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

An Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti

Anendlesschristmas

 

What they say: On the way to Christmas with his family, Micah asks Katie to marry him. She says no, but there is no getting out of Christmas now. The Binder family celebrates every Christmas as if it were their last. Too many people, too much snow, and too little room should be a recipe for disaster. But sometimes too much is just enough. Especially when it’s Christmas.

 

The review: Thanks to Netgalley and Worthy Publishing for an advance copy in return for an honest review.

We start this novella with a front row seat of the spectacle of Katie, saying no to a proposal from her boyfriend of ten months, Micah. As well as us, there are numerous members of Micah’s family, as Katie is at their home for Christmas. Awkward? Not really. Katie is surprised that the reaction of the family is to continue to welcome her as if nothing has happened!

This book reminded me of the rom coms that surface on television at Christmas, with a female lead that everyone knows, where there is constant pandemonium and brightness and festiveness, except this was done so much better! I will admit there are a LOT of characters in this, which will be a no-no for some (I’ve no problem with it at all), and even after reading all of this book (in one day), I would not be able to name them all, but for some reason, it didn’t matter. The story flew by with so many lovely, touching moments, told better than any Christmas story I can remember.

There were so many scenes in this book that were so heartwarming, the moments between the grandparents, the introduction of unexpected members of the family, and a little different to the ones you’d expect. There was very little comedy in it which was surprising given the opening scene, but I soon forgot about that. I cried four times in the book which was something, and I smiled a lot too. So beautifully written in parts (I actually highlighted some short phrases which I particularly enjoyed), I flew through it from start to finish.

Bad points … Well, although Katie was great, we did get hit over the face a little bit too much with the lead up to the mysterious reason she had said no. I liked all of the characters, though the other points of views that were brought in were brought in so late that it was a bit of a shock after only seeing things through Katie. Also this was quite a holy book, which mightn’t suit some people (I have to warn just in case people have a problem with it but given that it was a Christmas book, I enjoyed the references).

One last aside, there were some formatting issues, which might have been my Kindle, but they did mean that at times the dialogue was difficult to decipher, as two people speaking might be featured on the same line, or gaps would appear making it look like a scene had changed. Just something I have to note but it could have been my Kindle and anyway it was a great read. I look forward to looking out more from Ms. Ruchti.

“Christmas week with the Binders … Is as good a place as they come to figure out where your heart is. ” Says it all.

Rating: 4.75/5

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!)

Life or Something Like It by Annie Lyons

lifeorsomethinglikeit

What they say: Step into someone else’s shoes for a day…

And it will change you for a lifetime.

Cat is very good at her job. She runs a PR company with her best friend (and secret crush) Jesse, and is never happier than when her high-profile celebrities are glittering in the spotlight.

But when her footballer client gets in the press for all the wrong reasons, Cat’s career takes a sudden nosedive. So when her brother Andrew unexpectedly needs her to look after his kids for a few weeks, she can hardly say no. She’s happily single, hasn’t exactly been the ‘World’s Best Auntie’ over the years, and what she knows about looking after children would fit on the back of a postage stamp. But it’s only temporary until she gets her real life back on track – isn’t it?

From the bestselling author of Not Quite Perfect comes a hilarious story that will have you wondering just how perfect your life is!

The Review: The book begins with Cat Nightingale, who works hard and, while she lets her work define her, has no qualms about it doing so. She is a strong character who grabbed me from the start, I found her really refreshing. We are told how much she lives for her job, but then suddenly: bang! Cat is told that maybe she should stay away for a little while as part of the fall-out of a publicist’s nightmare, the faux pas of a bad boy footballer. Suddenly Cat has time on her hands which works to her brother, Andrew’s advantage. He enlists Cat to help mind his son, Charlie and daughter, Ellie. Cat is very much not a children person and she battles to befriend the two who aren’t very open to the idea of Cat being there. She is also left to deal with problems that Charlie has, issues that broke my heart and put it firmly in my stomach for a portion of the book. This all take place whilst dealing with Finn, a constant presence who is uncle to their friend and who seems to find Cat’s trials amusing. I adored the interactions between the two of them, their personalities matched the other in terms of smartness and speed and added to an already ever present wit and humour.

Then there’s the small issue of someone in Cat’s job trying to make things different for her. This was dealt with brilliantly, and I was on edge to find out what exactly was happening, and who she could really trust.

The characters in this were gold and performed their duties to perfection. I adored Cat, loved her best friend Ava, Finn, the kids … the only character I couldn’t warm to was her brother, Andrew. I loved where the book went in terms of showing the issues Cat was keeping inside, it was dealt with beautifully and also brought about showing us just how nicely Ms. Lyons does romance. The pages flew by and the comic moments put a smile on my face, as did the story.

This book is interesting in that it brings up the age old question of how people assume that females of a certain age are pre-disposed to want children. I cannot recommend this book enough for something light, yet thought provoking, definitely one to get the conversations going, though also one to make you smile. All in all, some very sweet, sad, melancholic moments, that gave me a jolt as it reminded me of times gone by. Highly recommended and I look forward to looking up ‘Not Quite Perfect’ by the same author.

Rating: 5/5

The Eight Mistakes of Amy Maxwell by Heather Balog

Theeightmistakesofamymaxwell

What they say: Amy Maxwell’s got four kids, a useless husband and crusted applesauce on her yoga pants that haven’t seen the inside of a gym in over a decade. She’s convinced her teenage daughter is up to no good, her ten year old can’t stop chattering in her ear and her oldest son has befriended a teenaged boy twice his age who is a tad bit strange. And don’t even get her started on having a toddler when you’re in your late thirties. She just can’t keep up. Forget tired; she’s exhausted and feeling unfulfilled, dissatisfied and like a disappointment to everyone; her kids, her parents and most of all, herself.

To relieve her stress, Amy finds herself fantasizing about everything from the pool boy next door to finding out that her daughter was switched at birth. She can’t help her thoughts, but she figures, if they’re in her head, they can’t hurt anyone else, right? When Jason, a very sexy forty something year old single father moves in across the street, Amy finds her fantasy world has gone into overdrive. When Amy and her 13 year old daughter, Allie, stumble upon the body of their neighbor, shot to death in her living room, Amy finds herself thrown together with Jason in the most unpredictable way. Amy finds herself bumbling around Jason, trying desperately to stop her fantasies and her underlying attraction towards him as this who done it mystery slowly unfolds. And Amy soon realizes, nobody is who she thinks they are…even Amy herself.

The Review: First off, thanks so much to the author for a copy of the book in return for an honest review. I really enjoyed this book, however I’ll start with the reason I found it tough, and wouldn’t recommend for anyone who hasn’t kids (for those who do, there will actually be a lot you can relate to). I was at a talk recently where the author said that there was a common idea that all books should be set on an atypical day, that is a day that repels the norm. I’d actually never heard that, though of course it’s common sense, if we want anything interesting to happen at all! This sprang to mind when I started this book, I thought it showed a bit too much of the everyday struggles. Let me explain. We meet Amy, who’s starting to feel like she’s on a merry-go-round of Groundhog day syndrome, consisting of the everyday trials of being a parent to four children. Things are also lukewarm with her husband in terms of how they interact. I didn’t warm to Amy until near the end, I just found her so negative, I know we all have days where we find things so hard and irritating, but she was so non stop, there was no light and shade with her, she rolled her eyes and cursed at everything, and I couldn’t believe that anyone would wish their husband dead (I have four boys and an, em, interesting husband and I don’t think I’ve ever even come close!;))

The second half of the book, though, changed everything. On one occasion where Amy was having one of her daydreams, things shifted in real life and she found her and her daughter embroiled in one hell of an adventure. Cue woodlands, a chase, guns, the works!! It came out of nowhere and hit me over the eyes and I loved it!
I enjoyed this book, and with tweaking, it could be 5 star gold! The ending was so different to anything I’ve read, it was really kooky and the pages flew by to reveal some of the most heartwarming moments I’d ever come across that made me happy I’d started to read.

Rating: 3.75/5

Would a review stop YOU from reading a book?

Yesterday I didn’t buy a book BECAUSE OF A REVIEW. Big news, eh? I bet some of you have even turned away by now, thinking ‘What type of news IS this?’ But, for me, it is truly a scary revelation. Let me explain. Obviously, in the last few months I have started to review books. I decided that where I had been actively asked to give a review on my site, I would. Where I wasn’t, and the book wasn’t quite up to the mark, I’d confine it to Goodreads and Amazon. That’s fair, I thought, because if I wasn’t actively asked to read the book, is it fair to shout about it? Which, let’s be honest about it, is what you’re doing when you blog. With my posts, I originally intended on informing people, letting them know whether their decision to buy a book would be justified. Would it deliver on excitement? Would it be romantic, tug at the heart strings, make them smile? My tag-line states that I was out to find as many 4 and 5 stars as possible to ‘add to the lighter side of a heavy tbr pile.’ The tbr pile is that mountain of books that needs to be dealt with, the ‘to be read’ pile. For many people, they adore books so much, and yet have so little time, that a bit of help is needed. Enter book reviewers. Now I’m not saying that MY blog is far reaching and amazing enough to inform ALL of these people, but I like to think it would help someone!
And so what of the other ratings? What of the two stars, the three stars, the (shudder) one stars? Well, I have to admit, I didn’t really think about them. ‘You idiot’ you say, shaking your head with a bored look on your face. ‘Didn’t think about the one or two stars? That’s positively idiotic!’ But I didn’t! Any reader that writes a review MUST in their head, commit to it being honest. It’s not fair otherwise. I’ll admit, when I read reviews, the one stars sometimes direct me ‘to’ the book as opposed to away from it. The things the reviewer state they hate in a book is sometimes what entices me in. Or sometimes I think the review is so unwarrented, that I just try to prove it wrong. But there’s times you can’t. Yesterday, a review said that the tension built up within a book led her to nothing. That the event it was to lead to didn’t really take place. This wasn’t a spoiler per se, as it didn’t state exactly what did or didn’t happen, but this event was built up so much in the blurb that I decided it probably was a non starter. This, paired with the fact that I’ve four kids and spend nights juggling reading, writing and my own personal studying of what I so technically term ‘the literary stuff;)’ ie articles on writing, publishing, marketing, promotion and grammar, means I don’t want to read average books. Harsh but true. There are published gems out there, and self published gems out there, and I want to find them.

Is this a fair way to be? Do you post book reviews? Do you stick to the (unsaid, unwritten) rule of being fully honest(without being mean, of course!)? Do you think I should blog ALL reviews, even if not asked? I’d love to hear your opinion, so let’s do this!!!