Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber
Two coworkers unknowingly connect on a dating website and start chatting online daily. Merry Knight is a data entry temp at a Seattle firm, saving money to finish college. Due to a human resources mistake, her name tag says Mary. Jason Bright, nicknamed Jay, is a vice-president in his uncle’s firm, and isn’t very nice when asking data entry staff to work overtime or take down holiday decorations. Jay/Jason was a lonely rich kid sent to boarding schools and summer camps; his cousin Cooper is his only friend. Merry/Mary lives with her parents and adores her 18-year-old brother Patrick, who has Down Syndrome. Merry’s love for Christmas is contagious, but things go badly when the online pair agree to meet in person. I enjoyed the narration of the audiobook by Em Eldridge, with alternating chapters from his and her points of view, but it was confusing telling Mary and Merry apart. Light and cozy, this is a charming holiday read.
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley
Meet Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old chemist and amateur sleuth. She lives at Buckshaw, a stately old house in England with her father, a stamp collector, spiteful older sisters Daphne and Ophelia, and Dogger, Buckshaw’s butler/handyman/gardener. Motherly Mrs. Mullet comes in daily to cook and clean. The year is 1950, and Colonel de Luce, struggling to make ends meet, rents out Buckshaw to a film company over the Christmas holidays. The famous Phyllis Wyvern and crew move in. Lead actors Phyllis and Desmond agree to put on a show for charity, and act out the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet for the residents of nearby Bishop’s Lacey. A blizzard strands the villagers, who camp out in Buckshaw’s vast foyer.
In the meantime, Flavia is busy concocting a sticky trap for Father Christmas, whose existence is denied by her sisters. When she finds a strangled body, Dogger and Flavia assist Inspector Hewitt in solving the murder. Sometimes Flavia seems too smart for her age, although emotionally she is just right, but she is always good company. This is the fourth book in an award-winning mystery series beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, but is my favorite to date. Happily, the author is contracted for five more titles. I have listened to the whole series on compact disc, and really enjoy Jayne Entistle’s narration. For more about Flavia, visit the author’s website, or view the book trailer.