Friday, December 19, 2014

"The Charm Bracelet" by Melissa Hill

Every charm bracelet tells a story and this is especially true for Holly O’Neill.  Years ago she was mysteriously sent one with just one charm attached and over the years she has received more charms, coming at her most challenging times.  It’s almost as though the person who is sending them knows exactly what she needs.

When Holly finds a lost charm bracelet, knowing how much hers means to her, she knows that she must reunite it with its owner.  But the only way she can find the owner is by using each charm as a clue.  Soon, her search has her heading all over New York City at Christmas time.  And as Holly gets closer and closer to the owner, it also leads her toward something she will never expect. 

The Charm Bracelet, by Melissa Hill, is a lovely festive read about the magic of Christmas.  You can just picture the lights and the snow falling all around Holly as she puts her faith in the romance of the season.

I’ve probably mentioned it before but if you’re a fan of romantic reads, there is nothing better than one set at Christmas time.  At the time of year that becomes very busy and for many can become very stressful, a read like this can whisk you away for just a bit and remind you of the beauty of the season.

This is a lovely chick-lit read.  It has all of the necessary elements, it’s an easy and enjoyable read.  I really enjoyed the character of Holly as well as her lovely son Danny, and liked how you also get the parallel story of Greg.  It is fun to piece along the story with Holly as she follows the charms throughout the city.

The Charm Bracelet has all the elements of a wonderful chick-lit Christmas novel - mystery, romance, the beauty of the big city, family, warmth, and charm.  Perfect for cold days, I read this one while on Christmas vacation last year, with a ton of snow falling outside my window and it added to the beauty inside the book.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books of 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Choosing my top ten books of 2014 was pretty easy, I just searched out which books I gave 5 stars to on Goodreads.  I'm pretty tight when it comes to giving out the full 5 stars, so it means I absolutely loved these books.

1. The Great Christmas Knit-Off by Alexandra Brown
3. The Love Detective by Alexandra Potter
4. One Hundred Proposals by Holly Martin
5. A Proper Family Holiday by Chrissie Manby
6. Mansfield Lark by Katie Oliver
7. Prada and Prejudice by Katie Oliver
8. Landing Gear by Kate Pullinger
9. The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley
10. Radiance of Tomorrow of Ishmael Beah

Did any of these books make your top ten this year?  What books would you choose for your list?

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Meet Me Under the Mistletoe" by Abby Clements

Laurie and Rachel were inseparable growing up but as they became adults their lives took two very different paths.  Laurie is a dedicated career-girl, living and working in London, with very little time for much else.  Rachel is living in a beautiful cottage in Yorkshire, spending her days caring for her family, though she worries that her marriage may be in trouble.

When Rachel’s mother-in-law falls ill, the family has to head to London for her treatment.  And when Laurie makes a major mistake at work, she decides that it is probably best she get away from it all for a bit.  They come up with a plan to swap houses in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  But as we all know, life doesn’t always go as planned.  Will their relationships be able to survive the holidays and most importantly, will they make it home in time for Christmas?

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe is the first novel by chick-lit writer Abby Clements, who has since written three more novels.  Told in alternating chapters between the women, this is a fun, light novel that is perfect for curling up with while the snow falls outside.

The house swapping part of this book was such a joy, especially considering I would love to live in both places!  Whether London or Yorkshire, Clement describes the settings so well you feel as though you are right there discovering the cities with the characters.  

This book has a great cast of characters, from the main characters to the supporting ones they meet along the way.  The contrast of the career woman and family woman is something that is done often in novels but it doesn’t feel boring or already done in this book.  In fact, though this novel may sound like something done before, it doesn’t have that feel.  And after reading it, I was surprised to find out that it’s a debut novel because of how polished it is.  

The beautiful cover of this book shows you exactly what it feels like - it is warm, cozy, and festive.  If you’re looking for a holiday read that will help you escape the stress of the season, this is perfect.  I read this book last year while on my Christmas vacation in a ski village and it captured the surroundings perfectly.

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Make My Wish Come True" by Fiona Harper

Juliet has always strived to be the perfect mother and that especially goes at Christmastime.  Homemade baked goods for the teachers, a nicely decorated house, and a festive feast for family and friends, she does it all.  But since her marriage broke down two years ago, Christmas has become much more difficult for her.  So this year she is turning to her sister Gemma for help.

Gemma, the favourite daughter, the free-spirit, the one with the glamourous job, the one who avoids responsibility, isn’t looking forward to another Christmas at home.  So when she visits her sister before the holiday, she announces that she is jetting off to the Caribbean for some alone time.

When Juliet realizes that her sister is abandoning her once again, she snaps.  And there is only one way that Gemma can fix this.  She offers to swap Christmases - she’ll stay home with the kids and Juliet can head off for some fun in the sun.  

Throw in a hunky next-door neighbour and a sexy Italian also on vacation and the women may get more than they bargained for.  Will this be a Christmas to remember or one to forget?

Make My Wish Come True by Fiona Harper is a festive take on the life swap novel, with two very different sisters and two very different Christmases.  

I loved the juxtaposition of the two different locations for Christmas.  Growing up, I spent most of my Christmases in a warm climate and now I spend them here in the Great White North.  So it was nice to see a book include both and go back and forth.  Just when you’re feeling a little too chilly, you can warm up on the beach!

I really enjoyed this book, and for once I found two characters who are supposed to square off against each other that I ended up liking.  I tend to side with the free-spirit (the complete opposite of myself) and I thought at the beginning I wouldn’t like Juliet, but I was pleasantly surprised. I think this is because Harper writes a great back-story for the women and gives just enough to make you understand the women and why they are the way they are.  That makes a difference between disliking the characters and disliking their behaviour.

A book that involves a life swap may not seem like anything new, and while it isn’t, this book doesn’t have that feel.  It doesn’t feel like just another book.  It is enjoyable and realistic.  I enjoyed how the children were portrayed.  They weren’t bratty or too perfect, and they experienced what real children do.  The love interests were surprising to me and really had me guessing.  I did not expect for things to turn out the way they did.  

A festive story about two very different sisters going through life not really understanding the other, Make My Wish Come True is a lovely and heart-warming read.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Hitting the Right Note" by Rhonda Bowen

JJ Isaacs has always dreamed of becoming a star and now, as she goes out on tour as a back-up singer for R&B superstar Deacon Hill, her dream just might come true.  Deacon sees JJ’s potential, and so does Rayshawn, JJ’s manager and producer - and secret boyfriend.  But the more success she finds on stage, the harder it becomes for her to stay true to her faith.

While JJ is on tour, her sister-in-law Sheree is struggling through a difficult pregnancy back in Toronto.  But she knows that she can count on doctor Simon Massri to take good care of Sheree.  What JJ doesn’t expect is that she’ll soon find Simon taking care of her.  As JJ struggles to deal with her feelings for Simon, her flailing faith, and her impending stardom, she finds herself having to make a tough decision - love or career?

Hitting the Right Note is Rhonda Bowen’s fourth novel and it is a lovely, Christian novel that will transcend the religious genre and strike the right chord with readers of all walks of life.

This novel follows-up Bowen’s third novel, Get You Good, but this time follows different characters.  I really enjoy novels that follow the same set of characters but focuses on different ones in each book and I’m glad that Bowen did that this time around.  There are more sisters in the family, hopefully that means there will be more books!

The character JJ is a woman who has lost her way.  She comes from a tight-knit family, a large group of sisters who depend on their faith and each other to guide their way through life.  But her dream of becoming a star takes her away from all of that and drops her into a new world where it seems that no one shares her background or values.  You don’t need to become a superstar to find yourself in this situation.  Most people go through a point in their lives where they find themselves in a place that puts their values to the test.  This is one of those books that will have you thinking “what would I do” the whole way through. What would you sacrifice to make your dreams come true?

Ms. Bowen writes with ease and warmth which makes reading this novel a joy.  Though you pretty much know which way the novel is going to end, getting there is full of twists and turns that will have you pulling for the characters.  Bowen has hit the mark with another great novel about faith, family, and love.

Monday, December 8, 2014

"Difficult Husbands" by Mary de Laszlo

Three women, three very difficult marriages.  Lorna is newly divorced, her ex-husband Stephen having run off to be with a woman half his age.  Gloria is married to alcoholic Adrian, whose drinking is driving their adult son away.  And Rosalind is married to Ivan, a man who would rather rescue teenage girls and bed their social workers in the process.  Three women in their forties who all married older men.  Three women who are starting to regret their choice in men.

When Lorna inherits a grand, but crumbling, estate in Sussex from her godfather, the women hatch a plan.  Ditch their husbands at Ravenscourt House for a few days at Christmas, so the girls and their children can have a stress-free holiday for once.  But things never seem to go as planned.

Difficult Husbands by Mary de Laszlo is a touching Christmas novel that looks at just how much a woman can stand when it comes to "for better or for worse."


I wanted to like this novel, I really did.  I loved the premise of the book and couldn’t wait to see what happened.  I had thought it was going to be more light-hearted than it was, but I was okay with not getting what I expected there.  But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t connect with the book. 

I found the dialogue to be stilted, I didn’t get much emotion out of it at all.  I felt like it was what one thinks someone should say, but not how people would actually talk in that situation.  I found it hard to believe that the women were in their forties as their attitudes and behaviour made them seem much younger, especially Lorna.  

There was also too much build up to the actual plot.  Too much discussing what to do and not enough actually doing it.  And quite frankly, these men weren’t difficult, they were complete jerks.  The women shouldn’t have ditched them for the holidays, they should have ditched them for good a long time ago! 

I was ready to give up 30% of the way in.  But I read some reviews of the book where people said it starts out slow, so I decided to keep going.  And it did pick up, and it did get better, but I had a hard time enjoying it because I had already checked out.

The good things?  This book tackles some difficult subjects like alcohol, infertility, unexpected pregnancy, divorce, and it does take them on in a sensitive way.  The book ends in a satisfying way for what it has taken on.  The friendship that the three women share is lovely and it’s great to see how the women gave each other strength.  And it is nice to see a book take on the characters who are older, and marriages with an age difference.  

There are some people who had different, and better, feelings about this book than I did and you can see 4 star reviews from Goodreads here and here.  I don’t think I would really recommend this book but I do know that just because I didn’t enjoy it that much, it doesn’t mean others won’t.  This book wouldn’t stop me from trying another book from the author.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Friday, December 5, 2014

"Miracle on Regent Street" by Ali Harris

Evie Taylor works in the stockroom of a family-run, London department store.  You would think that this would lead to a glamorous life but for Evie, it is quite the opposite.  Even though she has been in London for the last two years, her neighbours think she’s new and her manager at work doesn’t know her name.  But she loves her job working in the beautiful old building, in a place of days gone by.

One day Evie overhears a conversation and learns that if the store can’t turn things around by December 26th, then it will be sold to a big chain.  That gives the store only three weeks, it would definitely need a Christmas miracle to pull it off.  And so Evie comes up with a secret plan to transform the store and bring back the glory it once had.

Miracle on Regent Street, by Ali Harris, is a fun novel that captures the spirit and magic of Christmas.  Following a young girl in a big city who gets swept up in the miracle of the season, the book is perfect for anyone looking for a sweet, festive read.

You can’t have the Christmas season without shopping so where better to set a holiday novel than in a department store.  And what is so lovely about this story is it’s not just set in a department store but one full of vintage clothing and glamour.  We all have fond memories of department stores from when we were younger and it can easily seem like that world no longer exists.  This novel transports you back to a memorable time.

When it comes to the characters in this book, I have to say that I really wasn’t that impressed by Evie at the beginning.  If someone doesn’t know your name, you tell them what it is!  That is one mistake you never let pass and it frustrated me that she let people treat her like that.  Okay, it’s a book and you need your characters to be a certain way, but it left me feeling frustrated rather than with sympathy for her, which I thinks is more the way you’re supposed to be going.  It’s okay though, there was a very eclectic mix of supporting characters and I loved the Christmas “elves” who help Evie with her plan.  I love the way the community was built up.

A tad long and tad descriptive, but other than that this is a great festive book that will definitely get you in the holiday spirit.  And it may even take some of the stress out of your holiday shopping.