Book Review

Book Chat: Christmas Fireside Stories.

When I saw lovely Pan MacMillan publicist Natasha tweeting about review copies of Christmas Fireside Stories being available I knew I needed to ask for a copy, it included short stories from some of my mom’s favourite authors. When it arrived I handed it straight over and now, on Christmas Eve, she’s here to share her thoughts about the book.

From the back cover:
imageSnuggle up by the fire with this festive collection of Christmas short stories from six bestselling authors.

Christmas at Briar Farm by Diane Allen
Christmas preparations are in full swing at Briar farm as the Bainbridge family get ready for a traditional 1960s Christmas – with all the trimmings.

Kate’s Miracle by Rita Bradshaw
It’s Christmas 1919 in the north of England and things are looking bleak for Kate and her two small children. That is until Kate discovers the strength of friendship and community at Christmas time . . .

The Gift by Margaret Dickinson
Christmas Eve, 1914. A moment of hope unites soldiers on both sides of the trenches as the spirit of Christmas reaches those divided by war, and an act of generosity changes one man’s life forever.

Christmas at Thalstead Halt by Annie Murray
The station master at Thalstead Halt has the unexpected task of sheltering snow bound passengers, in the run up to Christmas 1886. And that’s not the only unexpected occurrence at Thalstead Halt . . .

You’ll Never Know Just How Much I Love You by Pam Weaver
Christmas Eve, 1943. The post office at Goring-on-Sea is up against bitter winter weather but nothing can stop an emergency delivery, or the power of true love at Christmas time.

A Wounded Christmas by Mary Wood
Can friendship, humour and a Boxing Day party help to ease the heartaches of 1942? A heart-warming story featuring characters from the saga novel Proud of You.

This collection includes delicious Christmas recipes recommended by the authors.

Did you enjoy the book?
Yes I really enjoyed the stories, they covered a range of times and settings but they all shared a similar theme of that Christmas spirit. In between the stories each author has written a personal piece about Christmas, I found those really interesting to read.

Can you pick a favourite story from the six?
Christmas at Briar Farm because there was so much of it that reminded me of my own childhood Christmases. Lots of the things that happened brought back memories and I really related to the characters.

You mentioned when you finished reading that you were slightly disappointed with the book itself, can you explain why?
Only that I thought the stories and then the recipes were going to take up the whole book, instead it finished partway through and then had samples of the authors’ other books. A couple of them were extracts from books I’ve already read. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the Christmas stories, I was just expecting them to be a little longer.

Did you like the inclusion of the recipes in the book?
Yes, though I would have liked to have seen them placed at the end of the festive stories rather than after the extracts. They all sound delicious and I’ll probably try a couple of them.

Were you familiar with all of the authors before you read this book?
No, I’d read books by all of the authors apart from Pam Weaver. Both Annie Murray and Margaret Dickinson are two of my long time favourite authors.

Will you now read more from the authors you weren’t so familiar with?
Yes, I’ll certainly look out for books from all of the authors who featured in this book. After loving Christmas at Briar Farm I’m particularly keen to read more by Diane Allen.

Christmas Fireside Stories is published by PanMacmillan in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Picture Book Mini Reviews [5].

One of my 2013 reading resolutions was to read more picture books. I’m going to share my thoughts on these books in mini reviews throughout the year.

Freddie and the Fairy by Julia Donaldson and Karen George. Pan Macmillan.
This is such a lovely picture book, it has a strong message but puts it across in a humorous manner rather than feeling preachy. Freddie makes wishes for the fairy to grant, but the fairy has a hearing impairment and he doesn’t follow the rules she’s given him for speaking clearly to her – this means his wishes are misheard and he gets lots of wrong things. The wrong things he receives are always funny, I loved the way that whilst the book is written in rhyme which encourages you to guess what the wrong thing will be you don’t always guess right – a couple of the ones I’d failed to predict really made me giggle. The illustrations are lovely, there’s so much life in them.

Oscar’s Half Birthday by Bob Graham. Walker Books.
This book is gorgeous. It’s a really nice wordy story, one that would be great to read aloud. The book tells the story of a family celebrating their baby’s half birthday – there’s a picnic in the park complete with a cake with half a candle and everyone joining together to sing Happy Birthday. The characters are lovely, Oscar’s big sister Millie is wonderful. I particularly loved the illustrations – the way the family look and dress is different to how families are often portrayed in picture books, I think increasing diversity in picture books can only be a good thing and I hope to see more and more like this one.

Where is Fred? By Edward Hardy and Ali Pye. Egmont Books.
This book is so much fun! It is the story of Gerald, a crow, chasing Fred, a fluffy white caterpillar, who is very good at hiding. It’s a lovely take on the hide and seek structure of picture book, I know I delighted in spotting where Fred was hiding each time so I’m sure young children will really love this book. There’s lots of humour in the book, and the ending is lovely. I can see that this would be an enjoyable read aloud book, but I think it would be even better read one-to-one with a child so they really get the full experience of finding Fred each time.