Christmas on Primrose Hill by Karen Swan / Book Review

Christmas on Primrose Hill by Karen Swan


Publisher: Pan
Publishing Date: 5th November 2015
Source: Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback



Christmas on Primrose Hill is a romantic Christmas tale from the author of Christmas at Tiffany’s, Karen Swan.

On Primrose Hill . . .

Twinkling lights brighten London’s Primrose Hill as Christmas nears – but for Nettie Watson, it’s not parties and presents that she wants.

Promises are made

For Nettie, Christmas only serves as a stark reminder of the life she used to have . . . One day she made a promise to never leave home, and so far she’s stayed true to her word.

Promises are broken

Under the glaring spotlight of the world’s media, Nettie is unexpectedly caught up in a 21st century storm . . . Her exploits have made her a global name and attracted the attention of one of the world’s most eligible men – famous front man, Jamie Westlake. But now she has his attention, does she want to keep it?

Rating: 4/5

As there couldn’t be Christmas without Karen Swan’s book – I personally can’t think about my Christmas TBR without Karen’s new novel – here we can enjoy her newest release, Christmas on Primrose Hill. I love Karen’s books – she has incredible way with words and she has this exceptional talent to make you feel like a part of the characters’ world – and it was the same with this tale. Lately books featuring our social media’s world are popping out one after another, but I think it’s just unavoidable, and when the books are so up – to – date and so greatly written as Christmas on Primrose Hill, the better, and as soon as I started reading it, I was hooked – and never expected anything else, to be honest.

This was a very modern story where some of the current trending hashtags were playing a big part, what with a Blue Bunny Girl having to copy them – and this is a little minus point from me, because I thought Karen could think about something totally new and exceptional, right? Nevertheless, it was really up – to – date, with the campaign going viral quicker than we can say “hashtag”. It just perfectly captured how, in fact, the modern technology controls our life, but what I liked is that Karen Swan has decided to use this internet obsession for good reasons.

Karen Swan has again gave us what we are looking for in her books, first and foremost brilliant characters. I can’t remember her book where I wouldn’t like the main heroine, and this time I also fell for Nettie mightily. Then we have Jamie, the impossible happening possible. I loved Nettie and Jamie’s story, they were so genuine in all that they did or said, and what I liked most was that the relationship was not the easiest one, not the obvious one. – there was never a certainty to how it’s going to end. The characters have, of course, quirks and they make mistakes, they jump to conclusions and complicate their own lives – just like we normally do, and this is what make me like them more.
I truly liked Nettie, she was so normal and so believable and really, I immediately warmed to her and there was something in her that just drew me to her. It was brilliant to go on this trip with her and see how her alter – ego Blue Bunny Girl amasses so much interest in internet, and how she desperately tried to keep the interest from her doorstep and focus on the campaign. Because there is also a secret to Nettie, a secret that turned out to be really sad and heart – breaking… I really admire the way the author tackled this problem, I could feel all Nettie’s emotions and her pain, but also her anger and confusion and living in uncertainty. She had a great relationship with her father, and I loved the scenes with both of them, they were funny but also touching.
As for Jamie, hmmm… Oh well, he was also brilliant, and in my opinion his personality was greatly described. I mean, he was a pop – star, right? And as much as he was also a normal guy, he could behave like a pop – star as well, which is IMO great and made him even more believable in my eyes. No matter what Nettie believed in or what she thought, there was a damn great chemistry between them, and the way the author described this relationship was believable and, what’s more important, possible to happen!

It’s truly a great escape, this novel, and the twisty storyline will keep you hooked. There are many layers to this book and it kept me on my toes, I couldn’t wait to see what’s expecting me when I’ll turn the page. I loved the setting of this story, the very modern London, with all its Christmas decorations and trendy places to be and see.

And as usual in Karen’s novels, under the surface, under all this lightness and humour, she’s plotted some very serious messages there. We can see what happens when the social media craziness goes wrong, how – even when you are the most normal person in the world – when the media got a wind of something that might be juicy in their opinion, there is not a hiding place for you. The author also emphasizes men’s health this time, and I really liked the way she has weaved it into this story. There is also the case of Nettie’s mother, which adds a lot of seriousness to the story – but all those things only make the reading more realistic and more likeable for me.

Although, I must say this, I had a feeling that the book is incredibly dragging along. It was as if the author wanted to fill in the pages with words – and as much as I liked those words, I couldn’t help thinking that it’s just going round in circles and takes us away from the real plot, from this what’s important. You know me – the longer the book the better for me, but in this case it could be much shorter and not lose on the quality, on the contrary, it would be much more gripping in my opinion. But I adored this story. It is such a typical Karen Swan’s tale, with outstanding characters, full of twists and turns. There was a great romance in there (which girl hasn’t dreamed of something like this happening to her???) and enticing, complex storyline. I really liked this book and can’t wait for more from Karen Swan!

The Restaurant Critic’s Wife by Elizabeth LaBan / Book Review

The Restaurant Critic’s Wife by Elizabeth LaBan


Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publishing Date: 5th January 2016
Source: Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback



Lila Soto has a master’s degree that’s gathering dust, a work-obsessed husband, two kids, and lots of questions about how exactly she ended up here.
In their new city of Philadelphia, Lila’s husband, Sam, takes his job as a restaurant critic a little too seriously. To protect his professional credibility, he’s determined to remain anonymous. Soon his preoccupation with anonymity takes over their lives as he tries to limit the family’s contact with anyone who might have ties to the foodie world. Meanwhile, Lila craves adult conversation and some relief from the constraints of her homemaker role. With her patience wearing thin, she begins to question everything: her decision to get pregnant again, her break from her career, her marriage—even if leaving her ex-boyfriend was the right thing to do. As Sam becomes more and more fixated on keeping his identity secret, Lila begins to wonder if her own identity has completely disappeared—and what it will take to get it back.

Rating: 2/5

The Restaurant Critic’s Wife – this book sounded absolutely just like my cup of tea, so I didn’t hesitate to request it on NetGalley. There were restaurants and food involved, and I do like some good food in my books! I was also thinking, with one of the main character being a restaurant critic, we can expect some brilliant anecdotes.

I start reading every book full of hope that I’m just about to discover the next gem for my bookshelf. Unfortunately, in the course of reading this novel, I was loosing my hope. I couldn’t help but asked myself what this book is about and what was it written for, because – shortly – it describes a year in life of Lila, Sam and their two children. Almost every page was full of their daily activities, which included nursing Henry, going out eating, nursing Henry, falling out, nursing Henry, looking for a place to nurse Henry and nursing Henry. I was sure that when I’m going to read about nursing Henry again, I’m going to start screaming. You know, books are about something, there is plot, there is a plan, the story is taking us somewhere, there are twists and turns – which I didn’t find in this book. It started and it ended, and that’s all – it could easily be written about me, my daily routine, me bringing my daughter to kindergarten every day and fighting with my husband.

What made the reading even more complicated for me was the fact that I didn’t warm to the characters at all. Lila was a woman who had no idea what she wanted, Sam… Oh God, please don’t let me start on Sam. He was egoistic, childish and focused only on his work, and I had a feeling that either everything is like he wanted it to be, or it’s not right, and he wanted to decide about his wife’s life as well, and I don’t know if he was so focused, or so short – sighted that he didn’t see how many things he’s cutting his family from. Lila wasn’t allowed friends because of his work. Lila wasn’t allowed to go to work because of his job. Lila must have to come with him to all the restaurants – because of his job. Oh no, I had this one wrong – Lila must have to come to the restaurants he was testing only when SAM wanted her to come. His dressing – ups were on the verge of absurd and the way he took himself and his job seriously only made me roll my eyes and dislike him even more. He was so frustrating with his obsession about keeping quiet about his job, and I couldn’t understand why couldn’t he just write under different name? Why not only say people that he worked in a paper, without specifying what exactly he was writing about? Why make Lila’s life a hell with constant nagging and not letting her go back to work and only promising they’re going to talk about it? He made Lila’s job sound so, so unimportant in comparison to his own job and I hated it. And basically forbidding her to have friends and life other than taking care of the children. Yes, I wanted to punch him. In the face.

So shortly, the whole book is about Lila debating if she should come back to work and about Sam getting more and more paranoid about his job. Am really very disappointed, have expected a totally different story, maybe focusing more on the restaurants and testing itself. I kept reading hoping for something to happen, for something to change my mind about it but sadly, it didn’t happen.
Also, the writing style couldn’t win me over. It was dragging on and on, and even though it was easy to follow, it didn’t keep me hooked. The never – ending river of words didn’t draw me in, as for me there was nothing significant to the story, and eventually I found myself skimming through some of the paragraphs. The storyline was weak in my opinion, and the characters were annoying.

So yes. As opposed to the people mentioned in the Acknowledgements, like Jennifer Weiner, who loved this novel, and other people who SO GOT Lila’s story, I didn’t get it.