Friday, 10 December 2021

Catching up

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?


15 comments:

Lark said...

I remember Nadiya from The Great British Bake Off! I liked her. Cool that she's written a book about her life. It sounds very interesting. And Macomber's The Twelve Days of Christmas sounds like a very cute Christmas read. And yay...my library actually owns both of them. :D

Cath said...

Lark: Wow, you've heard of Nadiya Hussain all the way over there in your part of the US? Amazing! It was incredibly interesting to hear of her very different childhood and teenage years. Opens your eyes a bit. You library sounds like a good'un! :-)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I must live under a rock as I never heard of Nadiya but, I don't watch cooking/baking shows either. The Debbie MaComber book sounds fun - usually her books seem a bit too fluffy for me but, that one sounds good. Thanks for sharing Cath.....and you make me feel better about my own lax blogging about books I've read issues LOL

Have a great week.

Sam Sattler said...

My wife is a big fan of the series, so she knew of Nadiya from the shows, but I haven't heard of her myself. Still, I'm curious to learn more about her coming-of-age story because of how successful and popularly famous she is today. Sounds good.

Cath said...

Diane: I laughed at your comment about living under a rock. But then if you don't watch baking shows you would not know who she is. The Debbie Macomber is, if I'm honest, rather fluffy. 'Improbable'. LOL

It seems we're both fully paid up members of the 'Keep-meaning-to-blog-but-didn't-quite-manage-it' club.

Cath said...

Sam: I'm amazed that anyone in America knows Nadiya to be honest. Although, I have to say, that one of my favourite cooks to watch on TV is one of yours, Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. So down to earth. The book was so good because I learnt such a lot about a different British culture to my own and that's always a plus.

TracyK said...

I read a lot of mysteries set around Christmas and often Christmas doesn't play much part in the story. Usually the weather is very cold and snowy though. The book I recently finished, Spence and Holiday Murders by Michael Allen, is that way. Clearly the murders happen around Christmas, but other than policemen griping about the possibility of missing Christmas with their families, there is little related to Christmas going on.

Christmas under the Stars would be interesting to me because of the location. And I like stories where people are hiding secrets, depending on how well that is handled.

I will probably never get around to reading the Nadiya Hussain book, but I agree that her background and growing up as a Muslim would be very interesting.

Susan said...

Banff looks so beautiful! I've seen pictures friends have posted of it and it's stunning. The book sounds fun, too, even if the title is misleading.



Cath said...

Tracy: Interesting to have your take on these books that proclaim to be about Christmas but really the connection to Christmas is actually rather tenuous. LOL Would it be too cynical to suggest that any mention of Christmas in the title means it will sell better?

The location of Christmas Under the Stars did rather sell it for me, Banff is one of those places I would kill to visit.

Cath said...

Susan: Yes, I would so love to go to Canada and see Banff... well that whole area to be honest. One day hopefully.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Picking up on your comment in reply to Tracy. I am reading the fourth book in a WWII series I have become invested in (they do work great as stand alone stories though) and when I appraised the author that although it is called 'Christmas With the Railway Girls', it would probably be the New Year before my review was published, she actually replied that the story is set in 1941 from June to December and that Christmas doesn't really feature large. However her publisher noted that books published around this time of year with 'Christmas' in the title will sell better! - Well Done 'Sherlock' :) :)

Many years ago my MIL and FIL went to visit friends in Canada and hit the main tourist spots of the country, as their retirement fling. They went to Banff as part of their tour and have some stunning pictures of the scenery. I don't have the urge to visit too many places overseas any more, but not going to Canada is probably one of my regrets.

Nice post, thanks for sharing :)

Cath said...

Yvonne: Look forward to reading your review of the book you're currently reading. But oh my goodness, there was me thinking I was being rather cynical! And I'm right. Well. there you go...

Oh gosh, I'm with you on missing out on Canada. We've done three trips to The States and how I 'wish' we'd done Canada properly - we nipped over the border at Niagara Falls so offically I have been but not really. I suppose we could still go but at the moment I can't see any end to this wretched pandemic so am not holding my breath. It's so sad.

CLM said...

I really liked the Karen Swan I found at the library! Thank you for mentioning her - I was intrigued but didn't expect to find anything as I did not think she was published in the US (forgive me if I already told you this).

Cath said...

Constance: My pleasure. Which of the books did you read?

Nan said...

All of us in the US who love GBBO know and love Nadiya! Margaret and I have some of her other books. Her cooking shows are on Netflix over here. She really seems like a lovely person. I will be getting this book. Thank you for posting about it!