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Notting Hill in the Snow–chance encounter

Notting Hill in the Snow

by Jules Wake

Notting Hill in the SnowLooking for a romance on the clean side? Enjoy Britishisms? Does a story in which the main characters put the well-being of a sweet, people-pleasing seven year old ahead of their own happiness appeal to you? How about a Christmas in Notting Hill with snow and hot chocolate? If you find these enticing, then Jules Wakes’ Notting Hill in the Snow is a perfect read for you.

Viola, who plays the viola for the London Metropolitan Opera Company, is such a likable character, always trying to help others. Unfortunately, she had a mixed childhood with parents who just weren’t very supportive. When she is asked to help with a local school’s nativity play, she meets little Gracie who has a loving, successful, and quite handsome dad. Viola empathizes with Gracie whose mother is removed both physically and emotionally.

Viola has lots of balancing acts to maintain as she tries to keep her family happy, contain her growing desire for Gracie’s dad, put on a stellar Christmas show, and complete her obligations to herself and the opera company as a professional musician.

This is the kind of book that you don’t want to end because you are enjoying it so much. At the same time, you long for that final, feel-good closure—if, in fact, it comes for Gracie, her dad, and Viola.

I find most Christmas romances I read to be good, but not excellent—usually too sweet. Notting Hill in the Snow is a step above, however. I admit I am partial to stories that include children; but, for that reason, as well as the theatre and music backdrop, and interesting characters, this book is a Christmas romance I enjoyed and highly recommend.

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Publication:   October 11, 2019—One More Chapter (HarperCollins Publishers)

Memorable Lines:

“Good. Morning. Miss Smith,” intoned the class in a deadened robotic rhythm that threatened to suck all of the life out of me. Honestly, it was like facing a crowd of Dementors.

Lifting her chin, she regarded me with, from a seven-year-old, terrifying lofty superiority. “You can never see Frozen too many times.”

Kensington Park Road was almost bereft of traffic, the few cars driving at a snail’s pace in the heavy slush and the gorgeous stylish shops were for once sluggish and quiet, some still closed, as if the snow had spread its calming influence and decreed that today was worth taking things slow and easy.

Elaine held all the cards and I was clueless as to what the game was.

Snowflakes over Holly Cove–reconciliation

Snowflakes over Holly Cove

by Lucy Coleman

Snowflakes over Holly CoveTia is facing her first Christmas without her mother. She also has a painful distancing from her brother Will and his family. She is returning to her job as a journalist after a breakdown, but as we see her take on a feature assignment in isolated Holly Cove, she is depicted as a strong and resilient woman.

As Lucy Coleman’s Snowflakes over Holly Cove unfolds, Tia finds herself in the middle of other familial dysfunctional relationships that include Clarissa, her successful but manipulative boss, and Nic, the owner of the house she is renting. She also meets Max, a reticent retired Navy officer who is her temporary neighbor. Everyone has secrets, and some of those secrets might tie the characters together.

There are many interesting, vying, plot threads as Tia interviews couples for her feature articles and tries to sort through what makes a relationship sustainable. The story ends with some surprising action scenes and lots of genuine moments of compassion and reconciliation. This is a novel that rises above the typical Christmas feel-good story; readers will appreciate its depth.

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   September 18, 2018—Aria

Memorable Lines:

Strangely, I find myself repeatedly drawn to the window to marvel at the hostility of the sea. It’s a top to bottom, wall-to-wall steely greyness, that is like a blanket and it’s hard to see where the water ends and the sky begins.

“Money and possessions, I came to appreciate, create mistrust and envy. They bring out the worst in people.”

I truly believe that the spirit of Christmas is embodied in this room, today. It’s not about the gifts, or the amount of money you have to lavish on the occasion. It’s about the desire to make it special for other people and in doing so, it makes it special for you, too.

Finding Christmas–a holiday romance

Finding Christmas

by Karen Schaler

Finding ChristmasThe beginning of this Christmas romance is overly sugar sweet—or I was a tad “Grinchy” at that particular time. It isn’t long, however, before the conflict is presented and the interest level ramps up. Emma Sanders (aka Miss Christmas) loves Christmas as did her parents whose memory she tries to honor in her devotion to all things Christmas. The other thing she is devoted to is the community center she runs and the people it serves. The story centers around Emmie, her boyfriend Grant who is a lawyer, and Sam, a writer who mistakenly follows clues for a scavenger hunt intended to inspire Grant with the Christmas spirit.

Although the reader can quickly predict the outcome, the rest of the story is quite engaging as you watch the conflicts and misunderstandings of the romance play out. All of the characters are altruistic, but you’ll soon pick your favorites. Yours might even be Dasher, a border collie mix who adds fun to the story.

Finding Christmas has a beautiful Christmasy setting. Author Karen Schaler will lead you through a wonderland of snow, twinkling white lights, and evergreen decorations to a satisfying conclusion as the characters find Christmas. 

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to HarperCollins (William Morrow) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Publication:   October 15, 2019—HarperCollins (William Morrow)

Memorable Lines:

Grant gave her a look. “Emmie, this is where I work. I don’t need…decorations.” Emmie’s eyes grew huge, and she looked at him like he’d just said he didn’t like puppies.

She loved seeing firsthand how even the smallest gift of kindness could make such a difference in someone’s life. She had seen over and over again the power of reaching out to someone, offering comfort when they needed it the most—how even the simplest gesture could connect people and give them hope.

After her parents passed away, Emmie had promised herself never to put off doing the things she really wanted to do, knowing tomorrows are never guaranteed. She had learned that saving something to do “someday” meant you were risking never having that special experience happen at all.

Christmas Shopaholic–Becky “needs” it all

Christmas Shopaholic

by Sophie Kinsella

Christmas ShopaholicIf 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.

Rating: 5/5

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)

Memorable Lines:

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.

The Christmas Calendar Girls–an advent calendar that helps others

The Christmas Calendar Girls

by Samantha Tonge

The Christmas Calendar GirlsFern, Davina, and Cara bond over children who attend the same school in Birchwood Estate. With different personalities and strengths they value each other rather than hold jealousies. In The Christmas Calendar Girls by Samantha Tonge, the ladies work together to save the food bank that is a lifeline for so many in the community, from the addict to the unemployed parent struggling to provide.

It’s the busy Christmas season and late to begin a project to raise money, but Fern has an idea to save the food bank and engender community spirit and good will. Her friends jump on board to help.

All is not smooth sailing, however, with the project and its changing deadlines or in the “calendar girls’ ” personal lives. Fern is a widowed journalist trying to find a new normal for herself and her daughter Lily. Perhaps she is ready to have a relationship again. Kit, a former client of the food bank, stirs her heart, but is he ready for romance? Davina has always been close to her twin boys, but the more sensitive of the two begins pulling away and the pair get into a fight at school. Cara is fantastic with food, very creative, and a doting, stay-at-home mom. Suddenly she seems to have lost it all as she burns foods, uses the wrong ingredients, and  forgets school notices and weather appropriate clothing for her kids. She fears the onset of early dementia.

Watching these characters grow as they lean on each other and gradually reveal their secrets and rooting for them as they try to help those less fortunate, makes for a gentle, interesting, and inspiring story. Birchwood Estate will never be the same.

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   October 3, 2019—Aria

Memorable Lines:

That’s what Cara’s homely place was like…If it was a person it would have been a welcoming aunt, who always had your favorite biscuits in and never forgot to send birthday money.

“Bringing everyone together, friends and family, over food and drink, with the purpose of helping people facing difficult times…your idea really does encapsulate everything that the festive season should be about.”

Sometimes I worried I’d never meet another man. I didn’t need one to look after myself and Lily. But I wanted the company. The closeness. I missed that.

The Snow Bear–the old ways are disappearing

The Snow Bear

by Holly Webb

Illustrated by Artful Doodlers

The Snow BearDo you want to share information about the Arctic with the children in your life in an engaging way? The Snow Bear by Holly Webb is a great way to do it. Sara goes to visit her grandfather who lives on a cliffside in Canada. As it snows, he talks with Sara about going to the Arctic when he was a boy with his father to record the life and customs of the Inuits living in the Arctic as Sara’s great-grandfather could already see the old ways disappearing.

When Sara goes to bed that night, she dreams herself into the stories Grandpa told her and has her own experiences which bring the Arctic to life for her. She rescues a cub, falls into a crevasse, and shares a warming Inuit soup.

The Snow Bear is a chapter book. I think children would benefit from reading this with an adult as they look at a map of the Arctic and discuss the terms used. An Internet search of corresponding images for items such as “Arctic tern” and “quilliq” would be helpful too. Although the story is fictional, there is much information included.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Myrick Books/Tiger Tales for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes:  1. The illustrations did not show up well in my Advanced Reader Copy, but the sample line drawings shown on Amazon were perfect for this story.

  2. This is the first book I have read by Holly Webb, but I discovered she is a prolific children’s author with books suitable for all the various ages. 

  3. I also learned that Artful Doodlers is responsible for many of the illustrations that children’s book lovers cherish.

  4. This book is part of a Wintry Tales Series.

Publication:   October 1, 2019— Myrick Books/Tiger Tales

Memorable Lines:

“That’s why we went. We wanted to record it all, before it changed forever.”

…the nearest dog, who was curled up in the snow, with his tail wrapped tightly around his nose and his paws. Sara had never seen a dog curl up so small—he looked almost like a cat. “They can sleep through a blizzard like that. And they have to stay out—they’re our guard dogs, too. They let us know if there’s a polar bear around.”

“We always share what we have,” Alignak said, sounding almost surprised. “Food belongs to everyone who needs it.”

Let It Snow–love, snow, and family

Let It Snow

by Sue Moorcroft

Let It SnowCome along for a peek at a British view of Christmas and snow with side trips to Switzerland where Lily and the Middletones, a motley crew of adults and teens, really experience snow with accumulated depth. They embark on a trip that displays the musical talents of the informal singing group as well as Lily’s work as an exhibition artist at a Swiss Christmas Market in Sue Moorcroft’s Let It Snow.

There are lots of complex relationships to watch develop. The back story is critical as Lily and Zinnia are sisters with two “mums,” Patsie and Roma, a situation that caused them grief from classmates as children and later from other adults. Zinnia’s biological father was an anonymous sperm donor, but Lily discovers as an adult that her conception was the result of a heterosexual affair between her mother and a much older man. Her desire to meet her other family upsets both her mothers and her sister, and she is fearful of how her brothers will respond to meeting her. Lily’s family situation gets tied into the pub she works at part time and her business endeavors in Switzerland. Lily has a romantic entanglement with Isaac, the temporary manager of the pub. Their relationship gets complicated when Isaac’s ex re-enters the picture.

I enjoyed watching the intermingling of lives and surprising conflicts that prove to make the story even more interesting. Moorcroft is a master of enticement with setting and mood. I really wanted to be at that Swiss Christmas Market with expensive cuckoo clocks and chocolates. I had visions of hot chocolate, bratwurst, and fondue (but not all at the same time) transferring to my tastebuds. When Lily stood up for herself, I was proud. When she was in physical or emotional pain, I felt for her. Lots of good outcomes make for a happy conclusion, but this tale is close enough to life that not everyone experiences a fairytale ending.

An added bonus to this story is the inclusion of some excitable kids—it is Christmas, after all. An equally enthusiastic Dalmatian named Doggo  accompanies his humans to Switzerland and is quite accommodating to whatever adventures come his way.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Avon Books (U.K.) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

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

Publication:   September 26, 2019—Avon Books (U.K.)

Memorable Lines:

Feelings don’t always take account of right or logic or justice. They come from inside and sometimes they’re all that matter.

As they reached the car park, fresh flakes of snow began, stinging skin like love bites from the Snow Queen.

‘Pretty,’ Lily breathed, eyes reflecting the thousand lights suspended like stars in the night sky above rows of stalls like little red chalets with snow on the roofs. Each stall glittered with stars and lanterns so the entire market seemed luminous.

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