Christmas is not Christmas without reading or watching A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The Muppets version starring Michael Caine is traditionally watched on Christmas Eve by the whole family but other versions are watched too throughout the month. On 1st December, I take my illustrated version of the tale off my forever shelf for its annual read. This well-known story is perfect for Christmas with its cruel villain, lessons on love and redemption as well as its powerful festive imagery. So I jumped with glee when I was offered the chance to read the prequel Miss Marley: A Christmas Ghost Story – a prequel to A Christmas Carol.
Miss Marley: A Christmas Ghost Story – a prequel to A Christmas Carol
Title: Miss Marley: A Christmas Ghost Story – a prequel to A Christmas Carol
While scribbling away towards my word count last month, I was lucky to win a signed copy of Erin Green’s book The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm. When it arrived I promised myself I would read it as my reward for surviving NaNoWriMo. December is here and the book has been read so scroll down for my review.
Author: Erin Green
Title: The Magic Magic of Christmas Tree Farm
Release date: 4th September 2018
The scent of pine fills the crisp air as local villagers select their perfect tree. Picking the tree is the easy bit, creating a perfect Christmas is a bit trickier…
Nina has the most magical job in the world, matching customers with their perfect Christmas tree. Working at Christmas Tree Farm is always fun and full of laughter but the weight of past tragedy bears down on her. Her admirer is a great distraction, but is he the right man for her?
Holly is just trying to be a normal teenager, having to deal with the mean girls in her class. But then the most handsome boy at school takes an interest in her. Have all her Christmases come at once?
Angie is trying to bring her family together and save her broken marriage. It’s not something she can force, but it’s the only gift she craves. Will her Christmas wish come true?
It’s the season of goodwill, and at Christmas Tree Farm anything could happen…
Perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Milly Johnson.
Last year I read Erin Green’s book The Christmas Wish, so I had high expectations for this novel. The joy of her last novel was the main reason I entered the competition, the other is signed books have a magic of their own which I love. I was not disappointed and in truth loved this story more. Told in three points of view, it covers three women’s Christmas and each are at different stages of their lives. Nina is in her twenties waiting for the moment she feels true love, Holly in her teens experiencing love for the first time and Angie, a divorcee realising maybe she has lost hers. They are all connected by the goings on at the Christmas Tree farm.
As a character, I felt an instant connection to Nina and Holly. I grew to love them more as the book progressed. Holly for being a rounded considerate teenager with a mature head on her shoulders who would have been a friend when I was her age and Nina for being herself. Unlike some books where the heroine is giddy with love Nina is dealing with grief and the emotions of the upcoming Christmas; she wants love, but it is not her main focus. This makes the whole novel more real, special and the bittersweet nature that runs through it makes it stand apart from many on the shelves this time of year. There are funny moments, sad moments and toe curling ones too. It has it all similar to life. As someone who was disappointed not to get a job as a Christmas elf, the farm is a magical wonderland I would have loved to work at and this setting adds the sprinkle of Christmas into the story.
The only thing I struggled with was Angie. She is well written and as real as the others but I struggled to connect with her selfish views. I could relate to her in many ways but there were moments I wanted to give her a shake or push her into the snow. If she was real, I would want to have a coffee with her to discover more about her psyche so I could decide whether or not I liked her.
Would I recommend?
Yes. This book is more than a festive read it is an exploration of love, family relationships and women. It deals with grief, divorce and first love. Grab yourself a hot chocolate, snuggly socks and curl up in front of the fire and enjoy.
This morning for no particular reason I feel grateful. I did not plan to think about the good things in my life when I sat down with my cup of tea with only the Christmas tree for company but with its lights shining and the house silent I felt a glimmer of calm. For that moment, the worries about bills, health, relationships and how to stretch a shoestring budget over Christmas fell away. I could see the good I have and achievements made this year.
My grateful list:
The morning hug I will get from my daughter
Waking early to see the stunning night sky
The welcome from my dog as I have left him for five minutes
The taste of the first cup of tea and this time of year
The parts of Christmas which matter the tree, music, friends and family.
Old friends and new ones
The arrival of Christmas cards
Opening the advent calendar – you are never to old for one
Winning nano – that feeling will keep me going for a while
Winning NaNo coaching from Megg
An unexpected lottery win of £25
The book I won from Erin Green The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm
The moment of calm has grown with my list, life is good and I am ready to fight another day. When life’s problems have snowballed and triggered an avalanche of emotions, it is easy to forget the good, the tiny things or incidents throughout the day which if given care are seeds of strength to get you through the crap.
December is here and NaNoWriMo is over for another year. After succeeding in writing 50,000 words – yes I did it if did not already know – I thought I would reflect back on what I have learnt.
The main one is I can surpass my own expectations with the support of others and determination.
I can prove naysayers wrong.
I can not emphasise the importance of support from others. Having people behind you, believing in you when you do not believe in yourself gets you through the slumps and allows you to celebrate the highs. I can not thank those who have been with me enough, especially my daughter for the endless cups of tea and encouragement.
Accountability is an important factor. If I had not had Megg Geri checking in to see how I was doing, expecting 2000 words daily – not achieved often – I would have faltered in week two. Words would have fizzled out and I would have given up. On days when only were written 200 words by lunchtime and I was tired, grumpy or dystonia was giving me a hard time, before I would have said “that will do”. Not wanting to disappoint Megg I would go back in the evening and write some more, sometimes surprising myself with the amount or content.
Rewards matter! Knowing I could buy a Kindle book if I completed 10,000 words spurred me on because I needed Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy. The reward of a coffee and catch up with a friend on a Friday if I survived the week gave me the boost I needed at times too. Thank you, Kris and Jennifer.
An excel spreadsheet was my best friend towards the end. Seeing my percentage progress on the screen helped me push through the last 10,000 words.
I discovered I am more of an evening writer than morning one. Ideas are better in the morning but bulk writing is an evening thing.
Dialogue between characters when it comes to you must be captured and written down. Trying to think of dialogue in front of a blank screen is useless, for me it has to come organically from the players, usually when half asleep or doing something boring not related to writing.
Writing daily is a joy (except on “I can’t do this” days) and routine matters.
It is amazing what gets done if people leave you alone to do it. My writing room became my haven. The writing room is also known as the spare box/junk room with a bureau squeezed in just in case I am seen as pretentious as in the J.K Rowling and Arron Banks row.
It is hard mentally. It pushes you to work beyond tiredness, life experiences and forces you to give priority to writing. As a mum and wife this was one of the hardest things. Putting myself first rather than others is not natural for me but they are old enough to look after themselves. I am in awe of people who can do it with a young family, work and other responsibilities.
I can get through the slumps to get to a better place.
It has pushed my health to its limit. I think I have got a way with it. I’m not in hospital which has happened before when I have pushed myself too far but I rattle more with more pills, have accumulated more consultants this last month and slept for seemingly days since Nano has finished. Is the pain payback worth it? Yes but I’m glad it is over. I could not keep the intensity up in the long run.
I need to get my head around dictating, my hands, well hand as I am a one handed sometimes one fingered typist, is painful and is on the verge of going on strike.
Knowing your characters well helps, but it is great when they throw surprises and unexpected ones turn up.
I love writing and need to continue. Having a few days off I miss it.
I can achieve when I believe.
Now I need to finish the draft so the joy of editing can begin.
This is a quick, very quick post; I should be focusing on increasing my word count because writing time is limited today but a quick update is needed. It is a week since I began to work with Megg and six days NaNoWriMo started and a miracle has happened — I am on target!
Some days have been harder than others. It seemed an impossible task on day three, after sleep won over my early morning writing routine and feeling ill but with the knowledge Megg was behind me words were written. How many of the those words will stay after editing? Not many but they have moved the story forward.
I predict today and tomorrow will be a struggle too with hospital visits and tests and I also fell into the trap of research this morning but with a site like the Tea of Life and writing about a tea obsessed witch who can blame me? Just don’t tell Megg