This year (2020) has been pretty pants, let’s be honest. We’ve all been challenged in more ways than we could’ve imagined going into this year. But hopefully, with 2021 in sight, we can start to breath easier knowing that we’ve got Christmas just around the corner, then New Years Eve, when we can press reset and hopefully (fingers crossed) have a fabulous new year.
It may be a time for us to think about new traditions and resolutions, and one that Kate and I have been doing for the last few years is the Icelandic Christmas eve tradition of JOLABOKAFLOD. (Loosely translated as YULE BOOK FLOOD.)
The idea is that you give the gift of books on Christmas Eve and then spend your evening reading, getting you in the cosy Christmas spirit ready for the big day.
What a fantastic tradition, and one we wholeheartedly support, and have both taken part in, in recent years.
The concept originated during World War II. Iceland wasn’t a big enough place for there to be books published all year round, so the publishers tended to release all their new titles in the run up to Christmas – thereby ‘flooding’ the market with books just prior to Christmas gift giving.
It may only be November, and we still have a way to go until the actual big day is upon us, but I for one, have already bought, hugged and wrapped my Jolabokaflod gifts this year and they are ready and waiting to be distributed.
Kate and I exchange gifts in the week before Christmas and usually have a festive dinner out, or a glittery party to celebrate, but this year I imagine will be a more stripped back affair. Perhaps a socially distanced trip to Costa or a bundled up walk on the Common, either way we know our books will be waiting for us when we get home and we can forget about 2020 for a little while.
We’ve put together a list of our favourite reads from the year and also some festive favourites that you may want to check out.
Kate’s best reads of 2020:
- Bringing down the duke by Evie Dunmore.
England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.
Ok, how to convey that I loved this book! Like proper loved this book I reckon I could write a dissertation on this book pulling out all the different bits that I spotted and loved about this book!
Okays, so we have Annabelle, we have Montgomery. She is the liberal hardworking blue stocking; he is the haughty hereditary Tory Peer. Obviously, they are going to repel each other like oil and water…..
Honestly, I am just smiling to myself; this is that kind of book. The one where characters come alive and leap off the page at you, even just typing this and looking at my notes that I made while reading I am smiling to myself.
- A Rogue of one’s own by Evie Dunmore.
Lady Lucie is fuming. She and her band of Oxford suffragists have finally scraped together enough capital to control one of London’s major publishing houses, with one purpose: to use it in a coup against Parliament. But who could have predicted that the one person standing between her and success is her old nemesis, Lord Ballentine? Or that he would be willing to hand over the reins for an outrageous price—a night in her bed.
Do you ever fall in love with the first book in a series and then worry that you won’t love the next book as much? What if the magic from the first book is missing? What if, the author has tried to retell the first story just with different names?
Worry not, none of this happens in Evie Dunmores brilliant new novel, A Rogue of One’s Own.
Rogue is the second book in her exciting A League of Extraordinary Women series, and the follow up to Bringing Down the Duke. Duke is a strong contender to be my favourite book of 2020, but Rogue is close behind it!
Becca’s best reads of 2020:
- The Good Samaritan by John Marrs.
The Good Samaritan is the story of Laura and Ryan and how their lives intertwine around the sad subject of suicide.
Laura works for End of the line, a suicide hotline that provides a listening ear rather than a judgemental attitude. They will listen to your problems, even your plans for the end of your life, but they won’t try to talk you out of it. I won’t go into whether this is a good or bad thing, it just is what it is for this book. Laura on the other hand is bad. She actively encourages people to end their lives and takes pleasure in listening to their dying breath.
It’s not the cheeriest of subjects but the writing here was fantastic and the story was so unique that I think, if you love a good phycological thriller this one will be right up your street. The main character is absolutely batpoo crazy and the twists in this was are amazing! Absolutely one of my favourites this year!
- Written in Blood by Chris Carter.
Robert Hunter works with the UVC unit in LA. He and his partner, Garcia, investigate Ultra Violent Crimes, which includes serial killers. They are put on the trail of a prolific serial killer when a pickpocket, Angela, steals the killers bag containing his murder diary. The diary details the previous 16 murders committed by the killer. Hunter and Garcia must catch the perpetrator before he can kill again and protect Angela from him.
The book is fast paced and packed with action. We are thrown into the drama as soon as we open the front cover. I don’t think there was ever a bit in this book where I got bored and didn’t want to turn to the next page. It’s gory, it’s gruesome, it’s very graphic, but we get a proper sense of these horrible crimes and how much impact they have. Don’t read this just before bed and definitely don’t read it if you are squeamish!
- The Son by Jo Nesbo
Sonny Lofthus, in his early thirties, has been in prison for the last dozen years: serving time for crimes he didn’t commit. In exchange, he gets an uninterrupted supply of heroin—and the unexpected stream of fellow prisoners seeking out his uncanny abilities to soothe and absolve. His addiction started when his father committed suicide rather than be exposed as a corrupt cop, and now Sonny is the center of a vortex of corruption: prison staff, police, lawyers, a desperate priest—all of them focused on keeping him stoned and jailed, and all of them under the thumb of Oslo’s crime overlord, the Twin.
If you’re not familiar with Nesbo’s work, then you are in for a treat if you decide to start with this one. We jump right in from the start, at a prison where young Sonny is serving time for some murders that he confessed to.
Nesbo’s writing is face paced and detailed. We meet a lot of characters throughout the book, and at times I had to go back and refresh my memory as to how they fitted in to the story. Eventually everything clicks into place though and it isn’t too much of a challenge to keep on top of the characters.
And finally some festive favourites:
- The Snow Crystal Trilogy by Sarah Morgan.
SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW
Marketing whiz Kayla Green hates Christmas- but when her newest client, Jackson O’Neil, invites her to visit and experience his family business, Snow Crystal Resort and Spa, she can hardly refuse. After spending a few flirty festive nights in this glittering winter wonderland, Christmas will be never the same again.
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER
Fiery French chef Élise Phillipe has left behind her troubled past, but then sexy surgeon Sean O’Neil re-enters her life. Last summer, Élise and Sean shared one hazy whirlwind night together in Paris. Elise is looking forward to repeating their last encounter but she knows all too well that with Sean, it can only be one night…
MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS
This winter, ex-skiing champion and single dad Tyler O’Neil has only one mission—making sure his daughter, Jess, has the best Christmas ever. When best friend, Brenna, also temporarily moves into his chalet, their easy friendship becomes complicated. One Christmas kiss changes everything…
Now, technically, only two of the three in this trilogy are set at Christmas – BUT they are all feel good books and I read them every Christmas so they most definitely belong here. If you want something light, innocent, cheery and festive give these a read. I have only very recently been able to get my hands on the paperback copies of these, after having my e-book versions for years. You’ll love snuggling up and reading these well into the night, I would suggest, in fact, these as a Jolabokaflod gift! 🙂
- Meet me in London by Georgia Toffolo.
When Oliver meets Victoria, he offers a proposition: pretend to be his girlfriend at the opening of his store and he will provide an opportunity for Victoria to showcase her designs. But what starts as a business arrangement soon becomes something more tempting, as the fake relationship starts to feel very real. But when secrets in Victoria’s past are exposed will Oliver walk away, or will they both follow their hearts and find what neither knew they were looking for…
Everyone loves a good Mills and Boon, and the fact it is Georgia Toffolo writing it is also a plus on the cheese scale…. Or so I thought. It was actually a really good, thoughtful read. I enjoyed this Christmassy story – it’s been done before in some form or another, but the way it is written is fresh and exciting. Some deeper things are touched upon in this one, but not enough to drag the book down, it stays light and charming right through to the end.
So there we have it. A bunch of recommendations for you to sink your teeth into. Happy Jolabokaflod everyone, let us know if you partake in this lovely tradition and if so what books have you given/received in recent years?
Becca and Kate x