25 Days ’til Christmas by Poppy Alexander / Blog Tour

25 Days ’til Christmas by Poppy Alexander

 

cover150320-mediumPublisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 1st November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Christmas is a time to get together…

Kate Thompson used to love Christmas. But that was before her husband went away with the army and didn’t come home. Now she can hardly stand the festive season.

But Kate knows there is more to life than this, and her son Jack needs a Christmas to remember. What she needs is a Christmas miracle, and if there isn’t one on its way, she’ll just have to make her own.

So begins Kate’s advent countdown to the best Christmas ever. She has it all planned out, but you can’t plan for the unexpected, and when her life starts to unravel can her friends and the community around her help her save Christmas for all of them…?

Curl up and countdown to Christmas with a heart-warming festive romance, perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, Debbie Johnson, and Holly Martin.

Rating: five-stars

Kate Thompson hates Christmas, since her husband was killed four years ago during his service abroad as a soldier. However, her son Jack is desperate to have a lovely Christmas, with a tree and presents. Kate, struggling financially and emotionally, doesn’t know what to do and how to do this. She’s stuck at a low paid job, now she must also sell Christmas trees dressed as an elf and freezing and is not sure what the future is going to bring. Her friend comes up with an idea of doing a special advent calendar with a festive activity to do together for every day in the countdown to Christmas.
Daniel is not looking towards Christmas after the death of his sister. He used to buy Christmas trees from Kate and he knows only as Christmas tree girl. They start to bump into each other more and more and soon realises there is much more to Kate than meets the eye. But Kate’s life is really complicated – can she cope? Will she cope? Can somebody help her?

Kate was a great leading character – there were so many challenges on her way, her life was so demanding and yet she more than often put others above herself. Struggling with money, with being a single mum, she was a realistic, genuine character. It was beautiful and also heart – breaking to see how much she tried to organize the unforgettable Christmas for her son and how far she’s go to guard him. The idea of Kate creating the advent calendar for Jack and making the time so special for her and her little boy was brilliant. The Christmassy things that they were supposed to do in the countdown to Christmas were so nice and so different to everything that we’re used to, and now I really feel like preparing something like this for my family.

The pace in this story was just spot on, and there were many things happening, and the book itself brings together threads of different characters. The chapters are more or less a countdown to Christmas – it is a second book in the last weeks that I’ve read written this way, though they were both absolutely different in style and voice but this way worked great in both of them. I loved how it shows that Christmas is not only about commerce and presents but about what it really is that counts – family, friendship, helping each other, appreciating what we have. It was a real rollercoaster journey, full of ups and downs, filled with feelings and emotions. It tugs at all the right heart – strings, it’s this kind of book that’ll make you smile and cry, that is poignant and uplifting. The author has in such a gentle, subtle way dealt with so many tough and heavy issues and there was the overwhelming festive spirit. She has touched upon different things, some of which I don’t often read about, and it was truly great, thought – provoking and eye – opening. Poppy Alexander is for sure an author to have on your radar, I’m already waiting for her next offering. Highly recommended!

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A Winter Kiss on Rochester Mews by Annie Darling

A Winter Kiss on Rochester Mews by Annie Darling

 

 

40540663Publisher: Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 29th November 2018

Series: Lonely Hearts Bookshop #4

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

A heartwarming and hilarious Christmas romance!

Tis the season to be jolly!

But on Rochester Mews, two unlikely lovebirds are struggling to find their festive cheer.

Star baker Mattie has hated Christmas ever since she had her heart broken on Christmas Eve. The only thing she hates more is the insufferable Tom, who has rubbed her up the wrong way since she started running the tearoom next door to his bookshop. So when Mattie and Tom are left in charge in the frantic festive days before Christmas, it might be cold outside but things are sure to heat up.

Can a bookshop full of romantic novels, a life-sized reindeer and a mistletoe kissing booth persuade two scrooges to fall in love with Christmas… and each other?

Rating: five-stars

In “A Winter Kiss on Rochester Mews” we’re back to Happy Ever After, the best romantic fiction bookshop in the world, and to the adjoining tearoom run by Mattie Smith, a very talented patisserie chef. She’s been running it for two years already, after coming back from Paris – heartbroken and disappointed and badly judged. This all happened around Christmas, so it’s not a wonder that she’s not the biggest fan of the festive season. Or men. Tom Greer still works in the bookshop, wearing cardigans with patches on the elbows, and the only thing that he has in common with Mattie is the fact that he also hates Christmas. Other than that, it seems that they rub each other only the wrong way. But after Nina moving out from the flat above the bookshop, Mattie and Tom become flatmates – how is it going to end?

There are so many things happening in the bookstore and at the tearoom! Posy is heavily pregnant and ready to cry at any given moment, Nina is back at the shop and is determined to bring the festive atmosphere there, and so with the reindeers in their original size, mistletoe photo booth it slowly starts to look like “Christmas vomited over it”, which for Tom and Mattie, both total anti – Christmas, is at least one common ground to complain.

This time the story focuses strongly on Tom, the enigmatic and enigma – like member of Happy Ever After team who hates romance, and Mattie, who always wears black, runs the tearooms by the bookshop and hates all man. Again, those two, as well as the rest of the gang, and they’re all mentioned in the book, hallelujah, they were just my kind of characters – believable in the way they were, with their ups and down, secrets and troubles, with days that were sometimes better and sometimes worse and their banter, and you know, it is often that you want to bang the characters heads together for them to see the light eventually – and I didn’t want to bang their heads together! They were simply brilliant as they were. Although, I must admit, there was a moment that I felt so sorry for Mattie, when she was blanked out by the others after revealing Tom’s secrets, and I mean, they all – Posy, Verity and Nina, all wanted to know them, right, and then Tom also blanking her out and it was just soooo unfair.
I love how all the characters have their own stories to tell. Mattie’s heart was badly broken in the past and the return of her ex – boyfriend Steven doesn’t bode well. Tom, the very modern feminist, was so full of surprises and well, he always meant really well, even though it might not have looked like this at the first sight. The way those two were starting to find each other in this very complicated and uncomfortable arrangement of living in the same flat above the bookshop was absolutely sweet, hilarious and uplifting. Annie Darling, just like Debbie Johnson, can so brilliantly write about feelings and emotions, they’re so beautifully captured and they simply sound genuine and honest.

I’ve finished reading this book grinning from ear to ear, there was so much joy and optimism here, it really made me feel better and lighter. It was a delight to read and it was almost as good as the first book in the series, “.The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts” though, to be honest again, it is probably one of the most gorgeous novels in the world and of all time. I really could read more about the Lonely Hearts Bookshop, it’s one of my absolutely favourite series, and I so hope to see more from the characters in the future, though guys, to be totally honest, the last sentence in this book looks like the very final one, sniff.

Altogether, this book was a perfect read – I loved every single moment of it. It was full of fantastic characters that are down – to – earth and brilliantly funny and comic moments, but it also touched upon some heavier issues. There was the Christmas spirit, bookshop full of romance books and mouth – watering festive baking – I don’t need anything more! Highly recommended!

 

The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson / Blog Tour

The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson

 

40200649Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 15th November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 528

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Eve Glace – co-owner of Winterworld – is pregnant.  This sends the whole of the theme park into baby mania, especially as the baby’s due date is 25th December. But their joy is soured by the fact it appears someone is trying to sabotage the Christmas celebrations.

Annie Pandoro and her husband Joe own a small Christmas cracker factory, are well set up and happy together despite life never blessing them with a much-wanted child.  Now, Annie thinks she is going through the menopause and any vestige of hope has been extinguished.

Palma Collins has agreed to act as a surrogate, hoping the money will give her a helping hand out of the gutter in which she finds herself.  But when the couple split up just after she finds out she is pregnant, she is left carrying a baby she never wanted in the first place.

Annie, Palma and Eve all meet at the ‘Pudding Club’, a new directive started by a forward-thinking young doctor, who was Palma’s first love at school.  Though their lives have gone in very different directions, will this group help each other to find happiness and peace as Christmas approaches?

Rating: five-stars

“The Mother of all Christmases” by Milly Johnson – when you read this book you’ll appreciate how adequate this title is! – follows stories of three very different women, Palma, Eve and Annie. Palma is the one from the wrong side of the town and with a painful past and finds herself in a very difficult situation. Because of her financial troubles she agrees to become a surrogate for a couple who can’t have children. Eve and her husband Jacques run the Christmas themed Winterworld park and are up to their noses with organizing things. Eve knows her husband want a baby with his all heart and well, she doesn’t say no as well, but there is never the right moment for a baby, right? And Annie and her husband Joe, who run a cracker company have been desperate for a baby all their life but it just never happened. There were failed IVFs, a failed adoption and well, they came to terms with the fact that it’s only the two of them. Until it turns out that it’s not the menopause Annie thinks it is.
The three women meet at the Christmas Pudding Club, a club for pregnant women, and they hit it off immediately – their friendship start and they go together through happy and hard times, and there are going to be plenty of those for them.

I don’t know how Milly Johnson does it but each and every book of hers is simply brilliant – she for sure keeps her standard high, and “The Mother of all Christmases” is another cracker (pun intended) from this author. This book was so full of surprising moments, there were twists that I haven’t seen coming and that broke my heart more than once, but then mended it again. It made me cry ugly tears and it made me laugh out loud. It was clever, poignant, uplifting and simply beautiful.

What I found so brilliant and clever was the fact that we already know some of the characters in the book, and not only this, but also The Daily Trumpet, with all its hilarious spelling errors is back. Eve and Winterworld we’ve got to know in “A Winter’s Flame”, as well as some other characters and places from Milly’s previous books and it was so nice to be back with them, to see what’s happened to them and how they’re doing.
However, no worries, it is absolutely a stand – alone novel! But it’ll only make you wish you had read the other books as well, so be prepared, and maybe have the books on pre – order already, if not at your side already.

There are relatively many characters being introduced to us in this book but I coped! Actually, very easily. I had no problems to quickly get who is who, why and to whom they belong. All the characters tell their own, beautiful, sometimes very poignant, stories. The female leading characters Palma, Annie and Eve, even though they don’t know each other yet, have one thing in common – they’re all find themselves pregnant. It took some time for all of them to realize that they’re pregnant, especially in Eve’s case, and yes, she made me feel desperate at the fact that she didn’t notice/didn’t want to notice things that were obvious but well, she had her reasons. All the pregnancies were different – one that might be considered a controversial one, then a very unexpected one, and one simply a nice surprise. I loved all of the three characters though, probably not surprisingly, my heart went to Palma. Her story was so heart – breaking and it will probably stay with me for a very long time yet.
And I must mention one of the male characters – Tom. Guys, he was Mr. Perfect. Milly Johnson has so brilliantly captured the essence of him and has made him, a boxer, so human and so vulnerable, and the things he said to Palma… well, if somebody told me such things I’d print them, put them in frames and hang them on the wall.
The thing with Milly Johnson is that, even if it’s crystal clear that she herself loves her own characters, she gives them all her whole heart and soul, and she makes their lives happy and lets them look optimistically into their futures – then bang, and something happens. Something unexpected, something that turns their worlds upside down. There is actually a tension detectable through the pages, I personally couldn’t shake off the feeling that something bad is going to happen, and I kept everything crossed that it won’t happen. It doesn’t happen often that I’m so deeply involved in the characters and their lives, but in this book I actually lived and experienced things together with them, I fell for them and I couldn’t bear the thought that something could go wrong for them.

“The Mother of all Christmases” deals with many issues, some of them lighter, some heavier, and with Milly Johnson’s writing that is full of heart you’ll find yourself laughing, crying, smiling and laughing again. It is truly Milly Johnson at her best. She deals with the stuff that life throws at her characters in such a down – to – earth, casual way, she’s not afraid of throwing many challenges at her characters, of making their lives complicated and difficult. It is so well written, so full of events and there is not a single flat moment, the story is just flowing and you together with it. It was a story about friendship, sisterhood, loss, love, grief, relationships, second chances and many other things, beautifully and seamlessly binding all the threads and events together. It didn’t feel too overloaded, the pace was perfect and you’ll quickly find yourself engaged in the characters’ lives. Highly recommended!

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The Survivors by Kate Furnivall / Blog Tour

The Survivals by Kate Furnivall

 

 

41100508Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 29th November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 448

Genre: Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Discover a brilliant story of love, danger, courage and betrayal, from the internationally bestselling author of The Betrayal.

Germany, 1945. The Allied Military Government has set up Displaced Persons camps throughout war-ravaged Germany, to house the millions of devastated people throughout Europe who have lost everything. Klara Janowska is one of these. In her thirties, half Polish, half English, born and brought up in Warsaw, she fought for the Polish Resistance, helping to sabotage the Nazi domination of her country. But now the war is over and she has fled Poland with her 8 year-old daughter, Alicja, ahead of the advancing Soviet army, leaving her past behind her.

Or so she thinks.

She and Alicja are detained in Graufeld Camp, among a thousand strangers who have flooded into the protective custody of the British zone in Germany. She is desperate to get to England, her mother’s native country, but she has no identity papers. She needs to escape, at any cost.

This unstable world becomes even more dangerous when Klara recognises someone else in the camp – Oskar Scholz, a high-ranking member of the German Waffen-SS who terrorised Warsaw. Forced together in the confined claustrophobic space, the two of them know terrible secrets about each other’s past that would see them hanged if either told the truth. Both want the other one dead.

But the most displaced element in the camp is the truth. In a series of unexpected twists, the real truths finally emerge and drastically alter the lives of all.

An unforgettably powerful, epic story of love, loss and the long shadow of war, perfect for readers of Santa Montefiore and Victoria Hislop.

Rating: five-stars

Klara Janowska and her ten – year – old daughter Alicja have managed to survive the horrors of WWII, however the terror is not finished yet. They find themselves in Germany, in the Graufeld Displaced Persons Camp, where they are waiting for any news on their move to England, as Klara is half – English. At least they have a roof over their heads and something to eat there but still it’s not a safe place. especially as one day Klara catches a sight of a man, and it makes her blood run cold – they used to know each other, and he knows her secrets – Klara knows he’s a danger to both of them, her and Alicja. Will they manage to move to England before something terrible happens? Will they be safe? Or must Klara take matters in her hands and get rid of this man…? Will she loose all, after coming this far?

This book was closer to my heart than you could suppose. I was born in Poland and lived in Poland for almost 30 years, and the history, and especially the WWII was a very important part of my education, but not only this, I think it is normal when you’re growing up you want to know more about things and events that touch upon you, and so not only did I read many memories of the war, I also was in Auschwitz and well, if you haven’t been there I think it is impossible to imagine the immensity of the loss, of cruelty, of lives being sent to death. Hence this book, with its topic, was really close to my heart, my grandparents were all in the war and though they didn’t recount enthusiastically about those times they let slip some stories, and believe me, I won’t be able to forget them. And this is probably why I’ve immediately felt the atmosphere of the novel, I fell for the characters and felt with them and experienced together with everything they experienced.

I loved the character of Klara. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and she was not afraid to kick asses when necessary, she had fire in her and she was not afraid to cause troubles. She was incredibly resourceful and determined, she was to finish what she started no matter what. Her story was gripping, thrilling, incredibly sad but also full of hope. Having read many book about World War Two, it still made me feel anger and shock at all the situations and events Klara and her daughter Alicja had to endure.

Kate Furnivall is absolutely one of my favourite authors and every new release of hers is as excellent as the last one. I can never be sure which period of time the author is going to focus on this time and it is brilliant, as no matter which one it is, it is always absolutely perfectly researched, full of details and little things that made those times. It’s the same with “The Survivors” – even though I know much about WWII, about pre- and afterwar times, I don’t think I have ever heard about the displaced persons camps – they were for those who survived the war but lost their homes and families. It was shocking and so desperately sad to see that, even after the war, with all its atrocity and desperation, there were still people who haven’t learnt better – the author told things how they really were, brutally honest, highlighting all the ups and downs of living in the camp, though there were rather mostly downs.

It was incredible, unforgettable story full of intrigue, uncertainty, manipulation, danger, betrayal but also unconditional love and hope. The author’s writing is so beautiful and elegant and I was involved in this book right from the opening pages. There was a brilliant mystery added to the plot, and also we were left with all the secrets surrounding Klara – to be absolutely honest, I allowed myself to wonder once or twice if Klara is really who I’m thinking she is, or if there is more to her than meet the eye. The author has really done the secrets in the best possible way, we’re left till almost the very last moment to discover what it was that happened. And this is not all, as in the last few chapters Kate Furnivall presents us with such unexpected twist, I really didn’t know what to think, if I should cry or be happy, and she really left me with my mouth hanging I really didn’t want this book to end, to leave those unforgettable characters behind. “The Survivors” was a moving, emotional, poignant and heartbreaking but still with hope for humanity,  powerful read about courage, full of tension that made me feel afraid for Klara and Alicja – I wasn’t sure what’s going to happen when I turn the page, and it is the best kind of tension, believe me. Highly recommended!

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The Importance of Being Aisling byEmer McLysaght & Sarah Breen / Blog Tour

The Importance of Being Aisling

by Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen

 

 

41433629Publisher: Michael Joseph

Publishing Date: 15th November 2018

Series: OMGWACA # 2 (read my review of Book 1 here)

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: General Fiction (Adults), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

You can take the small-town girl out of the big city – but can you take the big city out of the girl?

Job. Flat. Boyfriend. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Aisling (seems) to be winning at life. But life has other ideas.

Fired. Homeless. Dumped. Tick. Tick. Tick

When everything comes crashing down around her, moving back in with her mam seems like a disaster.

But might returning to her roots provide the answers Aisling’s looking for?

Rating: five-stars

In “The Importance of Being Aisling” we’re back with our beloved character created by two authors, Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, and I couldn’t be more happier to be reunited with her. She’s still deeply grieving after the tragic loss of her beloved Daddy but she tries to go on – well, she’s back with John, so it’s not so bad, right? However, she’s being made redundant at PensionsPlus. Elaine and Ruby are getting married, so she’s forced to look for a new place to live which in Dublin is simply impossible. To top it all, yes, she’s back with John, but where is this sparkle…? The butterflies…? Her mum is not coping well and it looks like she’ll be selling the farm. Might Aisling need to go back home, to Ballygobbard, then? How will she cope with mum, unemployment, John being in another city? But maybe Ballygobbard can offer her more than she thinks is possible?

 I love Aisling, I think it is impossible not to love her. She’s so nice and so kind and also so genuine in being nice and kind, there is not a drop of falsity in her and this makes her an outstanding character. I love that she’s so proud of being herself, of her heritage, of coming from a little town in Ireland, and I love her sense of humour and simply the way she is. She knows how to party and she knows when she should stop, she knows probably all recipes in the world and I’m sure she also knows how to get any stain out. 

There are so many brilliant things happening in this book, guys, we can’t say that Aisling’s life is boring, oh no. She’s made redundant so she needs to consider what to do next, her relationship with John is not this what she was thinking it is, there is the cracking and epic visit to Las Vegas and she’s always able to get up, shake off and built a new life for herself, and I simply adore her for this. Aisling is such a queen of being organized, I am sure that no matter what can happen she’d be prepared for it and have it in her bag.  I loved how important her family and friends were to her and how much she stressed it, it doesn’t happen often that the characters REALLY put them first and act according to this.  She’s such a brilliant friend as well, the girls are so supporting and they can count on each other, and it feels so genuine, honest and real. This friendship is actually one of the best points in this book,  going strong and it’s certain, and it is so lovely the girls are always open to people becoming their friends, and taking it all, with ups and downs, supporting each other’s backs. They’re all the kind of characters that I’d got to know and love with all my heart in Marian Keyes’s books – the Irish families and people are the one and only in the world, they respect each other but also mercilessly pull their legs, their humour is so sharp and intelligent, their observations so spot on and life approach so relaxed – and I’ve got all of this in this book, and it was so brilliantly entertaining. 

It was a great joy to be back with Aisling, and I really hope there is more of her to come. She’s so practical and so serious in being practical, it’s simply impossible not to fall for her. She’s funny without trying too hard to be too funny, which only makes it so entertaining, and the way she takes all things so seriously  is overwhelmingly heart – warming. I personally think that what makes Aisling such a brilliant, exceptional character is the fact that maybe we are not complete Aislings ourselves (although…),  but there is much of Aisling in every single one of us. 

It was actually really hard to write this review because there was not a single thing in this book that I didn’t like! I loved the characters, I loved the setting, I loved the events and I adored the humour – what’s more to love, right? “The Importance of Being Aisling” was a brilliant, uplifting story about trials and tribulations in life, about friendship and family and being there for each other, also touching upon some heavier issues this time – there is the short but expressively written issue of bullying, domestic violence and sexual abuse which I appreciated so much and I think the authors tackled in the best possible way. This book, as well as the character of Aisling, was heart – warming, uplifting, funny and poignant. The supporting characters were a huge part of this novel and they were equally comic, craic, believable and they felt so full of life good people. A special and magnificent novel about girls’ power and women’s empowerment and sisterhood, inspiring and so important nowadays. I hope for many more Aisling’s stories to come!

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The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan

The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan

 

 

41589390Publisher: Pan

Publishing Date: 1st November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 480

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Set on the scenic fjords of Norway, The Christmas Lights by bestselling author Karen Swan is a moving Christmas tale of love and heartbreak.

December 2018, and free-spirited Influencers Bo Loxley and her partner Zac are living a life of wanderlust, travelling the globe and sharing their adventures with their millions of fans. Booked to spend Christmas in the Norwegian fjords, they set up home in a remote farm owned by enigmatic mountain guide Anders and his fierce grandmother Signy. Surrounded by snowy peaks and frozen falls, everything should be perfect. But the camera can lie and with every new post, the ‘perfect’ life Zac and Bo are portraying is diverging from the truth. Something Bo can’t explain is wrong at the very heart of their lives and Anders is the only person who’ll listen.

June 1936, and fourteen-year old Signy is sent with her sister and village friends to the summer pastures to work as milkmaids, protecting the herd that will sustain the farm through the long, winter months. But miles from home and away from the safety of their families, threat begins to lurk in friendly faces . . .

The mountains keep secrets – Signy knows this better than anyone – and as Bo’s life begins to spiral she is forced, like the old woman before her, to question who is friend and who is foe.

Rating: five-stars

“The Christmas Lights”, set in the beautiful and raw Norway, introduces us to a bunch of different characters. Bo and Zac are living the dream life, being the Wanderlusters who share their adventures on Instagram with their 9 + million followers. There is also Lenny, their photographer and manager who organizes all the trips and schedules. After their recent trip to Samoa they are travelling to the remote shelf farm in Norway to spend Christmas there. The owner of the farm is Signy – an older woman who’s going to change the lives of the threesome.

As usual, this book also starts with a chapter set in the past that ends with a cliffhanger and the story slowly unfolds, brilliantly and cleverly intertwined with this of Bo and Zac’s. This was the story of Signy, Anders’s grandmother, the owner of the shelf farm where our trio is staying. Back in 1936, Signy has experienced unforgettable summer when she worked with other girls as milkmaids, away from their families, there where the pastures were the greenest. I loved how the author put us up to different kinds of danger with those two subplots, and I must say that both of them had me on my tenterhooks.

I’ve mentioned it thousand times already, and I’ll repeat myself, that Karen Swan is my auto – buy author. What I absolutely adore in her books is the fact that her characters are so diverse, so different to each other, and their jobs are always unusual. This time Bo and Zac turned their lifestyles into job, they’re already a brand with over 9 million followers on Instagram. They walk the earth together with their photographer and their lives look so colourful, inspirational and perfect on photos, as they visit places that you won’t find on the tourist maps, spending at least a month or longer at their chosen place, to get the feeling of it, to turn into locals, as they don’t want to be perceived as the usual tourists. No, they’re Wanderlusters and they want to experience authenticity. But – are their lives really so perfect? Without cracks? The author has so gently hinted that Bo’s life is getting out of her control, and yes, I immediately fell for Bo, I liked her and didn’t want anything bad happen to her. The way she realises there is so much more to life than followers and sponsors makes her character so much more believable. And also, what made me like her even more is the fact that I have a feeling that at the end she’s chosen the right things for her. It hurt to see that she can’t trust anybody, how she tried to be heard by those closest to her and how she was left alone in all of this. That is, alone but for Anders, but it turns out that he also has a terrible secret – is there a single person that Bo can trust, who would understand her?

It was a read with a rather slow pace but there was not a single moment that it felt flat or uninteresting for me. On the other hand, I enjoyed the descriptions of the setting, the harsh nature of Norway, so raw and virginal and beautiful – yes, Karen Swan is the queen of choosing the most beautiful settings for her novels, and what I love is the fact that they’re not fictional places. They’re secluded, solitary but real and simply gorgeous. Another bonus is that she always adds truly interesting facts about those places and I couldn’t help but googled shelf farms – they’re brilliant. The setting is just fantastic and the author eloquently and vividly brings all the places she writes about to life. I’ve read some books set in Norway, and also some describing the Northern Lights but “The Christmas Lights” overdoes them all with its descriptions, the gorgeous, wild and austere nature of Norway.

I, however, immediately guess the “who”. For me it was obvious and there was no other option, even if the author has tried a little to put wool over our eyes at the end, trying to complicate things a little, to point us in other directions, but this is the one thing that she didn’t manage. Was it disappointment? To be honest, no. Not at all.

Of course we can’t forget the big elephant in the room – Karen Swan writes about the problems and dangers of living through social media, and I liked the way she has tackled this issue. We have Zac and Lenny, who live only through the numbers of followers and nothing is impossible for them, no matter how dangerous it is. Then we have Bo, whose eyes start to open and she starts to notice the dangers and issues of being in the centre of attention. And we have Anders, whose idea of living is totally different. Yes, Zac and Lenny come across a little obsessed and shallow, at least for me, as I do realise that the grass is not always greener on the other side and there are limits for what you can do to increase the number of your followers and your sponsors.

“The Christmas Lights” was a story full of action, hiking, gorgeous settings and characters full of personality – characters that are annoying, that have their flaws and secrets which only makes them much more interesting and believable. The author has also brought closer the Norwegian history and its present, traditions, habits, the language, food and drink. There was intrigue, danger and it was festive enough to get in the spirit of Christmas, this all brought to life through Karen Swan’s vivid, alluring and engaging writing style. A novel about relationships, loss, grief, love and adventures, living on the edge, full of heartbreak and hope. It’s much more than about finding your own strength, it shows that everything is possible, and it had me totally and completely hooked. Highly recommended!

 

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult #WhoseChoice

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

 

 

cover144095-mediumPublisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publishing Date: 30th October 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

(out on 13.06.2019)

 

 

Synopsis:

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

Rating: five-stars

It’s a confession time. I haven’t read a Jodi Picoult book before. So there, I’ve told this. I’ve heard of this author, oh my god, of course I’ve heard about her, and I have her novels at home but I haven’t read them yet. However, when “A Spark of Light” arrived as a surprise with a post, I almost immediately started reading it – it was the right time for this book and for this author.
This being a surprise book, I didn’t know what it’s going to be about. I know that Jodi Picoult is not afraid of controversial topics, and I also know that her books are clever, thought – provoking and challenging. I hope it’s not a spoiler when I’ll say that “A Spark of Light” is about abortion. It is a very hot topic, abortion, not only in the USA but also in Europe and probably all over the world, and everybody has their own opinion – me too. And hats off to Ms Picoult for deciding on writing this novel, for touching upon this subject and for doing it in the most perfect, as neutral as possible way ever. As I’ve mentioned, I have my own feelings about abortion that I’m not going to change, no matter what, but you won’t be pushed or asked to make a choice, to be Pro – Life or Pro – Choice and it is really worth appreciation. Jodi Picoult compassionately describes the thoughts of both sides, without taking sides, this of Pro – Life or Pro – Choice, giving us the chance to understand both of them. But I also think that this is not the point of the book, to convince us to one of the sides, but to offer us multiple points, to show us that things are not only white or black but also grey. We don’t have to agree but we should respect them.

In “A Spark of Light” Jodi Picoult tells the story of a desperate gunman, barging into Mississippi’s abortion clinic and taking its patients and staff hostage. As it quickly turns out, his daughter recently had an abortion and George is seeking revenge. Told in reverse and through multiple points of view, it tells us the stories of the characters, unveiling the fact what they’re were in the clinic for.

And what didn’t work for me in this book was the fact that it was told in reverse. For me it would work much better told chronologically, as, to be completely honest, knowing what has happened caused that the tension was not there and I had a feeling that I could skip on some information/passages without losing anything. The piecing together of some aspects and subplots was too easy and it would be more impactful when told differently. But that’s me.

There were plenty of characters in this book and yes, I admit, at the beginning it was not easy to keep up with them all. But their development, the way they were described, were incredibly compelling. They were all so different, they all had different life experience but fate brought them all together. There is Dr. Louie Ward who offers abortions because no matter what he believes in, he also believes it is his duty to offer women a chance, a way out; Joy, who’s at the clinic for abortion; Wren who came to the clinic with her aunt, seeking contraception; Janice, a Pro – Lifer who’s in the clinic under disguise, looking for confirmation that what they do there is as bad as others describe; Wren’s dad, who finds himself outside, negotiating with George setting the hostages free; Beth, who’s right now facing murder charges for illegally terminating her pregnancy. They, and many, many more will stay with you for long – it is impossible to forget them and about them. As you see, many points of view but all of them worth getting to know and to consider.

It was a special, important and powerful read. Jodi Picoult doesn’t play safe – she examines, and pokes and brutally honest tells us how it really is, and she always stays professional. She’s informative and always fair and yes, sometimes controversial and thought – provoking but I guess this is the point of this book. It will provoke discussions, I am sure about it, and you just won’t be able to walking away from this book indifferently. Thank you, Jodi Picoult, for writing this book!