When Joy despairs with her husband ‘Bob Humbug’s’ attitude to the festive season and the lack of appreciation he shows for all of the effort she putsWhen Joy despairs with her husband ‘Bob Humbug’s’ attitude to the festive season and the lack of appreciation he shows for all of the effort she puts in to making the festive season special, she decides that this year HE can be in charge of Christmas. The idea spreads amongst members of her Stitch N Bitch Knitting Club as the wives decide that they are fed up of running Christmas each year and it’s about time their husbands started contributing their fair share towards the holiday season. Before you know it the whole town is getting swept up in the idea as the underappreciated and over worked ladies go on strike for Christmas...
I loved the synopsis for On Strike for Christmas; it sounded like an extremely festive, fun-filled read and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I wasn’t sure about the whole ‘battle of the sexes’ theme as it’s something which has been done so many times, but I found it wasn’t as much of an issue as I had anticipated. I won’t go into the whole stereotypical gender roles in this story, that’s way too deep, after all this is just meant to be a light hearted, amusing Christmas novel and I found it to be exactly that. This is the first novel I’ve read by Sheila Roberts but it certainly won’t be the last. Her style of writing is really fun and almost conversational, making it a pleasure to read. She brings her characters to life through witty dialogue and humour. (‘Bob Humbug’ made me laugh...numerous times, in fact.) The scenes where the husbands attempt to ‘do’ Christmas are also very funny when even the seemingly normal tasks prove difficult. I liked the pace of the story; it held my attention and had just the right blend of humour, action and festivities whilst actually being quite a thought provoking story. Its underlying message of compromise and the idea that people like different things...but that’s ok...makes for a really good theme for the story. I loved the festive touches to this story too; the town was called Holly (can I live there, please!?) and then there’s Joy...and Carol. Hey, if you’re going to write a Christmas novel then you might as well go all out! Talking characters with non-Christmassy names I really liked Glen, but really disliked his wife Laura (Jeez, give the guy a break!) In fact I did *whispers* feel sorry for some of the men at times. Don’t get me wrong, I completely saw where the women were coming from but they didn’t seem to care about how the rest of their families would feel if Christmas was left down to the men and turned out to be just a little bit rubbish... However I felt that there’s a really strong array of characters in On Strike for Christmas who you’ll bond with, laugh along with, and of course, sympathise with. This is the perfect novel to get into the festive spirit with. It’s light, sparkly and extremely heart-warming. It reminded me of one those addictive (yet slightly cheesy) Christmas films that start appearing on the TV around about now that you can’t help but become engrossed in. On Strike of Christmas is the perfect way to spend a wintery afternoon by the fire and it’ll also get you thinking as it focuses on the importance of family, love and appreciating everything that you have. After all, what would Christmas be without the people that we love to spend it with?
When we first meet Guinevere it would seem that she has not been named Stanhope lightly. Like her real-life namesake, Lady Hester, she is determined tWhen we first meet Guinevere it would seem that she has not been named Stanhope lightly. Like her real-life namesake, Lady Hester, she is determined to be in charge of the situation and not allow a mere man to boss her around or insist on her behaving in conventional ways. Having had his fingers burned by the English aristocracy in the past, Quinn gives as good as he gets and is happy to leave her to suffer the consequences of her arrogance – for a while.
But this a romance, so it is not long before he comes to her rescue and, although she is grateful, her independence, his prejudices and a series of misfortunes and misunderstandings mean that they are separated just as they’ve begun to appreciate each other and we’ve got used to their banter. And the next time they meet, she has been transformed into the (rather incompetent) maidservant Gwen and he, as a friend of Jack, the son of the rich Christchurch household where she works, is a visitor. With a little help from Quinn, but ultimately a lot more from a new friend, Stella, and her own determination, Gwen makes her independent way in this new country, casting aside her old dreams and helping Quinn to realise that he has been blind to his own for many years.
The love story at the heart of this works because both characters have their faults. They share a certain amount of stubbornness and pride, so there is often less separating them than they imagine and this, together with their banter, makes for an entertaining will-they / won’t-they ever get together situation that only occasionally leaves you wanting to bang their heads together. The supporting characters are also rounded. Stella is fun, but useless; Jack besotted but hesitant; little Ben childish but determined; even Gwen’s long-term suitor and her louche one-time employer, who would be cardboard villains in another piece, are painted sympathetically.
The goldfields and the town which supports them are contrasted with the much more civilised Christchurch. I have no idea how accurate the portrayals are, but they seemed to match well with what I would expect – a little more tolerance of trade in high society than ‘at home’; still some rules of behaviour, however rough, in the male-dominated world of the goldfields. There might have been a few historical errors or implausibilities, but I didn’t want to stop the story in order to check those, or the natural history, or the mechanics of photography at the time which means I must have been caught up enough in the story not to care.
So why not a full five out of five? After all, I liked the characters, wasn’t put off by detail, enjoyed the dialogue … I think that maybe it was just a little predictable. Once it moved to the safety of Christchurch, although there was still conflict and the danger of penury still loomed, it felt like it could have been set in many other places and that the opportunity provided by the circumstances of the time was wasted. However, would still recommend, and will read another book by this author if it chances across my path.
You know those books where fate in the form of silly incidents and hilarious events conspire to keep the hero and heroine apart? This isn’t one of thoYou know those books where fate in the form of silly incidents and hilarious events conspire to keep the hero and heroine apart? This isn’t one of those. That’s not to say it is devoid of humour, but it is the sort — far harder to write but much more emotionally satisfying to read — where every barrier to happy-ever-after is psychological, where he and she have to grow in order to understand not just each other but themselves. In this instance Elle has little self-worth. She has accepted responsibility for a history she has so far managed to keep hidden, and has to learn to trust Lucas enough to believe that he won’t judge her by the mistakes of her past. Mistakes that led to her running from him after his proposal several years before. Lucas too has to become less suspicious, more willing to admit and accept fault, before he can accept Elle.
Of course their forced proximity is instrumental in making sure this happens, but there are plenty of misunderstandings and opportunities for them to see the other at their best – and worst. However, in the end, it is time and acceptance and growth that moves them on – just as in real life there is no one moment that you can point to and say ‘it was then he/she knew for certain that it had to be.’ The only obvious change of heart resulting from a single incident is that of Lucas’ mother towards Elle, but that happens quite near the end and involves giving away far too much plot for me to say anything now – so you see, even that is really as messy and tangled as reality.
What feels less real, at least to me sitting here writing this by a window that reveals wet pavement and a more uniformly grey sky than we deserve on an August Bank Holiday, is the glamour of the yachts along the Ta’Xbiex waterfront and the colours of the Maltese town. Yes the quarters may be cramped and, even in harbour, it gets a bit uncomfortable when the waves are up, but the descriptions of both are a stunning backdrop and fabulous escapism.
There is a huge cast of secondary characters: Lucas’ family, Elle’s ex-husband, her employers Loz and Davie, and the people at the drop-in centre where she volunteers — calm Joseph, creepy Oscar and little Carmelo among others. As ever with Sue Moorcroft, even those who don’t seem to be directly pushing Elle and Lucas together (or keeping them apart), are not cardboard cut-outs who appear just to provide light relief or a story of their own, but show us things about the main characters and become important in their lives.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the title, but I’m supposed to be having a no-moan day so I shall spare you the reasons. Of course I was also jealous of Elle — falling on her feet in such a sunshiny way after losing her job and getting everything to work out with the man she really wanted all along — but that sort of ‘if only’ is why we read romance, isn’t it?
It’s not just her growing love for Finn that leads Rachel to have doubts about her plans for revenge. Her resolution wavers almost immediately when shIt’s not just her growing love for Finn that leads Rachel to have doubts about her plans for revenge. Her resolution wavers almost immediately when she discovers that one of the gang, Daniel, is now the Parish Priest and prepared to go out of his way to welcome her and help her settle in. Her meeting with Mel is a different matter and, judging by the rumours it seems that Jay, now married to Mel, is as bad as he has ever been. But what has happened to the fourth bully, Spook? She just has to hope he will turn up at the reunion.
The book is full of secrets: we are party to some from the start, there are others which are fairly easy for us to work out (or guess) before the characters do, but there was one I didn’t see coming, even though the clues were there. It’s also full of subplots, each of which reveals a little more about the lives and characters of the bullies. While none are exonerated, it eventually becomes clear that some are more deserving of forgiveness than others, not just because of the role they played at the time, but also because of their attempts to atone for it since and their continuing remorse. This means that not only does the story race along, with something new happening on every page, but everyone important has their own conflicts and they therefore feel real. Jay was the only one of the major characters who I felt was a bit obvious, although even he has a backstory that explains – but does not excuse – his continuing nastiness.
There was therefore lots to like and it was enjoyable to read, but there were a couple of things that didn’t quite work for me. For example, how long it took for some of the secrets to come out, adult Jay’s stupidity in thinking he would get away with his behaviour, and the withholding of an identity for part of the Epilogue – it assumed we hadn’t got to know the characters well enough from what had gone before to be able to work it out, so I’m not sure if it demonstrates the writers having a lack of confidence in themselves or their readers. I also wonder if someone who hasn’t much experience of Irish Catholicism would understand why the final attack of the bullies had the consequences it did for the bullies and the town – even though it’s absolutely clear just how traumatic it was for Rachel and her family.
The issue of bullying is handled well in the novel: its slow and unpredictable effects on the life of a young person who just wants to fit in are chillingly described in the apparently artless diaries that Rachel re-reads when her resolution wavers, and the effects of their actions on (at least some of) the bullies themselves are central to the narrative. But it does all this without losing its sense of fun and so becomes a thought-provoking book that, in spite of its flaws, is thoroughly enjoyable to read.
Maybe it's just me but I am sick to death of books that end without actually telling you anything. Or leaving it so out there you have to be as cleverMaybe it's just me but I am sick to death of books that end without actually telling you anything. Or leaving it so out there you have to be as clever as Sheldon Cooper to get it (and I'm not even sure Sheldon would get it).
I really, really loved the writing for Everything I Never Told You, it was really, really good. So exquisite, the kind of writing that flows so poetically, and I liked the story of how the death of Lydia made the whole Lee family implode, but what absolutely bugged the life out of me is the simple fact that I still don't feel like I know what happened to Lydia.
I think I am done reading these so called "literary" books. I like that the books I do read have a proper, finite ending. Because I like proper and finite endings, and not the ending I had here. I felt like I'd read 300 pages and not learned a single thing! :(...more
Jill Greenfield’s life comes crashing down on one seemingly normal day, when her husband, Jay, goes out for an early morning run and is involved in aJill Greenfield’s life comes crashing down on one seemingly normal day, when her husband, Jay, goes out for an early morning run and is involved in a tragic accident. After only being married for two short years and with their whole lives ahead of them, Jill is understandably devastated. She struggles to come to terms with what has happened and with the help of her best friends, Stella and Lanie, attempts to put herself back together and eventually move forward with her life. Of course, nothing is ever that simple, as Jill starts to discover things that she never knew about her husband which have a massive impact on her own future. Secrets are revealed and people reveal their true colours as Jill attempts to scrape together what is left of her life, a life that turns out to be nothing like she anticipated...
The synopsis for Safe and Sound is great. It’s intriguing (what was Jay hiding?), heartbreaking and gives you visions of a really gripping read. For the most part it definitely lived up to these expectations, especially at the start. The beginning of the book is fast-paced, shocking and WILL make you cry. You can’t help but shed a tear over the fact that Jill and Jay have been separated from one another so soon into their marriage when they had their whole future ahead of them. I was intrigued to find out what was revealed about Jay after his death and wasn’t expecting what the outcome to that part of the story was. I did feel that perhaps it was a little unrealistic at times and Jill didn’t react in the way that I thought she was going to; but I suppose that’s just part of the story, sometimes people do react in ways that you wouldn’t imagine them to and can surprise you. On the whole I loved the relationship between Stella, Lanie and Jay. They have been friends since childhood and I loved reading about their friendship and could really identify with the bond that they shared. I did feel as though Stella and Lanie were a bit extreme with how they handled Jill after Jay’s death, even so far as they seemed to be smothering her at times, but that’s just the way that I interpreted it. I enjoyed the banter between them, and I really liked Stella. She’s sassy, feisty and likes the finer things in life. She makes for a great character and was really fun to read about. I liked T S Krupa’s style of writing; it’s easy, fun and compelling and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of her books in the future as I felt she combined romance and loss really effectively. This is a story that will make you shed a tear or two, but it’s by no means mushy. So, I may not have found every aspect of the story one hundred percent realistic, but who cares? It’s still a story that’s worth a read and I loved watching Jill’s journey unfold before my eyes as she navigates love, loss, secrets, grief, friendships and all that’s in between...