Review: The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

The Christmas Party
The Christmas Party
by Karen Swan wasn’t quite the story I was hoping it would be but it’s an enjoyable read with a lot to like about it. I did struggle to connect to the characters but Swan’s writing is as wonderful as always and it’s something a little different from the usual festive reads.


THE BLURB

The Christmas Party is a delicious, page-turning story of romance, family and secrets, by the Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Swan.

When Declan Lorne, the last remaining knight in Ireland, dies suddenly, an ancient title passes with him. But his estate on Ireland’s rugged south-west coast is left to his three daughters. The two eldest, Ottie and Pip, inherit in line with expectations, but to everyone’s surprise – and dismay – it is the errant baby of the family, Willow, who gets the castle.

Why her? Something unknown – something terrible – made her turn her back on her family three years earlier, escaping to Dublin and vowing never to return. So when Willow quickly announces she is selling up, her revenge seems sweet and the once-close sisters are pushed to breaking point: in desperation, Pip risks everything to secure her own future, and Ottie makes a decision that will ruin lives. It’s each woman for herself.

Before moving in, Connor Shaye, the prospective new owner, negotiates throwing a lavish party at the castle just days before Christmas – his hello, their goodbye. But as their secrets begin to catch up with them, Ottie, Willow and Pip are forced to ask themselves which is harder: stepping into the future, or letting go of the past?


MY REVIEW

As a long time fan of Karen Swan I was very much looking forward to her latest book The Christmas Party but I’m sorry to say this didn’t wholly work for me. It’s not bad and I suspect there may be an element of it being me rather than the story but I struggled to get into it and just never seemed to connect.

Swan’s writing is as wonderful as always and it’s an intriguing premise, a family at war over an inheritance, the uncovering of secrets and long term resentments. Unfortunately however I couldn’t quite find a character I was invested in. The story is told from the point of view of three sisters, Ottie, Pip and Willow, the daughters of the last knight in Ireland. When their father dies, his title dies with him but in a shocking twist he leaves the castle and most of the estate to youngest daughter Willow, something none of them are happy about. Willow has been estranged from the family for a couple of years and doesn’t want to be pulled back. The others are unhappy that they were passed over. Matters are made worse when they find the estate is in financial difficulty and Willow has to make some tough choices.

If I did have some sympathy for a character in this story it would be Willow. She doesn’t ask to be landed with the responsibility of a failing estate, or to have to put her life in Dublin on hold but she steps up and does what she thinks is best with no support from the rest of her family. It does feel at times like she’s rushing things and that she’s being a little vindictive towards her parents but as the truth is revealed about events from the past it all becomes a little more understandable.

Ottie and Pip I found more difficult to like. Ottie as the oldest sister seems to feel the biggest slight about not inheriting more and is probably the coldest towards Willow, barely speaking to her let alone helping her. Ottie is also having an affair with a married man, a storyline I’m never overly keen on. I found it incredibly frustrating to read her obsessing over someone who was very clearly not as invested in the relationship as she is. She also comes across as quite spiteful and nasty at times.

Pip, I also struggled with. Stubborn, reckless and speaks her mind she comes across as very self centered and rude a lot of the time. I do like a character who’s determined and goes for what they want but Pip often goes too far, taking silly risks and not taking any one else’s feelings into consideration.

With characters I found it hard to like I was probably always going to have problems really enjoying this story and I certainly found it difficult to get into in the first half. I also found myself becoming frustrated with the whole family secret thing. I’m afraid the constant references to it and hints about what it could be were more annoying rather than intriguing and I just wanted it to be revealed so we could get on with the other elements of the book. I was itching for a big confrontation between the characters but instead there’s lots of silences and avoiding each other.

Once the characters started speaking their minds and the secrets were revealed the story became so much more engaging. I very much enjoyed the way the different threads came together and I came to like many of the characters. I just wish it hadn’t taken quite so long to get to that stage.

One thing I did love about this story was the setting on the rugged South West Coast of Ireland and I thought the author did a wonderful job of making you feel like you were there. I also really loved the idea of this grand old castle that’s fallen into disrepair. There’s also a little bit of romance in there which was definitely a highlight. I probably would have preferred it if the author had put more focus on that side of the story and less on the family secrets.

Overall therefore this was an okay read for me. I may have struggled to get into it but it certainly picked up towards the end and while it did frustrate me in places there were things to love about it, it certainly hasn’t put me off picking up the author’s next book.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an advance copy. This in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Review: A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan

A Wedding In December
A Wedding in December
is yet another fantastic festive read from Sarah Morgan. It’s sweet, funny and as always made me a little bit emotional (yep I cried). For me it wouldn’t be Christmas without a book by Morgan.


THE BLURB

In the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding.

First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but they are hiding a huge secret about their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland.

Rosie’s older sister Katie is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself. If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans…

Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiance but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived – how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget.


MY REVIEW

I can honestly say that one of the things I look forward to the most at Christmas is a new book by Sarah Morgan. They never fail to put me in the holiday spirit and this book is no exception. It’s sweet, it’s funny, it’s a little bit emotional and a whole lot addictive. Yet again I read the whole thing in a couple of days and it would’ve been even faster if I didn’t need to work.

The story centers on the White family [insert your own White Christmas joke here] and is told from the point of view of mother Maggie and her two daughters Katie and Rosie. I often struggle with multiple povs and I usually have a preference for one over the others but this time around I really enjoyed it. It’s great to have a book with three women at very different stages of their lives and to see the dynamics of the relationship between them from each pov.

Maggie, the mother of the family who I’m guessing is in her 50’s is at that stage in life where her children are grown and left the nest, leaving her feeling a little bit lost particularly as she has split from husband Nick.

Eldest daughter Katie is a doctor in a busy emergency department who sees people at their worst every day. In her early 30’s she doesn’t have the time for relationships and is struggling at work following a traumatic incident that’s left her doubting her abilities.

Baby of the family Rosie is a 22 year old student living in America who after a whirlwind romance with personal trainer Dan accepts his marriage proposal and the offer from his mother Catherine to hold the wedding at Christmas at their resort in Aspen. She loves her fiancee but after a call to Katie who believes her impulsive sister is making a mistake she starts to have doubts of her own.

As they all gather in Aspen for the big event each of these women is at a turning point in their life and has to decide what they want to do next. I really loved how this story brought together these very different women and it’s great to see an older character given some representation. If I had to choose I probably related most to Katie but I liked all three of the women and felt invested in all of their stories.

Like Morgan’s other recent books this story focuses more on family and friendships than romance, making it a very sweet read that’s perfect for the season. I loved the relationships between mother and daughters and also between the sisters. I also loved how each of the characters develops over the course of the story, how by getting away from everyday life they discover who they are and who they want to be.

That’s not to say there isn’t any romance, it wouldn’t be a Morgan book without a little bit of romance. Rosie is very much coupled up and Maggie is still getting over the end of a very long term relationship but sparks most definitely fly between Katie and best man Jordan and I think that was probably the highlight of the book for me. Aspen is just the perfect setting for romance and the author takes full advantage with a few of my favourite romance tropes thrown in.

As always Morgan’s writing is wonderfully warm and the descriptions made me feel like I was there in that winter wonderland, maybe someday. As always it’s packed full of emotion and as always I shed a couple of tears at certain points (Morgan’s books get me every single time).

This may not be my favourite book from the author but if you’re looking for a festive read to get you in the holiday spirit I highly recommend.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Review: The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan

The Christmas Sisters: The perfect feel-good and romantic read to curl up with this winter!

This may have be a Christmas themed read but with an engaging story about family relationships that’s packed full of emotion it can easily be read at any time of the year.


THE BLURB

It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree, but who’s around it that matters most.

All Suzanne McBride wants for Christmas is her three daughters happy and at home. But when sisters Posy, Hannah and Beth return to their family home in the Scottish Highlands, old tensions and buried secrets start bubbling to the surface.

Suzanne is determined to create the perfect family Christmas, but the McBrides must all face the past and address some home truths before they can celebrate together . . .


MY REVIEW

I always look forward to a new book from Sarah Morgan and that’s especially true when it’s one of her Christmas themed stories. Similar to her last book, The Christmas Sisters marks a departure from the authors usual romance heavy reads to focus a little more on family relationships. I will confess I do miss the more traditional romances (and Morgan is sooo good at writing them) but I did very much enjoy this and it’s packed full of feels to warm you up in the cold wintry months.

As the title suggests, this is the story of three sisters, Hannah, Beth and Posy, who return to the family home in the Scottish Highlands for the festive season. They are all very different characters but each of them are facing some type of crisis in their lives that they’re hoping a trip home will help them deal with (or hide from).

The story is told from each of the sister’s points of view in addition to that of their mother Suzanne. I have to confess I’m not keen on multiple povs as I always feel more drawn to one than the others and just want the whole thing to be about them but I did enjoy the different perspectives and how distinctive each of the voices were. They are very different characters but each has their own flaws and strengths and it was wonderful to see them develop in a believable way as the story progresses. It’s a mark of the author’s skill that I found my opinions towards them shifting and changing.

I did however find myself most drawn to Hannah’s story and while the other characters do get an equal share of the limelight I never quite became as invested in their stories. I’m not sure what it says about me but there was just something about Hannah I could really relate to and I wanted the book’s focus to be more heavily on her.

It wouldn’t be a Morgan book without a bit of romance and in this one there are a few romantic relationships all at different stages, from shiny new to a long term partnership and friendship. However with multiple couples as well as family relationships in the mix I’m afraid the romance side of the story never really did it for me and I didn’t feel any real spark.

The writing is however wonderful as you would expect and there is a real emotional depth to the story. I laughed and I cried (more than I thought I would and on two separate occasions on the train) and I ended up loving it a lot more than I thought I would.

Overall this has an engaging story and is an emotional read that’s perfect for the Christmas or pretty much any time of the year.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an advance copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. This has in no way influenced my review.

Season’s Readings : 6 Books Perfect for Christmas

I have to confess that I mostly read Christmas themed books in the summer rather than during the festive period (I’m usually sick of it all by the time it actually arrives….bah humbug) but as it’s Christmas Eve Eve I thought it might be nice to post a list of some of my favorite Christmas reads.

These are books that are full of Festive spirit (no not eggnog) and just make me laugh and smile. So here we go…

My Christmas Book Recommendations

 


Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (My Review)

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (Dash & Lily, #1)

I only read this for the first time last year but I think it’s possibly my all time favorite Christmas read. I swear I ended up highlighting about half the book. It’s about a boy (Dash) who finds a notebook left by a girl (Lily) in a bookstore daring whoever finds it to undertake a series of tasks. On completing the dare the boy returns the book with a dare for Lily and so begins a series of adventures across New York for both of them as they pass the notebook back and forward.

This is such a brilliant story. It’s hilariously funny (don’t read in public), super Christmassy and just so, so cute. There is a sequel, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily, which is not quite as good but still worth a read.


What Light by Jay Asher (My Review)

What Light

This doesn’t have the impact of Asher’s more famous book 13 Reasons Why but as far as YA Christmas romances go it’s very well done. Unusually for a YA read the main character is not boy mad, is sensible, mature and has a wonderful relationship with her parents. She doesn’t want a boy to drag her down and at the first sign of trouble is willing to bail.

She’s a good girl who gets involved with a boy with a bad reputation but she goes in with her eyes wide open and trusts her own instincts rather than believing every rumor. This probably isn’t as much of a happy cheery read as some of the others on this list but it is candy cane sweet and packed full of the festive spirit.


My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins (My Review)

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

Let’s face it things can be a bit hectic at Christmas with all of the shopping and cleaning, spending time with family and friends and just generally falling into some kind of food coma after eating too much. This collection of twelve YA Christmas themed short stories is perfect for when you want to read but can’t find much more than a few minutes here or there.

There’s a really good mix of stories from some of the best YA authors including Holly Black, Ally Carter and Laini Taylor. My personal favorites however are Midnights by Rainbow Rowell and It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins. Both are super cute and very, very sweet.


Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan

Christmas at Tiffany's

Despite the cover and title I have to admit this isn’t really a Christmas themed book but I love it so I’m including it.

After Cassie is betrayed by her husband she decides to leave their home and spend a year staying with each of her three best friends in New York, Paris and London while trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to do with her life.

What I love about this book is how you get a real sense of every city Cassie stays in and how she re invents herself in each place, throwing herself into new experiences. The romance is a bit of a slow burn but it’s very sweet and a certain someone is one of my favorite book boyfriends.


Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan (My Review)

Miracle on 5th AvenueSarah Morgan is the queen of Christmas romances for me and I think Miracle on 5th Avenue is probably my all time favorite book of hers. It has all of my favorite tropes, a hopeless romantic who loves all things Christmas but is all alone, a grumpy writer trying to get over an ex and avoid the holidays, New York, snow and a lot of chemistry.

I do love an opposites attract type story and Morgan does them so well. The highlight of this story was definitely the banter between them and the whole story just left me with such a big smile on my face.


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol

Obviously I had to include this in my list. It’s a classic for a reason and if like me you’ve always been intimidated by Dickens at just over 100 pages it’s not too scary and can be read in an hour or two.

I’m assuming everyone knows the story but I have to admit that having only seen the various TV and film adaptations it was different than I thought it was going to be and not nearly as hard going as I expected. I’m actually kind of tempted to make an attempt at a longer Dickens this year but as I’m currently listening to Frankenstein probably not immediately.


So that’s my Christmas book recommendations. Have you read any of these or are there any I’ve convinced you to try? Do you have a Christmas themed book you read faithfully every year? Or are you a bit of a Grinch like me and try to find the least Christmassy book you can?

Let’s chat.

ARC Review: Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

Moonlight Over Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love, #6)Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always look forward to Christmas, not because of the holiday itself but because it means we’re in for another Sarah Morgan Christmas romance. She truly is the queen of romance and this book didn’t disappoint. Yet again I picked it up early one Saturday morning and couldn’t put it down. I lost most of the day (something which happens every time I read one of Morgan’s books) but it was totally worth it.

There is a super nice and kind main character Harriet, a sexy blue eyed ER Doctor who doesn’t think he has a heart, a small trouble making dog and the wonderful New York at Christmas setting to make it all extremely romantic.

The story itself is pretty predictable but it’s such an enjoyable journey that you really don’t mind. Morgan is brilliant at creating characters you care about but also at creating this wonderful chemistry between them. Yes there are many of the usual romance tropes but even if I’ve read them a hundred times I still love them and it’s nice knowing you’re going to get the happily ever after.

I also found there was something quite inspirational about this story. Harriet has decided to challenge herself to do something she doesn’t want to every day to try and push herself out of her comfort zone. It’s wonderful watching how she develops over the course of the story as she faces her fears and does things she never thought she could. The confidence and freedom she finds kind of made me want to rush out and start my own Challenge Ali.

As well as Harriet and dishy doc Ethan there are a number of new characters and also some familiar faces. Harriet featured in the previous two books in the series so it was great to catch up with the leads from those stories, although I would have liked a bit more Fliss. There was also a little visit to the setting of one of the authors other series which meant I got to catch up with how they were all doing too. I need to make sure they’re all still loved up.

This is the sixth book in the authors From Manhattan with Love series but while there are some spoilers for previous books it could easily be read as a standalone. I know I have a bit of a tendency to read them in the wrong order and it makes very little difference.

Overall this was a great read and definitely put me in the Christmas spirit. I can’t wait for the next one.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all thoughts are my own.


The Blurb

She’ll risk everything for her own Christmas miracle…

Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family. But when dog walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list—dealing with Madi’s temporary dog sitter, gruff doctor Ethan Black, and their very unexpected chemistry.

Ethan thought he was used to chaos, until he met Madi—how can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple—he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide twenty-four-hour care. But there’s nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel.

Ethan’s kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all—letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?


Moonlight Over Manhattan is released in the UK on the 5th October and is available here, and on the 28th November in the US

Book Review: The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily

The Twelve Days of Dash and LilyThe Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think it’s safe to say that I absolutely loved Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares so I was really, really excited to get my hands on this, the sequel. Dash and Lily made such a cute couple and I loved the funny adventures they had as they raced around New York carrying out a series of tasks and meeting the most eccentric cast of characters along the way.

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily had a lot to live up to, possibly too much, but while it doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of the first book it’s still a really good read. It takes place a year later and is a very different type of book. Dash and Lily have both grown up a bit and are now in a steady long term relationship. Lily in particular, has had some shocks which have shaken her up and left her without her usual joy and Christmas spirit. It’s up to Dash, with some help from Lily’s brother Langston and their friends, to help Lily find her happy again but is it too late.

Given the depression that Lily seems to have fallen into at the beginning of this story it’s unsurprising that the book is missing a lot of the fun and laughs from Book of Dares. There’s not much in the way of holiday cheer despite the best efforts of Dash and I think that’s why I didn’t love it as much as I hoped. There is the odd moment which made me laugh but a lot of it left me feeling a little bit down. It doesn’t help that Dash and Lily seem to be having problems in their relationship. They’ve lost the spark and a series of misunderstandings and lack of communication is making it look like they may not have a future.

While there is quite a bit of angst in this story there is still the odd funny moment. Dash’s best friend Boomer steals pretty much every scene he’s in and the arguments between Dash and Lily’s brother Langston were a definite highlight.

The writing, as you would expect, remains brilliant and the characters are very real. While most of the story is not that happy, it’s probably more believable than the first book. Bad things do happen, people don’t always cope well and relationships hit rocky patches.

If you’re looking for a book that will fill you with happiness and holiday cheer this may not be for you but if you’re looking for something real I’d definitely recommend.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy. As always all views are my own.


The Blurb (from GoodReads)

Dash and Lily have had a tough year since they first fell in love among the shelves of their favorite bookstore. Lily’s beloved grandfather suffered a heart attack, and his difficult road to recovery has taken a major toll on her typically sunny disposition.

With only twelve days left until Christmas—Lily’s favorite time of the year—Dash, Lily’s brother Langston, and their closest friends must take Manhattan by storm to help Lily recapture the unique holiday magic of a glittering, snow-covered New York City in December.

Book Review: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (Dash & Lily, #1)Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

My rating: 5 big fat santa stars

Where has this book been all my life? Why did no one tell me how good it was? I loved this book sooo much. I think it could be my all time favorite Christmas read

It’s very, very cute and innocent and extremely funny. I don’t think I’ve ever highlighted so many sentences in a story before or had such a difficult time trying not to laugh when reading on the train (scene when Dash goes to visit Santa, that’s all I’m saying). If you’re looking for the perfect book to get you in the festive spirit or even just a book to make you smile I’d definitely recommend Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.Read More »