The Christmas Wish List by Heidi Swain

Today I’m happy to be sharing my mini review for the third Wynbridge novel I’ve read this week by the lovely Heidi Swain, currently 99p on the Kindle.

Synopsis:

After being let go from her job in a swanky hotel just weeks before Christmas, Hattie is feeling lost. Even more so when her high-flying boyfriend announces he’s landed his dream job in Abu Dhabi and asks her to move with him. Luckily, Hattie’s long-time friend Dolly is on hand to help and invites Hattie to spend one last holiday in the small, festive town of Wynbridge, determined to give her a Christmas to remember . . .

Upon Hattie’s arrival, holiday preparations are in full swing. But for Hattie, whose Christmas cheer has long since run out, it’ll take more than mince pies and mistletoe to open her heart to the season once more. Relishing the task of reigniting Hattie’s Christmas spirit, Dolly suggests they create a wish list of all the things the season can offer, and with the helpful hands of Wynbridge’s resident handyman, Beamish, Hattie finds her frosty exterior is starting to thaw.

As Wynbridge prepares for its most spectacular Christmas yet, will Hattie leave snowy England behind for life in a sunnier clime, or will she in fact realise that her heart’s desire lies much closer to home?

My thoughts:

It was lovely to travel back to Wynbridge, to catch up with the characters from previous books and to meet Hattie, Beamish and Dolly. Hattie needs to make a major decision about her life, and her friend Dolly is determined to show her what she would miss if she left the UK. Dolly has a number of reasons for creating the Christmas Wish List with Hattie, and it was lovely to read about a ‘normal Christmas’ after spending an unusually quiet Christmas in 2020.

The book deals with some tough relationship and health issues, but left this reader feeling uplifted and festive. Having worked in a primary school as a teaching assistant when my children were young, it was nice to remember the madness of the Christmas weeks (we had OFSTED turn up one year in the midst of all the fun/glitter/plays/parties). Another lovely book from Heidi Swain.

The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

Today I’m sharing my thoughts about Caroline Scott’s debut novel, which was published by Simon and Schuster UK in hardback in 2019 and in paperback in June 2020.

Synopsis:

If someone you loved when missing, would you ever stop searching for them?

1921. The Great War is over and while many survivors have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He was declared ‘missing, believed killed’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph in the post, taken by Francis, hope flares. And so she begins to search. 

Francis’ brother, Harry, is also searching. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, he has returned to the Western Front. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last conversation they ever had. 

As Harry and Edith’s path converge, they begin to get closer to a startling truth.

My thoughts:

I purchased this book back in June 2020 from Bert’s Books but only started reading it during the first weekend of Lockdown 2 which was also Remembrance weekend. As readers of my book review blog may remember, I recently read and reviewed Caroline’s latest book, When I Come Home Again (https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/10/31/when-i-come-home-again-by-caroline-scott/)

The photographer from the title of the book is Harry, who went to war with both his brothers but was the only one to return to England. As the story develops, we discover more about Harry’s relationships with his family and what happened in France and Belgium. Harry takes photos for other families who are looking for their loved ones who have been declared as Missing In Action or who have died.

The book is heartbreaking in places but is beautifully written by Caroline Scott, who conveys the horrors of World War 1 and the aftermath with care. Was a Missing In Action telegram more cruel than a Died in Service telegram, due to the continued hope of seeing a loved one alive again?

A five star read for me.

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at The Winter Wonderland by Heidi Swain

Today I’m sharing my thoughts about this fabulous festive book, by an author I only discovered this year. This was my Christmas Day afternoon read, whilst my husband snored on the sofa and our teenagers caught up on their social media accounts. With no travelling to visit family in Yorkshire (or even locally) this year, I treated myself to some festive books for my Kindle for the Christmas holiday to curl up with.

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?

My thoughts:

At the start of the book, Hayley is looking forward to her engagement party, after a romantic proposal. However, after finding out that her husband-to-be is definitely not the right man for her in dramatic circumstances, Hayley decides to make major changes to her life and to avoid men.

However, fate introduces her to Gabe on the same evening, who will be living and working at Wynthorpe Hall too. Both Gabe and Hayley need to decide whether they can be just friends or if they can risk falling in love.

I loved the festive feel of the book, the Winter Wonderland sounded delightful as did the family/friends at Wynthorpe Hall. This was a lovely book to read in the middle of a global pandemic, to remind the reader of how Christmas may be in the future, and the importance of good friends and community spirit.

A five star festive read.

Ivy Hill Christmas: A Tales from Ivy Hill Novella by Julie Klassen @Julie_Klassen @Bethany_House @BPGUK @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

Thank you to Love Book Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour for this festive historical fiction novella. Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Richard Brockwell, the younger son of Ivy Hill’s most prominent family, hasn’t been home for Christmas in years. He prefers to live in the London townhouse, far away from Brockwell Court, the old family secret that haunts him, and the shadows of his past mistakes. But then his mother threatens to stop funding his carefree life–unless he comes home for Christmas. Out of options, he sets out for Ivy Hill, planning to be back on a coach bound for London and his unencumbered bachelor life as soon as the festivities are over.

Buy Link 

https://amzn.to/2UZEkH6

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Julie Klassen so I haven’t read the previous books in the Ivy Hill series yet. However I’m pleased to say that it didn’t cause any issues with reading this book.

I’ve read a few festive novels this year (primarily to escape the news about the global pandemic) but this is the first one that took me back in time almost 200 years. I enjoyed my trip back in time, to a world very different today.

I enjoyed reading about Richard, what had driven him to leave his family home (Brockwell Court) and why he had avoided going home. This Christmas is his opportunity to face up to the past and to make plans for the future, and to share his worries with his brother too.

Richard appears to be a very self centred young man, who Arabella wisely avoids, but slowly we start to understand what happened to make him struggle to trust people and see what happens when he starts to think about others first.

An enjoyable read that I’m happy to recommend.

Author Bio:

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books, The Silent GovernessThe Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also won the Midwest Book Award, the Minnesota Book Award, and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award, and been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards and ACFW’s Carol Awards. She blogs at http://www.inspiredbylifeandfiction.com.
Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Christmas Wishes by Sue Moorcroft

Thank you to Avon Books for a digital review copy via NetGalley. Apologies for the delay in reading and reviewing. Here is my mini review of this festive read.

Synopsis:

Hannah and Nico are meant to be together.

But fate is keeping them apart… 

When Hannah bumps into her brother Rob’s best friend Nico in Stockholm, the two rekindle a fast friendship. But Hannah has a boyfriend – and Nico has two children to look after. When Hannah loses her beloved shop in Stockholm, though, she is forced to move back to the little village of Middledip – only to find Nico has just moved in too. Under the same snowy sky, can the childhood friends make a romance work – or are there too many obstacles standing in their way?

A heartwarming story of love, friendship, and Christmas magic, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley and Jill Mansell.

My thoughts:

This is the third book I’ve read by Sue Moorcroft in the past year and is now my new favourite. Hannah and Nico both face a number of challenges, with work and relationships, but cross paths again when Hannah’s brother gets married. Can they help each other?

My favourite part of the book was the visit to Nico’s family in Sweden. In a year of hardly travelling anywhere, I loved the sound of visiting Sweden to try new foods, make snowmen and visit new places. My favourite character was Hannah’s Nan who wants the best for her granddaughter.

An enjoyable read that is currently 99p on the Kindle in the UK. Happy to recommend this as a book to curl up with over the Christmas holiday.

Create Your Own Calm by Meera Lee Patel @meeraleepatel @omarabooks @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours #CreateYourOwnCalm

Today I’m sharing my thoughts about this beautiful book on the Love Books Tours blog tour (and will be sharing more images on my Instagram page @karenkisreading)

Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of Start Where You Are, a beautifully illustrated journal for easing the everyday anxieties we all carry.

Feeling anxious, uncertain, overwhelmed? You’re not alone. In this empowering new tool for self-care, popular artist and author Meera Lee Patel presents a fresh approach to feeling better. Designed to help us better understand ourselves and dial down the everyday worries getting in our way, these thoughtful and beautifully illustrated journal pages are a safe space for reflection, self-acceptance, and the freedom to move forward with more clarity and joy.

Bringing together inspiring quotes from great thinkers and writers throughout history and engaging journal prompts and plenty of room to capture your thoughts, the book is a calming breath of fresh air and a quiet space to reflect and recharge in a hectic and uncertain world.

My thoughts:

Thank you to Michael O’Mara Books and Love Books Tours for the opportunity to read and review this beautiful ‘self-help’ book.

2020 has increased the anxiety levels of the majority of people, with increased health and financial worries due to the global pandemic. It is difficult to avoid ‘bad news’ on TV or the internet at the moment, but this book gives you time to reflect and recharge.

In my work life, I work with young people, encouraging them to reflect on their past work and achievements and values before looking forward to their future. However, this is something I rarely do myself. However since this book arrived last week, I’ve been looking through it and taking time to think about the different ideas it suggests.

The book is beautiful to look at, full of colour and quotes, with lots of activities to encourage you to think and reflect. I haven’t kept a personal diary or journal since my first pregnancy 18 years ago but I will be using this book in 2021 to see if I can reduce my anxiety levels. My 15 year old daughter has asked me to buy a copy for her too.

Author Bio:

Meera Lee Patel is a self-taught artist and the author of Start Where You Are, Made Out of Stars, and My Friend Fear. She creates work to inspire and encourage others to connect with themselves, each other, and the world around them. She lives in the northern woods of Nashville, Tennessee.

Buy Link 

https://amzn.to/3mdWeCb

in pursuit of happiness by Freya Kennedy

Thank you To Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation to join the Boldwood Books blog tour for this lovely book. I enjoyed reading The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn during the summer (see my review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/07/01/the-hopes-and-dreams-of-libby-quinn-by-freya-kennedy/) and was thrilled to be able to head back to Ivy Lane again.

Synopsis:

The world is waiting…but just outside of your comfort zone.

Jo Campbell is perfectly content in a perfectly structured life.
Nothing ever changes in Jo’s life, and she likes it that way.
Or at least, she tells herself she does.
Most of the time, she manages to push down the tiny voice that tells her to chase her dream and maybe, just maybe, open her battered and bruised heart up to love.
But to chase her dreams she needs to take chances that are way out of her comfort zone and learn to not put other people’s happiness above her own.
Most of all she has to learn to trust her heart, which may just be the biggest challenge of all.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3iISOpc

My thoughts:

It was lovely to return to Ivy Lane to meet the characters created by Freya Kennedy in The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn. We do spend time with Libby and her lovely bookshop, but the main character this time is Jo, who has been putting everyone else ahead of her own dreams.

Jo helps her adopted brother with his pub, helps her mum care for her young adopted sister whilst her dad is working away and keeps an eye on elderly Harry at his shop in Ivy Lane. It is time for Jo to stop procrastinating and to work towards her dream of being a published writer. As her friend Libby has a bookshop with desks for writers and non stop coffee on offer, what could stop her?

I loved how Freya developed the relationships in the story, especially Jo with Clara her much younger sister. Jo also finds time to show Lorcan around when he comes to visit Harry, his grandfather and through a bookshop event, meets a best selling author who offers to help her achieve her dream of being a published author.

This is a non spoiler review, so I won’t ruin your journey through the book but will say that the course of events don’t always run smoothly. I loved my time back in Ivy Lane and hope that Freya Kennedy (aka Claire Allan) will take us back there again in the future.

Author Bio:

Freya Kennedy lives in Derry, Northern Ireland, with her husband, two children, two cats and a mad dog called Izzy. She worked as a journalist for eighteen years before deciding to write full time. When not writing, she can be found reading, hanging out with her nieces and nephews, cleaning up after her children (a lot) and telling her dog that she loves her. 

She has met Michael Buble and even kissed him. It was one of her best ever moments.

She believes in happy ever afters.

Freya Kennedy is a pen name for Claire Allan, who also writes psychological thrillers.

Social Media Links – 

http://www.claireallan.com/

https://twitter.com/ClaireAllan / 
https://twitter.com/AuthorFreya

https://www.facebook.com/ClaireAllanAuthor

https://www.instagram.com/claireallan_author/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/freya-kennedy

Newsletter sign up: http://bit.ly/FreyaKennedyNewsletter

Christmas Island by Natalie Normann

Today I’m sharing a mini review. Thank you to One More Chapter for a digital review copy on NetGalley to read and review. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

In the bleak midwinter… 
A really frosty wind is making Holly’s life absolutely miserable

After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined.

Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine.

Call it kindness, call it Christmas, but Holly’s arrival means midwinter has never looked less bleak.

My thoughts:

Thank you to One More Chapter for inviting me to read the book. I didn’t realise until I started the book, that this follows on from Summer Island, but the main characters are new and I was able to read this without having read Summer Island.

Holly has escaped London and travelled to Norway to rest and reflect on what happened at work. Tor has escaped Oslo and is enjoying the solitude, until he saves a weary Holly, with assistance from a cute cat. Can Holly help Tor escape his self imposed exile and can Tor help Holly learn about Norwegian food and customs?

The story is set over the Christmas period, as Holly looks forward to spending Christmas with her older brother Jack, the main character in Summer Island and features food, friendship, romance and furry four legged friends.

I enjoyed my virtual visit to Norway and must admit that I’m now tempted to visit Norway once the global pandemic is over, to try all the fabulous sweet treats. Thanks to Natalie Normann for a festive treat of a story.

The Cornish Cream Tea Christmas by Cressida McLaughlin

Thank you to Anne of Random Things Tours for inviting me to join the blog tour for this festive book. Thank you to Harper Collins/Harper Fiction for a copy of the book to prepare for the review. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Hannah Swan is looking forward to Christmas for the first time in years. Her new job as an eco-consultant is taking her – and her geeky colleague, Noah – to the beautiful Cornish village of Porthgolow for the first time.

They’re are helping the Crystal Waters Hotel to ramp up its green credentials, though after a bumpy journey, Hannah can’t shake off the feeling that Porthgolow is strangely familiar. Never able to resist a mystery, her interest is piqued when the hotel’s staff and customers report odd noises and sightings, believing the hotel to be haunted.

When bad weather cuts off Porthgolow, Hannah and Noah are looking at a Cornish Christmas. It gives them plenty of time to work out what is really going on, but will their yuletide escape send shivers up their spines? Or will it be as warm and toasty as a glass of mulled wine?

My thoughts:

Having started to reduce my book blogging commitments as I returned to work, an email about this book from Anne at Random Things Tours popped into my inbox. Despite not having read any books by Cressida McLaughlin before, the gorgeous cover design and mentioning Cornwall, Cream Teas and Christmas in the title, meant that I had to email straight back to Anne to offer to read and review.

I’m so glad that I did reply, because I loved the book. As I said above, I haven’t read any books by Cressida before, so I have missed the first two books in the series, but that didn’t stop me understanding and enjoying this book. I’m also pleased to see that there is a fourth book in the series out in 2021, but I won’t name it here (spoiler alert for this story).

Hannah travels to Cornwall for work, but finds herself falling in love with the area, the food, and the people. Of course, this is set in a non Covid world, and it was lovely to be able to visit the Cream Tea bus with Hannah, to spend time at the Crystal Waters Hotel and the Seven Stars pub.

The story was a welcome escape from 2020, full of travel, food and new friendships. As regular readers of my blog know, I love it when a dog is an integral part of the story, and there are six dogs in this story.

One of my favourite festive reads of 2020. Grab a copy, a cream scone and a hot chocolate (or a gingerbread latte), and curl up with Hannah, Noah, Sprite and all the other fabulous characters. Just watch out for the ghosts…

Author Bio:

Cressy was born in South East London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David. When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful Norfolk coastline.

One Snowy Week in Springhollow by Lucy Knott

Thank you to Vicky Joss at Aria Fiction for the invitation to join the blog tour for this fabulous festive book. Thank you for a digital copy via NetGalley, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Tomboy Scarlett thought Devon would be her best friend forever. He was the only person in Springhollow who supported her ambitious artist dreams. But then one winter, Devon and his parents disappear without warning to start a new life in NYC and a devastated Scarlett is left alone to face her high-school bullies and overbearing mother.

Fast-forward ten years: Scarlett is playing it safe in her childhood village with a dull PA job and a wardrobe that passes her mother’s old-fashioned standards. Meanwhile, Devon is a Hollywood heartthrob, starring in the latest superhero blockbuster. And he’s finally coming home for Christmas…

Scarlett can’t help blaming her former best friend for the way her life has turned out, but Devon’s cheeky charm and gorgeous smile prove difficult to resist. Devon always did make her feel on top of the world, but Scarlett knows her heart isn’t racing just because she has her friend back – is it mistletoe madness, or is she seeing Devon in a completely new light?

Scarlett hasn’t taken a risk in years… but this Christmas of second chances could finally be her time to shine

My thoughts:

This is the third book I’ve read by Lucy and I have to confess that this is my new favourite. Having enjoyed reading Wishes Under a Starlit Sky last year, I didn’t think Lucy could improve her storytelling but I loved this book even more.

Scarlett was devastated when her best friend Devon left for New York and changed her life totally, including stopping the love of comic book superheroes she had shared with Devon. So when Devon appears back in Springhollow to promote his new superhero movie, how will Scarlett react?

This book mixes romance, friendships, misunderstandings, peppermint coffees, superheroes, comic books, school bullies, gingerbread houses and the Avengers together and produces a lovely festive story which helped this reader escape the news of lockdown part two.

This book was published around the time of national anti bullying week, and demonstrates how being bullied at school can continue to impact on a person, long after they have left school. Devon had been Scarlett’s protection from the bullies, and losing him changed her life in more ways than everyone realised.

I love Christmas, the Marvel movies and romance, and this book delivered everything lightly dusted with snowflakes and served with freshly baked gingerbread. A lovely festive five star read.

Author Bio:

Lucy Knott is a former professional wrestler with a passion for storytelling. Now, instead of telling her stories in the ring, she’s putting pen to paper, fulfilling another lifelong dream in becoming an Author.

Inspired by her Italian Grandparents, when she is not writing you will most likely find her cooking, baking and devouring Italian food, in addition to learning Italian and daydreaming of trips to Italy.

Along with her twin sister, Kelly, Lucy runs TheBlossomTwins.com, where she enthusiastically shares her love for books, baking and Italy, with daily posts, reviews and recipes.

Follow Lucy:

Twitter: @TheBlossomTwins

Facebook: @TheBlossomTwins 

Instagram: @theblossomtwins

Pre-order links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/32sEaMQ 

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3pf4Ry7 

Google Play: https://bit.ly/2Ikp84y 

iBooks: https://apple.co/35dyPdZ 

Follow Aria 

Website: www.ariafiction.com

Twitter: @aria_fiction

Facebook: @ariafiction

Instagram: @ariafiction