Christmas for Beginners by Carole Matthews

Reviewed by Sophie

Despite not reading the first book ” Happiness for beginners”, Carole does an excellent job of bringing the reader up to speed in the first few chapters without letting too much out of the bag.
I will be making sure I read the first book in due course.

An easy, nice read from start to finish.

I loved the setting for this book. The fact that the farm is used as an outreach program for troubled youths really interested me. The characters were described realistically and I was touched by each of the students’ troubles and situations. I felt like…wanting to rescue them all from their current situations and hug them.

The protagonist, Molly seems older than in her 30’s. Her relationship with actor Shelby is something to be desired. From the beginning, I dislike Shelby and his attitude towards the farm and his son Lucas who is in the care of Molly while he thinks of nothing but his acting career. I do start to feel for him at some points during the book, but my aggravation comes back too many times. I know his relationship with his son is strained but he doesn’t even try. I feel this is where reading the first book would have been helpful.
Love the other supporting characters lovely Bev, stroppy Lucas and loved up Alan.

The whole way through the book I keep thinking how patient Molly is. With her relationship with Shelby, the animals, the children and with Lucas. Especially after Lucas announces his bombshell and her own heartbreaking loss.

I struggled a bit to get into the story at first but quickly became engrossed in the book. The Christmas feeling on the farm definitely helped and I actually wet myself laughing at the fiasco with the alpacas in the nativity. (Just you wait.)

All in all a splendid read; not just for Christmas.


Author: Carole Matthews
Publisher: Sphere
Release Date: 29 October 2020

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

Reviewed by Lotte:

Ok so I should probably say I’m a complete Jodi Picoult fan – like, ride or die fan. I’m pretty sure I’d love anything she writes because up until now I haven’t been disappointed with a single one of her books (and I’ve read them all!). This one certainly didn’t let me down either – it was epic!

Within 16% Jodi had managed to intertwine the physics theory of quantum mechanics, the Ancient Egyptian Book of Two Ways, a love story and a moral dilemma. If that’s not mastery I don’t know what is!

So, let’s rewind slightly. The book opens with Dawn’s near-death experience and the thoughts she had in what she believed would be her last moments. She didn’t see the man she had married though, instead she saw the road she hadn’t taken. This is where the book splits into the Water Path (Boston) and the Land Path (Egypt). I don’t want to give any spoilers away so let’s just say we follow these two timelines as Dawn works through whether she should carry on in the life she was living or pick up the road not taken and finish the work she left behind in Egypt.

I found Dawn a pretty interesting character. For a start she was a Death Doula, not something I’d heard of before, and her history of academia, her mother and her current life were well-developed. This also included her flaws; we saw how human and real she was which made her really relatable. None of us are sunshine, roses and straight forward thoughts so it was refreshing to read.

I always enjoy the structures of Jodi’s books and this one was the same. Having the two paths playing out in parallel until later in the book when they converged was a super clever way of following the theory of multiverses existing. It was also a neat way of writing from different perspectives (although it was still Dawn throughout) which Jodi is well-known for. This structure really helped us understand the real dilemma that Dawn was facing because both ‘timelines’ could be completely feasible. How do you decide which one to choose? 

The other thing I really enjoyed was the level of detail in the plot. There is a lot of Egyptian terminology and names, lots of which I had to google (only because I wanted to attempt the correct pronunciation not because it was necessary, Jodi explains it all really well for us). The book is pitched in a way that combines these academic lives with the complexities of emotions and the different connections we have the people around us. All these different facets made it compelling to read and kept me engaged throughout.

This was yet another cracking novel from Jodi and a well-earned NYT #1 bestseller! But are you Team Wyatt or Team Brian?!

Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 20 October 2020