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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

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PODCAST – The Quest for the Christmas Spirit

So much excitement!!

The podcast is back! Huzzah!!

And it’s back because @BookElfLeeds is doing a new reading challenge – the 12 reads of Christmas!! Huzzah huzzah!!!

She will mostly be reading books that follow a strict and very complex criteria (reviews will start tomorrow) which she sums up as

‘someone has lost (or does not have) The Christmas Spirit. There is The Christmas Miracle (oft aided by small children or animals). The person therefore finds (or gains) The Christmas Spirit.’

Also, it has to have Christmas in the title.

From A Christmas Carol to It’s a Wonderful Life, hallmark movies and children’s classics, tv specials and Christmas music – we take a moment to appreciate the hope behind the holiday.

One of the first books in the challenge was called ‘The Nine Lives of Christmas’ by Sheila Roberts, which was turned into a Hallmark Christmas movie in 2014, starring a former Superman.Enjoy!

mp3 LINK

m4a LINK

Christmas Read-a-Long – Greenshaw’s Folly

THE ADVENTURES OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING

AGATHA CHRISTIE

christmas read a long

There are six short stories featuring two of Agatha Christie’s most beloved detectives – Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. The plan is that we shall read one a week in the build up to Christmas

BLURB

Raymond West’s niece is invited by an elderly recluse to help compile her late grandfather’s diaries for publication. After only two days at their sprawling home of Greenshaw’s Folly, she witnesses a murder, which only Miss Marple can solve…

  1. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding – 15th November
  2. The Mystery of the Spanish Chest – 22nd November
  3. The Under Dog – 29th November
  4. Four and Twenty Blackbirds – 6th December
  5. The Dream – wc 13th December
  6. Greenshaw’s Folly – wc 20th December

If you decide to join us, please tweet your thoughts via #LBCReadalong

Christmas Read-a-Long – The Dream

THE ADVENTURES OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING

AGATHA CHRISTIE

christmas read a long

There are six short stories featuring two of Agatha Christie’s most beloved detectives – Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. The plan is that we shall read one a week in the build up to Christmas

BLURB

Hercule Poirot is slightly reluctant to answer a letter demanding his services by the reclusive and eccentric millionaire Benedict Farley. Entering the strange world that Mr. Farley inhabits and accounting for each stagy nuanced oddity

Poirot is a little at a loss at his ability to help. Poirot is apparently meant to consult on Mr. Farley’s reoccurring dream, of death, something not usually within his remit. The dream haunts Mr. Farley and only one week after dismissing the bemused Poirot the dream becomes real.

What ensues is a perplexing short story in which each member of the Farley household that Poirot questions seems more puzzled than the one before.

  1. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding – 15th November
  2. The Mystery of the Spanish Chest – 22nd November
  3. The Under Dog – 29th November
  4. Four and Twenty Blackbirds – 6th December
  5. The Dream – wc 13th December
  6. Greenshaw’s Folly – wc 20th December

If you decide to join us, please tweet your thoughts via #LBCReadalong

Christmas Read-a-Long – Four and Twenty Blackbirds

THE ADVENTURES OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING

AGATHA CHRISTIE

christmas read a long

There are six short stories featuring two of Agatha Christie’s most beloved detectives – Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. The plan is that we shall read one a week in the build up to Christmas

BLURB

Hercule Poirot is about to tuck into a very traditional English supper with his old friend Bonnington, when the habit and ritual of a lone diner sparks his interest more than the chestnut turkey.

The lone diner has eaten there on Thursdays and Tuesdays for the last ten years like clockwork, but, no one at the restaurant even knows his name.

However, ‘Old Father Time,’ as they have fondly nicknamed him, suddenly stops coming and Poirot believes that he might have picked up that one essential clue that could shed light on a man who no one really knows. Could what Old Father Time strangely ordered as his final meal prove to be the only thing that makes this suspicious?

 

  1. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding – 15th November
  2. The Mystery of the Spanish Chest – 22nd November
  3. The Under Dog – 29th November
  4. Four and Twenty Blackbirds – 6th December
  5. The Dream – wc 13th December
  6. Greenshaw’s Folly – wc 20th December

If you decide to join us, please tweet your thoughts via #LBCReadalong

REVIEW – The Night Before Christmas – West Yorkshire Playhouse

Carol doesn’t feel very Christmassy. What’s all the fuss about? Trees, tinsel, baubles, pudding, presents…? What a lot of nonsense. Definitely not for her.

That is until the night before Christmas when Elf 30046, all stripey tights and pointy ears, falls down her chimney and they both tumble into a bigger adventure than they could ever have imagined. Will Elf ever do as he’s told? Will Carol learn to have fun? Will they ever spot the speeding sleigh and most importantly of all… can they find Father Christmas before it’s too late?

A beautiful, funny and delightful story of friendship and the true meaning of Christmas, The Night Before Christmas is the perfect present for little elves, a magical treat for the family this winter.

[youtube https://youtu.be/ZqPr3DrjuRo]

In what is becoming a bit of a tradition for us, Helen and I recently attended the West Yorkshire Playhouse for their annual Christmas show. After last years triumph (see our Father Christmas review HERE), we tried to mute our expectations – after all – what were the chances that we would be treated to yet another funny yet touching production that perfectly embodied the spirit of the Christmas season?

Christmas 09

Carol doesn’t like Christmas, presents, or the affable Roger

An hour later we left as giddy as all the (millions of) tiny happy humans dancing on the stage before us! Our Christmas has officially begun.

Christmas 08

Poor Elfie and Carol – NOT a meet cute

Director Amy Leach sets this charming story during the 1950’s, with the set, props and music all from this era. It was rather lovely to watch familiar oldies enchant a new generation. The set design was just wonderful – a feature I’ve come to expect from the WY Playhouse. And the backstage team pulled out all the tricks to delight, enthrall and capture the imagination of their audience – aside from a beautifully compact home recreated on the stage, there was snow (which instantly had Helen all misty eyed! She’s a sucker for Christmas based snow), misdirection and ladders – allowing for the production to literally take to the skies at one point!

christmas 07

Crowd interaction and participation was encouraged at every stage. Indeed Carol is forced to chase Elfie across the auditorium, through the seats and back again at one point. At first, some of the little people were a bit nervous about the rather huge elf and the very grumpy Carol hurtling past them but within moments they were wrapped up in the story line – all worries washed away by the energy and joy expressed on stage.

christmas 03

Possibly my single favourite  moment came towards the end of the play. Carol has been left a present and the audience – predominantly ages between 4 – 7 years – helpfully shouted up to the stage to help her find it. Poor Carol wasn’t really understanding until one grown man – obviously caught up in everything – bellowed out in a deep voice ‘look for your present behind you!’.

Christmas 10

James Barrett – a delightful Elfie

However the greatest accolades must be saved for Rose Warlow (Carol) and James Barrett (Elfie). They bring to life their characters and throw themselves into every piece – whether it is running, jumping, dancing or tracking down Santa – with an energy and conviction that brought every person there with them on their adventure.

Of greater importance perhaps then their impeccable chemistry, timing and vivacity was the timeless warmth that they projected onto all of us. Christmas is meant to be fun, it’s meant to be joyous and it’s meant to bring us together. I think this is a show that inspires that feeling in us all.

Christmas 11

You can read Helen’s review HERE

tl;dr – Go See It!

Written by: Robert Alan Evans
Age: 2-6 years
Director: Amy Leach

WYP_red_grey

The Night Before Christmas at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Buy tickets HERE

 

 

Theatre Reviews

Christmas Read-a-Long –

THE ADVENTURES OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING

AGATHA CHRISTIE

christmas read a long

There are six short stories featuring two of Agatha Christie’s most beloved detectives – Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. The plan is that we shall read one a week in the build up to Christmas

BLURB

‘One looks for humanity in these matters’

Pretty Lily Margrave, smart little black hat pinned to her golden hair, is not convinced Hercule Poirot is needed in the matter of Sir Atwell’s murder at all. At the request of her employer, the emphatic Lady Atwell, she has had to recount the precise details of what happened that evening, ten days ago in the Tower room even though the victim’s nephew is incarcerated and charged with the murder.

But, Lady Atwell’s persistent bee in her bonnet drives Poirot up to the great house, Mon Repos, to see if he can look beyond the cold facts presented by Miss Margrave and look for the humanity in the matter. Poirot soon takes up residence in Mon Repos, ensconcing himself in the household and all its nooks and crannies.

However, whilst at first the family are struck by his ardent endeavour to find out what befell Sir Atwell in the Tower room, their disquiet at having a ‘ferreting little spy’ going through their rooms becomes too much for some to bare. With his signature ingenuity, a scrap of material and the contents of a tiny box lead the detective to uncover who is behind this violent act.

 

  1. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding – 15th November
  2. The Mystery of the Spanish Chest – 22nd November
  3. The Under Dog – 29th November
  4. Four and Twenty Blackbirds – 6th December
  5. The Dream – wc 13th December
  6. Greenshaw’s Folly – wc 20th December

If you decide to join us, please tweet your thoughts via #LBCReadalong

Christmas Read-a-Long – The Mystery of the Spanish Chest

THE ADVENTURES OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING

AGATHA CHRISTIE

christmas read a long

There are six short stories featuring two of Agatha Christie’s most beloved detectives – Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. The plan is that we shall read one a week in the build up to Christmas

BLURB

Major Hastings and Hercule Poirot are not interested in the case of the Spanish Chest, so obviously has it been reported in the papers that it seems an entirely closed book.

But, when Hastings persuades Poirot to attend a rather fabulous party given by Lady Chatterton there is someone sequestered upstairs waiting for the pair’s help.

She’s so sure that there has been some great mistake and is desperate for their help. Will the contents of the dead man’s pockets reveal to the inscrutable eye of Hercule Poirot who the culprit is?

  1. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding – 15th November
  2. The Mystery of the Spanish Chest – 22nd November
  3. The Under Dog – 29th November
  4. Four and Twenty Blackbirds – 6th December
  5. The Dream – wc 13th December
  6. Greenshaw’s Folly – wc 20th December

If you decide to join us, please tweet your thoughts via #LBCReadalong

Christmas Read-a-Long – The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding

 

THE ADVENTURES OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING

AGATHA CHRISTIE

christmas read a long

There are six short stories featuring two of Agatha Christie’s most beloved detectives – Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. The plan is that we shall read one a week in the build up to Christmas

BLURB

In this delightful tale, an Eastern Prince arrives in England with some family jewels which he’s having reset as a gift for his fiancee. However, the Prince also has a mistress; she asks to wear one particularly enchanting piece that features a huge ruby, and then promptly disapppears with it.

Poirot discovers a connection with a house party at the home of Colonel and Mrs. Lacey, and in order to pursue his investigation an invitation is procured for him to the Laceys’, ostensibly to enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas.

He will need all his deft skills and little grey cells to solve this crime!

  1. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding – 15th November
  2. The Mystery of the Spanish Chest – 22nd November
  3. The Under Dog – 29th November
  4. Four and Twenty Blackbirds – 6th December
  5. The Dream – wc 13th December
  6. Greenshaw’s Folly – wc 20th December

If you decide to join us, please tweet your thoughts via #LBCReadalong

Christmas Meet Up

Date for your diary – Friday 4th of December

Venue – White Swan, City Centre

Time – 7:00pm

 CHRISTMAS DO

christmas book tree

Hey there everyone,

As regular book clubbers we know, we always take the month of December off from the various clubs and meet ups – something about spending time with loved ones and preparing for the 25th (don’t think I don’t see you squeezing in an extra one in there LBC Outlaws!) .

However, to ensure that we don’t have to miss each other too much for too long – all LBC-ers (and our friends, pet authors, maths jammers, clandestine cake clubbers, comic book lovers and (il)literate people) are most cordially invited to hit the town together for a bit of a sesh!

White Swan will be setting aside a bit of space for us to meet up, natter and imbide liquidy substances.

 

HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!!

christmas books

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