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.

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

 

 

The Inside/ Out Book Tag

I found this book tag on Vicky’s blog, Books, Biscuits and Tea and really liked the look of it. The tag was originally created by MathomBooks on YouTube and Vicky says on her blog that she found it on Sabrina’s blog I’d love to hear from you on yours so if you could either put on your blog or if it’s not appropriate then post in the comments below.

Inside flap / Back of the book summaries: Too much info? Or not enough (Discuss)

I think if a description is good enough there’s no need for a big long rigmarole. Blurbs that give too much away can be a bit annoying so I’d definitely vote for quality over quantity.

New book: What form do you want it in? Be honest: audio book, e-book, paperback, or hardcover?

I must say my Kindle has taken precedence over all other forms of book. If the kiddies are doing something I can sneakily read it without them ever knowing that I’m not one hundred per cent invested in what they’re doing (hides face). It’s so handy to carry around and I’m getting faster at highlighting and making notes for blogging. That being said I would love to give audio-books a go and for certain books, the ones that I crave and wait for proper ‘me’ time to read, I’d go for a paperback.

Scribble while you read? Do you like to write in your books, taking notes, making comments, or do you keep your books clean clean clean? (Tell us why)

I’ve never ever written in any book bar writing manuals (my Irish writer’s Handbook is highlighted and noted in to within an inch of it’s life!!). As said above I do love the option of creating notes on the Kindle and then scrolling through ‘View Notes and Marks’ when I’m reviewing. Other than that I have a giant segmented refill pad for notes.

In your best voice, read for us your favourite first sentence from a book.

I heard one on the ‘Rather Too Fond Of Books’ book blog: ‘The last stage of Honor Levinson’s life began at the top of the stairs in her home in North London.’ is from The Day of Second Chances by Julie Cohen. Just brilliant!

 Does it matter to you whether the author is male or female when you’re deciding on a book? What if you’re unsure of the author’s gender?

Simple answer: It doesn’t matter to me at all!

Ever read ahead? Or have you ever read the last page way before you got there?

I used to do this a lot but not since I’ve started blogging because I find when you do then you skip through the rest of the book and I want to take in absolutely everything!


Organized bookshelves, or outrageous bookshelves?

Quite organised as they’re not so full since a) I got the Kindle and b) I gave most of my books to charity shops. I don’t really read books more than once unless they’re ‘how to’ books.

Under oath: have you ever bought a book based on the cover (alone)?

So, so, so many times! Most have worked out, the ones that haven’t had a cover that didn’t match the genre (which really really irked me I have to say!)

Take it outside to read, or stay in?

Reading outside sounds like a dream so yes, outside.

 

 

 

 

 

Another Heartbeat In The House-nominated for The Irish Book Awards Best Popular Fiction Category

AnotherHeartbeatInTheHouse
What they say:

Two women living a hundred years apart. One home that binds them together.

When Edie Chadwick travels to Ireland to close up her uncle’s lakeside lodge, it’s as much to escape the burden of guilt she’s carrying as to break loose from the smart set of 1930’s London.

The old house is full of memories – not just her own, but those of a woman whose story has been left to gather dust in a chest in the attic: a handwritten memoir inscribed with an elegant signature . . . Eliza Drury

As she turns the pages of the manuscript, Edie uncovers secrets she could never have imagined: an exciting tale of ambition, hardship, love and tragedy – a story that has waited a lifetime to be told. . .

‘A delightful story, rich, engrossing and vividly told’ Rachel Hore

‘A compelling, atmospheric story brimming with period detail about two feisty, independent heroines who will steal your heart’ Cathy Kelly

‘With a marvellously evocative setting, strong and believable lead characters and a pacey plot, Another Heartbeat in the House is a thoroughly compelling love story’ Liz Trenow

 

The Book:

When I received a request to inform readers of the presence of this book among the other gems in The Irish Book Awards 2015 in The Best Popular Fiction category, I was very excited as I’d noticed it when I first rummaged through the contents of the Awards (I’m a big fan and vote and look forwards to them every year). I had previously heard of Liberty Silk, and the gorgeous cover of ‘Another Heartbeat in the House’ was so beautiful that, coupled with the eloquent blurb, I downloaded to my Kindle for future reading straight away!

You can vote for it in the Best Popular Fiction category here
Note: Voting closes at midnight 20th November 2015. Only one vote per email address is accepted.
About the author
Kate Beaufoy

 

Kate Beaufoy has an MA in French and English literature from Trinity College, Dublin.  She began her career as a professional actor – winning a Dublin Theatre Festival Best Actress award – before becoming a full time writer. As Kate Thompson she has had a dozen novels published, including the Number One bestseller The Blue Hour, which was shortlisted for the RNA award.

Kate’s novels have been translated into French, German, Greek, Italian, Czech and Dutch. She has contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines in Ireland and the UK, written and broadcast for RTE, and is regularly invited to participate in literary events across the media.

As Kate Beaufoy her first novel – the critically acclaimed Liberty Silk – spent four weeks on the Irish Times bestseller chart.   Another Heartbeat in the House – charted last summer and, inspired by William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, it tells the story of the woman who became governess to his children and who may have been the prototype for literature’s most enduring and engaging heroine, Becky Sharp.

Kate lives some of the year in Dublin and some on the West coast of Ireland. She is an advanced-level scuba diver, a wild swimmer, a keen practitioner of Bikram yoga, and the fond keeper of a bewitching Burmese cat.

 

Bride Without A Groom by Amy Lynch

Bridewithoutagroom

 

What they say: Single, coupled-up or married, this laugh-out-loud summer read is the perfect anecdote for the wedding season!

Rebecca has chosen the most luscious, five tiered, wedding cake. The engagement ring that she has selected is celebrity inspired. The wedding singer is on speed dial. He doesn’t usually do Michael Bolton, but as it’s for a first dance he’ll make an exception. Father Maguire is checking dates for the parish church as we speak. The deposit on the white sand honeymoon is paid for in full on Barry’s card. She has fallen for an ivory lace couture gown that is to die for. The down payment may require her to sell a left kidney, but it will be worth it. Isn’t that why you have two?

There’s one teeny tiny problem. It’s nothing, really. No need to panic! It’s just that Barry has yet to propose. Says he’s not ready! He can be a bit of a kill joy that way. It’s time to face the harsh reality – Rebecca is a bride without a groom!

 

The Review: To start, I promise I will try to get through this without too much gushing, as I really, really enjoyed this book. So here we go! Bride Without A Groom starts with the pre-empting of a proposal that doesn’t come, followed by the dramatics of one who believed their happy ever moment had arrived only to have their hopes shot down and stamped out. We quickly find out that one of the reasons for the hysterics is that our lead, Rebecca Browne, has already organised the planning of the bulk of the wedding, down to the tiniest details.

Rebecca reminds me of a mixture of Elle (Legally Blond), Becky Bloomwood (Confessions of a Shopaholic) and Cher (Clueless), in that she’s what would traditionally what would be viewed as selfish, and yet you can’t not like her (see note *), you just clickety clack along with her (my impression of high heels there, NOT a train), as aghast as her when things don’t go her way.

Her boyfriend, Barry, is what some people may call gutless (I would be one of those people) and yet you can easily jump between empathizing (sympathising!) with him and not liking him at all. This is consistant with the characters in Bride Without a Groom which are generally done very well, and play their part in leading you to various conclusions or just surprising you.

This book felt like it was made for me, or maybe it was just built for my generation. It is set in Dublin and so we quickly hear names such as Brown Thomas’ (large exclusive department store) and Dundrum Town Centre (large exclusive shopping centre). On the entertainment front we hear of Fair city (Irish version of Eastenders which is a british soap opera where nothing goes the way of the always unhappy residents of Albert Square), Legally Blonde, Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze and Michael Bolton and Top Gear (Barry not Rebecca), with a hilarious letter sent when she realises The Young and The Restless is due to be cancelled. A point to note is that although the settings and backdrops are mostly Irish, this book is definitely translateable, I think it could be popular anywhere in the world.

One thing I would say to you would be in terms of character development, as in the journey the character goes through to get to a point whre ethey might figure something out that changes themselves. There is none. None at all. But, before this bothers you, look at the bottom of this review. I’ll give you a hint, the rating I gave it was 4.75/5. So I took off .25/5 for that fact, because I was waiting for a certain something to happen and it didn’t, and it bothered me just a little but I would assume that there will be a sequel and if there is it doesn’t really matter (if there isn’t, yes, it will continue to bother me just because I’m like that!). To date this is possibly one of my standout books for 2015. When someone’s looking for a commercial, light read that will make them laugh and keep them interested, this is a serious contender (for the right person, mind, again, see my note marked *)

Rating: 4.75/5

*This is a marmite one. If you look at the reviews on this you’ll see it’s a love it or hate it type of book and people seemed to find Rebecca to be a love her or hate her type of character. The people who didn’t like it/ her went for it tooth and nail, but to be honest if you take a look at the cover, blurb and the first few pages you’ll know. I love it. I cannot gush about it enough and as I read it I had at least three people in mind who would flip for it. It is pure unadulterated chick lit at its best!

 

 

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

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses

What they say: An uplifting, beautiful story about never letting go of your dreams, the special magic of a family Christmas… and the rush of falling in love under the mistletoe.

Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, when a friend recommends her for a small design job she jumps at the chance. How hard can it be?

Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multi-million dollar business – even if it is Christmas.

When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble…

With the snow falling all around, can Abbey take the chance to make her dreams of being a designer come true? And can she help Nick to finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?

The Review: We meet Abbey Fuller as a hardworking mother of one who has a job caring for Caroline Sinclair, a charming elderly lady. Abbey is employed by Nicholas Sinclair, Caroline’s grandson, who is an extremely rich businessman, with an extravagant house that comes complete with a range of staff. Abbey leads a very different life, happy and in love with her son, Max, and with a close knit family of a very helpful Mum and a granddad that lives close by. Abbey’s problems are purely financial as she worries about how to cater for Max’s Christmas wishes and some medication that her granddad cannot afford to help with his Parkinsons. When, by chance, she’s offered an opportunity to decorate Nick Sinclair’s house she takes it, purely for the money, even though she only has experience of decorating one home.

The Christmas descriptions were absolutely beautiful, amplified by the fact that she was decorating a house at Christmas time with a lavish budget that afforded her the ability to make it truly magnificent. I could see it all and it was wonderful.

Abbey was a gorgeous character, outgoing, charming and very warm. The story-line with her granddad was very touching and I loved that Abbey was so selfless in wanting to give anything she could to help him. The pacing was great too and, although I had to leave the book for a day or two, I welcomed settling back down with it and enjoyed it thoroughly. I suppose my only problem was actually with Nick, who I couldn’t stop seeing as Christian Grey (disclaimer: I have neither read the book nor seen the movie!). Abbey was very naive and a bit too forward with him while he seemed to find her something of a novelty and so that took away some of the magic for me. That being said there were some lovely moments between them that contributed to a very light read that will be welcome for many as they sit in the armchair by the fire surrounded by Christmas finery. Many thanks to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg

 The Middle of Somewhere

What they say: A troubled, young widow hikes from Yosemite Valley deep into the wilderness on the John Muir Trail to elude her shameful past in this emotionally gripping story from the author of House Broken.

With her thirtieth birthday looming, Liz Kroft is heading for the hills—literally. Her emotional baggage weighs her down more than her backpack, but a three-week trek promises the solitude she craves—at least until her boyfriend, Dante, decides to tag along. His broad moral streak makes the prospect of confessing her sins more difficult, but as much as she fears his judgment, she fears losing him more. Maybe.
They set off together alone under blue skies, but it’s not long before storms threaten and two strange brothers appear along the trail. Amid the jagged, towering peaks, Liz must decide whether to admit her mistakes and confront her fears, or face the trail, the brothers and her future alone.

The review: First off thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy in return for an honest review. Where to start? The beautiful cover is one place, and I did think it very beautiful, it jumped off the page for me. As an aside, for some reason the blurb doesn’t do it for me, but I suppose it is a difficult feat, because for me this book is so hard to categorize that I feel like the blurb is trying to catch a multitude of readers, where it needn’t, the book is THAT good.

I loved this book. The more I think about it now, the higher in my esteem it climbs, and I only wish I had the paperback, because I think a paperback version would suit this. First the main characters, Liz and Dante. Both strong characters that fulfilled their duties brilliantly, she as the strong independent trekker who is on a mission to trek this grueling journey, he as the understanding boyfriend, who is there solely as her partner. From the start the banter between the two of them was perfect. Her sporadic irritation was seamlessly integrated with guilt that she had caused him to do something he had no interest in. This simmered nicely as she tried to guide him, smacking against his shock at the grueling nature of their journey, and the absence of beer or tv at their stopping points. Their dialogue was vibrant , smart and funny and I felt both of their pain. The story took us daily through the trail and I was there, the starkness of some of the scenery, coupled with the beauty of more of it, making it come alive. Added to all of this was the author’s obvious knowledge of climbing, as the minute details added to the experience and taught me so much about the area they were traversing, the equipment required, and endless facts on the what to do/ what not to do in excursions of this nature.

The story was punctuated by Liz’s back story, that of her and her dead husband, Gabriel. This was dealt with in flashbacks aided by the build-up of stress brought on by a monumental secret she was keeping from Dante. The introduction of other characters was well done, as we climbed, hiked and stumbled along with the pair. We encountered some helpful climbers, an actor there solely for research and the very odd Root brothers, a pair that added to tension I started to feel as it hit home that where they were there was nowhere to run. I had only two problems with the book. One was that at times Liz could seem a little over dramatic, not in her problems, which were substantial, more her way of expressing them. The other were said Root brothers, who I found to be slightly cartoon-like at times, this took away slightly from the tone of the book, though not much.

To finish I will add simply that the bookclub questions at the end of the book were a lovely addition and served only to validate my opinion on the book. Brilliant.

Rating: 5/5

The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson

 

 TheChristmasJoyRide

What they say: Miranda did not put adventure on her Christmas list, but thanks to her eighty-five-year-old neighbor Joy, that’s exactly what she’s getting this year. When Joy tells Miranda that she plans to drive an old RV decked out in Christmas decorations from their Chicago neighborhood to her new retirement digs in Phoenix–in the dead of winter, no less–the much younger Miranda insists that Joy cannot make such a trip by herself. Besides, a crazy trip with Joy would be more interesting than another Christmas home alone. Unemployed and facing foreclosure, Miranda feels she has nothing to lose by packing a bag and heading off to Route 66. But Joy has a hidden agenda for their Christmas joyride–and a hidden problem that could derail the whole venture.

No one captures the heartwarming fun of the Christmas season quite like Melody Carlson. Fasten your seat belt, because it’s going to be an exciting ride!

The review: This book tells the story of Joy Jorgenson, an eighty-five year old lady who is moving to an assisted living facility to be near her sons. Joy has a blog named ‘Christmas Joy,’ which she works on with the help of her neighbour, Miranda. After running a competition on the blog, she chooses six winners and decides to have one big final adventure before she is moved to the home. Miranda has been down on her luck, putting it mildly, she has lost her job, her husband has left her and admits to Joy that her house is about to be taken away from her. Joy convinces her to accompany her and Miranda begrudgingly agrees and soon they’re off in a decorated camper van (see cover of book!) to see Route 66 and stop in on each of their winners, with a Christmas surprise for each that will change all of their lives.

First to the cover. I really loved the cover, it grabbed me and wouldn’t let go! I also loved the idea of this Santa Clause type lady and her sidekick heading off into the unknown to help those less fortunate. I appreciated the way Miranda changed and became more positive as the trip went on, thinking on her feet when problems arose. I did, however, find Miranda to be slightly pious at times, and a little preachy. I also found Joy to be too positive, I didn’t dislike her, and I found her idea, planning and determination to see it through brilliant, but she was a little too bright (it could say something about me, though!)

In terms of the writing I was nervous as I had decided from the start that this would no doubt be a tear jerker, but unfortunately it didn’t totally move me, which sounds slightly harsh, especially given the fact that it was made clear at the start that Joy was not in the best of health. The ending was quite sudden and only succeeded in making me feel like a cynic. I think perhaps the problem was that the short length of the book, and the fact that there was so much for them to do, did not allow for enough description. I would have loved to have enjoyed this more, but as they say, there’s a book out there for everyone, and unfortunately we didn’t click.

All in all, a lovely book for people who like them very warm and fuzzy, that will no doubt get people in the Christmas mood.

Thanks to NetGalley and Revell division of the Baker Publishing group for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5 (Not for me but definitely for others!)