Book Review: A Winter Beneath the Stars by Jo Thomas #BookReview #WomensFiction #BookLovers #Winter #Sweden #AWinterBeneathTheStars

Title: A Winter Beneath the Stars
Author: Jo Thomas
Publisher: Headline Review
Date: November 29th, 2018
Pages: 368
Format: Physical ARC
Source: from Publisher for a review

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 

Escape to snowy Sweden in the gorgeous new novel from the author of Late Summer in the Vineyard and Sunset Over the Cherry Orchard. Fans of Jill Mansell and Milly Johnson will love this unforgettable winter story from Jo Thomas. 

Halley has been running from her problems for years.

On a courier trip to Tallfors, deep in Swedish Lapland, everything is going to plan. Halley has her bag, with two precious wedding rings inside for delivery… until she doesn’t.

The only way to save the wedding is to team up with mysterious reindeer herder Bjorn, the one person who can lead her across the snowy tundra to be reunited with her bag.

On a journey of a lifetime beneath the stars, with only the reindeer and a bad-tempered stranger for company beside the fire, Halley realises that she will need to confront her past heartaches in order to let the warmth of love in once more…

Review:

If you follow me for a while, you know that year 2018 will be remembered in my reading life as a year I discovered Jo Thomas.  So far I read three of her books and loved them all. Sunset Over the Cherry Orchard made me fall in love with Thomas’ writing and made me want to read everything she wrote, while The Olive Branch won my heart completely and is now one of my all time favorite books.

I can’t even tell you how happy I was when I got A Winter Beneath the Stars unsolicited in my mailbox (thanks to wonderful Becky Hunter). I read it immediately because I didn’t want to wait, but I’m writing my review 1,5 months after finishing the book, so please forgive me if it’s not the best one.
The most important thing is that I really, really liked (loved it actually) it and that if you love funny chick lit stories, you will too.

The story follows Halley who has a job to deliver important wedding rings in Sweden. Things get complicated when her bag is switched in the airport, and now she has to find a guy who’s bag she got with hope that the rings are still in the bag and that her job will be successfully completed.

When I say I really, really liked the book, I mean that I loved it, but I wasn’t in love with it. I appreciate the story and it is obvious that the author put so much effort into researching.
However, I feel like I have never clicked with our main character Halley on the level that I’d like, nor did I like our male character Bjorn. Somehow he was dislikeable.

Other than that, Winter Beneath the Stars was really fun to read. I liked getting to know Swedish Lapland and the (few) people who live in that side of the world, as I have never been there nor do I know anyone from there.

Some parts were filled with so much snow and the only thing that was happening was our main characters talking or thinking something to themselves, while sleigh riding and coordinating dogs.
So if I’m being honest, at some point I lose my orientation and forgot for how long we were riding with our characters.

There were two twists or surprises in the story, but I figured them out before they were revealed. I can’t tell you if the reason for that is because the plot was predictable or maybe I would write the story the same way if I was a writer.
Whatever it is, I just want to stress out that I didn’t mind the predictability.

The story is written in first person, from Halley’s POV, but it also has some (small) parts written in third person.

A Winter Beneath the Stars is Jo Thomas’ first winter novel but I hope it won’t be the last, because it brightened my mood when I was reading it, and I am really looking forward to read her other work.
I feel like this author is the one I’ll always like to come back to.

If you’re looking for a light and fun novel to read during winter, look no further: A Winter Beneath the Stars is the one for you!

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Book Review: Once Upon a Christmas by Sarah Morgan #BookReview #Christmas #OnceUponAChristmas #BookLovers

Title: Once Upon a Christmas
Author: Sarah Morgan

Series: Lakeside Mountain Rescue (#1 & #2)

Publisher: Mills & Boon, Harlequin UK
Date: October, 2012
Pages: 379
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): What’s your number one Christmas wish?

Bryony’s daughter has put a dad on her Christmas list. That leaves Bryony with one month to find the perfect man, so this year she’s wishing for a miracle!

While she’s looking for love, her best friend Helen is doing the opposite. Her Christmas wish is to forget all about the white dress hanging in her wardrobe – and her faithless rat of a fiance.

Helen and Bryoney’s festive cheer definitely needs a boost, so it’s lucky that once upon a Christmas, wishes really do come true…

Review:

They say there is no recipe for a successful novel, but I think we’re being lied to.
I think there is one, and Sarah Morgan knows it. Either is that, or her novels follow the same formula.
Let me tell you what I mean…

I have read three of many of her novels, and all three of them had one thing in common: two main characters being stuck with each other under the same roof because of some unavoidable reason/event/misadventure, hanging together and falling in love.

I know Sarah Morgan has written so many books, and I only read three of them, so I hope they are not all the “same” because it would be a shame.

However, I have to stress out that her writing style is the most amazing thing about this novel and I would read all of her books, just so I could absorb at least bits of it.

Once Upon a Christmas is a novel that follows two stories: Bryony’s  and Helen’s.
I feel like Bryony’s story was originally imagined as a novella, but then it got “part two” and all of a sudden, it was a novel.
I am glad for it, because I liked part two much more then part one.

Part One follows Bryony who decided that she will grant her daughter’s Christmas wish and find a guy who will be perfect to be her father.
First of all, I can’t even tell you how wrong, in my eyes, that motive is. You don’t look for a guy you’ll date just so your child could have a father, if anything, that is not fair to a guy.
Second, the love interest was too controlling, unlikeable, in love with himself and a “whore”, while the Bryony, even though she had a child, wa so innocent, she probably grew a second hymen.

The story is manly focused on Bryony and Jack, with only few side characters, like novella should be.

On the other hand, Part Two is focused on more characters, town and it’s atmosphere, and I liked it so much more.
Our main characters Helen and Oliver were really likeable. Oliver was sweet guy and didn’t get on my nerves like Jack, and Helen’s motives came from the right place.
The only thing I didn’t like that much was how Helen was pictured like some weak woman who needs protection, and how she let other make decisions for her.

Overall, Once Upon a Christmas was a good festive read and I would recommend it to romance lovers.

Book Review: Not Just for Christmas by Natalie Cox #NotJustForChristmas #BlogTour @orionbooks #BookReview #Christmas #Comedy

I am so honoured to be today’s host in the Not Just for Christmas blog tour.
I want to thank Alainna Hadjigeorgiou from Oron Publishing for giving me this chance.
Not Just for Christmas was so fun to read and I really, really enjoyed it.

About the book:

Title: Not Just for Christmas
Author: Natalie Cox
Publisher: Orion
Date: November 15th, 2018
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: from Publisher for a review

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Charlie hates the holidays, and this year is shaping up to be her worst yuletide ever. Her boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, her flat is out of bounds after a gas leak, and her mother has gone to spend Christmas in Melbourne with her fifth husband. Finding herself single, mildly concussed and temporarily homeless, Charlie hesitantly agrees to dust off her wellies and spend the festive season in Devon, looking after Cosy Canine Cottages, her cousin Jez’s dog-care centre.

However, her plans for a quiet rural Christmas with only the four-legged friends for company are dashed as soon as she meets Malcolm the deaf Great Dane, Hugo, his gorgeous (but engaged) owner, and Cal, the undeniably attractive but unbearably haughty and patronising local vet…

Review:

If you’re looking for a good Christmas comedy, look no further!
Not Just for Christmas (or Mutts and Mistletoe, as it was previously published under that name) has everything you need this season in your festive chick lit: the most likeable protagonist you could wish for, many cute dogs, pups, hot guys, snow, food and lots and lots of humour.

Still, even though it’s funny and entertaining, it does not go overboard and everything in this novel, every element, is dosed just right.

The story follows Charlie, who after the accident that caught her apartment, stays at her cousin’s place.
Her cousin runs hotel for dogs, and after she goes on a trip to meet the love of her life, Charlie stays to run the place over Christmas.
Charlie is not a dog person, but day by day she discovers the beauty of mutts and one’s relationship with them.

Not Just for Christmas was lovely, warm story that put a smile on my face so many times.
It is a feel good story that will make readers’ lives better, I honestly believe that.

The writing style is stunning, and it reminds me of Sophie Kinsella’s, but it is still different. In my language, I would call it “pitko” which means that you drink the words, that’s how it easy is to read.

This book has 352 pages and it felt like it had only 200 pages, that’s how fast I read it (and I am a slow reader).

I liked all the characters. Even our villain was sympathetic.

Still, my favorite was Malcolm, a deaf Dane who certainly gave this book a heart.

I don’t say this often in my reviews, but I wouldn’t change anything in this novel.
It was perfect just as it was, and I am so grateful I had a chance to read it.

I can already see it will be the one book I’ll recommend to everyone around me.

If you’re looking for a good Christmas comedy, I highly, highly recommend you Not Just for Christmas (or Mutts and Mistletoe) because trust me, it will put a smile on your face and warm your heart, just like it did my.

Follow the Tour:

Book Review: Every Time a Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington #EveryTimeABellRings #BookReview #Christmas #MagicalRealism

Title: Every Time a Bell Rings
Author: Carmel Harrington
Publisher: HarperImpulse
Date: November 19th, 2015
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 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 is the most wonderful life of 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.

Review:

Trigger warning: This book talks about child loss.

Every Time a Bell Rings was on my wishlist for the longest time, and this year I decided to grant my wish and bought myself a nice paperback to start a festive season. It was my first Christmas read of 2018 and I am so glad I chose this novel to be the one, because I loved it so much.

Fist advice that I’d give to everyone who wants to read it is to avoid synopsis on the back (or on Goodreads, and yeah, I know I am guilty of pasting those here) because they give too much away.

The story follows Belle and Jim from their early age. We get to see their lives trough years, and most of the events we see happen’ around Christmases.

The story talks about fostering and it manly focuses on this topic, showing us what it’s like to be foster child but also what it’s like to be foster parent. Because of that factor, I can say that I learned a lot about something I knew very little about.

From all the serious subjects this story brings, there is one particular that can be triggering (I mentioned it in the trigger warning) and that is just heartbreaking.

After something like two thirds of the book we get to see the heart of the story, as dash of magical realism plays it’s part.
When I reached that part, the Christmas Spirit really hit me hard, filled my heart with joy and made me want to celebrate life.
I understand my words may sound like exaggerating to you, but if you(‘ll) read the story, you(‘ll) probably get them.

The writing style was really good. The novel is written in first person, from Belle’s POV.

The cover is so beautiful and eye catching, and it was the first thing that caught my attention, but after reading the book I do have one comment, a thing I’d like to be different.
Belle represents POC, she is black, so I wish the girl on the cover was black too. I wish they showed her curly hair because it was mentioned more then few times in the story.

As you could conclude from my words, this book represents diversity, because main character is POC and it also talks about fostering.

In the end, I just want to mention that my copy of the novel has an interview with Carmel Harrington in it, and I really enjoyed reading her words, hearing her say she believes in angels and where her idea came from.

I’d recommend this novel to readers who’d like to read something to put them into Christmas Spirit, but don’t hesitate when it comes to books with more serious topics.

Book Review: One New York Christmas by Mandy Baggot #BookReview #OneNewYorkChristmas #Christmas #Chicklit

Title: One New York Christmas
Author: Mandy Baggot
Publisher: Ebury, Penguin Random House UK
Date: November 15th, 2018
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: from Publisherr for a review

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Will this Christmas romance be just for the holidays?

A fun, festive romantic comedy to curl up with this winter. If you love Josie Silver’s One Day in December, you’ll love Mandy Baggot’s heart-warming festive romance.

Lara Weeks is heading to New York with best friend Susie for the Christmas trip of a lifetime.

festive break in the snowy Big Apple visiting the tourist hotspots, not to mention the shopping, seems like the perfect way for Lara to get over her ex-boyfriend. Or maybe make him so jealous he begs for a second chance.

Enlisting the help of gorgeous actor, Seth Hunt, doesn’t quite go to plan, but there’s something about him that has Lara wishing for a different kind of happy ever after

Review:

One New York Christmas is the second christmassy book written by Mandy Baggot that I have read, and I can officially say that her festive novels are must have during winter.
I loved the previous one (One Christmas in Paris) and I adored this one too.

The story follows Lara who spends her holidays in New York, trying to heal her broken heart.
On the other side there is Seth, a good looking actor with a kind heart, who tries his best to succeed in the acting career, and make his parents proud of him.

At first, I thought this will be a romantic, funny story, and it was, but it was also so much more.
The story explores some complex topics like adoption and unknownness of one’s own origin.
Then, it also talks about being homeless and how there are more then few reasons how one can end up on the streets, even when he’s trying to do something with his life.

The story also talks about family, friendships and human relationships, and it well inquires those aspects.

But at the same time, while talking about such serious subjects, it manages to entertain readers, make them laugh, relax then and put them into Christmas Spirit.

I liked almost all the characters, Seth and Lara, their best friends and their family members. There are only few “unlikeable” characters, which were ment to be “bad guys” of the story, but I didn’t mind them.

However, I have to stress out that one character I admired the most was New York itself.
Yes, you’ve read it right! Mandy Baggot described that city and it’s atmosphere during December so well, that it got his own role in the story, and I as a reader couldn’t forget that we were in New York.
That, my friends, is what I call amazing writing ability!

I loved almost everything about this story, but there is one (probably not that important) thing that made me feel a bit uncomfortable, and I will tell you what it is, because I’m always honest in my reviews. However, I think most people wouldn’t even notice that thing.
I didn’t like how Lara called her brother Aldo, who is adopted, her “almost-brother”. It happened 12 times in the story, and it made me feel like she was trying to separate herself from him, like stressing out that he was not her brother by blood was so important, she had to call him almost-brother instead just calling him brother instead?
I don’t know, we have one adopted family member (my father’s cousin) and I can imagine if his sister was calling him almost-brother it would hurt his feelings. It would make him feel like he wasn’t genuine part of the family, and it would be wrong.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading One New York Christmas and I would recommend it to everyone who enjoys festive chick lits and Christmas stories.

I can’t wait to see what other books Mandy Bagott has written/will write because this author is definitely on my tbr!

Book Review: A Christmas Date by Camilla Isley #BookReview #AChristmasDate #Christmas

Title: A Christmas Date
Series: First Comes Love (#3)
Author: Camilla Isley
Publisher: Pink Bloom Press
Date: October 25th, 2018
Pages: 231
Format: eARC
Source: from Author for a review

Synopsis (from Goodreads): No one wants to be single at the holidays.

Even Little Miss Grinch, Nikki, a successful and independent woman, must face her bachelorette status at the most horrible time of the year.

December is her personal version of holly-jolly hell: a merry torture made of couples kissing at every corner, forced vacation days, and an inescapable family reunion.

And when her baby sister announces she’s engaged—to Paul, the man Nikki is secretly in love with—and that he’s spending the holidays with them, Christmas starts looking bluer than ever.

Nikki can’t possibly survive an entire week trapped home as the family’s spinster. But she has no time to meet men or to try the newest dating app, she’s too busy working as a video producer for an advertising agency.

So what’s a girl to do?

Nikki has the perfect solution: to hire a fake boyfriend.

Luckily, her job gives her access to an endless catalog of gorgeous actors to choose from.

But Nikki will soon discover that keeping business and pleasure from mixing isn’t so easy, and that she might not be immune to a little mistletoe magic. Especially not when she picked out the perfect man as her Christmas date…

A fun, festive romantic comedy with lots of bad behavior and Christmas spirit. Like a creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, you won’t want to put this deliciously hilarious novel down. Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Sally Thorne, and Jo Watson.

First Comes Love is a series of interconnected romantic novels. However, each book in the series can be read as a standalone.

Review:

First of all, I think this book has the longest synopsis ever, so I won’t repeat what it is about, just read them if you’re interested (or don’t if you’re like me, and like to go into books blind).

Camilla Isley is the author who’s books I noticed before and some of them are on my tbr list, but I still didn’t read them for one reason or another (you know how it goes, too many books, so little time and similar excuses).
When I saw her email in my mailbox I was surprised, to say the least. I always admired her from away, and to see that she knows who I am and wants me to review her book was a pleasant shock.

I had so much fun reading A Christmas Date. It was quick and quirky, and it made me laugh out loud. 
I liked the story. It does have some cliches, but I didn’t mind them.

What I liked the most was the writing style. Reading this novel was easy as drinking, I just flew through it, and before I realized, the story was over.
It was short and sweet, just like a chick-lit novels should be.

I mean, A Christmas Date is a chick lit at it’s best.

What I also liked about this book is how it explores siblings relationship, including rivalry and affection.

I liked almost all the characters from the book. The only one I wasn’t a fan of was Nikki’s sister, but then again, since Nikki has love/hate relationship with her, and the story is written from Nikki’s POV, I think Julia was ment to be unlikeable.

This is a festive read, but since Nikki has somewhat Grinchy approach to holidays, it was refreshing to read about Christmas in a different light.
However, even Nikki’s grumpy attitude couldn’t kill the Christmas spirit of the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Christmas Date and am looking forward to read Isley’s other books.

I would recommend this book to everyone who is in the mood for some merry chick lit.

Book Review: The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes #BookReview #TheStormRunner #Mythology #MiddleGrade

Title: The Storm Runner
Author: J.C. Cervantes
Series: The Storm Runner (#1)
Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents, Dysney Hyperion
Date: September 18th, 2018
Pages: 448
Format: Hardback
Source: from Publisher for a review

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Zane has always enjoyed exploring the dormant volcano near his home in New Mexico, even though hiking it is challenging. He’d much rather hang out there with his dog, Rosie, than go to middle school, where kids call him Sir Limps a Lot, McGimpster, or Uno — for his one good leg. What Zane doesn’t know is that the volcano is a gateway to another world and he is at the center of a powerful prophecy.

A new girl at school, Brooks, informs him that he’s destined to release an evil god from the ancient Maya relic he is imprisoned in — unless she can find and remove it first. Together they return to the volcano, where all kinds of crazy happens. Brooks turns into a hawk, a demon attacks them in a cave, and Rosie gives her all while trying to protect Zane. When Zane decides to save his dog no matter the cost, he is thrust into an adventure full of surprising discoveries, dangerous secrets, and an all-out war between the gods, one of whom happens to be his father. To survive, Zane will have to become the Storm Runner. But how can he run when he can’t even walk well without a cane?

Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Maya mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate.

Review:

I was never Miss-Know-It-All when it comes to mythology.
I barely know basics about Greek mythology, know even less about Scandinavian one, and when it comes to Maya, before I came across this book, I had no idea it even exists.

Here is what come books for, to make us learn, end even though I can’t say that I am an expert in Maya mythology after finishing The Storm Runner, I can say that I know at least little about it.

The Storm Runner is a middle grade fantasy book that follows a 13 years old boy Zane. Along with Zane, readers can discover gods, creatures and legends that are part of Maya mythology.

This is own voices novel because the author’s origin, and it also represents diversity because our main character is Hispanic, and he is also disabled person (one of his legs is smaller then the other one).

The story is written in first person, from Zane’s POV.

I loved following Zane through the story, he was really interesting and had good sense of humour. I even laughed out loud couple of times, despite this not being a comedy.

Discovering ancient Maya gods and legends was exciting, even though the names (as they are so much different from my native language) often made me confused, and I would forget who was who in a very short time.
However, because the author did a good job in bringing us a story, it was easy to keep up.

The characters of the book were fascinating and I can see them being someone’s favorite characters. I surely liked them, especially Zane.

I can also easily imagine The Storm Runner being turned into movie or tv show.

I’ve read some reviews for this novels that compare it to Percy Jackson saying it is very similar to it. Since I haven’t read that series yet, I can’t tell you if that is the case, but I can tell you that the atmosphere in the book did remind me of the second Percy Jackson movie (and I love those movies, in case you didn’t know (and yes, I know it’s an unpopular opinion)).

I would recommend this book to fans of middle grade and young adult fantasy, but also to everyone who’d like to read a story that talks about Maya mythology.
Since this is a middle grade book, it will be easy to follow to everyone who know nothing about it.