Book Review: Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

Twas the Night Before Christmas, or A Visit From St Nicholas by Clement C. Moore, with illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Beautiful, charming and timeless.  A delight to read. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

This poem first appeared in a newspaper in Troy, New York, USA, on December 23, 1823, as “A Visit From St. Nicholas”. No one claimed authorship until 13 years later. Clement Clarke Moore, a professor and poet, said that he wrote the piece for his children. Unbeknownst to him, his housekeeper had sent it to the newspaper to be published. However, the family of Henry Livingston Jr. contended that their father had been reciting “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for 15 years prior to publication. Regardless of the true author, the poem is now a Christmas classic.

Favourite Quote

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself


This Christmas was the first time (that I can remember) reading this poem from beginning to end.  Of course, this poem is so well known that, even without having read it, some of its lines are easy to quote.  But I’m so glad that I found the time this year to read it.

The edition I read was from 1912, via Project Gutenberg, and was beautifully illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith.  My favourite picture was the stockings hanging from the mantlepiece – it’s such a typically festive Christmas scene.

I don’t think I quite realised just how old the poem is. It was first published in 1823 and, to give that a little context, it was published twenty years before Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  Neither did I realise “Twas the Night Before Christmas” isn’t actually its title, but “A Visit From St Nicholas”, though the poem is more commonly known by its first line.  Something else I discovered this Christmas is that there is argument for attributing the writing of this poem to a different author.

The poem is beautiful and charming and conjures up many ideas we associate with Christmas to this day (for example, Santa’s sleigh is pulled by eight reindeer – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen – stockings hanging from the mantlepiece, St Nick entering the house via the chimney).  And, apart from a few archaic words, which have been changed out and modernised with later publishing, it could have been written much more recently for the audiences of today.

Even as an adult reading it, there is much joy to be found in the poem, and I have no doubt I will read the poem again, in its entirety, next year, and probably for all the Christmas’ after that!



Short Story Review: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle is the seventh short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.


Christmas has just passed when Dr Watson goes to Baker Street to see Sherlock Holmes.  On his arrival he finds his friend thinking over a battered hat brought to him by a commissionaire named Peterson.  It came into his possession when Peterson witnessed a scuffle in the street; the victim dropped both his hat and his Christmas goose.  He has brought them to Sherlock Holmes so that they might be returned to their owner as Peterson has no clue as to work out his identity for the man fled after the attack.

However, Holmes thinks it unlikely that the owner will be found, and sends Peterson home to cook the goose, but the man returns and produces the blue carbuncle, claiming that it was found inside the bird.  Naturally, Holmes realises that there is a larger mystery here and sets off to discover what it is.

Favourite Quote

“One of those little incidents which will happen when you have four million human beings all jostling each other within the space of a few square miles.  Amid the action and reaction of so dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of events may be expected to take place, and many a little problem will be presented which may be striking and bizarre without being criminal.” 


This was an intriguing and engaging short story, and in terms of enjoyment, sits around the middle of the stories I’ve read so far from The Adventures of the Sherlock Holmes.  It just so happened that I reached this story in the collection in time for my Festive Reads Fortnight reading challenge, which was a stroke of luck.

Sherlock’s analysis of the hat is interesting.  Here we hear him discussing such things as phrenology and how much the hat owner’s wife loves her husband.

This is a great Christmas read with a good message.  It’s nice to see that Sherlock Holmes, who often appears cold and aloof, can be compassionate and merciful.


3.5 / 5


Short Story Review: The Kit Bag by Algernon Blackwood

Summary (from Goodreads)

“The Kit-Bag” is a short ghost story by the British author Algernon Blackwood. It was first published in the December 1908 issue of Pall Mall Magazine.

The action takes place in London shortly before Christmas. The story’s protagonist is a young man named Johnson who works for an eminent lawyer named Arthur Wilbraham. Arthur Wilbraham has been defending a man named John Turk, who was accused of murdering a woman and cutting her body up into small pieces. Johnson is obliged to be in court for every day of the trial, which he finds highly unpleasant. When the trial is over, Johnson is glad that he will not have to see John Turk’s face again and is looking forward to going away on a Christmas vacation to the Alps. He asks Arthur Wilbraham to lend him a kit-bag to take with him on vacation. After the requested kit-bag arrives, Johnson passes a fright filled night.

Favourite Quote

“I’m glad it’s over because I’ve seen the last of that man’s dreadful face.  It positively haunted me.  That white skin, with the black hair brushed low over the forehead, is a thing I shall never forget…”


Amazing.  Simply amazing.  A fantastic read, perfect for the Christmas Eve tradition of reading ghost stories, which is when I read it by candlelight.

The Kit Bag is a classic ghost story, and one of my favourites.  It is atmospheric and chilling.  The author really knows how to build the tension throughout the story.  It’s a short, quick read, so to say any more about it will probably lead to spoilers.

For the writers out there who want to learn how to write a good ghost story that will stay with your readers long after they have finished it, take a look at The Kit Bag.

This is my favourite read of 2017’s Festive Reads Fortnight, and I don’t doubt that I shall return to it again and again.


Book Review: Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey

This book review may contain spoilers.Summary (from Goodreads)

Step into a winter wonderland and fall in love in the snow this Christmas…
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

A few weeks before Christmas and a sudden blanketing of snow has closed the roads and brought public transport grinding to a halt, stranding Izzy miles from home and in desperate need of rescuing.

That doesn’t mean she’s looking to bump into Rob and spend a cosy weekend holed up in his swanky flat watching London become a winter wonderland! Because Izzy and Rob have history…

Six months ago, they were standing in the vestry of a beautiful country church, while best man Rob delivered the news that every bride dreads on their big day.

But at the time of year when anything is possible, can Rob and Izzy let go of the past and let Christmas work its magic? Or will this be one holiday wish that Izzy lets walk right out of her life…

Favourite Quote

But it is silly to miss people when they’re standing in front of you, because it feels like they’re already gone.


I chose this book as one of my reads for the Festive Reads Fortnight reading challenge.   The fun, whimsical cover caught my attention and persuaded me to give this contemporary romance a go. This is a really Christmassy story; not only is it set around Christmas but it has plenty of Christmas elements thrown in too.

Winter’s Fairytale is a fun little romance, though there is nothing new here.  The pretty, hardworking girl gets the rich, handsome boy. You know that is going to happen even before you begin reading, but it’s how they get there where the entertainment is to be found.

Sometimes I liked Izzy and Rob and sometimes I found them a little annoying and exasperating on occasion – mainly because they make so many assumptions about each other, but there were a few other issues too. However, it didn’t stop me from reading the book through to the end.

I liked Rob’s family.  His sister Jenny was my favourite character in the book.  She was great, as was her husband-to-be, Mike.  Now their story would have made a really great tale to read; a real winter fairytale.

The story is very well-written, and there is plenty of humour to be found, whether in the situations the characters find themselves in or in the dialogue.  A light-hearted romance with a happy ending, making it an enjoyable festive read.  I would read more by this author.

If you want an easy-to-read romance with a winter theme, you might like this story.


3.5 / 5

I downloaded a copy of this book for free via the iBooks store.

Short Story Review: Six Geese A-Laying by Sophie Kinsella

Summary (from Goodreads)

In Six Geese a-Laying, Christmas is approaching, and Ginny is looking forward to the birth of her first baby. It’s a pity her partner Dan is so useless, and she has to keep reminding him where he’s going wrong. Luckily she’s enrolled into the most exclusive antenatal class going – all the highest achieving, smartest mothers-to-be aspire to be taught by the legendary Petal Harmon. Like the other five women in the class, Ginny already knows exactly what she wants, and how she’s going to handle motherhood. But when they turn up for the final class it isn’t quite what they expect. As Ginny discovers what parenthood is really going to be like, she begins to realize the things that really matter…

Favourite Quote

We’re not smug, obviously not. But the fact that we were all selected gives us…I don’t know.  A little glow.  We must have some special quality that others don’t.


I have never read anything by Sophie Kinsella before, because chick-lit isn’t a genre that often interests me.  However, when I saw this short story ebook listed under the free books on the iBook store, the title was enough to persuade me to give it a try.  Anything that references The Twelve Days of Christmas must be a perfect reading choice for my Festive Reads Fortnight reading challenge.

And I enjoyed it, though I didn’t like most of the characters – but then, you’re not meant to.  It’s a very short, very quick read, and though it is set around Christmas, Christmas does not feature in it very much so I wouldn’t describe it as a Christmas story per se. However, it is clearly inspired by Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which I thought was cleverly done for a modern, chick-lit audience.


I read Six Geese A-Laying by Sophie Kinsella for free via iBooks.

Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean, cold-hearted, miserly man, whose life is changed when he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley.  Marley informs him that he will be visited by three ghosts: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

And so begins one of the most famous tales of redemption in literature….

It has only been a few years since I last read A Christmas Carol, but I was surprised to learn that when I checked my review index, I hadn’t reviewed it.  (I knew that A-Z index would come in handy one day).  So, I thought it would be a great addition to this year’s Festive Reads Fortnight.  To add a little festive fun to the reading of it, I read a chapter a night, by candlelight, in the run-up to Christmas Eve, the last chapter being reserved for the night before Christmas.

What struck me most about the story on this particular reading, was the humour with which Dickens tells the story of Scrooge, something that I think I haven’t picked up on previous readings.  Of course, humour isn’t something one readily thinks of when reading Dickens, but it’s refreshing to read an old classic in a new light.  However, that doesn’t mean that the philanthropic message and the plight of the poor was lost.  Nor the warning that by putting money before all else, you will create a cold and lonely life for yourself: a message that is just as important today, as when the story was written in 1843, I think.

Compelling reading, and perhaps my favourite Dickens story.

Short Story Review: A Dangerous Nativity by Caroline Warfield

When the Duke of Murnane dies, the responsibility of running the estate falls on his widow’s brother, William, Earl of Chadbourn.  But when he arrives, he finds a rich, vast estate in a state of disrepair.  As he goes about the business of taking stock, he stumbles across a small holding and cottage on the edge of the estate and is instantly taken with the young woman he finds there.  She is strong, intelligent and knows about farming.  But what is her story?  And why does the family have nothing to do with the big house?

I thoroughly enjoyed this Christmas short story set during the Regency.  The love tale itself is charming, the idea of the boys nativity play hilarious, and the cast on the whole, easy to warm to.  I would certainly enjoy reading more of these characters in the see what becomes of them all, and I would happily re-read this story again…

I downloaded A Dangerous Nativity for free from Smashwords.

Book Review: Jingle Spells edited by Heather Marie Adkins (part 2)

Here’s the second part of my review of the CyberWitch Press anthology, Jingle Spells.  If you missed part one, you can check it out here.

Molly by Brittany White

Molly has had a tough life. Now living on the streets, she is in a bad way.  When she is held at knife-point and robbed in a dark alley, she is saved by a stranger, who realises what she is.  But if he knows, others will too. There’s no way Molly can imagine the danger she is in…or how special she is…

As I read this short story I couldn’t help but feel for poor Molly.  She’s had such a hard time – I had to keep reading just to see how things turned out for her.  An engaging read.

Holiday Dreams by K. Laslie

Ayden is quite different and always has been.  He dreams things that eventually come true.  It’s a secret he’s never been able to share, and so he’s kept it to himself for years.  But one winter the dreams change and what he is shown scares him.  Is he going to be able to deal with what he has seen this time?

I liked this story; it’s different, and Ayden is a character one can easily empathise with.  His story is a hard one, made harder because of his “gift” but it was interesting to read how Ayden developed throughout the tale.  A compelling read.

The Witch’s Brew by Heather Maria Adkins

Daiya runs “The Witch’s Brew”, a coffee shop in Tates Creek, where she adds a little bit of magic to each drink she brews for her customers.  On the way home from work one night, Daiya discovers the body of a murdered man in the woods.  But who is he?  And who has killed him?

I loved this story, and if I was in Tates Creek I would definitely be getting my hot drinks and pastries from “The Witch’s Brew”.  Daiya is a great main character and my kind of witch – magical and practical.  The supporting cast are great too, as is the setting.  A thoroughly captivating read.

So that wraps up my review of the anthology.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  All the stories were quite different, and I would certainly like to read more from each of the authors in the future.  I am honoured to have my work appear amongst theirs.  You can download a copy of Jingle Spells for FREE via Smashwords, by following this link.

Book Review: Jingle Spells edited by Heather Marie Adkins (part 1)

Up first for 2016’s Festive Reads Fortnight is Jingle Spells, a multi-author anthology from CyberWitch Press, which you can download for FREE from Smashwords.  I usually review the short stories in an anthology individually, but this time I am going to divide the review into two parts.

Now, before we begin, a little disclaimer: this post is equal parts shameless plugging and book review.  Why?  Because I have a short story in it.  Needless to say, I’m not going to review my own contribution, but I will add a short description of what it’s about, just in case anyone is interested.

So, let’s begin…

Jingle Spells is the first of the CyberWitch Press Short Fiction Anthologies, and is edited by Heather Marie Adkins, who runs the small press.  She also designed the pretty cover.

Solstice Flames by J. Laslie

Solstice Flames tells the story of Anya Sutherland, an ordinary girl from Meade Harbour, Massachusetts, awaiting the coming of the school’s Holiday Dance, where rumour has it, Heath Lockhart was going to ask her to go with him.  Anya couldn’t be more excited or more nervous, but in the run-up to the dance, something she can’t explain begins to happen to her…

This was quite an individual tale, where the modern world maintains out-dated laws.  I really felt for Anya, and I wasn’t sure how the story was going to end, which kept me guessing until the very last lines.  A great read.

A Midwinter Manifestation by Sammi Cox

It is Midwinter Eve, and Maeve Featherstone, a modern-day sorceress, is having a quiet night in and hoping to plan her Winter Solstice celebrations.  However, her presence is urgently required at Evie Whitworth’s house. Evie has repeatedly been told to stop dabbling in magic, but she never listens.  The question is, what has Evie done this time?  Will the arrival of an unexpected guest ruin the festive period for Evie and the entire village of Wood End? Not if Maeve can help it…

This is the first short story to feature the Secret Sorceress, Maeve Featherstone, but look out for more from her in the future…I have a few ideas planned, and some all ready finished…

The Witch’s Shoes by Sidonia Rose

Arwen goes out one evening with her cousin to a club, in the run-up to the winter solstice.  In the club she meets Brogan, next to whom she wakes the following the morning, only to find that the room is full of falling feathers.  It’s clear that magic is afoot, but Arwen has no idea who Brogan is and what his presence means for her.

This story is told from both the viewpoints of Arwen and Brogan, which added a nice dose of humour to the story as we saw it unfold from their individual perspectives.  An interesting read.

Part 2 will be posted soon…

Looking Ahead to Festive Reads Fortnight 2016

festive reads fortnight

I know it might seem a little early, but we like to plan ahead here at Sammi Loves Books.  Well…sometimes 😉

This year’s Festive Reads Fortnight begins on 11 December 2016.  I have a few stories that I have been putting to one side for this reading challenge, but I am always eager for more. 😀  If you have any recommendations or review requests for stories that centre on the Christmas / Winter Solstice period (no matter the length or genre, whether self-published, or posted on a blog or Wattpad, etc), I would love to hear from you!  Comment below or contact me through my ‘Contact Me’ page.

To see what I read for last year’s Festive Reads Fortnight, click here.

Can’t wait to hear from you!