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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One New York Christmas by Mandy Baggot / Blog Tour

One New York Christmas by Mandy Baggot

 

 

42180340Publisher: Ebury Press

Publishing Date: 15th November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adults), Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A festive break in New York

Lara Weeks is planning the perfect Christmas with her long-term boyfriend Dan until he drops a bombshell. I don’t know my Christmas plans yet. I think I need some space . . .

Pooling their funds together, best friend Susie persuades Lara to head to the Big Apple for a festive trip. In the snow-clad streets of New York, will it be break-up or breakthrough this Christmas? And will Lara get her happy-ever-after with the man of her dreams . . . or will she stay single for the season?

 

 my-review

Mandy Baggot’s Christmas offerings are always a treat, well, there wouldn’t be Christmas without her book, no? “One New York Christmas” has exceptionally gorgeous cover and it teams together two of the best things: well, yes – Christmas, and New York. It takes us on a journey from a rural, peaceful Appleshaw in Wiltshire to the city that never sleeps, and moreover, at the most wonderful time of the year. Lara, our main character, loves her town and she also loves Christmas, and is looking towards it, especially as she’s going to spend it with her boyfriend, Dan. Dan,  however, has other plans and decides they need “a break”, during which he’s going to travel to Scotland. With another woman. Here you go. Lara’s best friend Susie decides that Lara needs to make Dan jealous, and to do she needs to start tweeting some celebrities and get a reply from them (this is the bit that I didn’t fully get, to be honest, as I wasn’t sure how should it help). They both end in New York, in the company of Seth, an actor from Lara’s favourite series, who’s much more than meets the eye.


Lara was such a colourful, interesting character, and I liked her from the very first mention that she’s a lorry driver. I mean, how clever? How many lorry driver female characters have you met? Exactly! What I also liked in her was the fact that she just bitten the bullet and wasn’t afraid of trying, confronting, seeing – it was so refreshing, after so many heroines that simply bury their heads in the sand and wait for the problems to somehow disappear. Also, she was not a skinny – minnie swishing her blond hair around type of character, she was more of a tomboy – the lorry driving! – which made her seem a much more stronger person that she in fact was, but she wanted us to see the stronger version of her as well. I adored her passion and her love to her family. If you think about it, she’s really a kick ass, our Lara, fierce, bouncy and almost fearless. She’s not afraid of climbing trees, she rescues animals and she stands for herself or the things she believes in. Well, unless it comes to her love life. Then she lost her head, which is only understandable.

I also really appreciated the character of Seth, who, for once, was full of uncertainty and vulnerability, and was not a macho or too full of himself. There was warmth to him and I truly fell for him and I just wanted all the good things happen to him. His story added tons of seriousness to the book but the way Mandy Baggot tackled his issues was really great and she brilliantly captured him, and his coming out of comfort zones and confronting the past.

The supporting characters, both in the US and back in England, blend in brilliantly and complement each other in a great way.

I simply loved the descriptions of New York. They were so vivid and full of details and the fact that the city was seen through Lara’s eyes for the first time made it even more exciting and beautiful. The author has so easily transported us to New York, brought this place to life, made it jump off the pages.
The story, however, dragged a little too much for my liking. I wanted action and things happening, and I got too much of the characters’ inner indecisions and monologues, and it bothered me a little. Lara was also an adult and well, I just don’t get this whole checking and showing and posting your life to the social media, to looking for comfort there, looking on Facebook at what it is your boyfriend is doing, checking there your relationship status – I mean, do I live in reality or do I live through social media? No, thank you. And I also missed this Christmas vibe – yes, the book was festive enough but this sparkle, this vibe wasn’t there. It was also this little bit too predictable, you could see things coming a mile off, but oh well, yes, I could live with this. Also, referring to Aldo as “almost – brother” made me grit my teeth – either he was a brother, or not, no matter if he was adopted or not. And the regular reminders of Lara being so unusually a truck driver were not so necessary. Mandy Baggot’s writing style is like a hot chocolate, drawing you in and you simply want more and more of it. It’s easy to follow, inviting and full of humour – though it took me some time to get into the book, no reason probably, just one of the things, and as I’ve already mentioned, it was a little too slow, especially at the beginning. It gained speed a little more in New York, when Lara and Seth started sight – seeing.

Altogether, “One New York Christmas” was a festive, funny and romantic read, full of unforgettable scenes, both funny and poignant. It’s not as good as Mandy Baggot’s “One Wish in Manhattan” that was a fantastic, festive novel that I loved with all my heart, but it’s a nice enough, light – hearted book with a hidden depth. A lovely story about family dynamics and following your heart, full of heartbreak, hope, romance and happiness, it’s a great way to cosy yourself in a blanket on a dark, cold evening. Recommended!

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Every Colour of You by Amelia Mandeville

Every Colour of You by Amelia Mandeville

 

 

38393699Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 15th November 2018

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

Number of pages: 400

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Living back at home and spending most of her time behind a checkout till, it’s fair to say things aren’t going quite as Zoe had planned. But she’s determined to live every day to the full, and she’s spreading her mission of happiness, one inspirational quote at a time.

Since his dad died, Tristan has been struggling with a sadness that threatens to overtake everything. He can’t face seeing his friends, can’t stop fighting with his brother, and as much as he pretends to be better, the truth is he can’t even remember what ‘normal’ feels like.

One person can change everything.

When these two meet, Zoe becomes determined to bring the missing colour back into Tristan’s life. But the harder she tries to change the way Tristan sees the world, the more she realises it’s something she can’t fix – and in trying to put him back together, a part of her is beginning to break . . .

A novel to break your heart and put it back together again – Every Colour of You is the debut novel from Amelia Mandeville, with heart-wrenchingly relatable characters, big emotions and an unforgettable story.

Rating: two-half-stars

Zoe and Tristan meet at the hospital and they paths start to cross in the most unbelievable ways. Tristan is suffering from depression and his world is this of a very dark colour, and meeting Zoe brings rainbow colours into his life. Zoe is also determined to help him raise again after the sudden death of his father – but the more she tries the more reluctance she meets. Also, her own world starts to crumble around her – are they both going to find what they’re looking for? Will the fall apart or maybe will they manage to pick themselves up?

Zoe was a complex and complicated character but instead of falling for her, she just annoyed me. I do get where she was coming from and why she was like this, but her being SO chirpy, SO bouncy, SO relaxed was just too overwhelming. On the other hand, even without knowing till the very end what it is that she has, I did care about her. There was simply something in her that made her outstanding. However, I couldn’t connect with the characters so in the end I really couldn’t care less what’s going to happen to them. Tristan was so overdone with his image of “bad boy” that eventually I found myself rolling my eyes at him. I guess we were supposed to fall for him and to sympathize with him, but well, I simply didn’t like him. Sure, the author has done a brilliant job in capturing his character, him being so torn and troubled – I can’t deny this and I don’t want to deny it. But altogether he was not likeable for me.

I appreciate what the author tried to achieve with her writing, and also I must say here that her writing style is really good for a debut novel. It was thought – provoking and full of questions that were actually aimed at the readers which was really exceptional and different, as it truly makes you think. I just couldn’t shake off the feeling that the author has tried much too much to deliver a book with messages of love, second chances and not taking life for granted. It was too obvious, too strongly emphasized and while I really appreciated what she tried to do here, it just was too obvious for me and simply didn’t work for me. Theoretically, this book had it all, a poignant plot and it touched upon many important issues, such like depression, health conditions, death and grief and maybe it’s going to work for younger audience, I personally think Ms Mandeville tried too much and overdone it. It felt very repetitive and slow.

Overall, too overplayed, too dramatic, too much. However, the author deserves a standing ovation for choosing such heavy topics for her debut novel. There is the issue of having two dads as parents, which was tackled in such a light, forthcoming and charming way; of course the issue of depression and the way it affects whole families; the issue of living with a heart condition and not being sure how long you still have to live. You can easily see that the author has done her homework, as she writes about details that we wouldn’t notice but that often define people suffering from depression. Perfectly describing the rawness of mental and physical illness, therefore full of emotions, the most deepest and raw ones. Sadly, not for me.

 

Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of death by M.B. Vincent

Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death

by M.B. Vincent

 

 

38745714Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 18th October 2018

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

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Welcome to Castle Kidbury – a pretty town in a green West Country valley. It’s home to all sorts of people, with all the stresses and joys of modern life, but with a town square and a proper butcher’s. It also has, for our purposes, a rash of gory murders …
***Fast-paced and funny, this is a must-read for all fans of a classic murder mystery – think The Vicar of Dibley meets Midsomer Murders ***

Jess Castle is running away. Again. This time she’s running back home, like she swore she never would.

Castle Kidbury, like all small towns, hums with gossip but now it’s plagued with murder of the most gruesome kind. Jess instinctively believes that the hippyish cult camped out on the edge of town are not responsible for the spate of crucifixions that blights the pretty landscape. Her father, a respected judge, despairs of Jess as she infiltrates the cult and manages, not for the first time, to get herself arrested.

Rupert Lawson, a schooldays crush who’s now a barrister, bails her out. Jess ropes in a reluctant Rupert as she gatecrashes the murder investigation of DS Eden. A by-the-book copper, Eden has to admit that intuitive, eccentric Jess has the nose of a detective.

As the gory murders pile up, there’s nothing to connect the victims. And yet, the clues are there if you look hard enough.

Perfect for fans of MC Beaton, this is cosy crime at its most entertaining and enthralling.

Rating: three-stars

Jess Castle finds herself back in a place she was steering clear of – home, in Castle Kidbury. She’s just suddenly left her job at Cambridge and reluctantly came back. Her relationship with her father, the Judge, is not the most closest one, and she finds her hometown incredibly boring – that is, until there is a murder and a body of a local man is found. It doesn’t look like a normal assassination, it looks more like crucifixion, which – very conveniently – is Jess’s speciality, so she starts to act as the unofficial consultant to the local DS Eden. However, the body count increases, the more pagan symbols appear and everyone becomes a suspect. So Jess has not only to try to solve the murder but also try to refurbish her relationship with her father, and eventually decide what it is she wants to do with her life.

I really liked the small town atmosphere, this specific community spirit that the authors have captured in a great way. In Castle Kidbury everyone knows everyone and knows everything better – that is, until a murder happens. Or two. Or even more. There was a bunch of quirky, bouncy characters that I, unfortunately, felt unattached to. However, they were all really different and interesting and I think that more than often we have to take them with a pinch of salt.
It is written in a very detailed way, with attention to details, not only when it comes to describing the murder scenes. It was really easy to imagine the town and the characters and the authors have way with words. It was also incredibly well researched, with a solid historical and religious background. The banter between the characters was truly enjoyable, especially the witty and clever exchanges between Jess and DS Eden – they were quick, sharp and humorous, especially when they were interrupted by DC Knott.
I have no idea who and why could the be the assassin. The authors have done a great job pulling wool over our eyes, with complicating things, and making almost everyone in the book a suspect. However, I am not sure if I’m really satisfied with the ending, I think after being introduced to all the paganism, symbolism etc I was expecting a different ending. On the other hand, it was surprising, unexpected and twisty, so what’s not to like, right?

However, this book confused me. It dragged on, and it simply couldn’t keep me hooked. I skipped passages because they were not engaging. This story didn’t work for me, didn’t sit with me. I loved all the gory details, and the idea for the plot, but all the other things, the characters just made me feel confused, they were somehow not complete. I am disappointed with this, as I was sure that this book, written by MB Vincent, who’s actually a married couple and one half of this couple belongs to my absolutely favourite authors, is going to be a real cracker for me. The romance aspect was a little askance, I’d say, and it didn’t feel too natural and realistic, especially in this story. It seemed that Jess wanted it much more than the male character, that she somehow forced him to blossom into her. There was a little of will they/won’t they but it was for sure not like all the others that I keep reading in my books, but it just felt underdeveloped and ragged.

Altogether, “Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of death” is a brilliant mixture of sharp humour, murder, mystery, gory details and also some romance. Regardless of the terrible murders, the story is told in a light and warm way, and I’d dare to call is a cosy murder. It was different, an unique read that was like a breath of fresh air and I’m really sorry it didn’t work for me. However, I do hope there is more to come from this author(s).

 

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland by Heidi Swain

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland

by Heidi Swein

 

 

40013831Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 1st November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

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

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

After calling off her engagement, Hayley, the Wynthorpe Hall housekeeper, wants nothing more than to return to her no-strings fun-loving self, avoiding any chance of future heartbreak. Little does she know, Wynbridge’s latest arrival is about to throw her plan entirely off course . . .

Moving into Wynthorpe Hall to escape the town’s gossip, Hayley finds herself immersed in the eccentric Connelly family’s festive activities as they plan to host their first ever Winter Wonderland. But Hayley isn’t the only new resident at the hall. Gabe, a friend of the Connelly’s son Jamie, has also taken up residence, moving into Gatekeeper’s Cottage, and he quickly makes an impression on Wynbridge’s reformed good-girl.

As preparations commence for the biggest event of the season, the pair find themselves drawn ever closer to one another, but unbeknownst to Hayley, Gabe, too, has a reason for turning his back on love, one that seems intent on keeping them apart.

Under the starry winter skies, will Gabe convince Hayley to open her heart again once more? And in doing so, will he convince himself?

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance. Perfect for fans of Milly Johnson, Carole Matthews and Cathy Bramley.

Rating: three-stars

Hayley is engaged and to be married soon, but at her engagement party she discovers that her boyfriend hasn’t been faithful to her. As things are also not at the nicest at home, she decides to take an offer of moving into Wynthorpe Hall, a place that she’s been working in for a long time already and that she loves. She just wants to forget and move on. But, as is turns out, she’s not to be the only one new resident to the Hall. Jamie’s friend Gabe is joining the family too. They’re both not interested in a relationship but they feel comfortable in each other’s company – however, can it be that fate has other plans for them?

I have a confession to make. Even though I have some of Heidi Swain’s book, this one, “Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland” is the first novel by this author that I’ve read. I’ve heard such great things about Ms Swain’s books and I thought, well, it’s highest time to read it. I was a little afraid, to be honest, as the novels are part of series, set in the charming Wynthorpe Hall and the surrounding village, afraid that I’d missed too much and won’t be able to keep on track. But no worries, guys, it really felt as reading a stand – alone book. There were enough background info to deduce what’s happened in the past to understand the whys and whats of the characters.

Our main character Hayley was a quirky, fierce girl who knew what she wanted. I’m sure it was properly explained in one of the previous books, the whole situation with her family and especially father but I was just thinking, oh boy, what must have happened for him to be so cruel towards his daughter, to be so cool, rejecting and not interested. The relationship between Hayley and her mother was also a bit enigmatic for me, it didn’t seem to be lots of love there, and it made me really sad. I definitely have to read the other book to get into the heart of their story. Hayley was hard on the outside, she had a big mouth but let’s be honest, she was really soft inside and she had a heart in the right place. And it was not a wonder that she was like this, what with her past that made her so out of reach and also short – tempered but if you get your time to get to know her, you’ll understand her motives. She may not be the easiest character to immediately like but this feeling comes really quickly, and I truly fell for her.
Gabe’s background history was incredibly sad and it made my heart break. He was an interesting character, what with him blowing hot and cold all the time, and yes, it started to be irritating, but then came the moment when he explained what has happened in the past and well, it changed my feelings a lot. There were many layers to him, as well as to Hayley, and I liked that their characters were not so straight – forward.

But, after reading so many brilliant things I was expecting something really brilliant. For me, however, it was just a normal story – it was nice, yes, but it didn’t wow me, I’m really sorry. It’s probably my fault, as I went into this book with very high expectations. Please don’t get me wrong, it was a cosy, lovely, Christmassy read, of course it was but I didn’t find there anything that would make me feel like so many other reviewers felt about it. I loved the idea of the Winter Wonderland and would love to read much more about it. I was also in awe how, short and sweet, they were able to organize it. OK, to be honest, I think I’d rather have many more chapters about it because it seemed a truly magnificent, fabulous and festive event. It was simply the best part of the book, enchanting and amazing. The rest – simply – didn’t wow me as much as I think it would.

The writing style was light and not too complex, and there was warmth to it. The story was lovely and lovingly interspersing few threads and the author touches upon some very sensible and poignant issues, though she isn’t going too deep into them. I really liked and appreciated the way the author has decided to write the romance here, the ongoing will they/won’t they – yes, it was there, but it was not too overwhelming, not too long and the characters didn’t make you feel desperate to bang their heads together. There was some romance in it, heartbreak and secrets, and the setting was simply gorgeous. I’m really happy that I still have other Heidi Swain’s books to dive into.

 

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!