5 November 2012

Book Review: Winter Wonderland by Belinda Jones

"Imagine waking up in a snow globe. . . 

That's how travel journalist Krista feels when she arrives in magical Quebec to report on Canada's glittering Winter Carnival.

Over ten sub-zero days Krista's formerly frozen heart begins to melt as she discovers an enchanting world of ice palaces, husky dog-sledding and maple-syrup treats galore. And then she meets Jacques, a man as handsome and rugged as he is mysterious. . . 

The two share a secret that could bond them forever, but can they find a way to break through the protective layers around their hearts to warm up this winter wonderland?

. . . let the snow-spangled adventure begin "

Rating: 4/5

I love that in Belinda Jones' novels you don't just get a great story, but you also get a mini travel guide between the pages as well! I've been taken to many places I've been wishing to go, and Jones always brings the places in her books to life with ease. Her latest book is a bit of a festive themed book, in that it is set in snowy Quebec in Canada, a bit of a change from the sunshine of her last book Living La Vida Loca! Canada isn't somewhere I have visited myself, so I was looking forward to Jones transporting me there with an exciting cast of characters, and a story to get consumed by, especially on these cold winter evenings where it's certainly cold enough to be snowing outside my own front door!

Krista is the owner of a travel agency, and as part of Va-Va-Vacation, she gets to travel the world and report on all the fabulous places she wants her clients to visit. She finds herself in Quebec in Canada, reporting on their famous Winter Carnival. While there, she works with new colleagues Annique and Gilles the photographer and finds herself having more fun than she expected. When she meets Jacques, a mysterious husky dog rider, she starts to wonder if he can melt her heart and help her fall in love after the demise of her own marriage a short while ago. But Krista is hiding a secret heartache that she's not sure any future love interests could cope with... is it enough to stop Krista from persuing a possible new love interest? Will she fall in love with more than Quebec on this trip?

I'll be honest and say that I did feel that the book started quite slowly. I found it took a little while to warm to Krista and find out what she was really about, and that perhaps hindered my initial enjoyment of the book. However, once I sat down with the book for a while and really allowed myself to read a chunk and get into it, I found myself enjoying it even more and I started to like Krista that bit more too. There's more to her than meets the eye, and this is hinted at for quite a while in the book and isn't revealed until nearly the end, although I had guessed it before Jones completely revealed all. Krista is fun, and when she lets go a bit more in the book, as in the scenes with Malhomme (the bad mascot!) and Jacques, we see a nicer side to her that I could relate to a lot more. When her secret is revealed, I did feel very sorry for her, and wish it had been revealed earlier so readers can be a bit more sympathetic to her. Jacques was a great mysterious male character, I loved his scenes and he was a bit of light relief for Krista!

The setting of Quebec was lovely, and Jones' descriptions of the city are just fantastic. They certainly make the book worth reading on their own, and you can tell Jones has really put the research into the book and is writing from personal experience. Everything from the Winter Carnival itself, to the buildings, to the gorgeous views are described perfectly, and you can really imagine you're sitting in Quebec as you're reading. I loved reading about Krista freezing in the amazing ice hotel, going on husky dog rides with Sebastien and Jacques to walking through the snow in the freezing weather... it all sounds brilliant and Jones' writing really does bring it to life. Quebec sounds like a beautiful place, and I hope I will lucky enough to visit there one day like Krista!

I found this book to be really enjoyable, even though it did feel at times that the story wasn't much moving along much, and I wasn't really sure where it was all going. Yes, it is slow paced, but in some ways this worked to its advantage because I felt like I really got to know these characters and why they are how they are, even the more minor ones like Jacques' brother Sebastien. Krista isn't a big all singing, all dancing heroine of the book, instead she muddles along and finds her way slowly but surely, and I liked her all the more for her mistakes. There was a bizarre storyline involving Bonhomme the Carnival mascot that seemed strange and didn't seem to have a point to it if I'm honest, then the main one involving Krista, Jacques and her friends which managed to be funny, sad, and heart-warming all at the same time. It's a great book to read in these cold months, and I really enjoyed reading it. The detailed descriptions of Quebec, fun and likeable characters and a heart-warming story make for a great book; Jones has written a fun winter novel you can read over and over.

You can buy Winter Wonderland as a paperback or an eBook now.

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