Nell Iris' Christmas

Holidays at Nell’s: Day 31

Finally, it’s here. The day we’ve all been waiting for: the last day of 2020. I could go on and on about all the crappy things that’s made this year so awful, but I want to finish the year on a positive note, so I won’t. Besides, 2020 was the year I became a grandmother to the most adorable little baby, so there’s no way I can be sad and upset. ❤️

Instead, let’s get to today’s recommendation. Which, you’ve probably guessed, is my brand spanking new NYE story, Resolutions for an Arbitrary Holiday.

Click for blurb

Two strangers, a twisted ankle, an ancient stone ship, and a New Year’s Eve they’ll never forget

Petter sneaks out of the New Year’s party he didn’t want to go to and treks to an old burial site he’s dying to see. Alone. Without telling anyone on a freezing December night. Without cell service…a huge problem when he twists his ankle.

Someone passes by Isak’s house on the path leading to the stone ship. When the person never returns, Isak worries and sets off to investigate. What he finds is Petter, a pack of sparklers, and an instant connection.

Under a starry sky, they learn they have a lot in common. Will the attraction burn hot and fizzle out like the fireworks going off over their heads when they return to the real world? Or will it deepen, grow, and turn into something real? Something everlasting like the stone ship?

Bubbly and sparklers by the stone ship. Sounds like the perfect New Year’s celebration to me.

Quote from Resolutions for an Arbitrary Holiday

If you want to read about two guys who meet by an ancient stone monument on New Year’s Eve because one guy twisted his ankle and the other came to his rescue. If you want sparklers, bad tasting bubbly, and new year’s resolutions, both serious and not. If you want honest and intimate conversations about life, universe, and everything. And if you want to read about two guys with an instant connection and lots of delicious kisses, this is the story for you.

“I would’ve spent the night on the couch, watching crappy television, probably falling asleep a long time ago, if I hadn’t set out on the heroic quest to rescue you.”

That makes me smile. “Heroic quest, huh?”

“Definitely.”

“I don’t know. Don’t knights in shining armor usually ride to the rescue on a white horse?”

“You tell me. You’re the history nerd.”

Quote from Resolutions for an Arbitrary Holiday

Buy links

JMS Books | Universal buy link

And since I’m Swedish and it’s New Year’s Eve, I leave you with a Abba wishing you a happy new year! 🎉🍾🎆🎇

Happy New Year by Abba
Nell Iris' Christmas

Holidays at Nell’s: Day 30

We’re nearing the end of the month and the year, and today I thought I’d talk about five old favorites that I’ve been gushing about here on the blog previous years, that are definitely worth a re-read if you’ve already read them. Or if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?? 🙂

Day 30 of Holidays at Nell’s: five old favorite reads

First of all I have to say that my favorites are a diverse bunch. Christmas is of course represented (The Mistletoe Kiss and Hope is the Thing with Feathers), but we also have Shab-e Yalda (Watermelon Kisses), Saturnalia (Revelry), and Hanukkah (The Remaking of Corbin Wale).

I really love all these books which is why I want to highlight again them even though I’ve recommended them already on the blog. So here it goes:

Watermelon Kisses (click the title if you want to read what I’ve previously written about the book) – if you want to read a story about an established couple where one of the MCs fled Iran to be with his now husband, and is carrying the trauma still in his heart. If you want a story full of emotion that will touch your very soul, if you want beautiful writing, and if you want to read a holiday story full of something different than gingerbread and Santa’s.

Esmail kissed Amir’s forehead and sighed. They leaned against each other, beard against beard, heart against heart.

Quote from Watermelon Kisses

The Mistletoe Kiss (here and here) – if you want to read a historical hurt/comfort book about a slow tender romance. If you want a perfectly imperfect hero like Mr. Fenton, who stands up for whats right, and a character like Christie who’s positive and happy and creative, and brings life and joy to his beloved Mr. Fenton’s, Lawrence’s, life.

He waited for him to resist, to pull away, demand to know what his game was…but he melted into him, buried his face in Lawrence’s neck, and let out a shuddering sigh that pierced Lawrence’s parched, lonely heart.

Quote from The Mistletoe Kiss

Hope is the Thing with Feathers – if you want two older guys in your holiday romance story (56 and 67) who’ll show you that some men get even better with age. If you want to read about a favorite turkey, and the Christmas present of dreams, Samuel’s dreams.

Too much. Too much information. Too much weirdness. Too much penis. God, penis. It had been so long. “You’re still naked.”

Quote from Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Revelry – if you want an obscure Roman holiday and a glittery sequined Dolphin Princess. If you want a nerdy professor and an adorable bartender. And if you want to read a book from a fabulous writer who has a magical way with words.

This was himself making Brian happy as well, he understood; and that understanding snagged his next breath and stole it away, like the shooting star returning, like a lifeline flung out that’d unexpectedly caught the sun.

Quote from Revelry

The Remaking of Corbin Wale – if you want something to take your breath away with its brilliance and pure magic.

Panic gripped Alex as he stared at the empty space and his own outstretched hands. He didn’t know what he’d done, but it had ripped Corbin from him, turning intimacy to distance, and pleasure to fear. He’d reached for something gossamer, and he’d shredded it with rough hands. The most beautiful kiss he’d ever shared had turned to dust in his mouth.

Quote from The Remaking of Corbin Wale

Buy links

Watermelon Kisses | The Mistletoe Kiss | Hope is the Thing with Feathers | Revelry | The Remaking of Corbin Wale

Nell Iris' Christmas

Holidays at Nell’s: Day 29

Today’s holiday story celebrates the Lunar New Year, the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar. The Lunar New Year isn’t until February 2021, but it’s still a wintery holiday so I’m including it. And it’s my blog and I do what I want to, to paraphrase Lesley Gore 😀

Day 29 of Holidays at Nell’s: Red Envelope by Atom Yang
Click for blurb

The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar, a time for family reunions, and for saying goodbye to the past and hello to the future. Clint, however, doesn’t want to bid farewell to what happened after last year’s celebration, when he and his Cousin Maggie’s handsome friend, Weaver, shared an unexpected but long-desired passionate encounter. East is East, and West is West, and Weaver seems to want to keep it that way, but maybe Clint can bridge that great divide this coming New Year and show Weaver what it means to be loved and accepted.

Re-reading this book (I read it for the first time back in 2016) made me miss Malaysia. Malaysia has a huge Chinese population, especially in Kuala Lumpur where I lived, and the Lunar New Year is a really big deal there. I loved watching the lion dance, I loved the tossing of the noodles, all the red envelopes, and the atmosphere in general. So in a way, reading this book was like coming home…and not.

Anyway. Enough about me, this is supposed to be book recommendations, not me being maudlin about not really knowing where my home is at the moment 🙂 Red Envelope is a short slice of life in the characters’ lives on the Lunar New Year, with a quick flashback to events previous year. Clint and Weaver are an interracial couple where Clint is Chinese and Weaver is American, and they’re both very likable. All the characters are, but maybe I love Clint’s mother the most, though. Is that wrong of me, considering it’s a romance story? 😀

I learned to cook from my mother, who believed that measurement in cooking what based on experience plus taste buds, not agreed upon standards.

Quote from Red Envelope

Yes, Clint’s mother! I totally agree!!

It’s a cute and humorous story. And if you’re in a holiday mood but have maybe overdosed a bit on Christmas and want something different, this is the perfect book for you.

I swear you’re going to be more Chinese than me. My mother’s going to adopt you and sell me into the foot massage industry.

Quote from Red Envelope

Foot massage industry? That’s weirdly specific 😀

Buy link

Nell Iris' Christmas

Holidays at Nell’s: Day 28

Today’s rec is not a holiday story. Oh no, I’m breaking my own rules, I’m hopeless! 🙂 It is however winter-themed, snowed in to be precise, and I thought you might be a bit tired of the holidays by now anyway….so consider this a palate cleanser.

Day 28 of Holidays at Nell’s: Coming Out on Top by Nora Phoenix
Click for blurb

He’s twice his size and a lot older, but will Mac let Quentin come out on top?

Quentin is searching for…something.
Respect.
Answers.
His identity.

Most of all, he’s searching for a man who will let him be in charge, despite the fact that he looks like an elf.
But all that will have to wait because right now, he’s searching for shelter after getting stranded in the middle of nowhere, New York with a massive snow storm about to hit. He finds an unexpected host in Mac, a man the whole town seems to hate. Mac has secrets…but so does Quentin.

Sparks fly between them, but can it lead to more when Mac is twice his size, a lot older, and practically a virgin… and when Mac can’t leave and there’s no way Quentin will stay?

Dear Coming Out on Top*, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

  • age gap
  • size difference
  • gentle giant (Augustus (Mac’s real name) is a teddy bear cinnamon roll marshmallow with piercings and tattoos. OMG, I love him so much)
  • hurt/comfort
  • disability (Augustus suffers from severe stuttering)
  • subverted trope
  • insta-connection (all right, all right, I hear you. Insta-love)
  • the MCs meet early in the book and want to be together
  • all drama is external of the MCs (this is my favorite!!)
  • Quentin and Augustus communicate, and we all know that the only thing sexier than communication is consent!
  • super-romantic BDSM story (although the BDSM elements are very light)
  • small town setting
  • lone wolf

If you’ve followed me a while and know me by now, you know after reading above list that this book was written just for me. It ticks all my boxes and it was like finding a treasure. I adored this book and I read it slowly because I wanted to savor it. It made me angry (the people in Augustus’ town are vicious!), it made me laugh, it made me cry and go awww.

Had anyone ever shown him this level of kindness and understanding, aside from his mom? Not that Mac could remember, and that realization only added to his inability to speak. So he did the only thin he could manage right now, and he laid his fingers on Quentin’s soft lips, then on his own.

“You want me to kiss you, Mac?” Quentin whispered.

He nodded.

Quote from Coming Out on Top

This book was everything. Ten stars.

Buy link

*This book was previously called Snow Way Out

Nell Iris' Christmas

Holidays at Nell’s: Day 27

Today’s book recommendation is maybe the most un-Christmassy of all the Christmas books I’ve read this year, which is why I’m sticking it here on the 27th. Maybe you’re getting tired of Christmas and need to phase it out of your life. If that’s the case, this is the perfect book for you. It has a gift exchange in the end, but even that part is really low on the holiday vibes.

Holidays at Nell’s day 27: Nobody’s Butterfly by Claire Davis & Al Stewart
Click for blurb

Cobweb ghosts are so inconvenient—especially grumpy ones with bad breath. Don’t they know silence is golden?

Johnny Strong is the expert; he hasn’t spoken in two years. Not one word to anyone except the ghost. The main purpose of life is to avoid people and not get noticed. Friends? He doesn’t need them; and certainly nobody wants him despite what the ghost says.

Until a new boy appears at Windybank—Finn Lyons, teenage wizard. He eats frogs, concocts potions, and is always hungry. Not only does Finn stand up for Johnny; he actively seeks his company and soon becomes part of life.
First love; family and words; a heady mix to go in the potion but how will it all turn out?

Hubble bubble; Johnny Strong’s in trouble! Silence is not always golden in this sweet, zany story of the purest magic at Christmas.

Above disclaimer about the un-Christmasness (it’s a word!) of this book aside, it’s an absolutely fantastic story. If you’ve hung around my blog for a while, you know by now that I absolutely love everything I’ve read written by these two authors (for example, I’ve raved about Dear Mona Lisa… and Shut Your Face Anthony Pace and Up! made it to my favorite books of 2018), and Nobody’s Butterfly was no exception.

Johnny Strong and Finn Lyons are two fabulous characters; I love the quirkiness these authors always gives their characters and what makes me re-read their books over and over again. The two boys (it’s a YA story) are staying at home for children between foster homes; Johnny has been there for a long time and doesn’t speak to anyone except the ghost in his room, but Finn is new. Finn sweeps into Johnny’s life like a tornado and at first Johnny isn’t too happy, but that soon changes and they grow really close.

Despite Johnny talking to a ghost and Finn claiming he’s Johnny’s wizard, there isn’t magic in this story. Unless you count finding someone after you’ve lost everyone and everything. Unless you count finding your voice when you thought it was lost forever. Unless you count finding someone you didn’t know you absolutely needed.

I take that back. There is magic in this story, but it’s in the writing. The beautiful, breathtaking writing that always sweeps me off my feet.

Buy link

Inside, Johnny shone so brightly that probably astronomers thousands of miles away thought he was a star.

Quote from Nobody’s Butterfly by Claire Davis and Al Stewart

This book is going on my 2020 favorites book, and not just holiday favorites. Read it, you won’t regret it. But here, you’ll need this:

Christmas Kleenex