Top read of 2015: A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor

 

A Memory Of Violets

What they say: The author of the USA Today and New York Times bestselling novel The Girl Who Came Home has once again created an unforgettable historical novel. Step into the world of Victorian London, where the wealth and poverty exist side by side. This is the story of two long-lost sisters, whose lives take different paths, and the young woman who will be transformed by their experiences.

In 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s flower girls—orphaned and crippled children living on the grimy streets and selling posies of violets and watercress to survive.

Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a diary written by an orphan named Florrie—a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after she and her sister, Rosie, were separated. Moved by Florrie’s pain and all she endured in her brief life, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.

 

The review: It is very unusual to adore a book where the hype surrounding it is so momentous. From the second I began to read this book I was hooked. Unfortunately to now I hadn’t read much historical fiction but this is very likely to change that. The book opened with a prologue; ‘Florrie’ speaking to us of her sister as a baby, how she decided how and why she loved her so much and the bond that connected them. Life was hard for Florrie

“my leg won’t grow proper, see, cause of the polio I had as a baby. I’ve an old stick for a crutch”

and her sister, Rosie, who

“lives her life in the dark, so she does. Poor little Rosie with her useless eyes.”

Together they go about selling their flowers in Covent Garden, barely surviving and yet happy to exist solely because of their love for each other.

“And then we wait for the morning to come and the flowers to arrive. Just me an’ Little Sister. Waiting in the dark. ‘Don’t let go, Rosie,’ I whisper. ‘Don’t let go.’”

The descriptions of their living conditions reeled me in and contrasted spectacularly with those of the flowers they sold, spectacular beauties of varying hues that illuminated the dark, gloomy streets of London.

We were soon introduced to Mr Shaw’s Training Home for Watercress and Flower Girls as Matilda Harper(Tilly) began her train journey to become assistant housemother. Throughout the book we were given snapshots of what Tilly was running from, and I felt for her. The characters she met here were wonderful, so alive that, again, I was right there with them, watching the bustling housekeeper and the girls, of varying disabilities, who had such a talent and dedication towards their work with flowers. I loved especially how Tilly had remembered them all in terms of what they were lacking, but she soon came to see and understand their personalities, teaching her a thing or two!

The drama in this book was flawless. My heart broke as I read the diary entries detailing ‘Flora’s journey’ and was nervous about what had happened to her beloved sister. The secrets that surrounded Florrie and Rosie Flynn, as well as that which Tilly was running from, were revealed perfectly, with surprises and shocks that hit you hard.

I read the paperback of this book and to be honest I couldn’t imagine an e-book version; the paperback was exquisite. It was everything the content was, beautiful, breathtaking, charming. On the bookshelf that displays our scant collection of adults books (we bring adults books to the charity to allow our childrens’ books collection to flourish) it was the one that screamed to be read, matching only Kate Morton’s gorgeous ‘The Secret Keeper.’ That being said, I think this could be perfect in audioformat, it reads the way I remember books such as ‘Under The Hawthorn Tree’ and ‘The Wildflower Girl’. At the end of the book, there are notes from the memoirs of Albert Shaw, and these were such a bonus, I absolutely devoured them and Ms. Gaynor shot up even more in my estimation that she could take notes such as these and yet do them justice in such a magnificent way. I’ve seen this as quite a few people’s top read for 2015 and I’ll join them. Cannot wait to read more of Ms. Gaynor. Top read of 2015.

Rating: 5/5

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Salad by Jennifer Joyce

beginnersguidetosalad

 

What they say: Ruth loves nothing more than curling up in front of the telly with a family-sized bar of chocolate. She doesn’t do diets and she certainly doesn’t do exercise. But all that changes when she’s invited to her school reunion.

Bullied at school for being overweight, Ruth’s first reaction is to rip the invitation into a million pieces. But then Ruth hatches a plan. She’ll lose the weight and arrive at the reunion looking gorgeous and glamorous, leaving her old classmates in awe. Especially her former crush, Zack O’Connell.

With the help of her friends and a new, unbelievably hot colleague, Ruth begins her transformation. With six months until the reunion, losing weight will be a piece of cake, right?

 

The Review: As a lot of you probably know, I only started blogging last year. On commencing, I looked at many book blogs, scouring for reads that different reviewers had in common, so I had a starting point in terms of what to read. ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Salad’ was the first book that jumped out at me and I downloaded straight away. The reviews also led me to Jennifer Joyce’s website (take a look at it here) and I was hooked, not only was it bright and inviting, with so many interactive posts, but there were reviews on books I’d read that I agreed with wholeheartedly, as well as stories by Ms. Joyce that were short but clever and satisfying.

Alas, then my Kindle began to fill up and it wasn’t until I did an author Q&A with Jennifer (I know, the first name thing seems too informal, especially when you’re talking about that kind of talent, but anyhoo!), that I jumped back to it, and quickly downloaded A Beginner’s Guide to Christmas, a (free) short story that, as far as I know, is the prequel to the Salad book, and The Mince Pie Mix up (both started and tragically abandoned, following the great Kindle break-down of 2015).

The book started with some scenes that tore my heart in terms of what Ruth faced daily

‘She wished she had a friend more than anything, even more than she wanted a boyfriend’

Now if I’d thought that was bad, what followed, the description of the heartless bullying that she went through actually stopped me in my tracks. It was disgusting. This theme continued throughout the book, with ignorant salespeople and the friend of an acquaintance belittling her because of her size. When Ruth decided to lose weight to attend her high school re-union I put my hand over my eyes (in my head of course, because otherwise how could I have continued reading?!) and then settled into reading some of the gut wrenching (literally) and hilarious diets she decided to undertake, as well as exercise routines, some of which were horrendous.

The book was told from several points of view and I loved the way there was some overlap between events happening, making it unfold easily before your eyes. It actually reminded me of a film called ‘This Year’s love’ (yes, it does Feature David Gray’s song, in fact he has a cameo), which also features various couples, all trying to find their way through life, with hilarious goings-on causing miscommunications and mix-ups along the way.

In particular, some of the scenes in Ruth’s office kept me very entertained. The different characters were brilliant, the lovely housemate Billy, her best friend, Erin, who was JUST what she needed, Theo, who reminded me of Spike from Notting Hill. The Beginner’s Guide to Salad was real. Ruth wasn’t perfect and neither were the other characters. They were vivid and loud and brilliant. Throw all of this together with love triangles, love venn diagrams, whatever they were and you had my type of book perfection. I have a post coming up on authors I’m following as a result of books I’ve read as a blogger and Jennifer Joyce is one of them. I am now firmly a Fan.

Rating: 5/5

 

 

Turning down the lights, just a little – The Girl With No Past by Kathryn Croft

thegirlwithnopast

 

What they say:

Twenty years running from your past. Today it catches up.

A gripping psychological thriller for fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

Leah Mills lives a life of a fugitive – kept on the run by one terrible day from her past. It is a lonely life, without a social life or friends until – longing for a connection – she meets Julian. For the first time she dares to believe she can live a normal life.

Then, on the twentieth anniversary of that day, she receives a card. Someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed the life Leah has created.

But is Leah all she seems? Or does she deserve everything she gets?

Everyone has secrets. But some are deadly.

 

The review: To start let me just remind you that I predominantly read romantic comedies and so if you are looking for an assessment from someone who has experience with this genre you might want to look elsewhere! That being said, everyone wants to diversify what they read, and if, like me, you want to delve into the odd thriller without going too hardcore then this is one for you! Note: I will be reading ‘Girl on a Train’ soon but I loved Gone Girl (book only, not the film) so that might give you an indication whether this suits.

I had heard many great things about this book and I was not disappointed. We meet Leah Mills as she goes about her daily routine, a routine that is the same daily, that NEEDS to have absolutely no variation. Leah works in a library, which obviously sealed the deal for me straight off, it being my dream job, but tries her best not to get close to those around her. I was very quickly walking in Leah’s shoes,and in a similar way to ‘The Year I Met You’ by Cecilia Ahern (similar in the way I empathised with the lead), daily life, the brightness of it, became that little bit more of an irritation, as I hankered to get back to see what was happening and experience the darkness that surrounded Leah. We were not told what the anniversary that Leah’s existance led to was of, this being one of the many twists that were in the book. There were a few twists that kept the pacing flowing, but none of them, in my opinion, unnecessary. The big secret, what Leah felt herself to be so guilty of that she didn’t deserve to be recognised as a human being, was justifiable, so not one of those books where a build up led to nothing. I found it quite shocking, but again I’m not sure if it’s just the difference in genre. The characters served their purpose and the story was told through flashbacks that were well spaced out and very well done. The way the book dealt with the effect of events on family and friends was exemplery and by the end, my mind was well and truly taken over. I experienced my first book hangover as a result and it took a few days to find my next read. Loved it. Highly recommended.

My Christmas Wrap up (and an extra little something for Christmas…)

Well, all that’s left is to give an overview of all the Christmas books on my blog. I have to say I enjoyed the books of the festive season so much, they really brought forward all the excitement and cheer of Christmas so that I got into the mood in early October! They were so diverse that I have a few favourites. Not only that, but there’s a few I have no doubt I’ll be recommending a few years on, they dragged me in and wouldn’t let me out of their warm, beautifully festive clutches! You’ll guess what they are from the reviews.

So here it goes. Obviously the list isn’t complete due to the demise of my right hand, my Kindle, but I’ve covered those that I would have gotten a chance to read had my one year old not been curious about the device he sees in my hand most days (read all about it and take a look at the books I had to leave behind here!) The reviews are linked in with the name of the books to make it easier for you. Enjoy and merry Christmas!

If you like them a little bit dark,  geeky … and brilliant The Art Of Christmas (a short story) by Jane Lovering is for you

the art of christmas

If you like them warm, beautiful and magical, with lashings of fairy dust and charm, then Every Time a Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington is for you

everytimea bell

If you like them charming, funny and gorgeously festive, with romance and a nice hint of suspense, then Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence (a novella) by Holly Hepburn is for you.

Snowdrops

If you love a bit of a dash to the altar, coupled with warmth, beauty, festiveness and all in between then Snowed in For Her Wedding (a short story) by Emma Bennet is for you.

Snowed In For Christmas

If you like short, hilarious, mad cap ‘mom lit’ that’ll make you laugh out loud and while away the hours after the kids are gone to bed, then Survival of The Christmas Spirit by Aimee Horton (short story) is for you.

SurvivalOfTheChristmasSpirit

If you like them spooky, kooky and yet warm, christmassy and funny then Make A Christmas Wish by Julia Williams is for you.

make a christmas wish

If you like books with  beautiful characters, stunning Christmas scenes and gorgeous romance with some comedy in there too, then Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan is for you.

ChristmasEverAfter

If you like a warm, magical, festive ‘dreams can come true’ romantic comedy, then Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale is for you.

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses

If you like them to be all about family getting together at Christmas, with pandemonium and brightness and festiveness, tears and smiles, then An Endless Christmas (a novella) by Cynthia Ruachti is for you.

Anendlesschristmas

If you want to go on a Christmassy road trip, that’s bright, festive, and all about goodwill and cheer, with a reminder of the holy side of Christmas, then The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson is for you.

TheChristmasJoyRide

I’ll finish with All I Want for Christmas, a piece I’m very proud of as it was written by our Imagine, Write, Inspire writing group led by the amazing Carmel Harrington (I know, blatant self promotion here, but I honestly think you’ll enjoy!). So if you like one long festive, quirky romantic comedy, narrated by different people to give different parts of our lead character’s story, then All I Want for Christmas is for you!

alliwant

 

 

The Art of Christmas by Jane Lovering

the art of christmas

What they say: What if the memories of Christmas past were getting in the way of Christmas future?
It’s been nearly two years since Harriet lost Jonno, but she’s finally decided that it’s time to celebrate Christmas again.

Then she finds a stash of graphic novels belonging to her comic book-loving husband in the attic, and suddenly her world is turned upside down once more.

With the help of eccentric comic book dealer Kell Foxton, she discovers that the comics collected by Jonno are not only extremely valuable, but also hold the key to his secret life – a life that throws Harriet’s entire marriage and every memory she has of her husband into question.

As Harriet grows closer to Kell, she begins to feel like she could learn to love Christmas again – but first, she needs to know the truth.

The review: First off, look at that gorgeous cover, I think it is one of my favourite covers this Christmas! Actually, speaking of Christmas, before I do my Christmas wrap up I have to say a lovely thing to do is to go on Amazon and do a Christmas search and look at all the fabulous covers of the reads, and associated and recommended reads that come up. There are some shockingly stunning beauts out there and hopefully you’ll enjoy thralling through them all!

This is for those of you that want something that little bit different this Christmas. We meet Harriet as she wonders how to start living again, after the loss of her husband. This involves an attempt at making life festive again through rediscovering the trappings of Christmas, which are done beautifully. She finds some comics that are called Corinthia and The Bear. The artwork and the story-line grabs her, as she finds parallels between herself and Corinthia, a character who is beautiful, strong, but dark and tormented. I have to admit my inner geek adored the stories, I found the descriptions enthralling and would have loved to see them myself! The introduction of Kell is great and brings with it some twists that had me lapping up every word. I suppose my only issue with it would have been the time line, which I just have to mention as it niggled at me a little as I’m not a fan of books where romance develops so suddenly. Kell was a fantastic character, as was Harriet, and their chemistry was beautiful.

Apologies for the briefness of this review but as you know my Kindle was damaged and I have now lost some of the notes that were on it. I definitely recommend this for something that little bit darker (just a shade) for Christmas and was disappointed that it wasn’t a book I heard more about because it was just the thing for me and I definitely think it’s worth a go for others (it’s also only 77 pages long so really, why wouldn’t you?!) Highly recommended.

Rating 4.75/5

Every Time A Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington

everytimea bell

 

What they say: ‘Beautiful and uplifting…Written with such heart it warms the soul’ – Claudia Carroll, bestselling author of ‘Meet Me in Manhattan’

‘A compelling, magical, festive cracker of a book’ – Alexandra Brown, bestselling author of ‘The Great Village Show’

An angel gets its wings…

Belle has taken all the Christmas decorations down. This year they won’t be celebrating.

As foster parents, Belle and Jim have given many children the chance of a happier start in life. They’ve loved them as if they were their own. They shouldn’t have favourites but little Lauren has touched their hearts. And now her mother is well enough to take her back and Belle can’t bear the loss.

Hence, Christmas is cancelled.

So when Jim crashes his car one icy December night, after an argument about Lauren, Belle can only blame herself. Everything she loves is lost. And Belle finds herself standing on The Ha’Penny Bridge wishing she had never been born.

But what happens to a Christmas wish when an angel is listening…

Will Belle realise, before it’s too late, that her life iof all?

Inspired by the timeless tale of beloved Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, Carmel Harrington’s next book tells the story of Belle, a young woman and foster carer from Dublin who faces the hardest decision of her life this Christmas on The Ha’Penny Bridge.

Full of Irish charm, magic, and the warmth of the festive season this is an emotional, heartwarming story that will stay with you long after you’ve reached ‘The End’. Perfect for fans of Cecelia Ahern & Jojo Moyes.

Carmel is the bestselling author of The Life You Left & Beyond Grace’s Rainbow, voted Romantic eBook of the Year 2013.

 

The review: Just to start by saying I was thrilled to finally get to this book who is by Carmel Harrington, the mother hen in the Imagine, Write, Inspire group (apologies for the link, but you NEED to see their work!), a writing group of which I am a proud member (now apologies for this blatant self promotion, as I have contributed to all books here!). Carmel’s success from uber-successful self publisher to ultra-successful published author is the stuff of legends (you’ll hear many a writing group leader sit down to wondrously tell the story to their charges);), and I was so excited to hear she was putting out a Christmas book!

Every Time a Bell Rings is one of those Christmas books that fits in perfectly with the time of year. Just look at that beautiful cover! The wondrousness of the season was sealed from the start as we meet Belle and Jim, happy and so in love. There is then a whoosh back to when Belle is eight and we learn of her unhappy childhoods moving from foster home to foster home until she settles with Tess. Tess was warm and loving and I knew that she would change things, especially when held up against their social worker, who was quite the witch. I then promptly worried to what was going to happen to her! The scenes of Belle’s childhood are well done, we get a real sense of who she is and what she’s come to expect of life, as well as how life has let her down. We then continue on to her new life with Jim.

Now, the blurb tells us all about Belle and Jim but actually what happens to them doesn’t come until sixty percent on the Kindle, the book is as much about their pasts than anything else and, for me, that’s as great as what happens after (it’s all good!). When things do start to happen for Belle, it is done absolutely brilliantly. I know that Ms. Harrington had said that this was based on ‘It’s a wonderful life,’ but I couldn’t remember the film so I’m just going to say it also resembled A Christmas Carol (no hate mail concerning my ignorance, please!). The magic, the angel, the way it all kicks off, was spine-tingling and yet also funny and I truly could not put it down. When I had to (kids ), it tumbled around in my head, my mind trying to figure out what was going to happen. I was not disappointed.

Great book, heartwarming, beautiful and unputdownable. I would have but two things about Every Time a Bell Rings, firstly, I have to warn that there is some cursing. As you know this has to be mentioned as I have received emails (albeit only two, but still!) saying that I should warn about bad language in reviews, so while it isn’t too bad, there’s a little bit in it. The other thing is the irish-isms. There’s a lot of them, it’s very irishy. A lot of slang sayings I’ve heard used and some I haven’t. To be honest that wouldn’t usually be my cup of tea but it fits in with the book nicely so it didn’t quite bother me as much as it usually would.

The last thing I have to mention, because I adored them so much, was the little quotes at the start of each chapter. There were some serious gems in there that I highlighted to look at again and they were so diverse in origin, adding to their value.

All in all, a beautiful book that I would highly recommend if you want to sprinkle some fairy-dust onto your Christmas reading pile this year.

Rating 4.5/5

 

My ‘to do’ blogging list … scuppered!

I posted this to Facebook this morning (sans pictures with links embedded of course!):

To do list for blogging before Christmas:

Review Every Time A Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington

everytimea bell
Review The Art Of Christmas by Jane Lovering

the art of christmas

Finish reading:
My Big Fat Christmas Wedding by Samantha Tonge (which am loving so far!)

mybigfatchristmaswedding
The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas by Carole Matthews (I won’t lie, I’m struggling with this one)

thechocolatelovers
A beginner’s Guide to Christmas (book before the Beginner’s Guide to Salad, which was one of my favourite books this year, still to be reviewed, by Jennifer Joyce)

abeginnersguideto chrisbeginnersguidetosalad
The Mince Pie Mix up also by Jennifer Joyce. Loving this!

 

the mince pie mix up

Read
Wish upon A Christmas Cake by Darcie Boleyn

wishuponachristmascake
and
The Boy Under the mistletoe by Katie Lovell (a short, have read all the others in the ‘Meet Cute’ series and they’re so handy and lovely

theboyunderthemistleto
So this is all narrowed down from all the Christmas books I accumulated recently. I had such plans but just didn’t have the correct timeline in mind. I can now see why people have Christmas during the year segments to help them catch up but I’ve narrowed down the above because they’re special to me and the only one am struggling with is Carole Matthews, which is a pity as I have so many of her Christmas paperbacks at home from when I was younger, perhaps it’s a case that I’ve grown out of her work:(

Lastly, sit down and write my ‘wrap ups’ for Christmas and 2015. Really looking forward to this!

 

About five minutes after I posted this, I looked over to see my one year old had my Kindle. You can guess what happens next. As I was thinking ‘I’d better grab that off him,’ he threw it to the ground and now the screen has gone. Long story short I’m taking it as a sign from the gods and now I will be reviewing and wrapping up only before launching into the paperbacks I’ve had waiting for eons from Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes and a few glitzy magazines and Sunday papers I haven’t been able to relax enough to read!!! My Christmas reading list is gone. As I said above I had narrowed down my Christmas reading list and was sure I’d have had my final books done by Wednesday at the latest to give readers a chance to use my reviews to pick their Christmas read. I was so close. So very close. Gutted.

Snowed In For Her Wedding (a short story) by Emma Bennett

 

Snowed In For Christmas

What they say: It should be the perfect wedding day . . . But has Gwen’s groom got cold feet and will he make it through the snow in time?

A lovely Christmas romance short read that you won’t want to put down.
Christmas is coming to the little Welsh town of Tonnadulais, and the much-loved characters from ‘The Green Hills of Home.’ But this year it’s somewhat overshadowed by a rather special wedding taking place on Christmas Eve.

Local girl Gwen Jones is finally marrying her man, London publisher John Thatcher, and she couldn’t be happier. Though as her friends and beloved mother help her prepare for the big day, Gwen can’t suppress the little nagging doubt that John shouldn’t still be stuck working in London the day before their wedding. Has the city boy changed his mind about marrying his country girl?

When a huge snow storm hits, it seems John might not to be able to make it back to her, whether he wants to or not.

Join Gwen, John, and Oscar the dog, in this Christmassy treat guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit!

Emma Bennet is the best-selling romance author of His Secret Daughter, I Need A Hero, and The Green Hills of Home.

The Review: You’ll probably remember that I quickly became a fan of Emma Bennet on reading I Need A Hero. I have recently devoured His Secret Daughter (review to come) and so when I saw this FREE on Amazon I was tres excited! I’m afraid one book I haven’t got to is The Green Hills of Home, which comes before this but it’s a given that I’ll be heading there very soon (it worked fine as a standalone but once you read this you’ll be wanting to head back to it so maybe get that first!).

From the start I was taken by the country house in Tonnadulais, with Gwen Jones, her mother Edith and her best friend, Sarah, excitedly planning the wedding of Gwen and John, who had been engaged for more than a year. The flurry of activity, the house and its surroundings were warm and homely, and added to the sense of Christmas. We soon met John and realised that his priorities were a little different as he rushed to get work done that didn’t seem to be connected to the wedding.

I was quickly sucked in to Gwen’s insistences that the wedding would NOT be called off, despite building snow, and adored the off the wall contingencies put in place to replace the more traditional wedding fare. The race to the altar was simultaneously funny and heart-warming and the people of Tonnadulais stole my heart as they rallied around their girl, Gwen. In short, loved all the characters, inhaled the drama that was so light and yet pulled me along with it, craved the beauty and festiveness and all in between. Free on Amazon and one of my top reads this Christmas. Enough said. Go get!

Rating: 5/5

Dream a Little Dream by Giovanna Fletcher

 

dreamalittledream 

What they say: Sarah is doing just fine. Sure she’s been single for the last five years, and has to spend an uncomfortable amount of time around her ex-boyfriend, his perfect new girlfriend and all their mutual friends. And yes, her job as a PA to one of the most disgusting men in London is mind-numbingly tedious and her career is a constant disappointment to her mother. But it’s really okay. She’s happy (ish).

So it’s not surprising that when Sarah starts dreaming about a handsome stranger, she begins to look forward to falling asleep every night. Reality isn’t nearly as exciting. That is until her dream-stranger makes an unexpected real-life appearance, leaving Sarah questioning everything she thought she wanted.

Because no one ever really finds the person of their dreams… do they?

Praise for Giovanna Fletcher:

‘Saucy, fun and full of heart. This is Giovanna’s most accomplished novel yet! This book ticked every one of our must have boxes’ Heat
‘A heartbreakingly beautiful story about friendship and unrequited love. I was totally and utterly captivated’ Paige Toon on You’re the One That I Want
‘Warm and romantic, this charming read will certainly brighten up your day’ Closer
‘Tons of charm and genuine warmth’ Star

The Review: I loved this book with a passion. There is so much to rave about. Basically we meet twenty nine year old Sarah and learn of her life, constantly avoiding her mother, who is disappointed at her life choices, in the same circle of friends as her ex, who has brought the girlfriend he dumped her for after seven years together into said circle, and ‘skivvy’ to a pig of a boss in a production company. Her positive outlook on life and great friends make up for it, however, as we see Sarah decide to turn things around.

This story was told in the first person which was perfect. I loved the narrative and adored Sarah, the strong, brave girl who kept going and only let us in on how she was really feeling. I used the highlight feature as I went and at one stage thought ‘I could just highlight this whole book’ and it was true! The dreams Sarah has are vibrant, vivid and hilarious, some including tv personalities, some genius ones that have to be ‘seen’ to be interpreted (I am itching to just start spouting about them now but must … hold … out!!!), and of course there’s the ones including somebody Sarah used to know, Brett Last, who subsequently arrives on the scene. Brett is lovely and my interest in him picqued early on as I enjoyed hearing his side of things as much as Sarah’s. The chemistry between them sparkled from the off. Also the comparisons between and incidences involving the real and the dream one(aptly named ‘Real Brett’ and ‘Dream Brett’ to avoid possible confusion) were brilliant.

The side stories were lovely, touching, and very funny, with her friends and their weekly pub quiz trips featuring strongly and never disappointing for drama and laughs. All in all, a genius, smart, laugh out loud (honestly, I actually did, at a number of points!) book that sucked me back into it every time I picked it up (kids were sick at the time so I can’t say I read it all at once but I can say I seriously craved it when I was away from it!)

Will most definitely be looking into Ms. Fletcher’s back catalogue and have the sequel to this ‘Dream a Christmas Dream’ coming up. Highly recommended and a million thanks to Netgalley for the review copy.

Rating: 5/5

 

 

Survival of the Christmas Spirit (a short story) by Aimee Horton

 

SurvivalOfTheChristmasSpirit

What they say: “Cooking for nineteen people will be a cinch!” Ever-optimistic Dottie Harris is preparing for the biggest and best Christmas celebration ever, and nothing—not even unexpected guests or running out of gin—will get her down.

But as always, things don’t run smoothly for Dottie, and it’s not long before her two energetic children, hapless husband and a nasty stomach bug wreak havoc on her carefully planned spreadsheets.

Can Dottie throw the perfect family Christmas (without so much as a swig of gin to help her through) or will preparing for the festivities get the best of her? One thing’s for sure: This will be a Christmas to remember!

 

The Review: Oh how I enjoyed this! There are some stories that are so easy to read and the pages turn in your hand so quickly that you begin to worry what will happen when you get to the end. This was one such story. Dottie Harris is hit on Christmas Eve with extra guests for Christmas Day and it is taken with both positivity and frustration! I had heard of ‘Survival of The Christmas Spirit’ described as ‘mom lit’ and I suppose that’s what it is, it’s for those of you who are looking forward to Christmas because of the kids and at the same time looking forward to the sigh and breath you get to take at the end of the evening when the children are asleep and you finally get to take the weight off your feet. The change of moods throughout this story were hilarious as Dottie battled to get somewhere between Christmas cheer and Chrismas frustration. I warmed to her straight away, and empathised with all her predicaments while laughing as they occurred.

The Christmas descriptions were beautiful and warm and contrasted brilliantly with the craziness of dragging children about in the manicness of the festive season. There is also, of course, a Christmas surprise, which was very well done. One warning is that at around the seventy per cent mark, the story ends and changes to the opening chapter of another of Aimee Horton’s books. I have heard people complain about this with other books so just a warning. Personally I had no problem with it, and really enjoyed the preview!

By the way this is part of The Survival Series but I read it as a stand alone. Saying that in an author interview Aimee Horton states that they generally go in this order: Survival of the Ginnest, Mothers Ruined, Survival of the Christmas Spirit then Lush in Translation. I had no problem with not having read the others however I will be going back for more. Add to this it was a free download on Amazon and only fifty seven pages and I was happy out!

Light, warm, quick-witted, smart and funny, if you are at this very second reading this while trying to bop a child to sleep and willing another to settle down, then this one’s for you!

Rating: 5/5