Short Story Review: This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy

This Year It Will Be Different is from the short story collection of the same name by Maeve Binchy.  I listened to an audiobook version of this story, read by Kate Binchy.  (Book cover above from Goodreads)

Summary (my own)

A middle-aged woman, Ethel, is not looking forward to Christmas.  She’s reached a point where Christmas seems like too much hard work because her family has come to expect her to do everything for them (as well as go out to work), without offering to help.  But when her family realise that something’s amiss, they promise “this year it will be different”…

Favourite Quote

If she saw one more picture of a 47 year old woman, smiling at her out of magazine, with the body of an 18 year old, gleaming skin, 56 even teeth and shining hair, Ethel was going to go after her with a carving knife.

Review

I’ve not read (or listened) to any Maeve Binchy before.  These types of stories are not the usual type I’m drawn to, but I thought it would be interesting to give one of these Christmas stories a go.

There is so much involved with preparing the “perfect” family Christmas and if the work load falls only to one person, it’s no wonder that they become fatigued just thinking about it.  Listening to the story, I really felt for Ethel.  Her family has a selfish streak, which she accepts responsibility for, which I think is sad – and is probably one of the reasons she finds herself in this state of apathy.  After all, people don’t often know there is a problem unless they are told or made to taken responsibility for it.

When the family make their promise of, “this year it will be different”, on noticing that Ethel’s not her usual self, their solution was not one I expected.  And, it highlights the undercurrent of expectation that moves through their house.

The story was a short listen, at just under twenty minutes, but in that time, we are given a clear and crisp glimpse into Ethel’s character, as well as the personalities of the other family members.  It’s not a cheery Christmas story, but with the weight of expectation associated with this time of year, I think for some it is a realistic one.

Rating

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Novella Review: Miss Kane’s Christmas by Caroline Mickelson

Miss Kane’s Christmas is the first book in the Christmas Central series by Caroline Mickelson.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A little twee and saccharine, perfect for a light-hearted, festive read.  A quick and uncomplicated story that’s certainly worth a read to get you ready for Christmas. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

With Christmas only three days away, Carol Claus agrees to her father’s request that she leave the North Pole on a mission to help save Christmas. Joining single father Ben Hanson and his children for the holidays seems an easy enough task until Santa informs her that Ben is the man behind the disturbing new book ‘Beyond Bah Humbug: Why Lying to Your Children about Santa Claus is a Bad Idea’.

Posing as Miss Kane, the children’s new nanny, Carol pulls out all the stops to show Ben how fun Christmas can be, all the while struggling to understand how one man could hate the holidays so much. How could she, Santa’s only daughter, be so attracted to a man who refuses to believe her father exists?

Favourite Quote

“Of course not, we’re not going to save Christmas by resorting to petty theft and destruction of another person’s property.”

Review

A romance story set at Christmas is always going to come across as a bit twee and saccharine, and perhaps even predictable, but I think that rather adds to the charm of a festive read.  This story was quite enchanting and I could easily imagine it adapted for the TV.

I liked all the characters.  Carol was perky and enthusiastic and refused to let anything dampen her spirit (even though she was a guest in somebody else’s home and she didn’t understand taking over everything might come across as a bit rude).  I understood where Ben was coming from; he didn’t like the idea of lying to and then subsequently disappointing his children with regards to a mythical figure he believed didn’t exist.  The children were adorable.

It lost a star for the crazy three day whirlwind romance – that was the most unbelievable, unrealistic aspect of the story, which is saying something when there are talking elves and flying sleighs.  It didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story though.

This was an entertaining, quick read.  The story was light-hearted, uncomplicated and fun, and certainly well worth a read in the run-up to Christmas.

Would I read any more of the series?  Good question.  I enjoyed what I read in Miss Kane’s Christmas, and I don’t feel that I have to read more.  The story is written as a standalone (as are the others in the series).  However, I liked the world-building and the characters, so it is possible that I will visit again for Festive Reads Fortnight 2019.

Rating

Short Story Review: The Black Sheep by Julie Cohen

Lee and Liza are identical twins.  However, that is where the similarities end.  One is good, one isn’t…

As Christmas in the town of Stoneguard approaches, all of the young children are forced to participate in the Christmas Pageant.  Whilst one of the twins is given a good role in the play, the other is told she has to play a sheep; a decision she is not happy about it.  But what lengths will she go to to show the town?

I really loved this short story.  I knew before starting it that it was going to be packed full of mischief and mayhem – and it didn’t disappoint.  It made me laugh and cringe and I just thought it was wonderful!  The characters were believable, especially the twins, and the story was engaging.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I will definitely be adding Getting Away With It, (the world in which this standalone story is set) to my to-be-read list.

If you want to read something quick, light and funny, something that will put a smile on your face, you should give this short story a go.

I downloaded The Black Sheep by Julie Cohen for free from Smashwords.

Short Story Review: The West Wind Blows by Linsey Lanier

I stumbled across this free short story on Smashwords and thoroughly enjoyed it.

It is set at Halloween and centres around Danica Marshall, a single mum whose boy is bullied because he has no dad; Lance left the state without knowing he had fathered a child.  However, on hearing rumours that he has a son, he returns to find out for certain.  Danica and Lance had a stormy relationship before he left but how do they feel about each now, after six years have passed?

A thoroughly enjoyable and well-written short story, one I would definitely read again.