Book Review · Books

Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid [BOOK REVIEW]

Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid [BOOK REVIEW] As a whole collection of short stories, I quite enjoyed Christmas is Murder.

As a whole collection of short stories, I quite enjoyed Christmas is Murder. As I do with every book that contains multiple stories, I rate them all individually and my final rating is the average rating of them all.

Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid [BOOK REVIEW] As a whole collection of short stories, I quite enjoyed Christmas is Murder.

Pages: 246

Genre: Christmas, Short Stories, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Little, Brown Group

Format I read it in: Paperback

Rating: ★★★★

Christmas Is Murder wasn’t very Christmassy and festive as a whole, but it was very atmospheric, cold, spooky, and with a few stories indeed set during the holidays. This is the type of book you would read next to your fireplace, or Christmas tree, wrapped in a warm blanket with a cup of hot chocolate. It has a lot of twists and will keep you entertained until the very last story. 

Huge thanks to the team at LoveReading, for sending me a copy of the collection.

Below is a breakdown of my thoughts and ratings for all the stories in Christmas Is Murder, and to end on a beautiful note, special credit to Angela Harding, who illustrated the cover. Her artistic style in “October, October” was so beautiful that as soon as I laid eyes on this cover, I could immediately guess who the creator was.

01 – Happy Holidays – ★★★★

A great introduction to Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, although in retrospective, this is the only short story featuring them. I liked the plot and the immediate mystery. The only reason it’s not a 5 star is because I felt the ending was slightly rushed. However, despite that, I loved the mystery, the part where they profiled the killer and the Christmas spirit. 

02 – A Wife in a Million – ★★★★★

What an incredible short story that managed to touch on unemployment and what it can make a person do out of frustration. Very fast pace, with an unexpected twist at the very end.

03 – A Traditional Christmas – ★★★★★

Amberley House is a place full of traditions. And when someone wants to change the status-quo, not everyone in the family will allow it. But where tradition comes into place, not all disputes are resolved in a traditional way. The story was spooky, with a twist at the end, and I really enjoyed it.

04 – The Long Black Veil – ★★★★

“Everybody here in Mariott knows where and when Kenny Sheldon died, and most of them think they know why.”

I loved the small town vibe in this story, the atmosphere was intriguing and exciting. It was beautifully crafted into two different timelines, and with a short story, that can be quite hard to achieve, but Val McDermid did it beautifully!

05 – The Girl who Killed Santa Claus – ★★★★

I found this story quite funny and wholesome. The girl knows Santa doesn’t exist, and when a burglar turns up to her house on Christmas Eve, everything escalates. One thing I didn’t expect from this collection of short stories was to make me laugh out loud, but I am so glad it did!

06 – Holmes for Christmas – ★★★★

I was pleasantly surprised to see Holmes and Watson in action, especially with a nod to my lovely Balkans. It was a story inspired by the First World War assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrillo Princip. It was an interesting read and slightly longer than the rest of the stories.

07 – Ancient and Modern – ★★★★★

Wow, this story was something else! The raw emotion and the vivid descriptions blew me away. The emotional love story between Ellie and Alan. And when Alan is killed in a traffic collision, the unfair justice system strikes and brings Ellie so much pain and not nearly enough justice. Then the ultimate plot twist happens and I am so impressed by how the author manages to piece everything together so neatly. This is my favourite short story in the collection so far, without a shadow of a doubt.

08 – The Devil’s Share – ★★★★★

Waterfalls, a barrel of whiskey and a secret lying dormant for 50 years is a hell of a good plot for a story. I enjoyed this one so much, the present and the past meeting in a very powerful way, with great characters. I quite liked the fact that George Orwell was indirectly involved in the story as well, and our character inadvertently helped him finish “1984”. A lovely story with a slightly sad ending that touched my heart.

09 – Ghost Writer – ★★★★★

Intriguing story with a paranormal element. Gavin wants to be a writer, but for the love of God, cannot think of a plot line. One day, he goes to a writing course and meets Natasha. She can’t write, but she has the best story ideas and they start working as a tandem. I won’t say what happens next to keep the suspense up and avoid any spoilers, but I liked the plot twist and the ending as well. Very spooky and completely unexpected. Also, the author has a weird fascination with people dying on bicycles, it seems. 🙂 

10 – White Nights, Black Magic – ★★★★

Very cold story, like the Russian winter nights, but full of emotion. I was invested in the long distance love story of the two doctors, and how revenge is a syringe best served cold.

11 – Heartburn – ★★★

Short and sweet, and a very evil story. It took me a moment at the end and then I gasped. What a reveal, and how cleverly executed (pun intended). I enjoyed this one, but it was slightly too short, and a bit underwhelming, except for the very end.

12 – Four Calling Birds – ★★★★

Lovely story about the harsh reality miners were facing during the reign of the Iron Lady. A story about four ladies working as Bingo callers and the change of management that creates all sorts of chaos. Despite this chaos, I saw a son, whose love for his parents and justice is so strong, he is willing to do everything to make things right again.

About The Author:

Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid [BOOK REVIEW] As a whole collection of short stories, I quite enjoyed Christmas is Murder.

Val McDermid is a No. 1 bestseller whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over eleven million copies.

She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009 and was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for 2010. In 2011 she received the Lambda Literary Foundation Pioneer Award.

She writes full time and divides her time between Cheshire and Edinburgh.


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Book Review · Books

October, October by Katya Balen [BOOK REVIEW]

October, October by Katya Balen [BOOK REVIEW]


I am so glad I read October, October by Katya Balen and illustrated by Angela Harding. It is a perfect middle grade book that not only brings us to a beautiful wild adventure, but also teaches us that it’s okay to be different. Thank you to Bloomsbury and LoveReading 4 Kids, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my review.


October and her dad live in the woods. They live in a house that her dad built and enjoy the nature and the animals and the trees. They love the river and they love looking at the stars at night. It’s always been just the two of them, and that’s how it is.

And then October turns eleven. That’s the year she rescues a baby owl. That’s the year her dad fell from the tallest tree and was taken to hospital. The year when the woman who calls herself mother came back.

That’s when everything changes.

My Thoughts:

Through October’s passionate and, at the same time, innocent thoughts, we enter her world surrounded by wilderness and freedom. A child raised in the wild, whose life changes in a way she never deemed possible. She now has a new life that she needs to adjust to. But October doesn’t understand this. She doesn’t feel the need to adjust, because the wilderness is her home. Together with her dad. And now she lives in the city with this woman who calls herself mother, who tells her she needs to go to school, and who doesn’t approve of the baby owl.

“A pocket of people in a pocket of a world that’s small as a marble. We are tiny and we are everything and we are wild. We live in the woods.”

“Being wild and free is different for every person and every thing and it can be folded into the woods or whirling through the city streets. I know not everything has a perfect ending and I know that some things have a perfect place and that some things don’t and that all this can change anyway.”

With each paragraph and each chapter, I could feel October’s frustration. How her life is very unfair, and her questioning everything, trying to figure out why people want her to behave differently.

“What feels best isn’t always right, you know.”

This book resonated with me so much.

Perhaps because I was once in a similar situation to October as a child. I loved exploring the world from her point of view and I loved her wild personality. The relationship she has with her father was so precious. He understands her the most, and they get along together very well.

The story developed in a very nice way, and the ending was quite satisfying. Without giving anything away, I will just say that many characters realised many things by the end of the book. The learning journey they all went thought was very prominent and it left me with a melancholy, but also happy feeling. The ending felt very bittersweet.

“Sometimes it’s a kindness to let something go even when you love it very much.”

October, October is a beautifully written book about wilderness, happiness and freedom. The beautiful illustrations just add up to the writing and give a life to the story. I recommend it to both children and adults. A gem worth discovering!

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US

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