Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bookouture Christmas Book Reviews - Christmas Under a Starlit Sky by Holly Martin, Bella's Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson & A Cornish Christmas by Lily Graham

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Review by Suze

Neve loves working with her family and the Stardust Lake Hotel is a beautiful place to live. She likes the challenge of being the manager and she has her best friend Adam by her side to help her. Neve is heartbroken though because she misses Oakley. He's a famous actor and Neve thinks there's no place in his life for her, that is why she let him go. There's something she didn't tell him, because knowing her secret might change his entire outlook on life. Oakley misses Neve and wants to be together again, but Neve has kept so many things from him. Is there a way back or does she think it's better to tell him to leave and this time forever?

Adam is working at the Stardust Lake Hotel for just a few months. Neve needs his help and he could use a change of scenery. There's a Christmas village on the island and that is the workplace of many talented artists. Ivy is one of them and finally Adam is ready to open his heart for someone after many years of being alone. It doesn't feel entirely right though, especially not when he will leave in a few months. There's something Ivy is struggling with and she isn't ready to share her feelings with someone new. Will she and Adam have a chance or do their circumstances make it impossible for them to move on?

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky is another great A Town Called Christmas story. There's a lot of grief and heartbreak as both Neve and Ivy are struggling with something and they aren't ready to share this with the man of their dreams. Holly Martin isn't afraid to put difficult issues in a Christmas story and even though it sometimes put a lump in my throat I empathized with the characters and desperately wanted them to be happy. When there's sadness there's usually also hope for the future and that was a big theme in this novel. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen to the two couples and kept my fingers crossed that they would find some much deserved happiness.

Holly Martin has chosen a wonderful setting for her Christmas stories. I loved the idea of a winter wonderland, a special island where everything evolves around Christmas. It's the perfect place for a romantic book. I also liked how friends and family are always there for each other in this story. Life sometimes is a struggle, but there's usually sunshine after the rain, which is a beautiful message and a fabulous theme to write about.

Advice

I would begin with Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky before reading Christmas Under a Starlit Sky. This book might be difficult to read for those who can't have children.

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Review by Suze
 
Amy's husband leaves her just a few weeks before Christmas. When Amy watches her former best friend Bella on television she's looking for some comfort from the past. Bella is a famous baker and a new recipe book will come out soon. Amy and Bella used to bake together with Amy's mother. Bella struggled with it sometimes, but now it's her profession. When Amy hears Bella's lines she's shocked. Amy always sends her old friend a Christmas card with one of her mother's recipes, but Bella never replies and now Bella is using her mother's recipes word for word pretending they are her own. Amy decides to confront her former friend. By doing so she unexpectedly wins Bella's Christmas competition and the prize is an appearance on Bella's show. Will Amy be able to make Bella see sense and what about the true spirit of Christmas and the value of friendship?
 
Bella's Christmas Bake Off is an interesting festive story about friendship. I was intrigued by the relationship between Bella and Amy. While in Bella's world everything is fake Amy is as real as can be. I loved this contrast and couldn't wait to find out if the two friends would be able to find their way back to each other. While their worlds are miles apart they share a special history. It was fun to read about their friendship in the past and present. Bella is spoiled and used to getting her way, but she does have a heart as well. She's living in a glamorous world and for Amy that is entirely new. Amy is kind and caring and she loves doing something extra for those who need it. It was fabulous to see the making of Bella's television show through her eyes.
 
As Christmas is all about friendship, love and family I liked it immediately that Sue Watson has chosen to write about two childhood friends. There's a small romantic aspect, but the relationship between Amy and Bella is what Bella's Christmas Bake Off is all about. Sue Watson knows what she's writing about and I thoroughly enjoyed her detailed descriptions and explanations of Bella's profession and the complex illusions that are now her life. The story has a wonderful festive ending and I like that Sue Watson always writes extraordinary books that are original and different with main characters who manage to surprise. I really loved Bella's Christmas Bake Off, it's a fascinating, dazzling and bright story.
 
Advice
 
If you like baking, television shows and intriguing friendships, Bella's Christmas Bake Off would be the exact right Christmas story for you. 

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Review by Suze

Ivy and her husband Stuart have left their hectic life in London behind and are now living in a Cornish village where Stuart is creating beautiful gourmet products using the produce from their vegetable garden. Ivy can work anywhere, she's a successful children's books illustrator and because she's back in Cornwall she feels like she can start living her dream. Ivy misses her mother though. She died too early and now that Ivy is finally pregnant she can use some motherly advice.

Ivy's father has given his daughter her mother's desk and Ivy finds a postcard. The postcard gives Ivy a new connection to her mother and maybe this time she has the chance to move on from everything that happened. Unfortunately Ivy's happiness is short-lived. Stuart has kept a big secret from her and more problems and tragedy are ahead of them. Will Ivy's ideal future be destroyed before it has actually begun or does she still have the chance to make her dreams come true?

A Cornish Christmas is a beautiful story. Ivy loved her mother very much and they had a strong bond, losing her was awful and getting some small comfort through what she finds in her mother's old desk is exactly what she needs. My heart ached for her sometimes because of all the sadness in her past, which is why I was glad that her relationship is so solid and sweet. Stuart is a kindhearted man and they're perfect for each other. I loved his unusual profession and his good-naturedness. Ivy and Stuart have a special connection, which is a great basis for a strong story.

Lily Graham's main characters are creative and I loved her imaginative and lively descriptions of their talents. It makes them come to life incredibly well. I'm a big fan of stories about magical moments and big and small miracles and Lily Graham knows exactly how to enchant her readers. She uses stunning sentences to put them under her spell. A Cornish Christmas is a lovely story filled with unexpected twists and turns and gorgeous descriptions of the Cornish coast.

Advice

A Cornish Christmas is perfect for readers who like captivating stories about new beginnings and small-town life. It was originally released as The Postcard and A Cornish Christmas is an extended version of this novella. I loved The Postcard, so couldn't wait to read more of it and wasn't disappointed.  

11 comments:

  1. I'm glad that you felt the characters came to life really well. I find that sometimes with a novella, the story is too short to really get to know the characters.
    Dianna

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  2. These all sound good. I especially like that A Cornish Christmas is set in a small English village.

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  3. These covers alone come across as very sweet.

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  4. I love the blurbs on these Christmas books, particularly A Cornish Christmas. The covers are lovely, and I especially like that Suze has tacked an advice at the end of each one.

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  5. A CORNISH CHRISTMAS especially appeals to me!

    --Trix

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  6. The books sound great. Will have to check them out. Thanks for the reviews.

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  7. Poor Ivy, she must miss her mother so especially now that she's pregnant. I hope things work out for her!

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  8. I love The Great British Bake Off but if I found out that one of them was cheating like Bella I'd be so mad. I'd want to give HER a 'soggy bottom'!

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  9. Thanks for the warning included in the review for Christmas Under a Starlit Sky by Holly Martin.

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