My Favorite Things (to read)

With only six days before Christmas, I’m a combination of excited and mildly panicked. Excited for my children, one of whom still believes in the mystery of Santa. The panic part is a result of not having enough hours in the day. As my fellow Femme, Janet, blogged about last week, a few extra hours each day would be extremely helpful—especially this time of year. Preferably, hours that would be spent writing, not wrapping gifts or baking cookies.

My house has been decorated since the weekend after Thanksgiving—yeah, I’m one of those people. A family tradition growing up, one which I do my best to follow, crazy schedule permitting. At this time in the season, the majority of the baking is mostly complete (or will be by tonight) and gifts have been purchased, but not yet wrapped. If anyone can spare a few elves to wrap, please send them my way—especially if they’re around six feet with dark brown hair and British accents! And actually, if they look like that, I’d waive the wrapping qualification portion of the job.

I like listening to Christmas songs while I bake, and watching holiday shows on television with my kids. Earlier this month, we spent three weekends and watched all three of “The Santa Clause” movies, and last night we watched “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”.

The other fun thing I enjoy doing this time of year is reading holiday novellas and anthologies. I read a few last year, when I purchased my Nook e-reader, and now I’m hooked. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Holiday Kisses by HelenKay Dimon, Shannon Stacey, Jaci Burton, and Alison Kent
  • Small Town Christmas by Jill Shalvis
  • Holiday Sparks by Shannon Stacey
  • The Christmas Cookie Chronicles by Lori Wilde
  • To All A Good Night by Donna Kauffman, Jill Shalvis, and HelenKay Dimon
  • Kissing Santa Claus by Donna Kauffman, Jill Shalvis, and HelenKay Dimon

I was fortunate to attend RWA Nationals this year. And while I haven’t made a dent in all the books I brought back, I have read an amazing number of books this year. I’ve been making a concerted effort to broaden the authors and genres I read, which is generally contemporary. Given the time of year, it seems fitting to share with you some of my favorite books and authors from 2011.

  • Lucky Harbor Series by Jill Shalvis (Simply Irresistible, The Sweetest Thing, and Head Over Heels)
  • The Next Always by Nora Roberts
  • Until There Was You and My One and Only by Kristan Higgins
  • Wild Man Creek, Harvest Moon, Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robin Carr
  • Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis
  • Exclusively Yours, Undeniably Yours, and Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey
  • Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • First Lady by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich
  • Seducing the Duchess and Romancing the Countess by Ashley March
  • Borrowing the Bride by Roni Denholtz
  • Lady of Scandal and A Perfect Scandal by Tina Gabrielle
  • The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann
  • The Perfect Mistress by Victoria Alexander
  • My One and Only by Kristan Higgins
  • A Touch of Scandal by Jennifer Haymore
  • The “In Death” Series by J.D. Robb

I could go on, but that would take us well into 2012. Suffice it to say, I’ve read a lot of fantastic books this year, all which help inspire and motivate me to improve my craft.

How about you? What books couldn’t you put down this year? Leave a comment between today and December 23rd letting us know some of your favorite books from 2011, and you’ll be entered to win (assuming you live in the United States and aren’t one of my fellow Femmes) a copy of Christmas in Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis. Jill is one of the newer author’s I’ve started following and I love all her books. This particular book contains the first two novels in her Lucky Harbor series. I’ll post the lucky winner on Christmas Eve.

Here’s hoping you and your family have a safe and wonderful Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, and New Year.


Leave a comment


  1. Nicole Doran

     /  December 19, 2011

    Sounds like the same stuff goes on in my house..baking to music..watching the Grinch..all those traditions that I love. I recently read Janet Chapman’s Highlander For The Holidays. I love all her braw Scots and Maine setting. Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2012!

  2. Hi Nicole. I’ll have to look into Janet Chapman’s books. Thanks for sharing and have a great holiday and New Year!

  3. I couldn’t put down “Waking Up with the Duke” by Lorraine Heath and almost anything by Jane Feather, who I discovered this year. I also enjoyed debuts by Lecia Cornwall (“Secrets of a Proper Countess”) and “The Lady’s Secret” by Joanna Chambers.

  4. Janet Pepsin

     /  December 19, 2011

    Maria…what a great list of books. I just finished My One and Only…can’t wait to read more of Kristan’s books. Like you, I have a stack from the conference! Good on you for getting your baking done…I am starting today.

    My favorite Christmas reads…my anthology of Victorian short stories, including Dickens.

  5. Julie Schroeder w/a Jenna Blue

     /  December 19, 2011

    You have lots of my fav’s listed here! More favorites from the past year are Laura Griffin’s “Un” series, the last one was Unforgivable and Allison Brennan and of course Izzy’s story from Suzanne Brockmann. And I too have a Christmas one waiting bedside: Lisa Kleypas’s Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor. Waiting for my stocking are two of Robyn Carr’s (yes, sadly, I buy for my own stocking–but at least I get what I want!) and on pre-order is the new Eloisa James…oh so many more favorites waiting bedside, many of whom are fellow NJRW members, like Lisa Verge Higgins, Terri Brisbin, Lisa Dale, and Tina Sickler (I’m missing some here!). But I also must add that I have some new favorite authors–yet to be published, but it’s only a matter of time. You femmes are powerful writers and I can’t wait to read more! xo, Julie

    • Thanks for your kind words, Julie. I can’t wait for the day when we’re celebrating all of our publication. I need to get more into Romantic Suspense. I’ve been listening to J.D. Robb’s In Death series. They are fabulous in audio book format. The narrator does a fantastic with all the voices (love the Irish lilt in Roarke!). I started reading Suzanne Brockmann right before the NJRW conference and have been wanting to read Allison Brennan. She always provides a lot of valuable advice on the RWA loops that I find very honest and encouraging. Merry Christmas!

  6. Great list, and I love the suggestions coming in!

    Anything by Maya Banks is always on my favorites list. The Highlander series she did this year was phenomenal. Also Victoria Dahl’s Donovan Brewery series this year blew me away.

    And, “Silk for Seduction” for Loretta Chase is probably my favorite book of the year. (And thanks to Femme Michele for giving me a heads up on that one!)

    • Maya and Victoria area also on my list to read. I need to start a list (now I feel like Santa) and work through it in the new year. A good amount of my backlog on my bookshelf are recommendations you gave me at Nationals. Thanks for that!

  7. Maria, I have such a nice picture in my head of you baking and singing Christmas songs. Adds a bit more sweetness to the dough!

    You’ve listed a few of my favorite authors as well: Susan Elizabeth Phillips – Heaven, Texas is right at the top -Who could resist that scene with Bobby Tom in the hot tub! My favorite Jill Shalvis book is The Trouble with Paradise. But Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann is one of my all time favorites.

    • Thanks, Michele. Thankfully, the 3-day baking marathon has almost ended-just pitzelles left to make tomorrow night. Bobby Tom is a favorite character in SEP’s books. I need to start going through Jill Shalvis’s backlist. Just what I need, more books to read 🙂

  8. Gasp! You’ve never had a pizelle? Oh, the lemon are my favorite. Flat Italian cookies you make in a press that looks like a waffle iron. Yum.

  9. Congratulations to Nicole Doran!!! By random draw, you are the winner of a copy of Christmas in Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis. I’ll email you offline to arrange sending it to you. Thanks for following our blog and Happy Holidays!

    Maria and The Violet Femmes


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