I'm three books behind with reviewing, as usual, although 'three' is quite a lot even for me. First up then, Christmas Under the Stars by Karen Swan.
Well then, this one is set in the town of Banff, Alberta, so it's a beautiful mountain setting and I loved that about it. What I don't understand is why it's called 'Christmas' Under the Stars, because there's hardly any Christmas in it! Nevertheless, it is a really good read. Meg is married to Mitch and they have pretty much the perfect marriage. Mitch and his best friend, Tuck, run a snowboarding business and, with Tuck's wife Lucy, the four friends are inseperable. Things fall apart when Mitch is lost and subsequently dies in a snowstorm. And it's during this storm, desperate for help, Meg radios for assistance and ends up speaking to an astronaut on the International Space Station. After her husband dies Meg falls apart and the book is about how she puts herself back together again. There are secrets. Some things are not as she thought they were: friends, Meg's life, her sister who's a doctor and lives in Toronto that she hardly ever sees, Mitch. This is a long book so you're in it for the long haul if you decide to give it a go. I like books where secrets are involved, that said I had The Secret sussed almost from the start: if you're suspicious and cynical just like me, then you will too. But the setting is glorious and jumps off the page at you and I thought the book was excellent on relationships and how complicated they are. But it is 'not' about Christmas! I read it as my first book for the Christmas challenge I'm doing but I can't in all conscience count a book which only 'has' Christmas in the last 20 or 30 pages. But I will look for more by this author as I enjoyed the book.
Next up, a book I 'can' count for the Christmas challenge I'm doing, Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber.
This one is set in Seattle, WA, in an apartment block. Julia Padden lives in one of the apartments and Carl Maddox lives just across the hall. Julia is one of life's cheerful individuals, going about the place being nice to people. Carl is the complete opposite, grumpy, loathes Christmas, resists all Julia's efforts to be friends. She's up for a new job and it's between her and one other. Because the job is social media based it's suggested she start a blog and the person who gets the job will be the one with the most followers and commenters. Julia decides to base her blog on the idea of trying to win Carl over and charting her progress. What she isn't prepared for is the blog's runaway success! When Carl's attitude towards her starts to thaw, how on earth does she keep her blog a secret from him? Well this is pretty much what it says on the tin. A very light, fluffy romance very much based on Christmas, using Dickens' A Christmas Carol as inspiration. The use of blogging as a plot device I thought was quite modern and clever and I liked that aspect of it, being a blogger myself. This won't appeal to everyone but I enjoyed how undemanding it was and 'daft' really. We all need to make more time in our busy schedules for 'daft'.
Lastly, Finding My Voice by Nadiya Hussain.
I'll probably need to explain to anyone not from the UK who Nadiya is. Most people have heard of the TV series, The Great British Bake Off. Well she won it in 2015 and since then her rise has been meteoric. She's very personable and a born presenter so has ended up with her own cookery shows on the BBC and is very much a household name. I know it's hard to judge what celebrities are really like on TV but to me she seems like a genuinely lovely person. I found her book fascinating as I haven't read anything about growing up as a Muslim in 1980s and 90s Britain. Her family experiences, she's one of six siblings if memory serves, especially as a girl were very revealing. She talks too about her mental health, about not really knowing what she was getting into when she married and joined her husband's family, and having no clue about how motherhood would affect not only her mental health but also her dreams of what she wanted her life to be. The book is excellent and really opened up to me a culture that I don't know a lot about. Her voice jumps off the page loud and clear but sometimes, for me, her stream of conscience sentences got a little confusing. But really this is an excellent read if you're intersted in learning a bit more about what it is to be a Muslim in the UK. And there are recipes! Win, win!
Oh my goodness, is it really only two weeks to Christmas?!!!! How did that happen?