#BookReview by Lou – Christmas For Beginners by Carole Matthews Happy Publication Day @carolematthews @millieseaward @BooksSphere @LittleBrownUK

Christmas For Beginners
By Carole Matthews
Rated: 5 stars *****

Happy Publication Day to Carole Matthews for Christmas For Beginners.
Full of uplifting events humour and cosyness as well as observing mental health issues within characters and other topical issues all on a farm with the most humorous animals, in this treat of a book that will set readers up very nicely for Christmas.
Thank you to Carole Matthews for alerting Millie Seaward to my request to review and for her, subsequently accepting my request to review Christmas for Beginners.
Please follow down to find out more in the blurb and my review.

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Blurb

The BRAND NEW Christmas read from the bestselling author

The gloriously festive sequel to readers’ favourite and Sunday Times bestselling novel Happiness for Beginners.

SPEND THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR AT HOPE FARM . . .

Christmas is fast approaching at the new Hope Farm. Owner Molly Baker has been convinced to organise an open day to raise some much-needed funds ahead of the New Year, but the nativity tableau is proving challenging. With anti-social sheep, awkward alpacas and a seriously sequined Santa Claus to assemble, Molly is feeling overwhelmed, and in desperate need of some Christmas spirit . . .

Despite the chaos of the farm getting in the way of her event planning, Molly is looking forward to spending the holidays with Shelby and Lucas, hopeful that a happy family Christmas is exactly what they need to draw them all together. But while she is busy making plans on the farm, Shelby, it seems, has ideas of his own.

As the nativity draws near, the team are working hard to pull off a spectacular festive fete – and make sure the animals and humans remain on their best behaviour. Will this Christmas be merry and bright, or is there more than one surprise in store for Hope Farm?

A must-read festive tale from the queen of fun-filled and life-affirming fiction, Christmas for Beginners is the PERFECT winter treat!

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Review

Molly, Lucas and alpacas are on Hope Farm, which the author informs is fictional but based on a real place called Animal Antiks that works with children and young adults with learning difficulties, mental health issues and autism and has a lot of praise for them. It is a lovely insight into another aspect of what Carole Matthews holds dear and what inspired her for her fictional Hopefarm.

From the opening line, which is terrific and unexpected, there is humour, especially with the Alpacas – Johnny Rotten, Tina Turner or Rod Stewart and they seem to have the personalities to match their names. There are many animals on the farm, each with their unique personalities and needs to be looked after.

The book is warm, heartfelt and witty and cosy enough without it being trite. There is the warmth of and excitement of the run up to Christmas that is then interwoven with the goals of the characters and their relationships and their issues, this also includes the vast array of animals on the farm too.

This is far from your usual working farm. It takes in challenging animals and also takes in teenagers who have behavioural difficulties, mental health issues or are autistic. It is set up for an interesting premise straight away.The first people are Shelby Dacre and his wayward son – Lucas who have had a hard time and struggling through grief and it was actor Shelby who helped Molly Baker with this farm, after she lost her original one. The book shows how lives can change for the better, even in what seems like the bleakest of circumstances. It is heartwarming and uplifting and the characterisation of Lucas – teenage boy is spot on. It is interesting getting to know all the characters and the way they relate to each other. It all comes across as natural and rooted in reality.

What really comes across in the book is a lot of care and love. Shelby’s tv career and the challenges that come his way are also explored as are the issues with love and grief in Lucas, but nothing too heavy, it is essentially a cosy Christmas book. There is lots of humour throughout and some of it is particularly brave, but it all has a valid point and makes it such a fun book.

The Buckinghamshire scenery is depicted in an idyllic manner, which is simply divine of ancient woodland, but there is a small pocket that shows the concern of HS2 that reflects some opinions in England in present times. It’s a brave decision, but it does have a place within the book and drifts into the story, momentarily in a way that flows well and without becoming too political. It also very nicely doesn’t detract from the story of Christmas and the farm and the characters stories.

The book takes readers in to share the festive spirit and activities and right up to Christmas Day itself, which is lovely and also emotional. There are a few well-written emotive poems in the book, which is quite refreshing and adds a certain edge to it and a different way for the characters to express their thoughts and feelings about what goes on in the characters lives. The whole book leaves a lovely glow of warmth and Christmas spirit.

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