Monday, December 26, 2016

An Off-Piste Christmas & Goodness, Grace and Me by Julie Houston - Book Reviews, Interview & Giveaway


Review by Suze

 Harriet's Christmas will be loud and cold. She celebrates it with a large group of people in the Italian mountains. Everyone seems to love skiing, but for Harriet it's the first time. This means she has to stay with the kids. Even though she's part of their beginner's class she isn't particularly interested in learning how to ski. She'd rather sit somewhere enjoying a drink than being active. She might be the only adult in her extended family who feels this way, but she can still have a good time and her holiday is far from boring, au contraire.
 
An Off-Piste Christmas is a great story with a lot of interesting characters. I immediately loved Harriet's tone of voice, she's funny, honest and matter-of-fact, which made me smile multiple times. While her family is large, and friends are also present, the story never becomes confusing. Julie Houston's explanations are clear and easy to understand and after reading her story I had the idea I knew all of them through and through.
 
Julie Houston's descriptions are colorful and vivid. I could totally imagine what it's like to be on holiday in the snow while skiing isn't something you're good at. I loved Harriet's approach and she doesn't need to be sportive to have adventures. There's so much going on that she never has a dull moment and that is exactly what I liked about this story. It's lively and energetic. An Off-Piste Christmas is a unique Christmas novella with a wonderful heartwarming ending.
 
Advice
 
An Off-Piste Christmas isn't the first book about Harriet and her friends and family. It can be read as a standalone though. It was my first story by Julie Houston and it intrigued me straight away, so after finishing it I immediately started reading another one. You can read An Off-Piste Christmas first like I did, but you can also begin with one of the earlier stories. If you'd like to read in chronological order you should start with Goodness, Grace and Me.

Amazon USA Amazon UK Goodreads
 
Review by Suze

 Nick lost his business due to the recession. He and his wife Harriet managed to keep their house, but they had to make sacrifices, which means they're now living there together with Nick's mother. Harriet and Nick have three children, so they have quite a busy household. By working fulltime they can only just keep their heads above water. When Nick meets the wealthy David he has the chance to start another business and the opportunity is too good to pass up. It means less financial stability and Harriet is the main breadwinner all of a sudden. Harriet is even more unhappy when she discovers that David is married to Amanda. Harriet and her best friend Grace went to school with her and know how ruthless the woman can be.

Harriet's future depends on David and Amanda and when both Grace and Harriet's brother have a confession to make that involves her it starts to look pretty grim. While Nick is in Italy with Amanda Harriet has plenty of time to worry. When she might lose everything she holds dear and does a discovery that makes things even worse Harriet is about to have a breakdown. Can she save her marriage, her lifelong friendship and her children or is everything already lost?

Goodness, Grace and Me is a story about a strong woman who has a lot of bad luck. Harriet is honest in a sometimes crude way, which made me like her from the start. She's funny, she's disorganized and she loves with all her heart, which also means she can easily get hurt. While juggling a fulltime job with motherhood, strange neighbors and remaining one step ahead of an evil seductress Harriet tries to stay sane. Her life is chaotic, but Julie Houston is great at keeping her story organized and understandable, which is a fascinating combination.

Harriet isn't perfect. She makes mistakes, there are fabulous uneasy situations and she's both naïve, childish, accomplished and incredibly mature at the same time. I loved her versatile and flexible personality. Julie Houston has managed to come up with a fantastic main character. I really enjoyed reading Goodness, Grace and Me and can't wait to read more about the dynamic Harriet and her busy life.

Advice

Goodness, Grace and Me is perfect for readers who love a story about motherhood, financial struggles, friendship and relationship struggles told with a large dosage of humor.

About Julie Houston


Julie Houston is Yorkshire born and bred. She lives in Huddersfield where her novels are set and her only claims to fame are that she taught at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old school, her neighbour is ‘Chocolat’ author Joanne Harris and her friend is about to marry Tracy Emin’s cousin! Oh, and she was rescued by Frank Bough when, many years ago, she was ‘working as a waitress in a cocktail bar’ at the Kensington Hilton in London.

After University, where she studied Education and English Literature, she taught for many years as a junior school teacher. As a newly qualified teacher, broke and paying off her first mortgage, she would spend every long summer holiday working on different Kibbutzim in Israel. After teaching for a few years she decided to go to New Zealand to work and taught in Auckland for a year before coming back to this country.

She now teaches part time, and still loves the buzz of teaching junior-aged children. She has been a magistrate for the last thirteen years, and, when not distracted by ebay, geneology (so time consuming but so interesting - she recently discovered her husband is descended from the poet Shelley and the Duke of Milan!!) and crosswords, she spends much of her time writing.

Julie is married, has a nineteen-year-old son and sixteen-year-old daughter and a mad cockapoo called Lincoln. She runs and swims because she’s been told it’s good for her, but would really prefer a glass of wine, a sun lounger and a jolly good book.
 
Interview

1) Can you name 3 random facts about yourself?

I’m addicted to toast with Marmite and Peanut butter. I have it for breakfast every morning without fail!

I’m little – only 5foot

My daughter’s middle name is Ianthe – the same as the poet Shelley’s daughter. Percy Byshe Shelley is in our family tree.

2) Which 3 elements should a good Christmas novel always have?

I reckon a Christmas novel should get you in the mood for Christmas, should be about a Christmas holiday or Christmas day and should mention wonderful food that gets your taste buds going.

3) You write about a large, close group of friends and family. Are the members inspired by real people or have you made them all up?

I don’t think any of them are really about anyone I know apart from Harriet herself. I was made to go on a winter holiday with my family who loves skiing and, like Harriet, ended up giving up after three days and singing “I’m on the Top of The World…” as I exited the lift, searching for hot chocolate high up in the alps.

4) Your characters spend some interesting days in the snow. What's so magical about winter holidays?


Well, for me it’s not!! I hate Winter, hate the snow, hate the cold, hate heights and particularly hate skiing!! I do appreciate being with friends and family and eating wonderful food, but give me a holiday on a beach with a cocktail and a book anytime!!

5) What's your favourite Christmas food?

Probably Christmas pudding with rum sauce and a good, fruity dessert wine. Bliss!

6) What's your favourite Christmas tradition?


Making mince pies. I listen to carols, sing along, and always add Cointreau to my mincemeat. That first bite gets me in the mood for Christmas. I’ve just made a batch before sitting down to write this. See photo!!

7) What do you like about Christmas reading?

I guess the main thing is snuggling down with a good book and a piece of my Christmas cake (and Wensleydale cheese) as it becomes dark, and not feeling guilty about actually reading because it’s too cold and dark to be outside doing the garden…

8) What are your plans for the future?


I’m at the planning stage of book five. I’m doing lots of research as it’s set in London during World War 2 as well as Yorkshire in the 1950s and now.

Giveaway

One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive an $10 (or your country's equivalent) Amazon gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. Please add withloveforbooks@gmail.com to your list of approved email addresses. All of our giveaways are international.

43 comments:

  1. Believe it or not, but I do not know what marmite is! Loved the interview!

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    1. It's a sticky, dark brown savoury spread with a distinctive, powerful flavour, and very salty. Made from brewer's yeast it's very high in B vitamins. There's always a jar in my fridge! Similar to the Australian Vegemite.

      Wiki states "This distinctive taste is reflected in the British company's marketing slogan: "Love it or hate it." The product's name has entered British English as a metaphor for something that is an acquired taste or tends to polarise opinions."

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  2. Loved the interview. My favourite Christmas food is also Christmas pudding with rum sauce. Thank you for this wonderful giveaway.

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  3. great interview, the books sound great too xx

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  4. Great interview by the way.
    Favourite Christmas food has to be turkey

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  5. I love that this has humor to it, also! Sounds like a great read!

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  6. Great interview. Will have to check out the book.

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  7. Fabulous interview! Really interesting reading! Thank you!

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  8. I'm glad you found the definition between the characters so good. That is one of my least favorite thing about multi pov's.

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  9. I'm also just as haoppy in the lodge with a hot chocolate.

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  10. The book review sound good. Thanks for sharing. Love the cover and interview too.

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  11. An Off Piste Christmas sounds like a good read, thank you.

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  12. This book sounds like a great read. I know how hard it is to live with inlaws but at least it wasn't as complicated as this. The business and an old enemy sounds like a difficult situation. I hope it all turns out well. Good luck with book 5

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  13. I completely share Julie's attitude to exercise (and Marmite!)!

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  14. Oh those both look so good! So funny Julie doesnt like the snow! :) I actually love it! I cannot wait to read both of these! Julie is a new author for me!

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  15. Thanks for sharing the great interview. My favorite thing to eat at Christmas is potato pie.

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  16. Thanks for the giveaway!

    mia2009(at)comcast(dot)net

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  17. I always like to read a story that has humor in it. Laughter can help in many stressful situations like those described in the review of this book :)

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  18. I look forward to reading this one, I love books that have a ton of characters in the story :) and snow..we don't get much snow where I am!

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  19. I completely agree with you about Winter, there's nothing good about it apart from Christmas/Christmas books! :-)

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  20. Thanks for the chance. Your books sounds fab!

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  21. This sounds like a story a lot of people could relate to.
    Dianna

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  22. I love peanut butter toast. May have to try Marmite! I enjoy Christmas books cuddled up on the couch with tea. I'm going to check out yours!

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  23. Peanut butter toast is the best. I like how you added some of your daughter into the book. :)

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  24. Really love reading your books 💕

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  25. Happy new year, and good luck with the release!

    --Trix

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  26. I love the sound of these books. Good luck with them and Happy New Year too.

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  27. Sometimes when there's a story with lots of characters it can get confusing. I'm glad this one doesn't.

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  28. These sound like great books :) I am intrigued though - do you eat the Christmas Cake & Wensleydale together?!

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  29. I really enjoyed reading the entire post today. This is a new author for me so thank you for the reveal!

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  30. This looks like such a fun book, I'll add it to my 'to read' list.

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  31. Already looking forward to the next one!

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  32. The book sounds lovely :)

    - Ana M

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  33. Julie is a new author to me and I'm looking forward to reading Goodness, Grace and Me.

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  34. Always love hearing other peoples Christmas traditions

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  35. Both of these books sound great. Wishing you a happy new year

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