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Flora’s Travelling Christmas Shop
by Rebecca Raisin
When you are Festive Flora, you have your almost dream job of assistant-cashier at Deck the Halls Christmas Emporium, you are dating adventurous poet Luke, and you are living in your best friend Livvie’s spare room, what could possibly go wrong? Well, for Flora, everything—all at once!
Flora is accused by various boyfriends of being eccentric, and she is. She’s passionate about the Christmas spirit and wants everyone to feel the same way. She is also kind and generous with a tendency to speak and act before she thinks. Flora is never “good enough” according to her parents’ standards. She and Livvie, who also had a difficult home life, received love and support as children from Flora’s Nan. At her house they created wonderful Christmas memories.
Livvie decides that the solution to some of Flora’s problems is “a Christmas van, like a pop-up shop.” Thus Flora becomes a Van Lifer and heads to Lapland, “the home of Santa Claus,” to sell all things Christmasy with Hallmark movies being the blueprint for her future: a meet-cute with a good looking young man, conflict between the two, followed by romance and a “happy ever after.”
The story pretty much follows that pattern as she meets some nice, helpful people along the way, but also has to deal with a group of jealous “mean girls” who apparently never developed emotionally past high school. The love interest is Collom, the handsome manager of the Christmas market, a never smiling loner who is passionate about ecology, not Christmas. Flora takes on the task of turning Collom from a Grinch to a believer in the Christmas spirit. She has to complete this goal before the Christmas market closes down for the season and they all go their separate ways.
Flora’s Travelling Christmas Shop is told from Flora’s point of view with dialogue interspersed with Flora’s thoughts which she sometimes wonders if she has spoken aloud. Whoops! Author Rebecca Raisin succeeds with another romantic comedy, sure to have you turning the pages to see if Flora’s next zany idea will win Collom over—to love Christmas and maybe Flora too. Along the way she has some embarrassing moments that will keep you in stitches, ranging from stage fright to being a naked Britisher in a Finnish sauna.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to HarperCollins (HQ) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
Notes: 1. This is the third in a series about Van Lifers, but stands completely alone from the first two.
2. Despite the Christmasy, festive atmosphere of this book, there is a surprising amount of foul language used casually throughout the book.
Publication: October 28, 2021—Harper Collins (HQ)
It’s not just about holding down a job, it’s that my whole life keeps imploding at every turn. My parents think I’m on a desolate road to nowheresville.
“I probably sound unhinged, but what if we all lived as though our life were a Hallmark movie? What if we took chances, and said what we thought, and believed that true love would find a way, no matter what? What if we were honest about our feelings, knowing that it would all work out in the end? Then the world would be a better place!”
They give me those polite smiles that mange to convey they have absolutely no idea what I’ve said but they’ll tolerate me talking to them in halting Finnish because at least I’m giving it a go.
Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop
by Rebecca Raisin
Personal Note: Fall is bringing glorious temps in my area along with some hints of winter to come. Days are too short and dark is uncomfortably extended. It’s the perfect time to mix up my stringent standards of reading books, excepting book club tomes, in the order in which they were published. It’s also a good time to again acknowledge that I am fearfully behind in my reading queue, but I am gradually catching up, mainly because I am requesting about half the number of Advanced Reader Copies that I did when I lived in Mexico. What does my sudden free-spiritedness have to do with this review?
I just finished reading Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop, a fun romance and the first in a series that focuses on some nomadic souls. I’m going to jump into the next one tomorrow, soon to be followed by the third, which has a Christmas theme—perfect!
My Review: It’s Rosie’s birthday and she just turned 32. Her husband Callum has a surprise for her, but it is not a pleasant one. As the sous chef at a famous London restaurant, she works long hours, has almost total independence in creative decisions, but gets no credit for her contributions to the restaurant’s fame.
Can she be successful personally and financially as a Van Lifer, someone who lives out of a van, travelling with no schedule, following fairs and special events or his or her personal whim? Does she have what it takes to strike out on her own, preparing and selling special teas and comfort food in her tiny kitchen at these events? Can she recover from Callum’s betrayal and find love with either sensitive Ollie whom she met on the Internet or with hunky nomadic Max who draws her outside her cocoon of contentment with adventures?
I obviously enjoyed this book. Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop has romantic themes, but it also addresses the serious events that the main characters have experienced that make them the way they are. Rosie is a really nice person and all through the book I wanted only the best for her, although life doesn’t always work out that way. Rosie is a planner with OCD tendencies. She has not had much time for friendships so interacting with romance book loving, free-spirited, kind hearted Aria is a challenge. I can’t forget to mention Poppy, Rosie’s fuchsia pink van; Poppy is as important to Rosie and to the plot as any flesh and bones character! The next book in the series will focus on Aria and her Travelling Bookshop; I’m hoping for a very bookish romance with some adventure and fun thrown in as Rosie and Aria continue their Van Life travels.
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to HarperCollins for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Notes: 1. #1 in The Travelling Shops Series 2. When I posted my review on Amazon on 12/6/2021, the Kindle version of this book was on sale for $.99.
Publication: February 16, 2021—Harper Collins
“The right person is out there, you just have to take the leap and find him. But first you need to figure out what makes you happy, and then have it in spades.”
“Anomaly is just another word for extraordinary, and who wants to be ordinary, anyway? To me you’re a shining light in a crowd of beige.”
And now I see with such life-altering clarity, that all those material things did the exact opposite of fulfilling me, they held me back, kept me in debt, kept me working to maintain a lifestyle that didn’t satisfy me at all.
A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale
by Karen Schaler
A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale is perfect for readers who enjoy a book infused with:
*the spirit of Christmas
*beautiful snowy backdrops
*the importance of family
*magical, romantic possibilities
*a belief that wishes can come true
*a kinder, gentler way of interacting with others
*royalty who love and respect the citizens of their kingdom
The story centers on:
Alexander—handsome, widowed prince
Isabella—perceptive and generous queen
Anna—precocious princess, enthusiastic, but respectful
Blixen—charming Vizsla dog
What happens if you are expecting a promotion, but discover at Christmas that the company is making cuts? You accept any job, even if it is a mystery assignment, if it might lead to greater things.
What do you do if your wife dies, and the paparazzi are ruthless in their hounding? You escape to the Caribbean.
With a little royal manipulation, the two are thrown together, with a comfort zone nowhere in sight.
My favorite character is the princess, mature in manners and understanding of the grownup world of royalty, but young in her enjoyment of life. My favorite scene is Kaylie’s arrival in Tolvania, unaware she will be working in a real castle inhabited by royalty. She is greeted by the princess, but thinks it is all pretend and plays along with what she thinks is an imaginary scenario. Confusing and embarrassing for Kaylie. Amusing for the reader.
Along the way I could tell that Kaylie had stepped over a boundary, a law actually. That decision was complicated by a mistake that I knew was coming and which added tension to several chapters as I waited for the issue to explode. If you want a true Christmasy, romantic escape, A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale was written just for you.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to HawkTale Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance, Women’s Fiction
Notes: This standalone includes three recipes and two activities in a bonus section.
Publication: October 5, 2021—HawkTale Publishing
She wondered, if she’d had an inspiring art teacher who had encouraged her, instead of telling her all the things she was doing wrong, maybe she would have liked art more.
Kaylie was once again impressed by how many of the royal family’s Christmas traditions included the entire village of Tolvania and focused on giving back and bringing people together.
“Christmas spirit is the heart and soul of Christmas because it celebrates family, faith, friends, community, hope, and love,” the queen said. “You can tell a lot about someone by the way they celebrate and honor Christmas.”
Love Your Life
by Sophie Kinsella
Ava is the latest in the line of Sophie Kinsella’s over the top lovable main characters. She rescues almost everything—from her mischievous beagle Harold to books no one else would want to buy. She is passionate about her ever-changing interests but never seems to achieve any of her goals. Her conversations with herself and others can best be described as stream of consciousness. The word “tidy” is not in her vocabulary.
Ava’s support group from university choir days is a cadre of unlike souls who nevertheless get along fabulously. Ava goes to Italy at their urging for a writer’s retreat where she meets Matt whose family business is all consuming. He has a sterile apartment, weird taste in art, and two odd roommates. Their dynamic is amusing in a male supportive kind of way.
The rules at the writer’s retreat keep everyone anonymous and focused on their writing—in theory. Ava and Matt quickly focus on each other and reveal their identities to continue their relationship when they return home. Watching Ava and Matt interact is like watching the proverbial train wreck. You know disaster will happen, yet you can’t look away. Although much of the book is pleasantly predictable, there are some stunning surprises along the way. Love Your Life is a fun foray into chick lit: twenty-first century romance featuring online dating and What’s App and wacky but lovable characters. It is a humorous look at the glue that hold friendships together and the ties that bind hearts in love.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Random House (Dial Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Notes: Some foul language
Publication: October 27, 2020—Random House (Dial)
Maud’s basic conundrum in life is that she has three children but only two hands.
Nell doesn’t normally do hope. Not since she got ill. She describes her life philosophy as “managed pessimism.”
For a few minutes we’re both silent as rain starts to thunder down on the car roof. Hurt is crackling around the car like a lightning storm.
by Sophie Kinsella
If you have enjoyed any other Sophie Kinsella Shopaholic books, then be prepared for a treat with Becky’s antics in Christmas Shopaholic. Becky’s husband Luke has a profitable business. This is a fortunate circumstance for the couple because Becky, who has a good heart, just really has no sense when it comes to finances. She fights a losing battle with her desires to shop. Her version of economizing is buying things she doesn’t need in order to get free shipping. Another of Becky’s cost-saving strategies is to buy a lifetime supply of a product because it is on sale.
In Christmas Shopaholic, Becky is asked to take over her extended family’s traditional Christmas Day dinner and activities at her own house. As she tries to make everyone happy, Becky becomes quite stressed and keeps getting distracted from her original shopping goals. To complicate matters, her vegan, organic-loving, eco-friendly half sister is back from Chile with monosyllabic responses to everything. Becky’s parents are experiencing life changes, and Becky has to face up to encounters with an ex-boyfriend who has morphed into an alluring rocker.
Christmas Shopaholic is an all-round fun and funny Christmas read with no tissues required. To add to the humor, Kinsella inserts texts and emails that represent Becky’s personality perfectly.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Dial Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult)
Notes: There are eight other Shopaholic books, but each can be read as a standalone.
Publication: October 15, 2019— Random House (Dial Press)
I should shop ethically. We all should! So I started a little habit—when I’ve been on a shopping spree I try to buy something ethical too. Like those people who buy trees to make up for flying on planes.
Online ordering isn’t really shopping, it’s “procuring.” You procure stuff online. But you don’t get the buzz of actually stepping into a shop and seeing all the gorgeous stuff, feeling it, stroking it, being seduced by it.
In desperation, I’ve been watching one Christmas movie after another and feeling genuine withdrawal symptoms in between. They’re like Valium—not that I know what Valium is like, but I’m guessing. They make me feel calm and happy and hopeful, because in all of them, without fail, Christmas spirit brings everyone together.
It Won’t Be Christmas Without You
by Beth Reekles
Cara and Eloise are twins in Beth Reekles’ It Won’t Be Christmas Without You. The author never tells if they are identical twins or not, but they are certainly different in personality. Cara is a workaholic, driven to earn an early promotion. She feels she has always had to work extra hard to achieve grades and jobs. Eloise is a teacher and success in school and in finding her first job comes easier for her. She, however, always feels lacking in the friendship department.
This year Eloise’s world is turned upside down as their parents announce that they will take a beach vacation on what is Eloise’s favorite holiday, Christmas. Cara decides she may opt out of their traditional celebration also in favor of working. The conflict in the book revolves around the tension between the siblings as they move closer to December 25. Both of the twins become involved in romantic relationships with likable young men.
The chapters move along a timeline which is a countdown to Christmas. It was a quick read, but I never felt fully invested in the characters. I was more of an outsider looking in on the action. I enjoyed learning about some mentioned British foods: roasties, bacon sarnies, and the sweet treats of individual, packaged mince pies, Celebrations, and Roses.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to HarperCollins (One More Chapter) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (A), Romance
Notes: Contains a lot of British Vulgarisms
Publication: August 30, 2019—HarperCollins (One More Chapter)
Wow. She’d actually done it. She’d gone for the blackmail card. Guilting her twin with her own broken heart.
But it did mean she was lacking in experience when it came to relationship problems. Like what to do when you think your boyfriend is lying to you. (Google wasn’t very helpful, when she asked it.)
The burn on the back of her forearm she’d got an hour ago was still red and angry, so she slapped a little Savlon on it. Salon would cure everything that a good cup of tea couldn’t, she was convinced.
Nothing could fix this Christmas.
A Highlander Walks Into a Bar
by Laura Trentham
When your mom goes to Scotland and brings home a surprise, you don’t expect it to be a handsome Highlander…or that a younger version will follow. These two men, Gareth and Alasdair, along with Rose and Izzy (Isabel) are the main characters in A Highlander Walks Into a Bar by Laura Trentham. The setting is not Cairndow, home of the Blackmoor family, but Highland, Georgia, where Rose and Izzy try to keep their beloved Stonehaven, as well as the entire town of Highland, solvent through a Scottish festival every summer. The secrets the characters keep to themselves, even as their intimacy as couples grows, make for some uncomfortable and humorous situations. They all wonder, as does the reader, how there can ever be a positive outcome for the two couples given their respective responsibilities an ocean away from each other. There is resolution, of course, but the book ends with an epilogue that can obviously segue into another tale involving the same characters and a new one. Lots of potential fun lies in store for readers of this new series.
I would like to extend my thanks to Carla (https://carlalovestoread.wordpress.com) and to St. Martin’s Paperbacks for gifting me with this book. I won this book in an online raffle after reading Carla’s review which you can enjoy yourself on her blog.
Notes: A Highlander Walks Into a Bar is a good, fun romance. If you don’t want the details of a hot and heavy passionate union, skip chapter 11. Omitting these details will not in any way hinder your enjoyment or understanding of this book.
Publication: July 30, 2019—St. Martin’s Paperbacks
More bagpipes joined in, and the march they played made her heart ache with an emotion she couldn’t categorize. Sometimes it was better to feel than to understand.
“Are you and Gareth in love?” The question popped out, and not for the first time Izzy wished she had a speedbump between her brain and her mouth.
“It is easier to tally who is right and wrong and hang onto your resentment and turn your back, because forgiveness and understanding are difficult. What you should tally are laughs and kisses and how many times you are made a better person because of your connection.”
Goodness, Grace, and Me
by Julie Houston
Complicated relationships are at the center of Julie Houston’s Goodness, Grace, and Me. Harriet (Hat) has been best friends with Grace since they were eleven, and they both idolized Amanda who along the way picked up the title “Little Miss Goodness.” Twenty years later, Grace and Harriet assume they are rid of her influence when she suddenly re-enters their lives. Despite all warnings, Harriet’s husband Nick becomes involved in business with Amanda’s husband and thus Amanda. Grace’s brother continues to be under Amanda’s spell.
Life is not easy for Harriet, mother of three, who had to return to teaching because of economic problems. Also Nick’s mother has come to live with them. Although her situation is complicated, Harriet pushes hard for stability for her family.
This is my second Julie Houston book to read and I like it much better than the first. The main character is strong, likable, and has moral character. There is a subplot involving Harriet’s mother, possible dementia, and a secret. I wasn’t sure how the plot would sort itself out, but it did and I enjoyed watching it happen.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
Notes: Includes some British vulgarisms but they are not terribly offensive compared to those found in Julie Houston’s Coming Home to Holly Close Farm.
Publication: February 19, 2019—Aria
I can only ever sulk for a maximum of five minutes, by which time I’ve usually had enough of giving the cold shoulder treatment and need to start talking again. Life is just too short to spend it in silence.
Admittedly, I did most of the hard graft but I lightened the proceedings by blasting out T.Rex’s “I Love to Boogie”, so that even Kit forgot he was a fully paid up member of the moody brigade and jitterbugged round the furniture with the Hoover.
…wrapping a duvet around her against the almost damp cold which had settled in the sitting room like a melancholic maiden aunt who has outstayed her welcome, I went back through the hall to ring the doctor’s surgery.
I Owe You One
by Sophie Kinsella
I have read and enjoyed a number of books by Sophie Kinsella who is perhaps most famous for her Shopaholic series. Then I read one that just didn’t have the same zing and humor, so I entered I Owe You One with some trepidation. I am pleased to report that Kinsella’s latest book lives up to her standards and my expectations. At first I was a little concerned there would be too much predictability. The main character’s name is Fixie, derived from her penchant for fixing things ranging from the placement of objects to personal relationships. OCD is definitely in play as she struggles not to rearrange things or declare her every thought. As Fixie’s high school heartthrob reenters her life, the reader is watching a foreseeable train wreck: “No, Fixie, don’t do it!”
The plot leaves the anticipated pathway soon after with lots of surprises in store. It does not focus solely on Fixie’s love life. Fixie also struggles with family relationships which are closely tied with the family business. You will like Fixie if for no other reason than she tries so hard in everything she does. She feels like a failure, is loaded with unwarranted guilt, and carries the torch for making everything turn out right and keeping everyone happy—a big burden for one person.
There are many other interesting major and minor characters you will meet, but not all of them are likable, of course. The setting is West London where the denizens range from scruffy to posh. The book flows nicely with lots of humor and is a fast and enjoyable read.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Dial Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Women’s Fiction
Publication: February 19, 2019—Dial Press
When I think how I believed his version of everything, how I rationalized everything he said and did, I feel warm with stupidity. But he was so convincing.
Ryan’s pathological, I’ve realized. He says anything to anyone to get out of whatever situation he’s in. Truth doesn’t count, integrity doesn’t count, love doesn’t even figure. Yelling at him would be like yelling at a rock. It’s never going to change.
I learned that failing doesn’t mean you are a failure; it just means you’re a human being.
by Kristen Ethridge
Seriously, you can’t start a book made from a Hallmark movie without knowing how it is going to end. October Kiss has all the requisites: a smart, attractive twenty-nine year old woman who has commitment issues in work, relationships, and most other areas of her life. She becomes a temporary nanny for a handsome, workaholic widower with two kids. It’s no spoiler to predict a happy ending, but like a good motorcycle ride, reading this book is not about the destination, but the journey. Even though you know what the conclusion will bring, it is just so much fun watching the story of Poppy, Ryan, and the children, Zoe and Zack, play out.
Kristen Ethridge, the author, reveals the worst faults of the four main characters in the beginning of the book, but pretty soon their true and more positive characteristics shine. They are all likable, and you will be rooting for that inevitable successful ending. A quick read with a beautiful fall setting will convince even the most adamant naysayer of Halloween that fun and whimsy can still be found through the eyes of children.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Hallmark Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Notes: The movie October Kiss premiered in 2015.
Publication: August 2, 2019—Hallmark Publishing
These kids weren’t complicated. They just needed a little undivided attention and unconditional love.
The mere acknowledgement of the other woman tasted like black licorice on Poppy’s tongue as she spoke. Poppy hated black licorice.
The truth hurt like rug burn on her soul.