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On Strike For Christmas By Sheila Roberts

On Strike For Christmas‘On Strike For Christmas’ is a Christmas themed book by Sheila Roberts.

At Christmas time, it seems as though a woman’s work is never done. Trimming the tree, mailing the cards, schlepping to the mall, the endless wrapping – bah humbug! So this year, Joy and Laura and the rest of their knitting group decide to go on strike. If their husbands and families want a nice holiday filled with parties, decorations, and presents – well, they’ll just have to do it themselves. The boycott soon takes on a life of its own when a reporter picks up the story and more women join in. But as Christmas Day approaches, Joy, Laura, and their husbands confront larger issues in their marriages and discover that a little holiday magic is exactly what they need to come together.

It might be nearly Easter but that doesn’t mean that you can’t settle down and enjoy a Christmas story and that’s exactly what I did with this book. Sheila released three Christmas books in 2014 and I managed to read two of them before the Christmas holidays so I thought would get stuck into this story as the dark and blustery evenings were getting to me. Even though the premise of this book isn’t particularly festive, it was still an enjoyable and sweet story that made me giggle as it flowed along.

The women at the Stitch N’ Bitch knitting club are fed up of being taken for granted, whilst they run themselves ragged sorting out gifts, parties and cooking, their husbands kick back and relax. So this year Joy, Laura and their friends decide to turn the tables and they tell their husbands that they are going on strike so they need to sort out Christmas themselves. This makes for quite funny reading as the roles are completely reversed as the women relax and enjoy the season of goodwill whilst their husbands juggle their jobs plus their new responsibilities all whilst claiming that “they can handle it” And then when local reporter Rosemary Charles hears about the strike, the town of Holly finds itself filled with more exasperated women who are tired of doing of everything.

The story is filled with wholesome American families and characters who are all quite relatable and fun to read. Joy wishes her husband wasn’t such a stick in the mud or old hermit, preferring his own company to others, he dismisses the grandeur and fuss of christmas making Joy the first woman to announce the strike. He is arrogant with this attitude towards Joy and Christmas and sometimes like Joy, I would have liked to have punched his smug face. Joy adores christmas particularly being surrounded by her huge family and finds Bob’s attitude taints the experience for her and begins to resent the way he makes her feel. Laura likes everything to be perfect and I actually felt sorry for her poor husband Glen, as much as he tried to get everything sorted and flawless, there was always something went wrong. The story doesn’t focus solely on the commercial side of the season, it also concentrates on the coming together of family, friends and how one should not be alone at this time, as we meet widower Carol who finds the time lonely but with a little bit of courage and confidence, she begins to make new friends.

Filled with funny moments, adorable children and plenty of christmas recipes to tuck into, no matter the season, this book is a lovely story that will make you smile.

You can buy On Strike for Christmas from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Daughter By Jane Shemilt

Daughter ‘Daughter’ is Jane Shemilt’s debut novel.

She used to tell me everything. They have a picture. It’ll help. But it doesn’t show the way her hair shines so brightly it looks like sheets of gold. She has a tiny mole, just beneath her left eyebrow. She smells very faintly of lemons. She bites her nails. She never cries. She loves autumn, I wanted to tell them. She collects leaves, like a child does. She is just a child.
Naomi is still missing. Jenny is a mother on the brink of obsession. The Malcolm family is in pieces. Is finding the truth about Naomi the only way to put them back together? Or is the truth the thing that will finally tear them apart?

‘Daughter’ is a complex story that makes for chilling reading as it’s about every parents nightmare when their child goes missing.

It’s seen entirely from Jenny Malcolm’s perspective and is written in both the past and present tense when Jenny’s daughter Naomi mysteriously disappears one night. The flashbacks refer to the moment when she vanishes and then the story follows on fourteen months later and how things have altered for the Malcolm family and the repercussions as they try to carry on with their lives. But Jenny never gives up and continues on with her own private investigation, discovering new secrets about her not so perfect family along the way.

Jenny is a fascinating character, as a mother I felt a strong sense of empathy for her, as she goes through this particularly difficult time although the rest of the family seemed to have moved on, even though there was no conclusion regarding Naomi’s sudden absence. Her mind regularly spirals out of control, wondering what happened to her daughter which is quite disturbing reading at times, as she imagines quite horrible things.

I felt a flurry of emotions for Jenny, although it was mostly sympathy for her, I did find myself quite frustrated by her. As a professional woman in a doctoring occupation, her children treated her unfairly with cruel, nasty comments and accusing her of favouritism. She never stands up for herself and let them hurt her, much to my irritation.

The story is filled with many dislikable characters, mainly the Malcolm family and Naomi herself, who had quite a bitchy streak and wasn’t as innocent as Jenny had thought.

Written in a frank and gripping manner, the book flows at a fast pace, where everyone is suspect and nothing is quite as it seems. With a hauntingly creepy cover and intensity dripping from the pages, ‘Daughter’ is filled with many twists and turns and an unexpected ending that will leave you baffled and shocked in equal measures.

You can buy Daughter from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Books And The City Spring Blogger Event

Books And The City Spring Blogger Event
Photographed from left to right: Myself with Milly Johnson, the wonderful Books and the City goodie bag, Iona Grey, me and Jane Costello and myself with Andy Jones

It was a bright and breezy St Patrick’s Day when I returned to London for the Books And The City Spring Blogger event kindly arranged by Sara-Jade Virtue and her team.

The event promised to be a treat packed with some of our favourite authors, cupcakes and of course books! I took my cousin along for the event and we were warmly greeted by Sara-Jade, our hostess of the evening.

Eagerly we took our seats which were already occupied with exciting goodie bags but before we had the chance to explore their contents, the event began.

With a welcome from Sara-Jade, we were introduced to the authors who would be hosting the evening. There was Jane Costello, Iona Grey, Milly Johnson, Andy Jones and Heidi Swain. All authors gave us a taster of their books and I was particularly amused by Andy Jones’ extract from ‘The Two Of Us’ a book that has already been readily moved up in the TBR pile. As well as the authors present, Books And The City, Claire Hey was on hand to field questions to the authors as well as answer questions from the floor about writing.

The tables were packed with books from the Books and the City authors but as I was travelling light, I only took a copy of ‘Still Alice’ by Lisa Genova as it was a book that caught my eye over the recent months.

We were then invited to chat to the authors for book signings and whilst that was going on, in another room there was an array of treats for us to get stuck into, I sampled a carrot cake cupcake made by Dawn Burnett it was simply divine and I enjoyed it immensely leaving a crumbly mess behind me.

With food consumed, I approached the authors and asked them all to sign the sample chapters book that was in the goodie bag. I met the charming Andy Jones, who’s book I have promised to read next, Iona Grey and Jane Costello posed for a photo and finally I met the lovely Milly Johnson, a bubbly character with a great sense of humour, it was great to finally meet the leader of #TeamMilly.

With our literary thirst quenched and our taste buds delighted with cupcake goodness, my cousin and I left but not before discovering what was hidden in our goodie bags.

The Books And the City team were certainly generous with their treats. In the bags, we found
Bookish and Proud of It notebook, it that will go perfectly with the same mug
Great British Summer Pudding chocolate bar
Teapots teabags
Packet of tissues
Kose Cell Radiance,
All the treats are the perfect accompaniment to the books that we all enjoy and will no doubt leave us in blubbering messes.

A huge thank you to the Books And The City team for organising a fabulous evening, which was most certainly worth the flight over.

You, Me And Other People By Fionnuala Kearney

You, Me And Other People‘You, Me And Other People’ is Fionnuala Kearney’s debut novel.

They say every family has skeletons in their closet. But what happens when you open the door and they won’t stop tumbling out? For Adam and Beth the first secret wasn’t the last, it was just the beginning. You think you can imagine the worst thing that could happen to your family, but there are some secrets that change everything. And then the question is, how can you piece together a future when your past is being rewritten?

As a debut, I thought this novel was a strong one. It was about the complexities of lies and what happens when the truth is revealed and people discover that the life they have been leading is far from ideal.

The story is written in the first person from the perspective of married couple Beth and Adam, who’s marriage has broken down after Adam’s infidelity. We follow the couple as they deal with the consequences and try to adjust to their lives now no longer part of a team. Beth is a strong woman, having given Adam her life, she is tired of his lies and want to lead her own life, where she has to worry about no-one but her nineteen year old daughter Meg and her best friend Karen. As time passes and Beth becomes used to life as a single woman, her life seems to prosper as her song writing career soars whilst Adam’s seems to be falling apart. Where the separation has made Beth a stronger person, for Adam who is the reason behind the separation, his world has fallen apart and he is no longer able to fix it. The oldest of two boys, his life has been troubled since the death of their parents and this maybe the reason why his life and head is so messed up. He’s weak, occasionally pathetic and even though he is a philander, I found myself feeling sympathetic towards him.

An acutely and cleverly observed story about the aftermath of an affair and a marriage in crisis with the injection of humour and lighthearted moments that makes the book a far from depressing story about a marriage breakdown, ‘You, Me And Other People’ is a poignant and stunning debut.

You can buy You, Me and Other People from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

To Have And To Hold By Helen Chandler

To Have And To Hold‘To Have And To Hold’ is the latest book by Helen Chandler.

From the outside, Ella has the happy marriage, the cute kids and the comfortable home – inside, she craves something more. But giving in to temptation will stir up a whole heap of trouble . . .Imogen’s relationship with Pete was once fun and carefree but since they’ve become parents, everything is different. Then an accident provides the catalyst for a life-changing decision. Fifteen-year-old Phoebe is miserable at home and at school. And now her dad, who was always her ally, seems completely distracted by something – or someone. Maybe it’s time Phoebe took a stand, and took control of her own life. Imogen’s relationship with Pete was once fun and carefree but since they’ve become parents, everything is different. Then an accident provides the catalyst for a life-changing decision.

This is Helen’s second book and even though I did enjoy the story, I did find myself feeling a mixture of emotions that I did not enjoy and for this, I don’t blame Helen, I found it more of a personal opinion and morals.

The story is seen through the eyes of three unhappy women who can no longer keep on with the charades of their troubled lives. Ella feels her life is far from fulfilled, a mother of two she is bored with her stale routine and feels that a new baby will rectify the problems but her husband Greg has other ideas and completely objects to the proposal. Dissatisfied and unhappy, on a night out Ella runs into Cal, her first crush from when she was teenager. Delighted to see each other, they reflect on old times when Ella used to babysit Cal’s daughter Phoebe, who is one of the three unhappy women from the story. Phoebe, maybe the apple of her fathers eye, but it’s her mother who is wrecking her life. A former model, Liz regularly belittles her overweight daughter, harsh with a sharp tongue, she bullies not only her daughter but also her husband. A miserable house where there is no love, Phoebe hates it and finds comfort in eating much to the disgust of her mother. But, finally one day, she can’t takes anymore, Phoebe decides to make a decision that will change and finally there is Imogen who is Ella’s best friend. Mother of a little girl, she finds life hard as her partner is pretty much useless and she may as well be a single parent as he doesn’t help out at all.

The story tackles so many issues, infidelity, bullying, obesity as well as the consequences of betrayal and if it is possible to move on when this is committed. Out of the three main characters, I think Phoebe has to be my favourite, quiet with a kind heart, she longs for acceptance but since she is not the perfect size 0 she is bullied from not only her peers but also her mother, who is meant to be there for her and not judge her but instead she resents her. I disliked Ella, I found her selfish in her actions, her attitude annoyed me and this was probably the reason I wholeheartedly did not enjoy the story.

Well written with a cast of interesting characters and a cleverly structured storyline, ‘To Have And To Hold’ is an enjoyable story about the temptation of seeing if the grass is indeed greener on the other side and what happens after the vows are said.

You can buy To Have and to Hold from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.