brahmachari for an incredibly important subject matter that I would just like to applaud.

But I think the great thing about this is that when you read it (and you will read it, for I am fast becoming an expert in mind control), you'll probably pick out a whole different set of stories as your favourites. The variety of genres means that some weren't so memorable for me ... but people with different opinions and tastes would probably love them.

So you've no excuse not to give it a try, basically.
In the comments: What books do you like to read at this time of year? Have you tried either of these? What did you think?
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  1. Holiday books are an entire genre that I have literally never gotten into. I wasn't even aware of their existence until very recently. I'm glad to see you enjoyed these two- I might have to add them to my tbr! Merry Christmas! :)

    1. Merry Christmas, Julia!

      I honestly didn't know about holiday books much until I started blogging, and these two are probably the first I've actively looked for and read ... but they are excellent introductions to the genre. I hope you like them if you end up reading!


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