Category Archives: LBC Challenges

Christmas Reading Challenge – 12 – Maybe this Christmas – Sarah Morgan

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the 12th and final review!

Again, massive thanks to @BookElfLeeds!

Who has lost the Christmas Spirit?

Ski instructor Brenna, working at the Snow Crystal ski resort in her small Vermont home town, and sexy former world champion downhill skier Tyler O’Neil.

In what form does the Christmas Miracle occur?

Being Honest With Each Other About Feelings.

This was a proper mushy old fashioned love story, and I was completely smitten by it. WHAT a great way to end a challenge that has had its ups and downs, on a seriously sexy high.

Brenna has been in love with Tyler since year dot, but he apparently hasn’t looked at her twice “like that”. He’s travelled the world being a champion skier and all round playboy ever since he was a teenager, and now he’s back at Snow Crystal with his teenage daughter, attempting to get back to normal after an accident ruined his skiing career.

Brenna is super confident on the slopes, has great friends and a job she loves, but she hates confrontation, and would die before letting Tyler know what she really felt. When Tyler’s sister in law Kayla, who stars in a previous book in the series this is taken from, decides to throw them together Tyler starts to recognize his own feelings for Brenna may go beyond friendship.

I love an unrequited love comes true story, this is purely escapist joyous fun. Easy to read but still well written, I’ve found yet another author that I will be happily looking out for again.

I also enjoyed how Festive this book was without being preachy or obvious. I’ve never been skiing, and don’t especially long for high speeds or danger in sport, but this book made me want to go to Vermont and be cold!

The book also has some really good characters, teenager daughter Jess especially was a joy, and I want to read the romances connected to Tyler’s two brothers that are the first two books in the series now!

So, that’s it! That’s all my Christmas Books done and dusted, and I’m not going to lie, I’m quite chuffed about it! I’m glad I took on this challenge as it has made me read books I normally wouldn’t touch and find new writers whose works I would happily read more of.

But….

This wasn’t a challenge and it didn’t really make me a bigger or better person. I didn’t feel stretched by this, and although I did feel warm and fuzzy a few times, it was in a purely disposable way. I feel that I’ve found a version of the Christmas Spirit that is, itself, purely disposable a fleeting pleasure rather than a message to last all year.

There are readers for whom these books do matter, they do make people change for the better and give them hope during dark times. In the acknowledgements for Maybe This Christmas, Sarah Morgan thanks these readers who have taken the time to let her know how much here books have helped them, and for those readers, I hope you carry on finding value and hope in these books. For me personally though, I’m going to take a VERY sharp turn to the left. I’ve got Shami Chakrabarti’s On Women on my desk to read and I’ve just started Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong which I’ve been meaning to read for years. I need a bit of misery and anger now, and to be honest I’m really looking forward to it!          

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

Or just click here!

Review 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas

Review 02 – The Christmas Secret

Review 03 – Last Christmas

Review 04 – Lakeshore Christmas

Review 05 – Home for Christmas

Review 06 – Christmas Magic

Review 07 – Claude’s Christmas Adventure

Review 08 – Christmas Eve at Friday Harbour 

Review 09 – Christmas for One

Review 10 – A Redbird Christmas

Review 11 – Angels at Christmas

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Christmas Reading Challenge – 10 – A Redbird Christmas – Fannie Flagg

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the 10th review!

Two in one day, you might notice – but as the last one wasn’t quite as full of the Christmas Spirit as we would have liked, I thought this might make up for it…as it’s Christmas and all!

Who has lost the Christmas Spirit?

Oswald T. Campbell, an orphan named after a can of soup, who is told by his doctor he has months to live unless he leaves Chicago for warmer climbs.

In what form does the Christmas Miracle occur?

The residents of the town of Lost River, Alabama, especially tame redbird Jack!

 

OK so I totally cheated. This one, lent to me by N, was supposed to be my last read of the challenge. But I was in such need of Guaranteed Christmas Spirit after the last one that I went for my favourite, Fannie Flagg. She didn’t disappoint.

We’ve talked loads about how much we love Fannie Flagg on previous podcasts, but for those not in the know, this is the woman who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café which was made into the film starring Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy and is just GORGEOUS. She’s written loads of books written in close knit Southern communities that are incredibly romanticised but I kind of have a love for that sort of Americana, even though I now recognise it as being horribly problematic in terms of white washing a culture.

This one is a short standalone book which follows a series of middle aged folks learning to appreciate life again. Oswald is a good man with problems, who slowly starts to appreciate the wonders of the world through taking the time to learn about it and try out his own talents. Other characters delight with their own stories of Christmas Miracles including learning to love yourself and take pride in your community. Fannie Flagg is very good at structuring packed books that don’t feel cluttered, and creates wonderful little insights into a world of small town living where women form societies for secretly doing good deeds whilst wearing polka dots, and the annual Valentine’s Day Dance is the social event of the season. It made me want to have a pot luck dinner.

This is really really old fashioned, considering it was published in 2004, and some of the language is very un-PC, but if you want pure nostalgia for a time that never really existed, you cannot beat Fannie Flagg.

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

Or just click here!

Review 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas

Review 02 – The Christmas Secret

Review 03 – Last Christmas

Review 04 – Lakeshore Christmas

Review 05 – Home for Christmas

Review 06 – Christmas Magic

Review 07 – Claude’s Christmas Adventure

Review 08 – Christmas Eve at Friday Harbour 

Review 09 – Christmas for One

Christmas Reading Challenge – 09 – Christmas for One – Amanda Prowse

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the 9th review!

Who is in need of the Christmas Spirit?

Single Mum with Tragic Past, Meg

In what form does the Christmas Miracle appear?

The amazingly affordable version of New York in which she finds herself.

I really struggled with this book. Meg starts off as a sympathetic character who I wanted good things for, but just ended up making a series of ridiculously bad choices and subsequently being down trodden again and again, and still came out the other side on top, but in a way that, if it were real life, would be considered ridiculous. If this was one of your mates you’d be grimacing for them.

Meg is one of the managing team for a chain of patisseries that are known for selling beautiful cakes in cosy settings. She grew up estranged from her mum, living in care for some of the time, and found out she was the “other woman” to the father of her unborn child when he was killed. Fortunately she was taken in, pregnant and alone, by the owners of the patisserie chain for whom, five years later, she now works. She also lives in the flat above the chain’s flag chain store on Curzon Street in Mayfair and her son is looked after by one of the co-founders who also lives in the building. She doesn’t mention any friends outside of the company, apart from those who she was friends with because they were associated with an ex-boyfriend who she dumped for “not loving her for who she was”.

Meg gets to go to New York at a moment’s notice to fix a problem with the opening of a new branch of the business, and whilst therefore meets obviously handsome architect Edd, who sweeps her off her feet. Within days they are professing their love for each other and all is right with the world. Edd also has seemingly endless wealth and takes her on a whirlwind tour of all the places in New York you’ve heard of, (I costed this whirlwind tour, and, before sundries like hot dogs and cocktails, visiting the Empire State Building, the New York Aquarium, afternoon tea and the Plaza and ice skating at the Rockefeller centre in 24 hours, plus all the taxis, would cost you about $630-about £470, two weeks before Christmas, spent on a whim to impress a woman you’ve literally just met. This is a different kind of Christmas to the ones in the Small Town America books I’ve been used to in this challenge).

When Meg gets home she is just desperate to get back to her love, and encouraged to do so by her friends at the patisserie and her son’s grandmother, leaves her four your old son to have Christmas with her friends in order to get back to New York. Spoilers, it all goes wrong from there.

This book didn’t make me feel Christmassy and didn’t fill me with good cheer. It made me cross and sad. Meg needed good friends her own age who could tell her she was being a knob, Edd was an absolute dickhead with a wallet, New York comes across as an unreal fairyland, all the madcap subplots were a little bit tasteless, and I couldn’t quite get over how easily Meg was won over to have Christmas without her son-this just doesn’t ring true to me, I’m not a parent, but I can’t see the single parents I know ever contemplating this.

I’ve read really good things about Amanda Prowse’s books, so hopefully this one is just a fluke, but if you’re looking for Christmas Sprit I’m afraid I couldn’t find much of it here.

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

Or just click here!

Review 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas

Review 02 – The Christmas Secret

Review 03 – Last Christmas

Review 04 – Lakeshore Christmas

Review 05 – Home for Christmas

Review 06 – Christmas Magic

Review 07 – Claude’s Christmas Adventure

Review 08 – Christmas Eve at Friday Harbour 

Christmas Reading Challenge – 08 – Christmas Eve at Friday Harbour – Lisa Kleypas

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the 8th review!

Who is in need of the Christmas Spirit?

The Nolan family of Friday Harbor, in the San Juan Islands, Washington State (which sounds like a beautiful place)

In what form does the Christmas Miracle occur?

Whimsical toy shop owner Maggie, who is in need of a teeny miracle of her own.

Ooff this one got me straight in the gut. I’ve clearly been reading far too many of these now, as I was completely invested in this short, easy to digest story.

When Victoria Nolan is killed in a car accident, her brother Mark is made guardian of her daughter, Holly. Mark is a confirmed bachelor, along with his brother Sam, living in their home town of Friday Harbor. This is a part of the world I’d never heard of before, but apparently there’s a load of islands off the coast of Washington state that are basically a mini-paradise of nature trails, vineries, whale watching, art and culture, all with that quintessential small-town-America appeal vital to a good Christmas yarn. I did find myself ideally looking up holidays there, it sounds just delightful.

Anyway, Mark and Sam try, bless them, but Holly, having lost her mum at the age of six, is a little bit lost and stops speaking. It is only when the wander into the new toy shop on the island and meet lovely shop keeper and magic-enthusiast Maggie that she begins to open up.

This for me was when the magic happened. I just LOVED Maggie. She’s got a super tragic back story and has lots of healing to do before she can fall for the handsome hero. I loved her toy shop, I loved her relationship with Holly, and I just fell for her.

Mark is a good guy thrown into a shitty situation of losing his sister and learning about love through adopting his niece, but, again, I just fell for it. I don’t know if it was the fact I’ve put my Christmas lights up and finished this book cuddled up on the sofa with them twinkling in the background but I found this short book utterly charming, and was delighted to discover through GoodReads it is part of a series, the first that I will definitely be exploring further. The best thing about this challenge so far has been discovering new authors I probably would have otherwise avoided, and turns out Lisa Kleypas has written a load of bodice rippers which I just love and will be requesting for my library shortly!

This book was made into the Hallmark movie Christmas With Holly (much cheesier title) in 2012, which also looks utterly charming, Sunday morning hangover whilst wrapping the presents viewing. Lovely stuff.

 

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

Or just click here!

Review 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas

Review 02 – The Christmas Secret

Review 03 – Last Christmas

Review 04 – Lakeshore Christmas

Review 05 – Home for Christmas

Review 06 – Christmas Magic

Review 07 – Claude’s Christmas Adventure

Christmas Reading Challenge – 07 – Claude’s Christmas Adventure – Sophie Pembroke

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the 7th review!

Who has lost the Christmas Spirit?

The residents of Maple Drive, especially former solder-turned-postman Jack and craft-obsessed primary school teacher Holly.

In what form does the Christmas Miracle occur?

The cute greedy snuffly French Bulldog, Claude.

I borrowed this book purely for the cover. I have a very soft spot for bulldogs in general, and their grumpy faces, and I figured I’d already read a cat-themed Christmas book, so needed to even out the scale a bit.

The McCawley family, Daisy, Oliver and their three children, are on their way to spend Christmas in France with Daisy’s parents. After packing up their dog, Claude, in his crate he accidentally escapes, chasing next door’s cat Perdita. The family leaves, and Claude is left alone, at the mercy of the rest of the residents of Maple Drive.

Through a series of adventures, Claude ends up bringing the normally lonely residents of the street, who would be spending Christmas either alone, or with families that hate each other, together.

This was just such a cutesy, but heart warning read. It had every single ingredient of the Christmas Miracle Bingo-stressed out mum who needs to reconnect with her husband (who needs to stop being a shit), heartbroken singles who just happen to be very very attractive, lonely older lady who has Christmas Spirit coming out of her pores, if only someone would care enough to find it, community coming together…. Even the dog and the cat end up with a truce.

Funny in parts, written from multiple points of view without falling apart at the seams, and relatable characters who actually learn from each other, but maintain their own personalities throughout, this is my favourite so far, and I would actually recommend it! This also has Hallmark Movie written all over it, I predict madcap Christmas Film Adaptation in the next few years. Sophie Pembroke is a Harlequin Romance writer who has a fair few Christmas romance books out. I enjoyed her writing, and will be seeking out more of her stuff in the future-I think I’ve found my 2018 beach read book already!

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

Or just click here!

Review 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas

Review 02 – The Christmas Secret

Review 03 – Last Christmas

Review 04 – Lakeshore Christmas

Review 05 – Home for Christmas

Review 06 – Christmas Magic

Christmas Reading Challenge – 05 – Home for Christmas – Debbie Macomber

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the 5th review!

Who has lost the Christmas Spirit?

In the first story it’s Texas cowboy Cal and his Big City Wife Jane. In the second story, a train carriage full of strangers.

How does the Christmas Miracle appear?

Through Talking To Each Other. This is a message of quite a few Christmas stories, apparently, that honesty and listening are Good Things in relationships. And Learning About Emotional Labour.

Debbie Macomber is pretty much the whole reason I’ve taken on this challenge. She is the “official storyteller of Christmas” according to her website and you will see a Christmas book by her out pretty much every year. She has written hundreds, literally hundreds, of books, several of which have been adapted as Hallmark movies, included the Cedar Cove series starring Andie McDowell, and is an incredibly popular and beloved romance and general warm and fuzzies author. I’ve never read anything by her and am so happy to correct that obvious mistake.

This book was two short novellas in one, so I am definitely going to read another Debbie Macomber by the end of the challenge as I want to see what she’s like in a full-length novel version.

The first story comes from her Heart of Texas series, set in the small town of Promise, and includes characters that are clearly part of a longer story arc. Cal and Jane are not hugely happily married, Cal is a bit of a dick to be honest. When Jane’s father is taken ill and she has to move back to California with the two small children in tow, the apparent cracks in the marriage grow wider, exacerbated by the interference of Alan Rickman’s Evil Secretary From Love Actually style husband hunter Nicole. Needless to say, Cal has till Christmas to get his act together in order to save his family. With a weirdly feminist-without-mentioning-it message about emotional labour and its impact on women, this is a nice story with a good message.

The second story, which is a standalone short, is just pure Christmas schmaltz joy. A group of strangers, including requisite Stressed Businessman, New Mother Who Isn’t Coping Because Her Partner Is Being A Douche, Cute Child, and Grieving But Ultimately Decent Widow, are trapped together in a small railway station during a snow storm on Christmas Eve. The obvious happens and each, in their own way, rediscovers the magic of Christmas. I read this story in one sitting on the train home from work and, not going to lie, I did look around at my fellow passengers and think “if this was us, what would happen?” and it did give me fuzzies because my thought was “we’d be alright”. A reminder that most people are decent if given enough time and room to be so, which I think we all need right now.

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

Or just click here!

Review 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas

Review 02 – The Christmas Secret

Review 03 – Last Christmas

Review 04 – Lakeshore Christmas

Christmas Reading Challenge – 04 – Lakeshore Christmas – Susan Wiggs

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the 4th review!

Who has lost the Christmas Spirit?

Former child-star Eddie Haven.

In what form does the Christmas Miracle appear?

Frumpy town librarian Maureen-glasses, bun, twin set and all.

You can probably figure out the issue I had with this book. I am allowing myself a three sentence rant and then I’m done, but I highly recommend “The Librarian Stereotype; Deconstructing Perceptions & Presentations of Information Work”, edited by Pagowsky and Rigby, and which I reviewed for the Journal of Radical Librarianship last year, on why the stereotypical image of frumpy librarian is problematically sexist and racist. Link HERE

The main issue I have with librarian-as frump is that it allows a the professionalization of a  femocentric career to be derailed by the assumption that value within woman hood can only be given through approval of male gaze. Maureen is valued by her community for her caring service, her family for her kind and thoughtful presence, and is clearly valued by her professional network in that she is an invited speaker at a “library meeting in Long Island” (that we never hear about other than in passing but given the time of year and location is presumably is a ALA Chapter meeting and therefore a Bloody Big Deal), and got the position of manager of a public library right out of library school, which only happens to the very very lucky, or the very very good. And yet, obviously, she has to realise that she is worthy of a man’s love in order to be happy and can only do this by putting in contacts and letting down her hair. Gah.

Right, that rant aside, I was properly sucked in to this book. Part of a longer series set in the community of Willow Lake, and including a sub-plot surrounding a young single mother making good which presumably runs throughout the series, this was a truly charming read.

The town library is in danger of closing, as public funds just aren’t available to keep it running and the Traditional Christmas Evil Capitalist won’t give the building reduced rent. At the same time, Eddie Haven is fulfilling his community service and helping with the Town Pagent…but is Eddie’s bad boy persona and apparent hatred of Christmas masking a Deeper Hurt?

Well yes, obviously it is. Really mushy in places, this gave me a couple of fuzzies, which were only slightly dampened by the ridiculous portrayal of librarianship.

On a more serious note, libraries up and down the country are being decimated by cuts, with staff being made redundant to be replaced by volunteers. There are a multitude of campaigns you can support, but the biggest difference would be to demand a professional library service and use libraries that employ people, make sure you sign your whole family up, and get to know what services your libraries provide-I recently passed my theory test through using the free practice tests available through Kirklees libraries for example.

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

Or just click here!

Review 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas

Review 02 – The Christmas Secret

Review 03 – Last Christmas

Christmas Reading Challenge – 03 – Last Christmas – Julia Williams

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the third review!

Who has lost the Christmas spirit?

Oh God, everybody

In what form does the Christmas Miracle occur?

Slight spoiler, but this is Proper It’s A Wonderful life territory here. Though the actual Christmas Miracle is “People Rejecting Consumerism”.

This is proper full blown mid to late noughties chick lit, with all the appropriate tropes. There’s the middle class couple who live beyond their means, have a stereotypically foreign and awful au pair, and Don’t Have Time For Each Other. There’s the mousy school teacher looking for love, the heart-broken single dad with the cute kid with a Secret Talent, the bossy large-bosomed matron who gets her comeuppance, and, because this is just post-credit crunch, the nasty capitalist with a hidden agenda.

The various characters all have had issues that come to a head the Christmas before, which are explored over time, and all are in need of getting their shit together. One of the sub plots involves the mental health of a partner, which isn’t dealt with as sensitively as it would be were the book written now, as our thinking about depression has changed so much in the last ten years, but apart from that, this is all rather jolly, if very predictable.

I really enjoyed this! It was incredibly nostalgic to read something that used jokes about older people talking about “Interwebs” and “Skiiing the Net” and where the teenagers still text each other. This was also incredibly Christmassy. The majority of the action is set in the village of Hope Christmas, and characters have names like Noel Tinsall. The hunky shepherd is also called Gabriel, which was pleasing. Occasional fuzzies were felt.

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

Or just click here!

Review 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas

Review 02 – The Christmas Secret

CHRISTMAS READING CHALLENGE – 02 – The Christmas Secret – Karen Swan

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the first review!

Who has lost the Christmas Spirit?

Scottish distillery owner Lachlan and management consultant/walking TED talk Alex Hyde.

What form does the Christmas Spirit take?

Depending on what way you read it either sexual passion, The Socratic Questioning Method, Friendship, or Scottish landlady Mrs Peggie.

Alex Hyde is consultant extraordinaire. Her “techniques” to get CEOs back on track has won her fortune and fame all over the world, despite being relatively young at only 31. She is called in by the Chairman of whisky company, Kentallan’s, to manage out their CEO, Lachlan, whose volatile nature and apparently poor business strategies are on the brink of ruining the company.

Of course, Lachlan turns out to be hot and mid-thirties and single, with multiple problems of his own, trust issues, and a whole heap of history. He’s definitely in need of a Christmas Miracle. Alex herself is a designer brand-checking city girl who is disgusted by the idea of sharing a bathroom at the quaint Islay farmhouse she ends up staying in whilst working on Lachlan. She won’t touch shortbread and prefers vodka to a nice dram. Clearly in need of a miracle herself.

As Alex learns more about Lachlan’s life, and the distillery, she begins to unravel a complicated man who just needs to learn to love again. Can she save the business? And can she save Lachlan? Or will then end up saving each other?

I’m not sure what to make of this book. The author has clearly done her research into the whisky industry, and tells us all about it in great detail. My boyfriend is an Islay whisky nut, so I found this really interesting, but I’m not sure how much it advanced the romance plot! It read in parts as if she went to Islay on holiday and fell in love with it (and whisky tasting!), and had also recently learnt a bit about Socratic questioning and how it can be used within management consultation, then had to write a book because she was contractually obliged to do so, so decided to mash these two things together. There’s a flashback-a-hundred-years subplot that doesn’t work and feel tagged on, and parts where Alex is doing her management bollocks or describing the production of whisky I skim read because to be honest they were really really boring. Alex’s “consultations” were especially painful to read, but I am not the target market as I think that most of the self-help market is bollocks. If that’s not you, you might find these bits interesting, even enlightening, me, I’ll stick with Inspirobot

BUT I did end up enjoying this book. I bought it at Manchester Piccadilly train station and read the first half on a very busy Saturday night train with white noise in my ears and it did distract me in a lovely escapism way. The history of Islay is really interesting, part of me wanted her to expand that bit and get rid of the business-speak side.

It was also a bit weird to be reading a book set in December 2017 where the characters are of an age with me, but speak in a way I just do not recognise-they talk like chick lit characters have been talking for the past twenty years, and therefore came across as more like people in middle age rather than early thirties. The occasional use of the word “hashtag” doth not a late-millennial make, Alex herself was just a completely unbelievable character. Lachlan, meanwhile, steps straight off the pages of Danielle Steele.

The best characters in this are the Scottish landlady, Mrs Peggie, and her silent but amazing farmer husband. The subplot of the history of the sinking of the Tuscania and the affect it had on the island in genuinely moving and I’d love to read another romance novel that centres on this

Karen Swan has a back-catalogue of Christmas yarns that I am keen to delve into, and I’m glad this challenge found me a new author that I will be exploring further-I would never normally have bought this book. Again, no major warm and fuzzies, but I will be adding her name to my beach-read wishlist.

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

Or just click here!

Review 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas

CHRISTMAS READING CHALLENGE – 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas – Sheila Roberts

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the first review!

Who has lost the Christmas Spirit?

Firefighter and all-round hunk, Zach. Zach’s a basically decent guy with an unfortunate penchant for treating women as objects, but it’s not his fault, man, he is issues.

What form does the Christmas Miracle occur?

An old ginger cat called Ambrose. Ambrose is on his last life (the ninth of the title), and feels guilty that he’s wasted the rest of them. He just wants to live! He promises The Christmas Spirit that he will make someone’s life better if only he can live, and guess whose life that ends up being…

Hyper-masculine Zach doesn’t need women, they’re nothing but trouble, and relationships only end in misery, don’t they? But when he rescues Ambrose from the snarling jaws of a Rottweiler, Ambrose makes it his personal mission to make Zach’s life better, which obviously means getting him a decent mate.

The chosen love interest is Merilee, who, sad upon sad, used to be fat. But don’t worry, gang, she isn’t any more! She now has a “hot body” and is cute in an elfish red haired way. But of course, she has zero self-esteem. Because she used to be fat. Sad.

This book is a mix of mad-cap cat inspired japes and fatphobia. There are baddies and goodies, but the line between the two is very much Do You Like Cats? Zach’s redemption story is quite sweet, involving appreciating family and learning to accept your parents as people who make mistakes, but Merilee’s lesson that you have to buy lovely clothes and stay thin in order to achieve happiness, which is man shaped, grates. Ambrose the cat is the best thing in it. I also loved how the town had a suitably Christmassy name, “Angel Falls”, and representation of firefighters as hunky heroes with a heart.

I didn’t hate this book, but it didn’t give me many warm and fuzzies. It HAS however been adapted as a Hallmark movie, WITH BRANDON ROUTH,  which I am not going to lie, I have marked up as Future Hangover Viewing…

 

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

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