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

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

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!!!