#bookclub Feature by SJV
First up, and just in Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain!
“Wow…just wow… you want more words? Spectacular, hooked me in and wouldn’t let me go..
…completely unexpected…well I mean I expected the book to be great as I love Heidi Swain’s books, but I just wasn’t expecting this story, it was fabulous..
…setting drew me in as did the warmth of the whole of the Connelly family, from Angus the loveable father figure who is a bit like a big cheeky elf at this time of year, to the assorted staff members who may have come for a job originally but now are part of the family…
…Jamie is the youngest son and is back. He and Anna decide to help each other. Jamies needs to fall in love with his home again, and Anna has been running from Christmas for many many years and wants to learn to at least cope with the season again…
…there are sleigh rides, a Christmas market, a Christmas Fair, wow the advent calendar was something special, lights and a whole lot of food. It was marvellous and at the heart of it were characters dealing with larger issues and you just wanted the best for them…
.. apparently this book has temporarily stolen my ability to write reviews, but rest assured that writing was fabulous, drawing you in, the characters you will learn to love really fast, you will enjoy getting to know the hall and if you are a longstanding reader of the Heidi Swain, you will recognise a lot of the residents and other characters popping in and out of the story….
…highly recommend this to anyone, it is not just a story for Christmas but a story for life!”
The first thing I want to say is that I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit during the book, not necessarily at what Lew and Bonnie are up to, but more the short articles that crop up from time to time from the local Daily Trumpet newspaper, how have a great habit of misspelling vital words radically changing the meaning of what is being said. These just really matched my sense of humour and I have to believe that Milly Johnson probably enjoyed coming up with them.
Bonnie is trapped in a loveless marriage, where every day is exactly the same. It is like she has become old before her time and she is desperate for escape. Her life starts to change when she loses her job with a hideous boss, and somehow gets a new one elsewhere in the same sort of field, in a much nicer shop.
Pot of Gold is an antiques shop, that Lewis opened after is life changing heart attack two years ago. Before that he had a high powered job, but his wife still thinks he earns that level of money. He believes it is fate that brought Bonnie into his shop and she really does change the fortunes of the place.
I thought the whole community of antique dealers was incredibly colourful and they all had brilliant nicknames, that usually described the sort of thing they were interested in. They have all known Bonnie for many years and will do anything for her, and there are a few touching moments when they prove it.
Stephen is a character I had nothing but disdain for, he is Bonnie’s husband, and is a cold hearted controlling sort of man. He managed to blackmail Bonnie into staying with him once before, and is convinced it will work again. He is an incredibly nasty piece of work, and I was just shocked how much I disliked him.
Both Lew and Bonnie go on a rollercoaster ride of emotion in their personal lives . There are some elements that mirror in each of them, but on the whole they are quite different.
I felt incredibly sorry for Bonnie for most of the second half of the book, and can’t believe the amount of years she stayed with her manipulative husband. I loved the way she decided to earn herself some extra money, while feeling gutted at the nature of her biggest secret, which as a result of it being revealed, causes her to have an awful time.
The Queen of Wishful Thinking is vintage Milly Johnson, it is incredibly comforting to read, I felt right at home with the writing style and characters, I love how the story was weaved together, and built from the start. There weren’t any particularly slow bits and I felt that everything in the book had been well honed to become the gripping story that it was.”
Not only do we see a return of the four main doctors, but we also see the introduction of a new young doctor Alice to the surgery in addition to her assistance dog Coco. It was from the moments they were first introduced that I could tell that they would be rather integral characters and rather special too.
It is great to see the continuing stories of Julia, Dan, Taffy and Holly and wow do they manage to fit a lot into tot his book between them. Julia’s continual media ambitions, while struggling to contain her family demons. Dan is caught up in a turbulent relationship, but is another woman just starting to catch this eye, he is also big on championing the Practice in the Community project, and I loved hearing about some of the fundraising. While Holly and Taffy are adjusting to living together and the twins, Ben and Tom are a handful while being thoroughly entertaining.
Of course it’s not just the doctors lives the book focuses on, there is also Grace the admin woman who seems to be great at firmly keeping the doctors in line. And then there are the people in the community, including some recurring characters that I was eager to see the return of like Major and Elsie.
This is a story about realistic characters facing the everyday challenges that normal working people face, including their bosses entering them into a high profile bet for their unique management style, the tug between mother and daughter relationships, sibling rivalries, and loads of other examples of things that are easy to relate to.
Yes this is quite a long book, but I really didn’t feel like a slog, in fact it was a delight to read, with Dan and Taffy providing a fair amount of comic relief, in a story that has many facets to it. I believe Practice Makes Perfect could be read as a standalone, as prior intimate knowledge of the previous books isn’t required. As a returning reader to the series, I was incredibly pleased to discover it really didn’t take long to feel like part of the community in Larkford again.
I am already incredibly eager to read the next book in the series, and can’t wait to see what the charismatic residents of Larkford will get up to next!”
Pretty much if you are a fan of this sort of genre of books, then The Picture House by the Sea is a book you should look out for, as its a wonderful read. Yes in parts I could sort of guess what may be happening in advance, but I was so caught up in the book that i didn’t really mind.
I thought the names on each of the 4 parts of this story were so cleverly thought out, and I love how each part introduces three things each time, a new movie for the picture house to show, a new flavour of ice-cream and a new cocktail.
I enjoyed Gina’s character and her determination to succeed in the restoration of the picture house, but also to learn how to make gelato and start trying to think of her own new flavours. Gina has a long term boyfriend back in London, but also reconnects with her old friend and renovation expert Ben.
Ben was great, he was a bit nerdy with his love of steam trains which just added to his overall charm. Gina’s nonno and nonna, are typical Italian grandparents, and I loved the way her grandmother was able to walk rings around Ferdie without him fully realising.
The descriptions of the Picture House were great and I could really picture how it must have looked in its heyday and how Gina encounters it now. The name of the town Polwhipple is great, every time it popped up I smiled. I also loved the descriptions of the various flavours of gelato, and of the events that Gina is putting on.
This is the first complete book I have read by Holly Hepburn, as I still need to read parts 2-4 of her previous book, and I thoroughly enjoyed the authors writing, and know I will definitely be reading more by her in the future.”