Wednesday, December 21, 2022

TBR Challenge: Anne Marie Ryan - Christmas by the Book

Nora and her husband, Simon, have run the beautiful oak-beamed book shop in their small British village for thirty years. But times are tough and the shop is under threat of closure--this Christmas season will really decide their fate. When an elderly man visits the store and buys the one book they've never been able to sell, saying it's the perfect gift for his sick grandson, it gives Nora an idea. She and Simon will send out books to those feeling down this Christmas. Maybe they can't save their bookstore, but at least they'll have one final chance to lift people's spirits through the power of reading.
After gathering nominations online, Nora and Simon quietly deliver books to six residents of the village in need of some festive cheer, including a single dad of twins who is working hard to make ends meet, a teenage boy grieving for his big sister, a local Member of Parliament who is battling depression, and a teacher who's newly retired and living on her own. As the town prepares for a white Christmas, the books begin to give the recipients hope, one by one. But with the future of the bookshop still up in the air, Nora and Simon will need a Christmas miracle--or perhaps a little help from the people whose lives they've touched--to find a happy ending of their own...

Comment: Incredibly, it's the last post for the TBR Challenge entries for this year. December has always be linked with a book about festivities or with festive content but is there any other logical choice but Christmas? I had this book on my radar since last year, actually, around the time the 2021 post was up. I've saved up and ended up with a cozy read, pretty much along the lines of what I would expect for the season.

In this story we meet couple Nora and Simon. They own a bookshop which was left by Nora's mother and they have dedicated their lives to it. It's Christmas time and this year Nora and Simon are a little blue because their daughter Charlotte is having her gap year traveling and won't join them for the holidays. They decide to spread joy, nevertheless, and ask their community who would be in need of some cheering and goodwill, and send six random books to the six names chosen. At the same time, they can't help feel the worry because their house needs some work and Nora also knows they are in serious risk of not being able to pay the taxes and keep the bookshop. Will Christmas, however, be the perfect time to not only fix their problems but help others at the same time?

I think this was a very charming and appealing read. It's not without its down times and slightly depressing situations, but of course it's all about the Christmas spirit and the possibilities when one believes something better can come and also how everything feels extra special during the holidays.

I also think the best element of this book is how good people Nora and Simon are. They have their flaws - like anyone else they don't like to worry others with their problems, they don't want to face problems sometimes and they do things without always saying they will - but I could see these things as just proof they are human and act accordingly and that doesn't mean they don't have good personalities or that their heart isn't in the right place.

I think the whole "close community" was a bit too perfect, the pieces were too well fitted in general but I still enjoyed reading about these people and how they become better because of where they are and because of the books. It's quite a lovely feature, sending out books to people who might need cheering, and of course part of how the story develops is how those who receive the books react to them or how the books impact their daily lives. It might sound trite, but of course each book Nora and Simon chose, all Christmas related, are like a message to those who get them. It's a predictable idea but it was still cute to see what happened.

I liked the characters, besides the main couple, the secondary characters, the ones who get the book and others around them, all have something special about them, some kind of lesson or notion they are supposed to think of or act on after the book reaches them. I know some of these lessons are predictable, too much of a coincidence and very unlikely to have such a result in real life, but it was still engrossing to read and to allow the Christmas' spirit to start earlier just because of the emotions evoked by this story.

I suppose it all works out a bit too perfectly in the end but I wasn't too bothered because of the book talk. The books sent and the bookstore setting weren't just props for the plot, there is plenty of content related to books, references, titles, situations mentioned... as a reader, I was having fun noticing little things about books everywhere. I think this was a great effort by the author, had many details I thinks were well done and it's an excellent Christmas story.
Grade: 8/10


  1. I was having fun noticing little things about books everywhere.

    I love little nuggets like this! Dec. is the time of year where I let the fluff be fluff and just roll with the too perfectly, so nice to see you end on high note.

    So happy to see you joining in again, can't wait to discover and talk new books with you in the New Year!

    1. Hi! same here, the choosing of the books and checking people's entries too is what makes me eager to keep doing the challenge!

      As for this book, very, very cute in the cozy warmth kind of way!

      Happy holidays!