Books, Holidays, Review

Mini Reviews #7: Reunited for the Holidays

One of my absolute favourite part about the holidays has to be the fact that it means seeing my family. Even though Belgium’s not really that big? All my aunts and uncles, cousins and their children are basically spread out of the entirety of it. So getting to see all of them? And at the same time? It’s busy, it’s loud, it’s madness… And it’s absolutely amazing to be reunited for the holidays!

I was offered these ARCs by Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are strictly my own.

A Christmas Gift, Sue Moorcroft

The story

Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.
To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there be more to him than meets the eye?
Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?

The opinion

Last year, I got the chance to read The Little Christmas Village, which was also written by Sue Moorcroft. At that point, I wrote something to the extent of me really loving it when chicklit actually has a story to tell. Basically, The Little Christmas Village had character development, so many people to fall in love with, and of course: Christmas! Well, guess what? Sue Moorcroft’s done it again with A Christmas Gift.
First of all, there’s Georgine who is, just weeks before Christmas (and, let’s be real, in the months before that as well), faced with money-problems and all the bad memories that go hand in hand with that. She starts out as someone who lets herself be manipulated quite easily, maybe even walked over (a realisation she reaches about halfway through the book!). In just a couple of weeks, though, she is faced with elements of various stages from her past – ranging from the “okay” to the “terrible” that face her to do a lot of growing.
Two of the main reasons for that growth? Joe, who, as it turns out, is an old friend and has a bit of a hidden past ànd present himself. And Blair, Georgine’s sister who is trying so hard that even when things went terribly wrong? I couldn’t help but root for them.
That is probably one of the main reasons I loved this book either way: whenever things go wrong (and, trust me, that happens quite regularly)? You can still see how those situations originated, you understand the why and the how. Sue Moorcroft has that most precious of gifts for an author of knowing just when to give up what piece of information to make for the most natural of progress – in relationships as well as in plot!
What’s more, I’ve noticed recently that I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find books, especially cosy and fluffy books, that really hit the spot for me. I mean, if your characters fall in love, fine, but at least show your reader why, you know? Reading A Christmas Gift came as something of a relief, in that aspect. Sue Moorcroft manages to get the set-up of every piece of her story just right so that when fear, betrayal and joy hit? They hit not only the characters, but you as well. So if you’re in need of the kind of book that’ll have you smiling along, rooting for that happy ending and definitely some Christmas spirit? This is the book for you!

Rating: 3.5/5 (Goodreads)

Another Day in Winter, Shari Low

Story

On a chilly morning in December forever friends Shauna and Lulu touch down at Glasgow Airport on a quest to find answers from the past.
George knows his time is nearing the end, but is it too late to come to terms with his two greatest regrets?
His grandson Tom uncovers a betrayal that rocks his world as he finally tracks down the one that got away.
And single mum Chrissie is ready to force her love-life out of hibernation, but can anyone compare to the man who broke her heart?
After the success of the No1 best seller ONE DAY IN DECEMBER, comes the second unmissable read in Shari Low’s Winter Day trilogy.

Opinion

If there’s anything studying literature and linguistics will teach you, it’s to appreciate a well-executed multi-perspective story. This one is a couple of steps above well-executed. Within the span of 24 hours, these Shauna, George, Tom and Chrissie’s paths will cross, their stories will meet and – as it turns out: it really is a small world after all.
There are few things as difficult as making sure that every loose thread of a multi-level story gets tied up at the end. Making sure that the tone for each of the characters is distinct enough that as a reader, you don’t even need the name on top to know who you’re reading? That’s a gift not too many people have.
I honestly loved every single thing about this book. I loved the strong friendship between Shauna and Lulu. I love their willingness to do something that most people would – rightly so – call a bit crazy. I loved Chrissie and the way her friends of all ages pushed her to go beyond what she dared to do. And that she actually took on that chance, that she was willing to look back to the past to be able to face the future. Also – her son? The cutest smart-mouth I’ve read in a while.
I love George and the backstory of him and his two sisters, in this totally different world and time. For someone so near to death, he really did have a lot to say. And considering some rather important conversations took part on his bedside? I’m quite happy he turned out to be such a good listener. And then there’s Tom who, in the span of 24 hours, has his world turned upside down more times than most people could handle in a year. He just takes it all in stride – somewhat, at least – and still manages to hand out maybe the most satisfying type of punch: the warranted one. A thing which definitely shows, as you’ll learn in this book as well, that he takes after his grandfather.
With Christmas running in the background, as a decoration, as a motivation, but never as a plot point? This was maybe the best winter book I’ve read so far, this year.

Rating: 4.5/5 (Goodreads)

Snowflakes over Holly Cove, Lucy Coleman

Story

As the snowflakes start to fall, the village of Holly Cove welcomes a new tenant to the beautiful old cottage on the beach…
For lifestyle magazine journalist Tia Armstrong, relationships, as well as Christmas, have lost all their magic. Yet Tia is up against a Christmas deadline for her latest article ‘Love is, actually, all around’…
So Tia heads to Holly Cove where the restorative sea air, and rugged stranger Nic, slowly but surely start mending her broken heart.
Tia didn’t expect a white Christmas, and she certainly never dared dream that all her Christmas wishes might just come true…
Set in Caswell Bay on the stunningly rugged Gower Coast, the cottage nestles amid the limestone cliffs and the woodlands; the emotions run as turbulently as the wind-swept sea.

Opinion

I really seem to have a thing about reading books with journalists as the MC. Or, maybe journalists just make for easy people to push into new situations. Either way, this particular journalist starts Snowflakes over Holly Cove with some serious hard break. As Tia has suddenly had pointed out to her: she’s an orphan now. Doesn’t matter what age you are – that’s never an easy thing to handle.
That actually brings me right to maybe my *favourite* point about this book. It deals with working through loss so carefully, so respectfully. Lucy Coleman doesn’t shy away from the ugly parts of grieve – from that feeling of not knowing how to handle anything to maybe getting a little *stupid* because of it.
Snowflakes over Holly Cove tells the story from the last Christmas Tia Armstrong spends with her mum, giving some background to exactly how deep their relationship is, to the next Christmas – her first without her mum. Considering that she’s been working on a Christmas feature for months by the time Christmas rolls around? The reader could easily have grown tired of Christmas already. That, instead, I was sat here just checking my countdown app *yet again* (yes, I’m that person)? Just shows how nuanced Coleman’s writing is.
Now, I know that this book is at least partially a romance novel, but, for once, that is not the main thing making we want to immediately reread this book. Rather, it’s the attention to detail, the beautiful descriptions of the Welsh scenery and of course… That one plot twist near the end. And then that dramatic twist at the end… I honestly was not okay. And need to get back to this book ASAP.

Rating: 4/5 (Goodreads)

Now, as I said – I now the entire “reunited for the holidays” can be a bit busy. And loud. And overwhelming. So if you’re in need of an escape from the reality of it? Why not hide out with some stories showing its possibilities? Don’t worry – it’s my backup option too! Or, you know… You could go ahead and read the rest of my Christmas tag or check out this year’s blogmas-posts!

-Saar