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

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

Make a Christmas Wish by Julia Williams

make a christmas wish

What they say: A HILARIOUS and JUST-A-LITTLE HEARTBREAKING FESTIVE TREAT for anyone who’s looking for a little bit of MAGIC this CHRISTMAS TIME!

Last Christmas, when Livvy was knocked down in the supermarket car park she certainly wasn’t ready to actually be dead! For months now she’s floated on the edge of the afterlife, generally making a nuisance of herself.

And she’s not ready to go just yet! She’s furious about the new woman in her husband’s life and she’s worried about her beloved son who doesn’t seem to be adjusting to life without her at all.

This Christmas, Livvy is given one last magical chance to make everything right. Will she take it and give her family the perfect Christmas?

Perfect for fans of CAROLE MATTHEWS, TRISHA ASHLEY and JENNY COLGAN.

 

The review: First off thanks to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review. I had heard a lot about this book before I started, there were big fans out there so that would be something to bear in mind here.

In Make A Christmas Wish we’re introduced to Livvy, who has died in an accident after hearing about her husband having an affair. The way things work is explained to her by her spirit guide Malachi, who appears in the form of a black cat. She is told that she has unfinished business and so cannot pass over to the other world. The unfinished business is seemingly obvious but, in a nice touch, the glaringly obvious is turned on its head throughout the book. Livvy was a strong character and though her faults were plenty, you still had to feel for her, especially in finding out HOW she died. If you are looking for something along the life of ‘The Dead Wife’s Handbook’ by Hannah Beckerman, which was more of a mother looking in to her family’s new life, with no say in what was happening, then this is not it. Livvy is bitter and resentful and rather than watching her family to see what’s happening she’s doing her best to turn things upside down so she can get back to them and to what she remembers her old life to be. There are some hilarious moments in this, with the hauntings very well done. We see her life as flashbacks and meet their son, Joe, who had Asbergers initially through a series of notebook entries, which was a lovely touch.

We also meet her husband, Adam and his new girlfriend, Emily, and I think this was where my problem with the books started. As I said the book was in flashbacks, mostly to show how Adam ended up having the affair. The wish to keep us surprised meant that I empathized with the ‘wrong’ characters here. I couldn’t take a liking to Emily and Adam and continued to feel bad for Livvy. Whatever happened they both still came off as selfish to me. As well as this, somewhere along the line the book which, already out of the ordinary, turned a little bit too wacky and beetlejuicy for my liking. In a converse way, if you like things turning a bit crazy and spooks and beings everywhere, then go for this book! It’s also quite a funny book and had I liked the characters more, there’s a chance I could have loved it.

All in all a tough one to judge. I wasn’t a fan, and watched the percentages go by on my Kindle (never a good sign) but plenty more will love it, and it is a different type of Christmas book.

Rating: 3/5