In this Book Club episode of the Unabridged Podcast, we talk about Christina Lauren's holiday rom-com, In a Holidaze. After our Bookish Check-in, where we each share what we're reading, we chat about the novel and then offer another holiday book recommendation. We end with our Give Me One and talk about holiday songs that make us cringe.
We'd love to know what holiday books you'd recommend! Head over to our social media pages to share some recs.
Jen - Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Sara - Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind
Our Additional Holiday Book Recommendations
Ashley - Karina Yan Glaser’s The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
Sara - Jenny Bayliss’s The Twelve Dates of Christmas
Mentioned in Episode
Christina Lauren's In a Holidaze
The infamous Love, Actually debate episode, #104
Christina Lauren's The Unhoneymooners
Give Me One - Holiday Song that Makes You Cringe
Ashley - “Jingle Bell Rock”
Jen - “Frosty the Snowman”
Sara - “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”
(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)
Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.
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Ashley shared her current read, Nic Stone's Dear Justyce. She said, "We've all talked a lot about how much we love Dear Martin, both because I love the story and also I think it is great for the classroom. I think Nic Stone knows her audience and can speak to kids in a way that resonates with them, and so I'm thrilled to see Dear Justyce. I've only read the very beginning, but again, this is a tribute to Nic Stone as a person. Jen shared before that she's a great activist also, and at the beginning of the book, she talks about a couple of boys she knows in real life who were looking for a different story to be told. They just shared with her about how they loved Dear Martin, but they didn't relate a lot to Justyce. They didn't relate to somebody who is a star student and who has all these opportunities and who's going to college and has the world opening up for him. So I just loved that that she—up front for the reader—explains her motivation for writing Dear Justyce.
"It does look at Quan, who is a secondary character in Dear Martin, and it is his story, and he is writing to Justyce. The opening scene just shows the two of them on a playground, and I really love that beginning because, like I said, I think that we can we see her motivation with the way that she opens the book by explaining why she's writing the story. We start to see what Justyce and Quan do have in common in this kind of vulnerable moment they share as young kids on a playground. So . . . I'm looking forward to the story. I just really admire her. I admire her as a writer. I admire the work that she's doing in the world. I'm thrilled this book is out there and I'm thrilled to read it."
Jen said, "I am diving into a backlist book. At the beginning of the year, I signed up for the 20 Backlist in 2020 Challenge, and I have not been doing very well. So I have resolved that I'm going to make it through that stack of 20 books before the end of the year. This one is Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which is translated from the French. It is about Renée, who is the concierge of an extremely luxurious—they call it a hotel, but the people live there, and so people own a whole floor. They're just in the absolute upper class, and Renée is not. And Renée is very aware of her position in relation to them and the way that they feel about her, and she is absolutely brilliant. She reads all the time. She reads philosophy, she reads nonfiction, she reads film theory, but she hides it very deliberately from these people. She plays into their stereotypes about her, and just has this wicked sense of humor. And so she's constantly in her head making fun of them but putting on this mask, as if she is not educated., And she's not formally educated, but she has definitely educated herself. So that's one of the protagonists.
"The other is Paloma, who is a 12-year-old girl who is also very brilliant. She does not feel like her family—her parents and her older sister—understand her at all, and she has decided that when she turns 13, she is going to kill herself, and she is going to burn down the apartment. So she is just passing time until then. Her story is shared through her journal. So you get Renée's first-person narration, and it's mostly her thoughts, and then you get Paloma's journal.
"There's not a whole lot of interaction yet, but I know because of the book jacket that they eventually do interact, and that there's a friendship there, and I am very much looking forward to that."
Sara said, "So I'm going to cheat just a bit because I just finished Rumaan Alam's Leave the World Behind, and I haven't really started anything else. So I started this one, it was an ALC from Libro.fm, so thanks to them for letting me have that audio—and I will say the audio is fantastic. This, Jen talked about it a few episodes ago. This is a story about a family, Amanda and Clay and their two kids who have rented a vacation home . . . to just get away. They are in there enjoying themselves, and there's a knock at the door. There is a couple there, and they say they basically revealed that they are the owners of the home, and that they had been at the opera. There had been this electrical grid failure and blackout in the city, and they drove to their vacation home.
"So basically, there's a lot of like awkwardness, and they come in and just decide to let them stay there. But I think what this book . . . does so well is it creates all of this really horrifying tension, and the whole time as the reader, you have this tension, but you don't really know what's going on. Neither do the people in the story. The author does this really awesome job of switching perspectives, so you get everybody who's in the house, you get snippets of their perspective, but then there's also this omniscient narrator that will sometimes tell you something that nobody knows except you.
"It is terrifying. It is really, I think the thing that terrified me the most is it feels like it's something that could happen. I don't want to give any spoilers away, but there are some disturbing parts that happen, and the author just does an excellent job of building this narrative tension and this really horrible sense of dread. I can tell you after I finished it, I was like probably shouldn't read that right now. I mean, I could not stop: I texted Jen, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I cannot stop listening.'"
Main Segment - Book Club Discussion of Christina Lauren's In a Holidaze
Sara said, "What we are discussing today is Christina Lauren's In a Holidaze. Christina Lauren’s In a Holidaze is a perfect holiday rom com with a fun, engaging premise. Maelyn Jones is relishing her holiday tradition of vacationing with her family and friends in a cabin in Utah. But now she finds herself stuck in a Groundhog Day like loop. Maelyn lives her Christmas vacation over again, searching desperately to get things right, to save her holiday traditions, and to maybe find love while she’s at it."
After sharing our overall impressions and something that worked for us, each of us then shared another holiday reading recommendation.
Jen talked about Sarah Morgenthaler's Mistletoe and Mr. Right, the sequel to The Tourist Attraction. She said, "Both [books] take place in this little town in Alaska called Moose Springs, and it very much has like Gilmore Girls vibes. It's this quirky little town. In the first book, there's a moose named Ulysses, who everybody knows who was crazy about the cinnamon rolls that are made in the local bakery, and the characters are sweet and quirky. I would say these are more closed door romances. So, if you don't like steam, they're not really steamy, but there is some steam.
"So Mistletoe and Mr. Right continues with some characters who appeared in the first book. Lana is this really wealthy woman who has bought most of the property in the town, and her goal is to save the town, but there are a lot of local townspeople who very much object to this outsider coming in and trying to build up the tourism industry in order to save the town. They want to be able to save the town themselves, so there's this really interesting interplay between Lana and the local businesses. She sort of considers herself a local, but the locals don't. That whole debate at the center of the story, I think, is really interesting. Her love interest in the book is Rick, who is the owner of one of those local businesses. He's the owner of a pool hall that is not doing well at all. He and his wife divorced—I think it's been a couple of years, and he has not dated at all since their divorce. He is pretty lonely. . . .
"Quirky is the word that keeps coming to mind: quirky and warm. Ultimately, it's a really sweet rom com that is about the romance, but it's also just about these people in this town and what it means to be someone's friend."
Ashley recommended Karina Yan Glaser’s The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. The Vanderbeekers are a family of five children: the two oldest are twins, and then they have one boy and then two younger children, the youngest of which is quite young. She's still a toddler. It's this family, the five of them and their parents rent an apartment in a brownstone in Harlem, and so they've lived there their whole lives. They love their brownstone, and yet they have been notified by their landlord Mr. Peterman, who lives at the top of the brownstone house, that their lease will not be renewed at the end of the year.
"It's December, already close to the holidays in December, when they find this out, and so on January 1, their lease is up, and they are distressed about that. So the children have their own plots and plans for what they can do to prevent this from happening. It's a very sweet family, the sibling relationships are really sweet, and the parents are really great with them. So I loved all of that, and I really loved the way the family dynamics work in the book. I also appreciated the way that the kids take this initiative, but also don't always know the best pathway to take to try to change things and keep things from happening. . . .
"I think that it was a great story. I really loved the family, interestingly, and there are all these sketches in the book, largely like floor plans, or you see a lot of the brownstone building itself. . . . I think that it has all the holiday feel, you get to celebrate Christmas with them, and experience all of that, and they have a great community who of course, are all devastated that they'll be moving, but they are really connected to their community, to all of that feel like he just has a really great holiday feel."
Sara's recommendation is Jenny Bayliss's The Twelve Dates of Christmas. She said, "So first of all, I think I've said on the podcast before I love books set in England or with British characters. I just really like that. This one is set in Britain. It is a place called Blackford, England, and it is this teeny little town with a cafe, and it is just it is everything I want. Every time I read these books, or like watch a Hallmark Christmas movie, I'll be I'll be like, 'Oh, I think I would like to go around a Christmas Village.' David is my husband, and David is always like, 'I don't know where you want me to find these things!' . . .
"So the main character is Kate, and she is a 34 year old, she does not have a partner. Her best friend Laura convinces her to sign up for this thing that a local company is running, which was called the 12 Dates of Christmas. It's 12 different dates with 12 different men, and so she's trying to find someone to share her life with, and she's definitely content being alone, but her friend really just keeps pushing her to do it. So she does it. So she goes on these dates, some of them are disastrous, some of them are slightly successful, but then there's this other person who might have been under her nose the whole time.
"It's just a great story. It's super easy reading, all the characters are lovely, and there's all this great banter between her and a local coffee shop owner. . . . It's just really uplifting, and it's romantic, and it's funny, so I think it's a great choice for this holiday."
Give Me One - Holiday Song that Makes You Cringe
Each of us shares one holiday song that—for a variety of reasons—makes us cringe!
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