Under the Mistletoe by Sue Moorcroft
Genre/Age Contemporary Romance
When Laurel returns to the village of Middledip, she’s looking for a quiet life. Adjusting to her recent divorce, she’s ready to spend some time getting back on her feet amidst the glorious snow-dusted countryside.
Yet, life in Middledip is far from straightforward. Coming to the aid of her sister, Rea, as she navigates her own troubles, Laurel barely has a moment to think about where her own life is going.
However, time stands still when she sees her old flame, Grady Cassidy – and it’s soon as if they’ve never been apart. But through her happiness, Laurel remembers why she left the village all those years ago, as she recalls a dark night and Grady’s once-wayward brother, Mac…
Can Laurel learn to forgive and forget? Or will her chances of Christmas under the mistletoe with Grady remain a dream?
Content Warnings – Agoraphobia, Depression, Assault
Overall I very much enjoyed this book, which deals with some very weighty issues including historical assault and subsequent trauma, agoraphobia, bullying and infertility. There were so many positives in this story, including Laurel’s relationship with her sister, niece and aunt, Grady’s with his brother and nephew, and the whole community spirit feel of the story. I really do recommend this to those who enjoy well-written contemporary fiction with a side serving of romance.
I absolutely adored Grady and Daisy and liked what I saw of the other characters. Laurel, however, was a mixed bag for me. She was a heroine I loved 85% of the time but who also made me want to give her a good shake for the rest of it! I don’t want to diminish the trauma Laurel suffered, yes it’s ultimately fictional but who am I to judge her on the fact that she clung to it tighter than a barnacle on a ship’s hull? I struggled to understand why 19 years later, and having supposedly done a heck of a lot of growing up, it still coloured her life so much. But I haven’t walked a mile in her shoes so, again, trying not to judge.
What frustrated me enormously was her pessimistic, self-sabotaging mindset. Despite falling back in love with Grady, and he with her, she was determined from the start that the relationship was bound to fail and seemed hell-bent on proving that very thing. I felt the author not only over-emphasised this part of the story but repeated it far too often. It also meant Laurel wasn’t allowing Grady to make his own choices. I also wish both exes hadn’t been portrayed in such a negative light. Why on earth would Grady have ever fallen for the harpy that was his ex-fiance? She was portrayed as narcissistic, self-centred, spoilt and thoroughly unpleasant. Was he so desperate for love that she was the best he could do?
All that said, Grady’s devotion to Laurel, the heartwarming family dynamics, Daybreak, Craft stuff and all those other wonderful community touches made this a very enjoyable read. Laurel’s eventual acceptance that for things to change she needed to change and the wonderful closing scenes left me on an emotional high.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Genre/Age Historical Alternate Reality, Adult
When Addie La Rue makes a pact with the devil, she trades her soul for immortality. But there’s always a price – the devil takes away her place in the world, cursing her to be forgotten by everyone.
Addie flees her tiny home town in 18th-Century France, beginning a journey that takes her across the world, learning to live a life where no one remembers her and everything she owns is lost and broken. Existing only as a muse for artists throughout history, she learns to fall in love anew every single day.
Her only companion on this journey is her dark devil with hypnotic green eyes, who visits her each year on the anniversary of their deal. Alone in the world, Addie has no choice but to confront him, to understand him, maybe to beat him.
Until one day, in a second hand bookshop in Manhattan, Addie meets someone who remembers her. Suddenly thrust back into a real, normal life, Addie realises she can’t escape her fate forever.
I absolutely loved this book until I didn’t, for the simple reason that it just went on for too long. The pudding was overegged resulting in the book dragging, particularly in the last third. The writing is really good, and whilst I didn’t warm to Addie until fairly late in the book I found her story to be fascinating.
With a truly amazing premise, particularly in how Addie left her mark via genuine works of art, it is clear the author has an amazing imagination. Sadly it appears that every idea they had ended up in the book, whether they added something to the story or not. Scenes began to feel repetitive and there were countless scenes that brought nothing new to the story.
Even more annoyingly, after tens of chapters hinting at and building up to it, the time Addie spent with a certain someone was massively skimmed over. I honestly to goodness almost DNF’d this at the 85 – 90% mark because it felt as though I was never going to reach the end. And I’m really sad to sound so negative about it because had it been a hundred or so pages shorter I would probably have given it 5 stars.
The Last Library by Freya Sampson
Genre/Age Women’s Fiction, Adult
June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way.
Lonely librarian June Jones has never left the sleepy English village where she grew up. Shy and reclusive, the thirty-year-old would rather spend her time buried in books than venture out into the world. But when her library is threatened with closure, June is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save the heart of her community and the place that holds the dearest memories of her mother.
Joining a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals in a campaign to keep the library, June opens herself up to other people for the first time since her mother died. It just so happens that her old school friend Alex Chen is back in town and willing to lend a helping hand. The kindhearted lawyer’s feelings for her are obvious to everyone but June, who won’t believe that anyone could ever care for her in that way.
To save the place and the books that mean so much to her, June must finally make some changes to her life. For once, she’s determined not to go down without a fight. And maybe, in fighting for her cherished library, June can save herself, too.
This book was the pick-me-up I needed after starting and fairly swiftly DNFing two others that had been on my list of “most anticipated reads”. A beautiful tale of growth, friendship and community this had me hooked from start to finish. With its mess of a heroine, you couldn’t help but adore, The Last Library took me from laughter to tears and back again.
June, and didn’t that name make me picture someone a heck of a lot older than our late 20s heroine, is stuck in a limbo of grief and quite possibly depression. The suave Stanley, bolshy Mrs B, cantankerous Vera and uptight Majorie, along with the rather wonderful Alex, all help to bring June out of her shell. There was perhaps a little of the soap opera about them but I found them all somewhat believable and, ultimately, likeable.
Whilst I’ve read a couple of “save the library” books this year (is it a new trope?) this still felt somewhat unique and definitely well plotted out. There was the odd cliched moment but don’t most of us want a happy ending to a book? The pace was good, the story moved along well and the variety of sub-plots added extra depth and interest for me. I also found the author’s voice to be very pleasant, easy to read and engaging.
4 thoughts on “#BookReview #LibraryReads #Romance #HistoricalFantasy #Contemporary”
All the negativity in Moorecroft’s book was tough for me too but I appreciate how she doesn’t shy away from the hard subjects in a Christmas tale. She’s a very interesting writer, as all her Christmas stories are weighty like this one. It’s definitely not a light fluffy read.
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It certainly made it a much more memorable book too. I do like a book that challenges me, and this certainly made me realise I was being far too judgemental when I questioned if the heroine shouldn’t have gotten over the assault from her teenage years.
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It’s always a shame when a good book is ruined by either not being edited enough or the author not knowing when/how to wrap it up at the end. I’m glad you still got a lot of enjoyment out of it though.
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It definitely needed pruning, even though I enjoyed each scene. It just went on too long.
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