Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Baby It's Cold Outside by Kerry Barrett

"For better or much, much worse...

Esme and Jamie have finally got their perfect wedding day planned. Beautiful snowy landscape – check. Amazing venue – check. Stunning dress – check.

But when an avalanche seals off their gorgeous mountain hometown from the outside world, their dream day starts to look more like a nightmare. Especially when Jamie’s ex turns up on their doorstep with a surprise neither of them expected!

Whilst Esme’s magical powers can solve a lot of problems, it's starting to look like their big day is doomed! Is Esme and Jamie’s wedding simply not meant to be, or can they still make it down the aisle, against all the odds?"

This book is part of the Could it be Magic series, which I did not realise until I had started reading.  It definitely works as a stand alone book, but I did find myself wondering what I would know had I read the first two in the series (for example, Jamie and Esme's history?!) so it would have been nice to read the others from a depth/fulfillment of the characters point of view rather than as a necessity.

There is plenty of snow in this wintry delight which makes it the perfect magical and seasonal read.  And it truly is magical, as Esme and her family are witches (the nice variety) so it felt like a cross between Bewitched and Sabrina the Teenage Witch with all the spells and sparkles.

Whilst it took a while for me to warm up to Esme, there are plenty of characters to love (although it took me a while to start remembering exactly who was who).  Parker is pretty cute, and he is the one who, despite being only 5, brings the life lessons to this fun story.  

I enjoyed reading the uphill battle (after all the snow had come downhill) to pull of Esme and Jamie's perfect wedding.  As for the ending, well.....I will not say too much but ARGGGGHHHH!! It leaves you on a cliff hanger which indicates there will definitely be a fourth in this series!!

Thank you to Net Galley and Carina UK for the e-copy.

Monday, 22 December 2014

How the In-Laws Wrecked Christmas by Fiona Gibson

"A funny, festive short story from bestseller Fiona Gibson. Just the thing to curl up with on a cold winter night.

Christmas in the country. What could be better? All you need is one country house, one gorgeous boyfriend and a liberal dusting of snow. Right?

That’s what Anna thinks and she can’t wait for the festivities to start. But then she meets her gorgeous boyfriend’s awful parents. And their drunk friends. And she starts to hear all about a certain ex-wife. Suddenly this doesn’t look like a very merry Christmas after all…"

Given this is a short story, I found the characters to be well drawn and I really got into the story, albeit that it took be about half an hour to read!  

Ben's daughter is adorable and his parents are, of course, a complete nightmare, and as for the ex-wife: arggggh!!  I am sure a lot of people will be able to relate to some of the torture and dread which Anna experiences over Christmas in this delightful short story from Fiona Gibson.

The ending leaves some things to the imagination (including the nature of Anna's relationship with J) and in my opinion, easily leaves it open for a revisit to these characters in the future (and given how quickly I warmed to them, I would like that!)

This story obviously does not feature the ideal fairy tale Christmas but it is likely to include threads of many peoples reality!

I downloaded this book as a free book from Amazon - what a festive bargain!!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Parisian Christmas Bake Off by Jenny Oliver

"Welcome to the most celebrated patisserie competition in Paris – ready, steady, bake!

Watching snowflakes settle on the Eiffel Tower, Rachel Smithson’s cosy English village feels very far way – as, thankfully, does her commitment-phobic ex, probably already kissing someone else under the mistletoe. But Rachel hasn’t come to Paris to mope she’s come to bake. Hard.

Because the search for Paris’s next patisserie apprentice is about to begin! And super-chef judge Henri Salernes is an infamously tough cookie. But Rachel isn’t about to let her confidence (or pastry) crumble. She’s got one week, mounds of melt-in-the-mouth macaroons and towers of perfect profiteroles to prove that she really is a star baker.

As well as clouds of flour, and wafts of chocolate and cinnamon, there’s definitely a touch of Christmas magic in the air… Rachel hasn’t come to Paris looking for a fairy-tale romance, but the city of love might gift-wrap her one anyway…

Not even a dusting of icing sugar could make The Parisian Christmas Bake Off a more perfect Christmas treat!"

This is the second Jenny Oliver book I have read within a month, and the second one that I will advise you not to read whilst you are hungry!  Jenny Oliver is the best at writing about the most delicious creations.  There is another theme that links the two books as both see someone leaving the comfort of their own home in the lead up to Christmas because of a man!  You can read my review of the equally wonderful The Little Christmas Kitchen here.

I loved this festive delight from Jenny Oliver, as she whisks us off to Paris to conjure up some Christmas magic.  It is set mainly in the lead up to Christmas, as Rachel tries to avoid all things Christmassy, but part of the story takes us to the following summer.  I have to say it isn't the MOST christmassy book I have ever read, but there is plenty of snow and some festivities along the way. However, in my opinion, it could definitely be enjoyed at any time of the year though!

You do not need to have watched (and loved) The Great British Bake Off to enjoy this book.  Yes, it involves a cooking competition but you meet some wonderful characters along the way and the cooking delights are an added bonus.  As a girl who loves cake, they left me wishing I had my own Rachel Smithson to whisk me up some of her fabulous creations.

I found The Parisian Christmas Bake Off to be an emotional journey.  My eyes welled up so many times that I lost count and there were times when I found myself full on blubbing!  Jenny Oliver manages to combine the light and fluffy cakes and romance with the hard realities of real life exceptionally well.  This book in particular focuses on the loss of a parent and the way it changes not only you but also your relationship with the surviving parent as well as the relationship you tell yourself is fine when really you know, deep down, that it is not fine.

I was worried that this book might be "overly French" but it isn't, it is just perfect as it is.  The ideal book to settle down with this Christmas in front of a fire, on the sofa, with a large mug of hot chocolate (with marshmallows and whipped cream) and a massive slice of cake.

If anything, this book ended too soon and I would have liked to have seen the ending elaborated slightly more.  I had not expected it to end so soon as the paperback I was reading had so many pages left but they are packed full of festive treats (a chat with Jenny, Jenny's childhood christmas memories, ten things Jenny loves about Christmas, some recipes from the book (!!!) and an extract from The Vintage Summer Wedding by Jenny Oliver)

Would you like to win yourself a copy of The Parisian Christmas Bake Off? Well it must be your lucky day, because a lovely lady at Carina UK has offered readers of Book - Love - Bug the chance to win a paperback copy this festive season. To be in with a chance of winning, follow the rafflecopter instructions below....

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A Family Christmas by Katie Flynn

"From the Sunday Times bestselling author of A Christmas to Remember. Two children go on a desperate journey to find their family

Jimmy Trewin and his little sister are devastated by their mother's death and horrified to find themselves entrusted to the far from tender care of a hated neighbour, Mrs Huxtable. They hope their father will rescue them when his ship comes into port but this does not happen and when Cyril Huxtable is seen by the children hiding "a wad of notes" away, a wad which subsequently disappears, they realise they are in deep trouble. Cyril accuses them of theft and threatens a terrible revenge so they decide to leave Liverpool and try to find their mother's family in Wales.

Soon, they meet Miss Trent, a school teacher who has been unfairly dismissed, and agree to join forces since Miss Trent also hopes to find relatives in Wales. But Cyril has promised to pursue them until they hand over his property, and soon they realise he has picked up their trail..."

This is what I would call a proper story, not all fairy tales and romance.  I would have liked to have known earlier in the story what decade this was set in because it wasn't obvious until quite a way in to the book (1930's into 1940's & WWII).  In addition, the synopsis (above) isn't actually totally accurate to the story of the book (in the description of what Cyril is seen hiding away) (which I guess is more of a comment for the publisher!).

If you're looking for a festive read, then this is not it (despite Christmas being in the title!) - but what the book is is a good traditional read that reminded me of a modernised Charles Dickens novel; the tale of two children left by their heartbroken widowed father with a wicked neighbour.  When the children cannot take any more, what results is a tale of their journey across the country in search of a family they can call their own.  

The story was interesting, and there are plenty of twists and turns along the way.  I got slightly hung up on the authors over use of the word "presently" which I have to admit did annoy me!  However, the characters were well drawn, and although the story jumps forward a couple of times (and it would have been nice to have seen the in-between moments), I very much enjoyed it.  I also liked the relationship between Jimmy and Mo, and the other relationships that are built as the book progresses.

The publishers have kindly offered five readers of Book - Love - Bug the chance to win a copy of A Family Christmas.  For the chance to win one of five copies, follow the rafflecopter instructions below.

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Saturday, 6 December 2014

Christmas in the Snow by Karen Swan

No secret stays buried forever... 

In London, the snow is falling and Christmas is just around the corner - but Allegra Fisher barely has time to notice. She's pitching for the biggest deal of her career and can't afford to fail. And when she meets attractive stranger, Sam Kemp, on the plane to the meeting, she can't afford to lose her focus either. She learned to shut off her emotions long ago and only her sister and best friend Isobel knows why. But when Allegra finds herself up against Sam for the bid, their passion quickly turns sour. 

In Zermatt in the Swiss Alps, a long-lost mountain hut is discovered in the snow after sixty years and the last person expecting to become involved is Allegra - she hasn't even heard of the woman they found inside. But it soon becomes clear the two women are linked and, as she and Iz travel out to make sense of the mystery, hearts thaw and dark secrets are uncovered, long buried by the snow. 

With glamorous locations and heart-breaking twists, Christmas in the Snow is all you need in your stocking for a truly decadent Christmas holiday.  The perfect gift - even if it's just to yourself.

This book is the ultimate book to curl up with on a winters day in front of a roaring fire with a glass of wine and a box of chocolates.  Karen Swan is the queen of winter reads, and despite Christmas in the Snow having "Christmas" in the title, I would class this is more of a "winter read" as it is set in the month of December in the lead up to Christmas, and Christmas does not realllly feature until the last few pages of the book.  However, when Christmas does come, it is the perfect family Christmas, at long last.

I loved the idea of the Advent Calendar that Allegra and Isobel find in their mum's loft, and wish we had seen more of it in the earlier parts of the book. Whilst we see the sisters open the first door together on 1 December, we do not see it again until 14 December (other than the 'titles' at the beginning of certain chapters).  However, I guess this fits in with how Allegra grows throughout the book; in the first part of the book, she is so engrossed in her work that she doesn't even notice that Christmas is approaching whereas a dramatic shift will soon change everything in her world.  I liked the first part of "Allegra's life" but I loved the second part which emerges along with the dramatic shift.  

I am not a skier and I have never been to Zermatt but I love the descriptions (including the descriptions of waffles and crepes, being my weak spot and made me hungrier than I already was) and the vast array of characters are simply divine as they lead you on a complex journey that will not only hold your interest but sometimes you will gasp realising that you've been holding your breath for too long.  The twists and turns just keep on coming (like Legs and Iz descending the piste in Zermatt) and even when you think you've seen the last, there is more waiting for you round the corner.  Karen Swan has a fabulous style of writing; it is detailed and it immerses you in the story making you feel as though you are really there in the exotic (and in this case, frozen) locations.

I adored the ending, and the only negative thing I can say is that it ended too soon because I was so immersed that I wanted more!  Christmas in the Snow is a story of a love so strong that it could survive anything; "In a sea of people, my eyes will always look for you".  However, whilst there is romance, the book also has serious elements to it including early onset Alzheimer's which is absolutely heartbreaking.

I have my fingers crossed for a sequel in which Sam will fall in love with me.....but all in seriousness, I would love a sequel just so I can get some more of these fabulous characters!

And talking of sequels, Karen is currently editing the actual real life sequel to Christmas at Tiffany's (I hear that Summer at Tiffany's is due out in July) - eeeeek!!!!!