Friday, December 30, 2016

Review: Christmas Under the Stars

Over the years Karen Swan has become synonymous with Christmas books. This year's winter offering is Christmas Under the Stars. A wintery book that's set in Canada? I'm in.

Here's the synopsis:
Worlds apart. A love without limit.
In the snow-topped mountains of the Canadian Rockies, Meg and Mitch are living their dream. Just weeks away from their wedding, they work and play with Tuck and Lucy, their closest and oldest friends. Meg and Lucy are as close as sisters - much to Meg's sister's dismay - and Tuck and Mitch have successfully turned their passion for snowboarding into a booming business.
But when a polar storm hits, tragedy strikes. Alone in the tiny mountain log cabin she shares with Mitch, Meg desperately tries to radio for help - and it comes from the most unexpected quarter, a lone voice across the airwaves that sees what she cannot.
As the snow melts and they try to live with their loss, the friendship Meg thought was forever is buckled by tensions, rivalries and devastating secrets. Nothing is as she thought and only her radio contact understands what it is to be truly alone. As they share confidences in the dark, witnessed only by the stars, Meg feels her future begin to pull away from her past and is forced to consider a strange truth - is it her friends who are the strangers? And a stranger who really knows her best?
I've never been to Banff but it's somewhere I'd like to travel to. If you don't know what that area of Canada looks like, look it up and start planning your trip. So. Beautiful. Anywho...I don't think I've ever read a novel that's set in Banff so I was excited about that. Even though I haven't been there myself, I felt that Swan managed to capture the essence of the city. Apart from a few word choices and terms, it really felt like I was in Canada and I loved that. But those few words and terms irked me quite a bit, unfortunately. Canadians do not use the term "ice-hockey", OK? We call it hockey, full stop. We use Celsius for temperature, not Fahrenheit, and while we're taught metric weights in school now, we tend to use pounds, not kilograms. Here's a big one: Canada has provinces, not states so don't have a Canadian ask someone when they last left the state, please. And yes, I did check my ARC against a finished copy (and you should be glad I did because there were two major mistakes in the advanced copy that were thankfully fixed in the published book). Oh, and my one final annoyance...the characters go to a Stanley Cup quarter final game in Calgary. The Flames are playing against, wait for it, the Toronto Maple Leafs. First of all, the Leafs are sucking so they wouldn't make it to the quarter finals. (OK, so that's just mostly a dig at the Leafs haha) Second, these two teams would not be playing each other in the quarter finals because one is an Eastern division team and the other is a Western division team. Am I reading too much into this? Maybe. But this is a novel about my countrymen (and countrywomen) and I want it to reflect my country properly, you know?

*breathes* OK. Time to be positive because the book had a lot to offer.

This story twisted and turned in so many amazing ways. It wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be and that was amazing. Swan is able to write these heart wrenching, drama filled stories that keep you interested and turning the pages right to the very end. I actually could not believe how the story ended up. I do believe my jaw dropped! 

The book wasn't all about the drama though. There was a romance woven throughout that was so sweet and such a slow burn, which it needed to be. Meg was in no place to start dating but, bit by bit, she realized that maybe she could open herself up to love again. Jonas seemed to be such an incredibly smart and decent man and I really wanted that for Meg.

I really loved that Meg and her sister, Ronnie, rediscovered their bond over the course of the novel. They were close growing up but something shifted as they got older. I'm pretty close with my sister (which I'm sure she'd agree with when she's not annoyed with her big sister haha) so I always enjoy books about sisters. It was great to see Ronnie help Meg emerge a little bit more from her grief when Meg visited her in Toronto.  

I know I'm posting my review after Christmas (and I hope everyone who celebrated had a wonderful holiday!) but you can definitely still read this book now that Christmas is over. Even though the holiday is right in the title, it doesn't have any holiday spirit. The book is written so you know what the date is for every chapter. Christmas Day is actually skipped right over. I'm glad I wasn't reading this looking for a festive novel because I wouldn't have gotten it. But it's a wonderful winter read that is perfect for reading by the fire while looking out at the snow. Or, I suppose, giving you a great image of snow if you live somewhere that doesn't get the frosty white stuff (lucky you!). 

It might not seem like it, but I did enjoy Christmas Under the Stars. Karen Swan has written a book unlike one I have ever read before. Even with the few things that annoyed me, the unique story and setting really helped me like Swan's latest novel. 

*An ARC of this novel was provided by Publishers Group Canada in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

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