Monday, 30 November 2015

Snowed in for Christmas Blog Tour: Christmas With Claire Sandy

For my stop on the Snowed in for Christmas blog tour author Claire Sandy is taking part in my Christmas blog feature 'Christmas With...' answering some questions about all things festive! So grab a hot chocolate, turn on your Christmas playlist and spend a White Christmas with Claire Sandy...

Christmas with Claire Sandy

1.) What made you want to write a Christmas book?
I was born wanting to write a Christmas book. I am pro-Christmas; violently so. I would march on Downing Street if my right to obliterate my house with tinsel was taken away. I've always savoured Christmassy scenes in books, loving how the stories glow on the page. When I had the opportunity to bring out my own, I knew there must be turkey and snow and flirting; pinning down that special hyper-happiness of Christmas Day on the page was a thrill and I can only hope readers agree with me.

2.) How did you get into the festive spirit to write? 
Hmm. Well, this is where the glow dims a bit. It would be wonderful if I'd written the book over Christmas, mince pie in one hand, wonky paper crown on my head, but books take months to write and this one came to life in late spring and early summer. I stuck a list of festive words above my laptop - random ones like tingle and snowballs and enchantment. Plus of course Baileys and indigestion. When in the thick of writing a scene, I was lost in a wintry wonderland, snow all around, the tip of my nose a Rudolph red and my soul serene. Then I'd look up and realise the sun was shining into my study, and flowers were brazenly growing in my window box. Usually I welcome these signs of renewal but right then all I could do was mourn the vanished whiff of sprouts.

3.) If you could get snowed in anywhere where would it be? 
I'd get snowed in in a log cabin. I have no desire to go skiing - obviously I'd break both my legs and at least one of my husband's - but I do have a yen to snooze in front of an open fire as the snow banks up against the windows of a timber house. Being snowed in is as much a state of mind as anything else; I'd relish the opportunity to switch off. If it was impossible to go anywhere I'd have to be satisfied with what was on hand. It goes without saying that there's a full fridge in my snowed-in fantasies.

4.) How would you spend a day snowed in with your loved ones? 
Hmm. Do all of my loved ones have to be there? I mean, I love them (hence their title) but that doesn't mean I want to be snowed in with them. I'd probably spend the day avoiding them... 

5.) What’s your favourite thing about Christmas?
EVERYTHING. How can you make me choose? It's like asking if somebody has a favourite child. In no particular order my favourite Christmas things are: drinking champagne for breakfast; stockpiling talc; turkey sandwiches; cracker jokes being funny due to champagne for breakfast; chocolate as far as the eye can see; old films on the TV; gravy; Yule Log; a good row and a good making up.

6.) Do you have any Christmas traditions?
I have many, thank you for asking. Christmas Eve = smoked salmon for me and Him, after we put our daughter to bed. Even though He (and I don't mean God by the way, I mean my other half) doesn't like smoked salmon. Another must is my father-in-law coming round at midnight to dress up as Santa and bumble into my little girl's room with a sack of presents. Christmas isn't Christmas unless we eat stuffing made to my mum's recipe, and lay out clementines studded with cloves, and have at least one bout of fisticuffs over the remote control.

7.) Favourite Christmas food and drink?
From the twentieth December I move into a Quality Street tin and don't emerge until New Year's Day. As for a tipple, I'm all about fizz.

8.) Favourite Christmas movie?
If I'm wearing my Intelligent hat (it doesn't fit too well) I'll say, with a pious expression, "It's a Wonderful Life". If I'm wearing my far more comfortable Big Kid hat, I'll answer honestly with "Elf".

9.) Favourite Christmas song? 
That's easy. I have no choice; I have to say Mistletoe and Wine. Yes, I know, Cliff sings it like a nun in a jock strap, but my father in law wrote it, so...

10.) What does Christmas mean to you? 
Christmas means to me what it means to you. It's a bright beacon in the midst of winter's gloom, a celebration. It's permission to be sentimental, to cry over the people you've lost, to feed the ones you have. It's the best and silliest time of the year.

 Snowed in for Christmas is available to buy now from all good bookshops 
 Add Snowed in for Christmas on Goodreads here 
Follow the author on Twitter @berniestrachan 

 Follow the rest of the blog tour!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper Blog Tour: Christmas With Debbie Johnson

For my stop on the blog tour for Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper author Debbie Johnson is taking part in my new Christmas feature 'Christmas With...' answering some questions about all things festive! So grab a hot chocolate, turn on your Christmas playlist and spend Christmas with Debbie Johnson...
Christmas with Debbie Johnson

1.) What made you want to write Christmas books?
I have always loved writing stories – and I have always loved Christmas, so it was a good fit! When I had the idea for my first HarperImpulse book – Cold Feet at Christmas, which came out last year – I was walking my dogs across a field in a huge snow-blizzard, and it all felt so mysterious and full of potential – like anything could happen! Plus Christmas is such an emotional time of year – sometimes good, sometimes bad – that it seems the perfect occasion for some wish fulfillment! My Christmas is focused around my kids now, but I do remember when I was single, how I’d always hope for a bit of Christmas romance – a kiss under the mistletoe, meeting someone at a party, a special encounter on a night out! I do write books that aren’t set at Christmas, but I love the romance opportunities that the festive period brings – heightened feelings, a focus on hopes and dreams, plus of course the very dodgy Christmas jumpers!

2.) How do you get into the festive spirit to write? 
That can be tough – Christmas Jumper was written in the summer, and during an especially hot part of the summer! I was wearing sandals and T-shirts and Maggie and Marco were wrapping up warm in boots and gloves! Music helps – listening to Christmas albums is an excellent way to put yourself in the mood!

3.) What are your favourite Christmas stories?
I think THE Christmas story is actually a fantastic one – we’ve all seen nativity plays a million times, but really, if you sit down and really think about that tale, it’s amazing. I’ve had three babies, and I really can’t imagine riding around on a donkey at the end of my pregnancy, and then not being able to find a place to rest. It’s the original and the best, I suppose! But I also love some of the wonderful children’s Christmas stories that are out there like The Snowman and the Little Matchgirl. For myself, I always love a bit of Bridget Jones at Christmas!

4.) Which fictional character would you like to kiss underneath the mistletoe?
Hmmm...purely fictional, maybe Han Solo, before he met Princess Leah (as I wouldn’t want to tread on her toes!)? Or James Bond, Daniel Craig era.

5.) What’s the worst Christmas jumper you’ve ever seen?
It was one I saw at a party that was a 3D turkey – all the turkey’s legs and bits and bobs were dangling down the front of the man’s chest; to be honest, it looked absolutely obscene!

6.) What’s your favourite thing about Christmas? 
Spending time with my family, when everyone is switched off from work/school/real life – and focused on being at home, enjoying each other’s company! Christmas is like a very welcome break from reality.

7.) Do you have any Christmas traditions?
We have a few. We go and choose our Christmas tree from the same place – a garden centre in the suburbs of Liverpool – on or around December 1. I usually go into a zen-like state of trance as I wander around, looking at almost identical pine trees until one ‘speaks’ to me – although not literally. I’d get really worried if that happens. We also let all three of the kids choose a new decoration – which means that our tree, like Maggie’s, looks like a drunken elf has vomited all over it! We’ve been going there since the kids were tiny, and the staff always remember us. We also go to a service at our local church called Christingle on Christmas Eve, which involves carols and sweets on sticks stuck into oranges, and that is always lovely – sometimes Christmas Eve is actually nicer, because of the sense of anticipation. It’s the calm before the storm, and doesn’t involve batteries, Phillips head screwdrivers or cooking!

8.) What does Christmas mean to you? 
For me, at this stage in my life, a perfect Christmas is all about family – seeing the excitement on my children’s faces in the morning; sharing a meal with loved ones; celebrating all that is good in our lives. It’s a time to count our blessings and be thankful – which is very easy to forget in the insanity that lead up to it! If the cooker broke or the dogs ate the turkey (both very feasible scenarios in my house), I’d still be happy if we were all healthy and together. In Never Kiss A Man in A Christmas Jumper, Maggie is facing up to her first Christmas alone – and although she tries to stay strong about it, that is also one of my worst nightmares. Having a young family is chaotic – but does make for the best Christmasses ever!

9.) Do you treat yourself to a reward once you finished writing/published a book?
I usually just sit back, take a big sigh of relief, and put something fab on the telly! I know that sounds boring, but I have to try and avoid the TV when I’m on deadline – working from home is fraught with perils, and the goggle box is one of the main distractions! I once got lost in a Netflix boxed set of an American sports drama called Friday Night Lights for weeks on being able to grab a coffee, sit on my own and watch something entertaining is brilliant – it’s a chance to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s imagination, rather than just using my own!

 Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper is available to buy now 
Add Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper on Goodreads here 
Follow Debbie on Twitter @DebbieMJohnson 

 Follow the rest of the blog tour!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Christmas With Cressida McLaughlin Author of A Christmas Tail

If you follow my blog then you'll probably know by now that I love Christmas in a big way and one of my favourite things to do during the countdown to Christmas is to snuggle up with a festive read. This year I decided to take it a step further and do a festive feature between now and Christmas getting some lovely authors who have Christmas books out this year to come on the blog and have a little chat with us about all things Christmassy and festive!

To debut this feature I have Cressida McLaughlin on the blog today talking about her book, what puppy she'd like to find underneath the Christmas tree and how she celebrates Christmas. So grab a hot chocolate, turn on your Christmas playlist and spend Christmas with Cressida McLaughlin.

 Christmas with Cressida McLaughlin

1.) A Christmas Tail was first released as four novellas. Did you know when starting this series that the final story would end at Christmas? What made you decide to conclude the series at this time of year?
Yes, when I started the Primrose Terrace series, I knew it would end at Christmas. Each story roughly covered a season, starting with spring, and Christmas seemed the perfect time to tie all the storylines together and for Cat to have her happy ending. There’s nothing more magical than a Christmas romance.

2.) How did you get into the festive spirit to write? 
I was writing the last part of the book in the hot, sultry August weather, so it was particularly hard to feel wintry! I put all my fairy lights on, and found a Christmas radio station so I could listen to Wham, Mariah Carey and Slade while I was writing. Once I got immersed in the story it was much easier, and I was quite surprised (and a bit disappointed) when I stopped writing for the day and discovered that I wasn’t in my woolly penguin socks, hibernating from a snowstorm.

3.) Which fictional character would you like to kiss underneath the mistletoe?
Oooh, my favourite kind of question! But also the hardest to answer, because how can I pick just one? It would either be John Thornton from North and South, or Ross Poldark. They’re both a bit brooding, but I’m sure they’d be excellent kissers, and would look lovely with snowflakes in their dark hair. What a lovely daydream.

4.) What would your dream puppy be to find underneath the tree this Christmas?
A cockapoo! I love them. I keep looking at photos, and “cockapoo puppies to buy” pages on the internet. They are the most adorable breed of dog.

5.) Favourite Christmas food and drink? 
Pigs in blankets are so delicious, and I love a traditional turkey dinner. Drink would be mulled wine or champagne. There is never a bad time for champagne, but it’s extra delicious drinking it next to a twinkling Christmas tree with your loved ones around you.

6.) Favourite Christmas movie?
Elf. It’s hilarious and romantic and magical and it leaves you with the warmest glow. You know you can really get into the festive spirit when Channel 4 shows Elf.

7.) Do you have any Christmas traditions?
My family always have boiled eggs with soldiers on Christmas morning. It’s a tradition handed down on my dad’s side of the family, and now I can’t imagine having anything else.

8.) What’s your favourite thing about Christmas?
Do I have to narrow it down? I love snuggling up inside with my family, I love the colour and twinkle of Christmas lights. I love that everything sparkles, and I love London at Christmas. I love walking in the cold, with a woolly hat and scarf, and seeing the decorations and glow in windows, imagining everyone safe and warm and celebrating inside. Sigh. Is it December yet?

Thank you so much for sharing your Christmas with us Cressida! As a proud cockapoo owner I very much approve of your choice of puppy!

A Christmas Tail is available to buy from all good bookshops now. 
 Add A Christmas Tail on Goodreads here 
 Follow Cressida on Twitter @CressMcLaughlin

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Review for Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin

Christmas at Lilac Cottage 
by Holly Martin 
Publisher: Bookouture
Release: 23rd September 2015
Genre: Christmas, Romance
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Penny Meadows loves her home – a cosy cottage decorated with pretty twinkling fairy lights and stunning views over the town of White Cliff Bay. She also loves her job as an ice-carver, creating breathtaking sculptures. Yet her personal life seems frozen.

When Henry and daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage to rent the annex, Penny is determined to make them feel welcome. But while Daisy is friendly, Henry seems guarded.

As Penny gets to know Henry, she realises there is more to him than meets the eye. And the connection between them is too strong to ignore…

While the spirit of the season sprinkles its magic over the seaside town and preparations for the ice sculpting competition and Christmas eve ball are in full swing, can Penny melt the ice and allow love in her heart? And will this finally be the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of?"

Christmas at Lilac Cottage was my first Christmas read of 2015 and was a great way to kick off my festive reading giving me everything I could want in a cute, cosy, Christmas story. This book made me laugh out loud and gave me the warm fuzzies when I was only a few chapters in which is always a good sign!

The book follows Penny, a lovely woman with a tragic past who is facing another Christmas alone in her lilac cottage in the seaside town of White Cliff Bay. Penny is lonely and looking for a bit of companionship and so she rents out her annex to Henry and his teenage daughter Daisy for Christmas in the hope of making friends. But Christmas is a magical time of year, and if Penny and Henry can let go of the ghosts of their past, love might be in the air.

I absolutely loved Penny, Henry and Daisy - they were each such warm, lovable characters that you wanted the best for especially after the heartache of their pasts. They really delivered a wonderful message about family which is especially important at Christmas time.

I also loved how this book was festive from beginning to end. The book radiated Christmas from the small things like Penny’s cosy little cottage to bigger things such as the ice carving contest. You truly get in the festive mood whilst reading this book.

The romance between Penny and Henry was the perfect balance of sweet and sexy. My only complaint is that I felt things moved very quickly between them. Using the L word after only knowing each other for a week was a bit too much for me and I’d have preferred a slower burning romance over time.

Christmas at Lilac Cottage was my first book by Holly Martin and it certainly won’t be my last. I’m happy that I have a second White Cliff Bay novel ‘Snowflakes on Silver Cover’ ready waiting for me. If it’s anything like this one it’ll be the perfect feel good Christmas read!

Friday, 6 November 2015

The Twelve Books of Christmas

November 6th may be early to start thinking about Christmas for some people, but as a book blogger I've been receiving lots of Christmas books for review over the last few weeks and I find that if I don't start reading and reviewing them as soon as November 1st hits I'd never get through them all before Christmas!

I think that more Christmas books have been released this year than ever before and so for today's post I decided to share with you the twelve books on my TBR that I'm the most excited to read this Christmas for anybody looking for some festive reads to add to their reading piles.

Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin 
So, I'm cheating a little bit by including this one because I'm currently reading it but I'm thoroughly enjoying it so far and I'm looking forward to reading the rest, so it counts! This book made me laugh out loud and gave me the warm fuzzies when I was only 10% in on my Kindle. The characters are so warm and likeable and I love the town of White Cliff Bay. This is a feel-good Christmas romance about a woman called Penny who rents her annex out to a man and his daughter over the Christmas period, and of course with a dash of Chirstmas magic love is in the air! I think this'll be perfect for anyone looking for a festive romance. There's also a second book set in the same town that's out now 'Snowflakes on Silver Cove' that you can jump into after!

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot 
This one has been getting some wonderful reviews from my blogger friends already so I'm very excited to read it! This festive treat is set in New York as Hayley takes her daughter to try and find her dad. I've always wanted to visit New York at Christmas and sadly it hasn't happened for me yet so I'm looking forward to going on horse-drawn carriage rides through central park with Hayley and her daughter this Christmas instead!

Make A Christmas Wish by Julia Williams 
If the cute, festive romances mentioned above aren't for you and you'd like something a little more sentimental then Make a Christmas Wish could be perfect for you. This reminds me of a book I read and loved called 'The Dead Wife's Handbook' which makes it very appealing to me. This story follows Livvy who died last Christmas, in the months since her death she's floated on the edge of the afterlife because she's not ready to leave her son and husband behind just yet. This Christmas she's been given one last magical chance to put things right for her family before leaving them for good. This sounds like the kind of book that will make me cry and hold on to my loved ones a little bit tighter this Christmas.

Every Time a Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington 
Don't put the tissues away just yet! I have another Christmas weepy here! Every Time a Bell Rings is inspired by the Christmas movie classic 'It's a Wonderful Life' and follows a similar theme. Belle and her partner Jim are foster parents and although they're not supposed to they've grown particularly attached to little Lauren who's now ready to go back to her mother. Unable to cope Belle finds herself standing on The Ha’Penny Bridge and wishes she'd never been born. But little does she know an angel is listening whose ready to show her that life is for the living. This is a must read for anyone who loves 'It's a Wonderful Life' and is looking for a little magic this Christmas!

Lily and the Christmas Wish by Keris Stainton 
I love Keris' YA books and was really excited when I heard that she had written a Christmas book for children. The book itself sounds very sweet - the little town of Pinewood are celebrating Christmas this year by putting up a Christmas tree and asking all of the town's people to hang a Christmas wish on the branches. But after a storm blows in the wishes get granted but mixed up! Lily, her brother and her pug must sort out the wishes or else nobody in her little town will get what they want for Christmas this year. I'm planning on getting this for my seven year old cousin for Christmas and it sounds so sweet that I'm going to have to get a copy for myself too!

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig 
So when Stephen Fry blurbs a book saying "Matt Haig has written the most evergreen, immortal Christmas story to be published for decades" you better believe that I'm going to want to read it! This is another children's book although this is aimed for the middle grade market. I really don't know much about it other than it's beautifully illustrated by Chris Mould and is about a boy who isn't afraid to believe in magic. I think this will be a brilliant book for anyone, of any age and did I mention it is blurbed by Stephen Fry? BECAUSE IT IS!

All Wrapped Up by Holly Smale 
Moving on up to YA books, this Christmas we have a Geek Girl special from Holly Smale. This is a Geek Girl short Christmas story that takes place between books one and two. I love Harriet Manners and can't wait to spend Christmas with her and her friends and family. This is one of the only YA releases I could find that is out this year which I think is a real shame. I'd love to see more Christmas YA on the shelves but in the meantime I will be cherishing this one!

A Wedding at Christmas by Chrissie Manby 
Another family that I can't wait to spend Christmas with this year is the Benson's! This is the fourth book in the 'Proper Family' series and I can't wait to catch up with this lovable family that after four books I've grown very attached to! I won't say too much about this one as it's part of a series, other than to say that I'm very much looking forward to attending a certain couples wedding!

The Winter Wedding by Abby Clements 
If you're in the mood to attend a white wedding this Christmas but haven't read the 'Proper Family' series then look no further than standalone The Winter Wedding! I love Abby's books and her debut 'Meet Me Under the Mistletoe' is one of my all-time favourite Christmas reads so I'm very excited for another winter book from her. This is about a wedding planner who dreams of finding her own happy ending this winter all whilst juggling the stress of planning two very different weddings!

A Christmas Tail by Cressida McLaughlin 
This sounds like such a me book as it's about two of my favourite things dogs and Christmas! This is a bind up of the four Primrose Terrace novellas. This series follows Cat - Primrose Terrace's dog walker and ends with the final story taking place at Christmas. If you love dogs this sounds like the perfect read for curling up on the couch with your dog at your side this Christmas.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson 
This is another bind-up of books that was first released as short novellas. It's one of the first Christmas books I heard about and got excited for this year. After breaking up from her long-term boyfriend Claudia suddenly finds herself spending Christmas alone and so she decides to embark on a new adventure and have twelve dates before Christmas to discover who she is and what she wants in life and love.

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin 
I've wanted to read Rebecca Raisin's books for a while and when I first heard about The Little Bookshop on the Seine - the first book in her new trilogy - I knew this was where I had to start! This book features books, Paris and Christmas. Seriously, what more could you want from a book? The story is about bookshop owner Sarah who decides to exchange bookshops with her Parisian friend for six months. Needless to say I'm very excited to follow Sarah's bookish adventures in Paris over Christmastime! 

 So those are the twelve books that I'm the most excited to read during the build up to Christmas this year. Hopefully I've added a little something for everyone and there is something here that you like the look of. 

Keep your eye on the blog for plenty of festive reviews and posts in the upcoming weeks!
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