Three Festive Reads

While we are still in that daze of those days between Christmas and New Year I thought I would share three of my favourite reads of 2018.

  1. Father Christmas and Me by Matt Haig

I first started reading the books of Matt Haig last year – and his festive novels were my starting point. Therefore, when I spotted ‘Father Christmas and Me’ in paperback this festive season, I had to read it.

This was a lovely third festive novel. It dealt beautifully with the theme of difference and the uncertainty that many (especially the young) feel about trying to fit in.

The clash of the Easter Bunny and his team wanting to ruin Christmas gives Amelia (our young heroine) to not only save Christmas, but also cement her place in Elfhelm.

I enjoyed the humour in the novel and, although it is part of a series, it can be a standalone novel. Enjoyable all the way through.

2. One Day in December by Josie Silver

The lovely Miss W gave me ‘One Day in December’ as a Christmas gift. I was so excited, as I had spotted this novel all over the Bookstagram world.

This is a lovely read – a modern romcom. Girl almost meets boy, but girl and boy become friends and life starts to happen to them both, but not quite in the way either hopes.

I can not spoil this book for anyone who would like to read it, however I have to issue a mascara warning – for tears of sadness and tears of joy.

3. Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye

I am a huge fan of ‘A Christmas Carol’; it is a story that always guaranteed to evoke a festive mood. I am also a fan of those authors who have the guts to take on the stories of some of our most established classic characters.

I saw an article that talked about how Sarah Marshall had to complete Vanessa Lafaye’s work, as she died before she was able to. This made me even more intrigued to read this book because they clearly had both a great friendship and a deep appreciation of Dickens’ work.

It is clever that it is told from the point of view of Jacob Marley’s sister. It offers us the tale of her and her brother and, and why Marley becomes the ghost we all know so well. It is a tale that provides us with some answers/predictions to the background of the famous characters.

I really enjoyed this book and may need to make this as much of a tradition as the original ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Do you have any favourite festive reads I should plan for next year?

The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig

2018 has been a funny old year so far, but one constant has been my enjoyment of books by Matt Haig, both fictional and factual. I did, in fact, read his Children’s Christmas fiction first and was intrigued when this year he released his first Children’s book that really tackled those issues he can be so outspoken about on social media.

Although ‘The Truth Pixie’ is a Children’s book it is a book, I think everyone should read it. The Truth Pixie is a little bit of an unhappy soul at the start of the book. However, her chance encounter with a little girl who is finding things tough helps them both find some happiness. In fact, the truth our pixie friends speaks is a truth about life that we should all try to learn from.

This book, for me, was not only a beautiful read from cover to cover, with great illustrations from Chris Mould, but will also be a little reference guide. You can turn to a number of pages and you will find a spark of inspiration or motivation for any number of difficult situations.

So, I urge adults and children alike to read this book – or why not read it together? After all, most of my fondest memories with those I love are of when we shared a book together!

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

Less than a month ago I read ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ and it left such an impression on me that I was keen to read ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet’. The thing that always strikes me is that Haig is so honest in his writing. His willingness to share personal experiences and his successes (and flaws) makes it such a relatable read.

The irony of this book is that I was introduced to Matt Haig through social media. Yet he makes a very good point about the impact, sometimes negative, that such things can have on our lives. Having felt anxiety levels rise over the years (and working with the young people of the 21st Century) this book certainly encouraged me to re-evaluate my use and potential reliance on social media.

This book also reminds you that the simple things in life are worth enjoying. After all, do we really need a 24-hour life? Our bodies are made for sleep, so let them sleep. Give yourself the chance to recover from whatever the day has thrown at you.

Follow some, if not all, of the guidance Matt Haig offers and you will start to realise that we can not control everything around us, but we can support ourselves to reduce our nervousness. You will also learn some history as you go and it will spark some other paths of interest that you may wish to follow.

So, slow down, pick up a book and take a little break from the Nervous Planet.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

If you visit my blog regularly you will know that I have read a few of Matt Haig’s children’s fiction books and I adore the the novel ‘How to Stop Time’. However, despite this, I had never read ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ and now I really wish I had read it before.

I was aware of Matt Haig’s struggles with mental health and have always admired what an advocate he is for talking about mental health. Yet I was still so struck by the complete honesty in this book. I knew that this book chronicled the struggles Haig had faced when he had to bring himself back from the brink – an incredibly brave move in itself – but I did not expect that he would be so willing to be so ‘warts and all’ about the decision. This book taught me so much about mental health and even caused me to evaluate my life and how I live day by day.

However you see your life, this book is an inspiration. You will come away considering all the reasons there really are to stay alive and greet a new day, as well as giving you the chance to understand and evaluate the interactions you have with so many people every single day.

I have come away with a desire to learn more about mental health (you are provided with some further reading ideas), to really take care of my own mental health, to support other people and always be willing to listen as much as I talk and vice versa.

And…I am going to ensure I appreciate all those reasons I have to stay alive.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

As soon as I knew that Chris Riddell had added his illustrations to ‘How to Stop Time’, I knew that was the edition that I had to read. I was very lucky that Mr BookwormandTheatreMouse had been listening to this wish and it appeared under the Christmas tree on December 25th. However, I did save reading it until I had finished my festive reads because I wanted to be able to give it my full attention and – oh wow – what a book!

This book is such a wonderful concept for a story, and there are so many thoughtful messages as you read the book that it is more than just a story. Our hero (although I am not sure he would see himself as one) is ageing slowly and has lived through so much history – more than anyone could imagine. This condition causes him to almost become invisible, as he never wants to draw attention to himself to avoid any difficult questions that he can not answer. However, despite all the people he has met and the adventures that he has had, he is lonely, as he has not been able to live a ‘normal’ life – especially as he has been convinced that this is something that will never be possible. In fact, pressure from those around you and society is, for me, one of the biggest thinking points in this novel, as it seems to have had quite an impact on the path or paths that ‘Tom Hazard’ has followed in his over-extended lifetime.

The lessons from history also really struck me in this novel. I have a real passion for history and often wonder what it would be like to have witnessed some of the events and met some of the key figures, and this book does that for you. Although, it does also make you really think about some of the decisions and events that happened and the real impact one person or one event can have on the future. The illustrations from Chris Riddell also really bring that history to life with his drawings of people such as Shakespeare. (And I love that Tom brings history to life for his pupils in the book – something I try to do all the time).

I have no desire to spoil this book for any of you readers, but I do insist that you should read it. You will be left thinking about the past, present and future. You will be left thinking about what is really important to you. You will be left with a desire to be a better and more confident person. You will be left wanting to read more books by Matt Haig.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig

I know we are in those strange days between Christmas and New Year, when you feel you need to do all the things that you have not done as you have been busy in the Christmas bubble. For me, it is also a time when I need to make sure that I catch up on all those blog posts that I have missed, especially as one of my main focuses has been the chance to read.

So, just before the Christmas craziness began, I read ‘The Girl who Saved Christmas’ by Matt Haig. It was a delight! It was all the things that you want from a Christmas story and was a well-crafted nod to the work of the classic author Charles Dickens; in fact, dare I say that I enjoyed it even more than ‘A Boy called Christmas’, which I have also blogged about this festive season.

Amelia (who you meet at the very end of ‘A Boy called Christmas’) is not in a festive spirit, as she is orphaned at Christmas and is resident at Mr Creeper’s workhouse. Losing her belief in the miracles of Christmas is having a detrimental on the work of Father Christmas, as the magic of Christmas is fading and he is not able to carry out his work. He must find her and restore her faith so that Christmas Day can be saved. It is a classic Christmas adventure involving a whole host of colourful characters who want to save the big day and the faith of Amelia, and restore the magic of Christmas.

To me, this novel is a tribute to Dickens and his work. There are cleverly named characters reflecting their part in the tale, but it is also a comment on the state of Victorian society and, sadly, not that far from the truth for some in modern times.

This is truly a children’s novel that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, so if you want to find or be reminded of your faith in the festive season (and you love ‘A Christmas Carol’ – book or film adaptations), then this is the novel for you – because Amelia Wishart really is the girl who saves Christmas for her and all of us.

 

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

The festive season is full swing and that has inspired me to pick books with a festive theme. I decided to start with ‘A Boy Called Christmas’ by the very talented Matt Haig. This may be a children’s book but, to be honest, that never puts me off a title; the most important thing is that you enjoy what you are reading – and I certainly enjoyed this book! (Feeling even more festive once I had finished it.)

This novel answers a question I am sure we have all pondered: how did Father Christmas become Father Christmas? (The same question that Matt Haig’s own son had, and which he took on the challenge to answer.) We all follow Nikolas on his childhood adventure to the far North after he decides that he needs to find the father he loves, and his only real family, who has not returned from his own journey there with the hunters.

As we would all expect, it is not a journey without challenges on so many different levels. He is captured by elves, who may not be quite as you expect, and he discovers that his father may not be all the man he thinks he is – until the going gets tough, and love and respect shine through. By the end of the tale, and I never like to write a review with a spoiler, we are all let into the secret of how Father Christmas became Father Christmas.

This novel is an instant Christmas classic, in my humble opinion, because it is full of magic and adventure, hopes and dreams, and a collection of colourful, magical characters – even a mouse that is a little bit of fond of cheese. The theme throughout that really made me smile, and can sometimes be lost in all the festive frenzy, is about how the most important thing in life is those that we have around us, and making the most of what we have and how we can help others. This is a novel that will make you laugh out loud and celebrate the success of goodness over evil – and realise that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.

There is so much festive spirit and cheer in this novel that you can not help but feel ready for some Christmas fun with those that you love by the time you reach the end. (And keen to read ‘The Girl Who Saved Christmas’, which also happens to be on my festive to-be-read pile.)