I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and that your week is off to a good start.  My birthday was this weekend so mine was pretty good even if I have reached the age where I’m kind of done with getting older, haha.  Anyway, today I’m back with the next round of my 2022 holiday ARCs that are already out in the world.  It still feels weird to be reading Christmas books while I’m also still reading spooky season books, but every store I went to this weekend is already starting to put out their Christmas merchandise right alongside the Halloween candy so I guess it tracks that the holiday books would start hitting shelves too.  Anyway, on to the books!


Holiday Reviews: ONE LAST GIFT & ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMASOne Last Gift Goodreads

Author: Emily Stone

Publication Date: October 11, 2022

Publisher:  Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.


One Last Gift by Emily Stone is a heart-wrenching yet ultimately uplifting story about love, loss, and how to move forward after the death of a loved one.  Stone’s last novel Always, in December was one of my favorite reads last year so One Last Gift was a highly anticipated read for me this year.

The story follows Cassie and Sam, who are both mourning the unexpected death of Tom, who was Cassie’s big brother and Sam’s best friend. Cassie and Tom were extremely close because their parents died when they were kids and they basically raised each other. Cassie is absolutely devastated by Tom’s death and doesn’t know how she’ll be able to go on without him in her life.  Sam is also devastated and overcome with guilt over his friend’s death, especially since the fatal accident took place on a trip Sam should have been on with him.

What makes their grief even worse is that Cassie and Sam can’t even turn to each other to mourn Tom’s death because their own relationship has been strained to the breaking point.  Years ago, Sam was Cassie’s first crush and in recent years, she thought they had come to care for each other as more than friends.  This leads her to make a move that Sam then awkwardly rejects, creating tension between them that they’ve never fully moved beyond.  Cassie is angry and embarrassed, so when she learns that Sam should have been on the trip with Tom, she holds him responsible and lashes out at him. This part of the story just broke my heart for both of them because it’s pretty clear that they have feelings for one another, so it just hurt to see Cassie freeze Sam out and I longed for them to reunite and for Sam to redeem himself in Cassie’s eyes.

While the loss of Tom makes for a heartbreaking read, his last gift to Cassie is what makes it such an uplifting one.  Tom had a long-standing tradition of creating a scavenger hunt for Cassie every Christmas.  She would have to solve and follow all his clues in order to find her gift from him.  It was great fun and Cassie looked forward to it every year.  Even though Tom dies just before Christmas, it turns out he had created this year’s scavenger hunt for Cassie before he left.  At first Cassie doesn’t want to do it, but once she finally feels like she’s ready, the hunt offers Cassie a way for her to have Tom in her life one more time and a way to finally process her loss and move forward, and to open her heart to the possibility of love where she least expects to find it.

One Last Gift is a beautiful and poignant story about love, loss and family that will have you reaching for the tissues along the way but that will ultimately leave you with a smile on your face.  4 STARS



Holiday Reviews: ONE LAST GIFT & ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMASAll I Want for Christmas Goodreads

Author: Maggie Knox

Publication Date: October 4, 2022

Publisher: Penguin Group – G.P. Putnam’s Sons

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.


All I Want for Christmas by Maggie Knox follows Sadie Hunter, an up and coming country music singer who has come to Nashville to participate in the popular Starmaker singing competition and hopefully finally get her big break.  This is her second time coming to Nashville and Sadie has decided that if she doesn’t get her break with this contest, then it’s time to give up on her dream of singing professionally.  I really enjoyed Sadie’s character.  She’s a dreamer but she’s also a realist about her chances of winning.  I especially loved her relationship with her grandmother, who is Sadie’s biggest fan and cheerleader.  It was sweet to watch their interactions, and Gran’s unconditional support of Sadie’s dream.

I’m also always up for a good underdog story so I was immediately invested in having Sadie be successful in this endeavor, especially when it becomes clear that her primary competition comes in the form of Max Brody, who is nothing short of Nashville royalty and thus has contractually been guaranteed to make it through to the final round.  I found Max a little tougher to love at first, just because of his entitled status, but he grew on me pretty quickly, especially when we finally get to see him behind the scenes interacting with his adorable little dog, Patsy Canine.

There was a lot to love in this book, especially when Sadie and Max are forced to work together as a duet and it becomes clear that the two of them have pretty amazing chemistry, both on and off stage, so much so that the show’s producers decide it would be fabulous for ratings to have the two of them pretend to date.  I love a good fake dating story so I was totally on board for this ruse since I was hoping it would lead to more.  I really enjoyed watching Max and Sadie get to know each other better.  Most of my favorite scenes between them actually take place outside of Nashville. When Nashville gets to be too much for Max, he retreats to Banff, a snowy small town in Alberta, Canada.  Sadie follows him because they have to write a Christmas song together and are on a tight deadline, and it’s here in this magical little town that the sparks really fly between them.

While I enjoyed the story overall, there were some things that somewhat hampered my enjoyment, the number one thing being miscommunication. It seemed like almost every scene between Max and Sadie ended up with some miscommunication that could have easily been avoided.  There’s a huge moment in particular where Sadie decides to keep a secret from Max about her grandmother. It made no sense to me for her to keep the secret and it ended up sending her relationship with Max into a downward spiral because he assumed the worst.  And speaking of assuming the worst, Max is the king of seeing something, jumping to incorrect conclusions based on no evidence whatsoever and making an ass out of himself.  He does this on numerous occasions and it made me want to just slap him silly.  I’m all for creating a bit of drama and tension and a “will they or won’t they be able to get through this?” vibe, but I got pretty tired of it here.

Even with my frustration with the miscommunication, however, I still enjoyed this story overall.  If the premise of a reality singing competition being a catalyst for romance appeals to you, definitely check out All I Want for Christmas3 STARS

15 replies
  1. ShootingStarsMag
    ShootingStarsMag says:

    Thanks for sharing. Bummer about the miscommunication in All I Want for Christmas. That really drives me nuts. LOL

    I haven’t started holiday reads yet, but there are many on the wish list!


  2. Angela
    Angela says:

    Happy belated birthday! I’m pretty ready to start my holiday reading, and I have both of these on my TBR. One Last Gift sounds incredible, but the miscommunications in All I Want For Christmas are going to bother me, too!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Thank you! Yeah, it was a bummer that the miscommunication was so prevalent. I still enjoyed it overall though so maybe you’ll have better luck than I did.

  3. Sam@WLABB
    Sam@WLABB says:

    I know the miscommunication was overused in All I Want for Christmas, but there were some parts that allowed me to forgive all that nonsense. I also felt like some of Max’s behaviors were explained, but yeah, I didn’t get the grandma secret.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      The grandma secret was just so odd. It nagged at me for most of the book, lol. The scenes in Banff did help to offset that frustration a bit though.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I also just wanted to give you a head’s up that I’m still getting that nonce verification failed error when I try to comment on your site. Usually I could at least visit your blog first thing in the morning and could comment a few times before I got it, but now I’m even getting it first thing and can’t seem to resolve it from my end. I just wanted to make sure you knew I’m still reading and enjoying everything you’re posting but that all it will let me do is like the posts right now. 🙁

  4. Tanya @ Girl Plus Books
    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books says:

    I was hyped for One Last Gift after loving Always, in December last year. It ended up being just okay for me but I happy to see you enjoyed it! I really felt for Sam and how he was kind of left to grieve on his own after Cassie lashed out at him and shut him out. Wow, did my heart hurt for him. Cassie felt selfish in her grief, to me. Like she was the only one hurting and feeling the loss. I struggled with her. But I enjoyed the ending. 🙂

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Thank you! And yes, you’ll definitely want to be in the right frame of mind for One Last Gift and have your tissues handy for that beginning!

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