31 October 2012

Book Review: A Merry Little Christmas by Julia Williams

"With four children, a Christmas cookbook to write, and her mum suffering from dementia, Cat Tinsall has plenty to juggle. When her eldest daughter, Mel, starts going off the rails, Cat has even more on her plate.

Pippa Holliday adores her family, although often finds her hands full. When Dan is involved in a terrible accident, Pippa’s world is suddenly turned upside down.

Balancing her job as a school teacher with twins and her step-son Steven isn’t easy for Marianne North. With her husband’s ex causing trouble, life is getting even trickier.

As Cat, Pippa and Marianne help each other through a difficult year, they’re all hoping for a much brighter Christmas."

Rating: 5/5

Yes, it's a review of another festive book! I am in love with the cover of Julia Williams' new book 'A Merry Little Christmas', it's absolutely gorgeous and certainly my favourite Christmas cover this year by a long way too. In real life, the title of the book is silver and sparkly which is fab, and the silver on the Christmas tree is sparkly too, very bling-tastic! I didn't actually realise until I started reading that it's a follow-on book from her last festive hit Last Christmas, a book I also thoroughly enjoyed! I quickly found myself back in the world of Hope Christmas, and completely engrossed in the fantastic story that Williams weaves!

Cat Tinsall loves her busy life as a mum, wife and successful TV chef and cookbook author too, but sometimes it's a bit too much to bear. She's struggling to get along with her eldest teenage daughter Mel, her mum is going downhill in her care home, and her husband Noel seems to be busy all the time too. Her best friend Marianne isn't having an easy time of it either - she's struggling to juggle being a mum to her young twins, and wife to Gabriel as well as running the family farm. Her step-son Stephen is also chasing his own dreams, and his mum isn't making things any easier for the North's. Finally, there's Pippa Holliday, married to farmer Dan and mum to her own children, including daughter Lucy who requires 24/7 care. Her world is turned upside-down when Dan has a horrible accident that threatens the future of their marriage and happiness together. With the festive season rapidly approaching, will the women be able to weave their Christmas magic and make a happily-ever-after for them all?

As I mentioned, if you've read Last Christmas you'll remember these characters from that novel. I have to say I love the fact that they all have festive themed names, from Tinsall as a surname to Gabriel the farmer too. It's a nice touch, and I imagine it took a bit of thinking to get as many in there as Williams possibly could! I wouldn't say this book carries on exactly where the other one left off, instead it rejoins the characters a couple of years down the line when things have settled down for them all, and certain changes have been made as well (I shan't explicitly spoil them!). There are quite a few characters in here to get the hang of, and a few of them had me confused for a little while, but once you get into it, it's easy to follow. I especially liked the inclusion of Cat's teenage daughter Mel, a character who ends up playing a big part in the book, and I really liked how her story unfolded, through the use of her Facebook status updates and her blog entries.

The other story I thought was really well-handled in this book was the one involving Pippa, Dan and their daughter Lucy. Lucy requires a lot of care, and Pippa and Dan rely heavily on the Sunshine Trust, a facility which provides respite for families who have disabled children, caring for the children so the parents and siblings can have a break. In the book, Pippa and Dan find out that their funding has been cut, and so ensues a fight to pressure the government into not cutting their funding. I thought the way this was written was touching and well done, and highlighted the importance of these facilities for those who need them. The relationship between Pippa, Dan and Lucy was beautifully done too and always left a smile on my face. Williams isn't afraid of making the path to happiness a tough one for the characters, and this book is no exception.

However, I thoroughly enjoyed every page, and as it built up to its festive climax with a few shocks in the way, it was a brilliant read that left with me with a wonderfully warm feeling inside, and a big smile on my face. While the majority of the book isn't actually set at Christmas, it doesn't seem to matter because the festive feeling soon approaches, and I found myself so involved in the story, I wasn't missing out on anything to tell you the truth! It enjoyed every page, it was very well written and the alternating chapters between the characters allows you to easily follow all of the stories, and the friendship between the characters shines through. I really hope that we'll get to meet the residents of Hope Christmas again and catch up with the next chapter in their lives, because it was fantastic to go back there and revisit them, and this part of their story was a joy to read. The perfect book for the winter months, one of my big Christmas read recommendations this year!

You can buy A Merry Little Christmas as a paperback or an eBook.

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