24 December 2011

My Favourite Christmas... by Ali Harris

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the winner of my Chick Lit Book of the Year Award, Ali Harris!

Until recently, my favourite Christmases were all about the past, not just my childhood but the romantic past, the ‘olden days’, if you will. Just like Evie, my main character in Miracle on Regent Street, I’m a sucker for old-fashioned values and I’m such a romantic that I desperately want Christmas to feel like it does in the great old American movies, or even better, when I was a child.

But ever since I discovered that Father Christmas didn’t actually exist (I KNOW, it really ruined my festivities last year!) I’ve enjoyed the anticipation of the day much more than the day itself.  But whilst I adore the breathless preparations, watching magical Christmas films like It’s a Wonderful Life and walking through the frosty, fairy-lit streets doing my late night shopping and then wrapping the presents in front of a roaring fire, I can’t help but hanker after those bygone days when Christmas was truly magical.

But then I remind myself that even for those of us who doubt that an overweight old man in a red suit delivers our presents, this time of year can still be magical because it makes you feel like anything is possible. For us, Christmas is about believing in ourselves, in our family, our friends, in our dreams and life decisions. It’s about reminiscing without regret and looking ahead with anticipation. And that’s what I’ve been doing…until now.

Because this year with two children of my own – a 9 month baby girl and a nearly-3-year-old boy who understands Christmas for the first time – I’m blessed with the honour of being Santa Claus myself. I’m giving the magic, not receiving it. I can’t wait to put my little boy to bed on Christmas Eve, to tiptoe into his room when he’s asleep and fill his stocking with presents, then watching him wake on Christmas morning when he discovers with all the joy, innocence and wonder that only a child who believes can have that Santa Claus has been.

And I can tell you that this year, there’ll be no more hankering after Christmases past, or wondering what the future will bring. Instead, I’ll be concentrating on putting this Christmas in a little box for me to hold on to forever. And for that reason, this Christmas – the Christmas present – is my favourite of all.

You can read my review of Ali's brilliant book Miracle on Regent Street here. You can also buy the book in paperback or as an eBook!

Merry Christmas Eve!

23 December 2011

My Favourite Christmas... by Sasha Wagstaff

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the fab Sasha Wagstaff!

I LOVE Christmas and everything about it, so this is going to be an absolute pleasure for me to write about!

On the 1st of December (or as close to it as possible), I like to get the Christmas decorations down from the loft and set about transforming the house into a glittery, twinkly wonderland. (When I say ‘I’ here, I do, of course mean that my husband climbs up into the loft and does much of the pinning up of tinsel and lights). We carry this out whilst drinking homemade mulled wine (a la Nigella – hers is the best recipe I have found to date – very boozy with the addition of dark rum) and bowls of nuts and crisps.

I always watch Christmas films whilst wrapping presents – Love Actually, The Holiday, It’s a Wonderful Life are an absolute must (and for my husband ‘White Christmas as it reminds him of his youth). Again, present-wrapping should be accompanied by mulled wine, Baileys or champagne, ideally. I’m quite anally-retentive about present-buying – I have a spreadsheet (eek, I can’t help it – I’m a Virgo!) but I have a lot of people to buy for and otherwise, I’d be ditzy and buy the same things again. People often refuse to give me lists, saying ‘just buy whatever you think I’d like – you buy such lovely things’ – little do they realise that I stress and agonise about this level of pressure! (I love it really). Christmas Day is always spent with my parents and until all the children arrived, we would sit in the same place to open our presents and insist that my mother put up the same decorations year in, year out but these days, new decorations have replaced the old and we sit wherever we can find a pew these days as the children jostle to open all their gifts!

Christmas Day dinner must be eaten with the Top of the Pops Christmas special on in the background (or at very least, Christmassy music) and it’s a long affair, taking place over several hours, with cheese courses, liqueurs and chocolates, coffee and anything else we can cram in. Traditionally, we do a brisk walk around the block after the meal, to work off some of the calories and get some fresh air. It’s also fun nosing into people’s house as it gets dark and seeing them enjoying their Christmas Day afternoon or watching children trying out their new bikes in the street. We then have a picnic tea of cold meats, pickles and bread – delicious!

As much as I love doing the same things every year, I also like the idea of starting up some new traditions, especially since my eldest daughter is almost three. So, it’s new winter pyjamas for everyone to open / wear on Christmas Eve and the Christmas morning muffins I usually bake will have chocolate chunks added to them. I may even replace the champagne with hot chocolate – for the girls, anyway! I also love the sound of Jill Mansell’s glittery roast potatoes, so I might just have to try that one out and Veronica Henry’s mince pies with orange pastry and brandy butter sound divine….see, I love this whole Christmas lark!

All that’s left to say is: have a wonderful Christmas everyone…and enjoy your traditions, new and old x

You can read my review of Sasha's book Wicked Games here. You can buy the book as a paperback and an eBook now. 

22 December 2011

Giveaway: Win a copy of 'Confessions of a Karaoke Queen' by Ella Kingsley

Thanks again to the lovely Hannah at Little,Brown, I have another amazing giveaway for you today! I have 5 copies of Ella Kingsley's fab new novel Confessions of a Karaoke Queen to give away, and all you have to do is fill in the Google form below to enter.

It closes on January 2nd 2012 at midnight, and is open to UK residents only. One entry per household. Good luck!

My Favourite Christmas... by Scarlett Bailey

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the lovely Scarlett Bailey!

My favourite Christmas was when I was a little girl, I must have been about six because my mum and dad were still married. I had a very seventies and eighties childhood, never really saw much of my dad because he got in from work after I went to bed and always seemed to be locked up in his shed every spare minute. And to make matters worse he wouldn't let me see what he was doing! I remember feeling very dejected and let down. And then that Christmas, as I crept downstairs early that morning to see what Santa had left me, I found out what Dad had been up to. My dad had been building me a dolls house in secret for all of these months! It was beautiful, a perfect Georgian mansion, almost as tall as me and decorated with wallpaper, carpet and lights that worked, as well as furniture that he had made himself. It was a gift full of love and care, and even at that young age, I think I sensed that, which made me treasure it all the more.  I have never been so delighted and surprised by a gift since, and remembering lying on the floor playing with that dolls house is still my fondest memory of Christmas.

Nowadays I still love to recreate that particular retro Seventies Christmas vibe! No fashionable or tasteful decorations for me, unlike Katy in The Night Before Christmas, who is fond of gingham and wicker, I love tinsel, sparkles, lots of lights, and all the colours all at once. I even still have some of the decorations that went on the tree when I was a child.

I adore Christmas carols, and Christmas songs, so I will have Bing on the i-pod crooning 'White Christmas' in the morning, while I'm preparing Christmas lunch, and then, after eating as much Christmas food as I can (without bursting) I will settle down on the sofa with my friends and loved ones, a very large glass of Bailey's and get ready for a movie. You can't go wrong with The Sound of Music, Miracle on 34th Street or It's a Wonderful Life, but my very most favourite film to watch on Christmas day is Gone With the Wind. Three hours of a girl called Scarlett kicking butt and snogging Rhett Butler. What better to round off a perfect day?

This year I'll be with the people I love, mostly burning or undercooking stuff, while my mum tells me where I'm going wrong, and I'm looking forward to having a house full of all my best people, after all, that's what Christmas is really all about, isn't it? Being with the people you love. Oh and lots and lots of lovely presents, too. Obviously.

You can read my review of Scarlett's debut novel The Night Before Christmas here. You can buy the book as a paperback or as an eBook now!

21 December 2011

Chick Lit Chloe's 2011 Awards!!


Welcome to my very first  Chick Lit Chloe Awards for 2011! I've copiously examined each and every one of the 118 books I have read this year, and chosen what I think are the best of the best. Not all books could make it onto this list, but I think I've made the right choices! There have been so many fantastic books this year, and it wasn't easy to cut it down to just the few mentioned on the lists! Congratulations to all the winners, and also those who made it onto my shortlists as well! Enjoy!

Chick Lit Chloe's 'Book Of The Year '2011
- Miracle on Regent Street by Ali Harris

- The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
- Fallen Angels by Tara Hyland
- The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon
- Lessons In Laughing Out Loud by Rowan Coleman
- Me And My Sisters by Sinead Moriartt

Christmas Book Of The Year 2011
- The Night Before Christmas by Scarlett Bailey AND Miracle On Regent Street by Ali Harris

- Home For Christmas by Cally Taylor
- The Perfect Christmas by Georgie Carter
- Wrapped Up In You by Carole Matthews

Female Character Of The Year 2011
- Willow from Lessons In Laughing Out Loud by Rowan Coleman

- Romily from 'It Started With A Kiss' by Miranda Dickinson
- Evie from 'Miracle On Regent Street' by Ali Harris
- Gracie from 'Unlike A Virgin' by Lucy-Anne Holmes
- Issy from 'Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe' by Jenny Colgan
- Alice from 'Instructions For Bringing Up Scarlett' by Annie Sanders
- Stella from 'Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes' by Sue Watson

Male Character Of The Year 2011
- Steve from 'An Autumn Crush' by Milly Johnson

- Dermot from 'Breakfast At Darcy's' by Ali McNamara
- Jack Wolfe from 'Who's Afraid Of Mr Wolfe?' by Hazel Osmond
- Prince Richard from 'To Marry A Prince' by Sophie Page
- Guy from 'Monday To Friday Man' by Alice Petersen
- Rory from 'The Secret of Happy Ever After' by Lucy Dillon

Book Cover Of The Year 2011
I Heart Vegas by Lindsey Kelk 

- Miracle on Regent Street by Ali Harris
- (Un)Like A Virgin by Lucy-Anne Holmes
- One Minute to Midnight by Amy Silver
- Something From Tiffany's by Melissa Hill (original blue cover)
- The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
- Private Lives by Tasmina Perry

Celebrity Novel Of The Year 2011
- Denial by Coleen Nolan

- The Camera Never Lies by Tess Daly
- New Begininngs by Fern Britton
- The Importance Of Being Myrtle by Ulrika Jonsson

Tear-jerker Of The Year 2011
Lessons In Laughing Out Loud by Rowan Coleman

- The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon
- Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt
- The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Debut Novel and Author Of The Year 2011
- The Night Before Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

- Monday To Friday Man by Alice Petersen
- RSVP by Helen Warne
- Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes by Sue Watson
- Who's Afraid of Mr Wolfe? by Hazel Osmond
- It Happened in Paris by Molly Hopkins
- Lizzy Harrison Loses Control by Pippa Wright

Women's Fiction Book Of The Year 2011
The Secrets Between Us by Louise Douglas

- The Look of Love by Judy Astley
- The House By The Sea by Santa Montefiore
- What The Nanny Saw by Fiona Neill
- Ophelia in Pieces by Clare Jacob
- The Mistresses Revenge by Tamar Cohen
- The First Wife by Emily Barr

My Favourite Christmas... by Ali McNamara

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the fabulously festive Ali McNamara!

My favourite Christmas…

Movie: I’ve always loved Miracle on 34th Street – who hasn’t wanted to prove Santa is real! And my new favourite would be Serendipity, (a lovely movie I only discovered this year!) because of events in my own life throughout 2011...

Food: Cold left overs on Boxing Day. I much prefer this to the actual Christmas day lunch, so much more relaxed… Or my homemade Mince pies – which are pretty special I have to say ;-)

TV: The TV in recent years has been pretty rubbish in my opinion. But it always used to be a comedy special like Only Fools & Horses.

Present: As a child I can still remember the wonder of trying to figure out just how Santa got all the way around the world in one night…. As an adult it was my first computer. And look where that led…

Decoration: The glitter covered pinecones my children decorated and brought home from playgroup. They still come out and adorn our tree even now they’re both teenagers.

Tradition: Making my children wait until after breakfast to open their presents. I always had to, so now they do too! But they have a stocking of little gifts they’re allowed beforehand just to keep them going…

Song: This year I’m really enjoying Michael Buble’s Christmas album. He has the perfect voice for Christmas songs.

But my all time favourite would have to be Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

Ever: I’m hoping might be this year… We’re going to New York just before Christmas. I’ve always wanted to go and stand under the big Rockefeller Christmas tree and make a wish!  & this year I’m going to do just that .

Merry Christmas & a healthy happy 2012 to all!

Ali :)

You can read my review of Ali's latest book Breakfast at Darcy's here. You can buy the book in paperback and as an eBook now!

20 December 2011

Author Article: Ronni Cooper

The Life of the Bonkbuster - by Ronni Cooper

The eighties are remembered for many things. Leg Warmers. Shoulder pads. Live Aid. Bananarama. Hair that was the approximate size of a herbaceous bush and sprayed to the consistency of steel.

But for me, one thing defined the eighties more than any other (yes, even more than my definite plans to marry the lead singer of Wham). The eighties were all about the bonkbuster.

Women like Jackie Collins, Judith Krantz, Jilly Cooper and Shirley Conran were writing about characters so glamorous they made Pamela Ewing on Dallas seem dowdy. These books oozed sex, scandal and glamour. But most of all, they featured strong, sassy women who weren’t afraid to go after what they wanted, or to fight for what they believed was theirs.

For a teenager on a council estate in the Scottish sticks, it sure beat the monotony of watching soaps on one of our four television channels.

I became a permanent fixture at our local library, thirsty for another date with Sidney Sheldon. I found myself dreaming about New York, Los Angeles, the avenues of Paris and Rome. I’d read late into the night, using the light of my electric blanket so my parents wouldn’t find out that I was skipping sleep in favour of a bitchy boardroom battle or an explosive act of deadly revenge. Looking back, it’s a wonder I didn’t get caught or suffer chronic heat exhaustion.

It wasn’t long before the books had a dramatic effect.

While my friends were planning careers, I was dreaming of travelling, of riches and of meeting sex-Gods called Lance. While my family was suggesting suitable university options, I was working out an entry strategy for a life of adventure. I’d been shown another world and somehow I was going to live in it.
Two decades later, all those dreams pretty much worked out.

I’ve lived in New York, Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong and Shanghai. I’ve met sexy, glamorous people that would be right at home on the pages of Miss Collins. I’ve danced with scandal and had my share of wild adventures. And every moment of this life was inspired and shaped by those eighties bonkbusters.

Now I’ve come full circle and I’m the one who is writing those epic, sexy tales that send the temperature soaring (with or without the aid of the electric blanket). Thanks to Jackie, Judith, Jilly, Shirley and Sidney, I can honestly say that the stories are based on experiences that were inspired by the lessons they taught me.

Well, most of them.

I’m still holding out for a sex-God called Lance.

You can read my review of Ronni's new book Manhattan, due out on 22nd December 2011, here. You can buy the book on Amazon.co.uk as a paperback or as an eBook. You can follow Ronni on Twitter and on Facebook.

My Favourite Christmas... by Talli Roland

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the fab Talli Roland!

Christmas. Well, what’s not to like? You’ve got food, you’ve got wine, you’ve got live greenery indoors . . . it’s all good, as far as I’m concerned.

Growing up in Canada, one of my favourite parts of the festive season was going into the forest to cut down the Christmas tree. Wrapped up so tightly we could hardly move, my family would tramp through knee-deep snow in an effort to find the perfect one. However, I quickly learned that Nova Scotia woods usually produce lopsided, scraggly specimens that are so packed together, they must fight for light. Needless to say, our trees were never ideal, but that was all part of the fun. After loading it with tinsel and decorations, it was just about passable.

It’s never a real Canadian Christmas without snow. Although I’m a firm snow-hater, I can’t deny its magical impact at Christmastime. One Christmas Eve, the snow started drifting down from the sky in those big, fat flakes that look like they’ve been sculpted. Soon, everything was covered in a white blanket. It was a wonderful prelude to Christmas.

My favourite Christmas Day activity is curling up in front of the fire with a brand new book to read. As the scent of roasting turkey drifts through the air, there’s really nothing better than that cozy, warm feeling.  Ahhhh . . . I can’t wait.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without mulled wine. Spicy, steamy and oh-so-easy to drink. It just adds to the warm glow inside!

Talli Roland has three loves in her life: chick lit, coffee and wine. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine). Her debut novel, The Hating Game, was an Amazon Top 100 bestseller and shortlisted for Best Romantic Read at the UK’s Festival of Romance, and her second, Watching Willow Watts, was selected as a 2011 Amazon Customer Favourite. Build A Man is her latest release. Talli blogs here and can be found on Twitter here.

19 December 2011

Book Review: The Fat Chance Guide to Dieting by Claudia Pattison

Think nothing tastes as good as slim feels? You're obviously not eating the right food . . .

 Holly, Naomi and Kate are determined to win the battle of the bulge. So it's down to the local slimming club, where carbs are strictly off the menu and there's no escaping the scales. But calorie-counting isn't the only thing on their minds.

Newly engaged Holly should be over the moon. So why does she blush every time her sexy boss walks into the room? Curvaceous Naomi finds herself the object of a very unusual fetish and a shocking secret is revealed when an unexpected visitor arrives on Kate's doorstep.

Yet with a little group support (and a particularly brutal weight loss boot camp) the women manage to stick to their regime, in time for the glamorous Slimmer of the Year Awards. But with tempting buffet tables, highly competitive contestants and even the odd fat fetishist lurking, it's anyone's guess as to what will happen . . .

This is a book that immediately caught my eye when I was sent a copy for review, mainly because of the cover if I'm honest! It made the book look really fun, and certainly like something I would enjoy reading! Claudia Pattison hasn't released a book for a while, but has also published under the pen name of Leonie Fox, so you may have read some of her novels under that name too. Weirdly, I tried reading her books under this name but couldn't get into them, yet this one had me hooked from the start and I really enjoyed every single page of this book. It probably isn't the sort of thing you *need* to read after stuffing your face at Christmas with god knows how many calories, but it is a fun and fantastic read that will have you laughing along as you turn the pages!

There are three main characters in this book; Kate, Naomi and Holly. Each of them are very different, and have major things going on in their lives, as well as their desperate need to lose weight. Each of them joins Fat Chance, a slimming club to lose a few pounds but didn't expect to make some great friends too. Kate is a bit of a workaholic, a widow after losing her husband in an accident, and is about to get a huge surprise that will turn her world upside down. Meanwhile, Naomi is a talented photographer but her relationships with men leave much to be desired, and the other girls aren't sure about their friends' ideas either. Finally, Holly is happy as a PA and in her relationship but soon begins to question where she is going with her life. They were three great characters, I have to confess to liking Holly and Kate a lot more than Naomi, I just couldn't agree with her choices, but it certainly made for interesting reading, especially when things about Kate's relationship come to light, it does shed a whole new light on it! However, each of the women seem very real and I liked that as I read about them, I could imagine myself thinking like them, and worrying about things like they did, they were really great characters, and I like that the book chopped and changed who it followed so each of the women got equal time in the book.

Fat Chance isn't a slimming club based on any particular one that is out there, it seems to be a bit of a mix of all of them, but it's done in a really funny way! The club leader is hilariously awful, patronising and cruel rather than friendly and inspiring, but it does make for some very funny reading I have to say! However, despite the book's title, I found that the weight loss idea seemed to be secondary to the main story which were the life events of the three main ladies and I liked this, that they didn't make the weight loss the be all and end all of everything. The boot camp scenes are rather funny, and provide a good change of scenery towards the end of the book to keep your attention piqued. There is a lot going on throughout to keep you entertained and I found Pattison's writing was really easy to read, and really gets you interested in the characters and wanting to know what they are going to do  next.

Overall, I thought this was a really great book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, and will certainly look out for more books by Claudia Pattison after reading this! It's a fun and light-hearted look at weight loss, yet she manages to throw in some more serious issues there too, ones that really make you think and I thought they added a deeper element to the book that I really enjoyed. There are three main characters that a lot of women will be able to relate to in some way, and the funny moments at the 'Fat Chance' slimming club are worth reading it for alone! I think the publishers have done a really good job with the cover too, it really suits the book and I'm sure a lot of people would be tempted to pick it up and find out more! I really enjoyed every page of this book, and definitely recommend it to anyone who loves a really great read full of fun and great characters.

Rating: 5/5

You can pre-order The Fat Chance Guide to Dieting in both paperback and as an eBook now. (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

My Favourite Christmas... by Lindsey Kelk

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming one of my fave authors, Lindsey Kelk!!


My name is Lindsey and I’m a Christmas-a-holic.

I suppose I first realised I had a problem with the season of goodwill when I took custody of my nana’s two foot silver glitter Christmas tree to go in my bedroom when I was nine. Then, when I was twelve, I  had to buy three Sweet Valley High books to read overnight since I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep. At nineteen, I risked the wrath of my make uni roommates by waiting up until midnight on November 30th to put up the decorations. After that, it only got worse. Now, at the age of thirty-one, things are more dangerous than they’ve ever been because I’ve found the most terrifying enabler on the planet – New York City.

I mean, let’s face it, Christmas is pretty brilliant anywhere but for me, New York just takes it up to the next level. I want to see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Musical Hall, I want to skate in Central Park, see the tree at the Rockefeller Centre and generally walk around listening to Christmas Wrapping on my iPod and gurning like a mental at everyone who walks by. Something wonderful happens in NYC as soon as Thanksgiving hits. I do my bit by wearing nothing but sequins and glitter from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve and my friends do their bit by not drawing attention to it. I occasionally burst out into ‘All I Want for Christmas’ at happy hour and my apartment looks like Santa got wasted, had a house party and then threw up tinsel everywhere. But it isn’t just me, it’s everyone. From Central Park to Coney Island, people have a hint of a smile, you can feel spirits lifting and chestnuts really are roasting on an open fire, on every street corner. It’s a miracle not just on 34th Street but all over the city.

Of course, there are some home comforts that are sadly missing. Cadbury advent calendars, After Eights and Terry’s Chocolate Oranges (we’re a classy bunch, my family) amongst other things. Last year, I hosted a Boxing Day get together at my apartment and had to pay through the nose for a tin of Quality Street and a pork pie. It was painful. But when it skies opened at five pm and New York gave me the Christmas gift of a foot of snow, I knew it was worth it. It’s been said before but I really do heart New York and never more than at Christmas time.

You can read my review of Lindsey's fab new book I Heart Vegas here. You can buy the book in paperback or as an eBook now!

18 December 2011

My Favourite Christmas... by Clodagh Murphy

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the delightful Clodagh Murphy!

I love Christmas – what's not to love about a long, lazy holiday dedicated to eating, drinking and making merry with your friends and family, with no need to pack and nothing more demanding expected of you than lazing around watching TV and eating chocolates?  Plus – presents!

Here are some of my favourite Christmas things.

Favourite Christmas song: Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes.  It's got bells jingling, it's got a horse whinnying, and best of all it's got Ronnie Spector's gorgeous voice.  What more could you wish for?

Favourite Christmas movie:  There are so many that I love, but it's got to be It's A Wonderful Life.  What would Christmas be like if George Bailey had never existed?  Okay, it would still be great – but maybe not quite as great.

Favourite Christmas TV: Miss Marple with Joan Hickson.  Because nothing says 'Christmas' like murder ... strange, but true.  My idea of a perfect Christmas afternoon involves a roaring fire, Miss Marple on the TV, a glass of hot port (see below) and a big slice of Christmas cake.

Midnight Mass – I'm not religious, but sometimes for nostalgia's sake I'm tempted back to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and nothing else can evoke childhood Christmases quite like the smell of frankincense and candle wax, and the choir singing 'Adeste Fideles'.

Favourite Christmas food:  All of it – mince pies, turkey with all the trimmings, leftover sandwiches (I love them almost more than the dinner itself), smoked salmon, plum pudding (even better the next day, fried in butter) ... I can feel the weight piling on just thinking about it.

Favourite Christmas drink: Hot port – stud a slice of lemon with cloves and put it in a glass, followed by a teaspoon of sugar and a generous measure of port.  I microwave the port a little at this stage so it's not too cold.  Top up with boiling water and stir.  Slurp and enjoy.  Yum!

Happy Christmas!

You can buy Clodagh's latest book Girl In A Spin as both paperback and on eBook now!

17 December 2011

My Favourite Christmas... by Shari Low

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the great Shari Low!

It’s impossible for me to choose a favourite Christmas day because they’ve all been spectacular. Every one has been filled with love, laughter and … erm, more laughter. But our yuletide celebration is about as far away from picture-perfect as it can possibly be.

Researchers claim that the most common time for a Christmas Day family dispute is 4.17pm. They’re pulling my cracker – my family has never made it past lunchtime.

I have two brothers that I love dearly, but break out the Monopoly and they immediately go from being my flesh and blood to enemies number one and two.

We can’t help ourselves. Normal people hear the phrase, “Want to play a game?” But for our brood the message somehow translates to “Come ahead and prepare to meet thy doom.”

Honestly, we don’t need the spirit of Christmas; we need a referee and someone to hold the coats.

When we were children my parents had to stop us playing together because a game of Snap required pre-emptive body search for blunt objects. 

Now? Forget rampant consumerism and society’s shift away from true meaning of the festive season.

The real scourge of Christmas comes in a box of pure evil called Pictionary.

It should be banned. Outlawed.

Describing a dodgy movie that a pre-sofa Tom Cruise made in 1984 results in strops, huffs and more fixing allegations than a week in a dodgy betting shop.  And in the case of my younger brother, it once also resulted in a scud across the back of the head delivered by a furious team-mate who overheard him calling her a liability. Our granny is fierce when provoked.

And much as I’ll only admit under extreme torture - After Eight depravation, Coldplay CDs – I’m the worst out of the three of us. If I say it’s Professor Plum in the library with the lead pipe then his mug shot better be on Crimewatch or I’ll sulk until Hogmaney.  Yes, I know it should be spelt Hogmanay but in 1992 I bet my brother ten pounds that it was spelt with an ‘e’ and I’m still refusing to concede defeat.

Sadly, however, the competition doesn’t extend to the kitchen. It would be fabulous if we were all in there chopping up a storm to see who could whip up the most delicious gastronomic treat.

I give you last year’s Christmas day debacle. We started well with a jolly festive Bucks Fizz over breakfast. Did that conjure up a Marks & Spencers advert-type image of a posh yuletide morning?

Em, not quite.

Shove over Twiggy ‘cause mine is the true face of Christmas: a tinsel headband, Pat Butcher’s flashing earrings, singing Westlife songs while sipping on the cultured delight of Lambrusco topped up with Sunny D.

Anyway, I then got distracted caught up in a battle to the death - I believe the official name is Ker Plunk – and two hours later realised that I’d forgotten to put the turkey in the oven.

Christmas lunch became Christmas dinner. By which time, the soup had gone off, you could grout tiles with the gravy and a game of Operation had resulted in the removal of two kidneys, a spleen and my oldest brother who’d been sent to another room for disorderly conduct.

But those turkey sandwiches were delicious and we worked them off with a game of Twister that ended with a pulled hamstring and tears of laughter.

As I said, we’ll never be picture perfect…. but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Merry Christmas!

Love, Shari xx 

You can buy Shari's latest book The Friday Night Girls as a paperback or on eBook now!

16 December 2011

Book Review: Confessions of A Karaoke Queen by Ella Kingsley

Maddie Mulhern is suddenly in charge. Her parents - former 80s pop duo Pineapple Mist - have left for the summer on a nostalgia tour, entrusting her to manage their struggling karaoke bar, Sing It Back. Panicking over the dodgy finances, Maddie takes a gamble: she signs up for a fly-on-the-wall reality TV series. With her faithful staff (divalicious drag queen Ruby, shy barman Simon and wannabe actress Jasmine) she'll transform the bar into a huge success. Simple. Right? Executive Producer Evan Bergman knows that scandal sells. It's no coincidence that he hires cool, attractive Nick Craven as director. Evan wants drama on screen - and he'll do anything to get it. As the series builds to a live finale, will Maddie see the truth in a Careless Whisper? Will Nick be able to keep his Poker Face? One thing's for sure: we all do things at karaoke that we regret ... 

This is another debut novel for 2011 that I've really been looking forward to. Ella Kingsley hasn't hidden the fact that the name is a pseudonym for another women's fiction writer, but it's apparently a hugely kept secret who that is, but I am very curious about it! I'm not sure about the need for all the secrecy but it seems to be a popular thing to do at the moment, writing under a pseudonym, so I do wonder if eventually it'll be revealed or we'll be forever guessing about exactly who it is! Anyway, I thought the idea for the book was great, and the cover is fantastic as well, a perfect girly cover that certainly jumps out at you. I loved the sound of it from the minute I read the synopsis, so I had really hoped that it would live up to my expectations!

The book centres around the character of Maddie, daughter of 80's popstars Pineapple Mist, and someone who is a bit embarrassed about that fact as well. Her parents own a karaoke bar, but she tends not to set foot in there because she doesn't do Karaoke, and it's her idea of a bad nightmare. However, when her parents run away on holiday and Maddie is left in charge of the karaoke bar, she takes it upon herself to sign it up to a reality TV show. Of course, some consequences occur and Maddie finds herself having to make a few hard decisions. I really did like her as a main character, and found she led the book really well. She doubts her decisions a lot of the time, but her heart is in the right place and I think she does well with her problems throughout the book, although she is a bit too naive about her ex-boyfriend for my liking!

I thought the setting for the karaoke bar was really great. I could imagine in my head Maddie's parents dancing around and loving every minute of it, and I felt Kingsley wrote those characters really well, even if they don't appear that much in the book. In fact, it was the other characters of the bar that were the best people. Drag Queen Ruby was fantastic, very camp and hilarious, fab American character Jasmine and even the awful TV producer Evan (the book's baddy!) were brilliantly written, and all came to life on the pages as I read. In fact, Evan is certainly the pantomime villain of the piece, and you can certainly work out what he's up to long before poor old Maddie does! The other character I liked who I felt we didn't see enough of was Nick, the director. I enjoyed his friendship with Maddie but wanted things to move faster than they did if I'm honest!

Overall, this was a really enjoyable and funny read that had me laughing in places, and cringing in others! Yes, perhaps Maddie was a bit blinkered and naive with certain things but other than that, it was really enjoyable and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It's one of those books you can pick up after a busy and stressful day and just sit and enjoy reading because you know you're going to like it. It's funny to read about all the old songs that come up throughout, and Maddie's real name as well... seriously?! Ella Kingsley has a great writing style whose first person narrative flows really well and immediately gets you hooked into the story to see how things will work out for Maddie and Pineapple Mist too! A great book to get stuck into, especially over the festive period where I'm sure we'll all be having an ill-advised go on the karaoke ourselves! Fab!

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Confessions of A Karaoke Queen in paperback or as an eBook now.

My Favourite Christmas... by Claire Allan

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the lovely Claire Allan!

Christmas is simple pleasures. Each year as a child there would be much anticipation of the putting up of the Christmas tree. There were no fancy themed decorated, no colour schemes, no twinkling multi function lights. The collection of baubles my mother had - and still has - were a mish mash of pieces collected over the years. Bright coloured glass trinkets, wooden figures, home made angels with wool for hair, Santas who looked more than a little camp. The one string of coloured, flower lights was draped over the tree. And our highlight was the ceremonial placing of our Christmas fair, a plastic figure wearing a tutu on top who we christened Matilda. (Indeed in my second novel Feels Like Maybe, the angel in 'Instant Karma' was named in her honour.)

All this would be done to the soundtrack of John Denver and the Muppets 'A Christmas Together' and we would go from singing sweeting along with Silent Night to jumping up and down in our new pyjamas to 'Little Saint Nick' - fighting to do the Animal solo.

Ceiling decorations were hung. Paper chains were made from sticky paper. Balloons were blown up and tacked to the ceiling. One or more of us (me having two sisters and a brother) would have no doubt made a crib in school from a shoe box, with a tin foil covered star and some plaster moulded figures. The fire was lit, the lights always seemed dimmed, and we would smell the soup cooking in the kitchen and the aroma of mammy's home made apple pies baking in the oven.

Christmas was perfect. It was simple. There was no rush and no fuss. There was a quiet anticipation to all and if I close my eyes I can still hear the late great John Denver singing Silent Night.

You can read my review of Claire's latest book If Only You Knew right here. You can buy the book in paperback at Amazon too!

15 December 2011

My Favourite Christmas... by Milly Johnson

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the brilliant Milly Johnson!

"I’m a ridiculous traditionalist at Christmas.   I like that it varies little from year to year.  It’s relatively quiet, the same people come for dinner, we eat more or less the same food, the day follows the same pattern, but to me it’s that dear familiarity that makes Christmas so special.  Once, I decided to rebel against the routine and we booked a 3 week cruise in the Caribbean.  No cooking, no Christmas shopping, no standing in queues at supermarkets beckoned.  We cancelled it because the kids didn’t want to spend Christmas away from their grandparents –and neither did I really.  So once again, I was there in Morrisons with my trolley full of pickled onions, booze and veg and when the big day came, I was so glad that I was there, pinney on, peeling spuds, roasting the turkey.

There are so many things I love about Christmas Day.  I love the look on the kids’ faces when they get something they’ve wanted (after I’ve told them there is ABSOLUTELY no chance they’re going to get it).  I love the fact there are magically no calories so a Baileys and Thorntons breakfast isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to my figure.  I love to see my parents relaxing on my sofa and doing absolutely nothing all day that taxes them.  I love the dog falling asleep on my dad’s foot whilst we’re watching Morecambe and Wise (The Andre Previn sketch – Christmas is not the same without it).  I love that last year the snow was so bad that my mum and dad – who only live across the road – stayed over.  I love that for a few days we are in a big warm messy cocoon with sleepy cats playing with tinsel and family and lovely things to eat and drink and new slippers and dressing gowns.

It’s the simple things I used to enjoy most myself about Christmas when I was little.  I remember when we got our first house with central heating in it and just for Christmas Eve dad used to keep the heating on all night.  I remember the Post Office set I wanted (and got) every year.  A new Enid Blyton book, turkey (we only ever had it at Christmas), my Nana’s home made Christmas cake and mince pies, lying in bed on Christmas Eve with my hot water bottle willing myself to get to sleep and then finding a huge pillowcase full of parcels at the bottom of my bed in the morning.  I loved watching the Sooty and Sweep Christmas special on the black and white TV whilst having a special breakfast of Ritz crackers and ‘squirty cheese’ (we still do this).  Every Christmas I’ve had has been 90% the same, 10% ring in the changes – some wanted, some unavoidable.  Alas ‘big school’ doesn’t have a carol service so this is the first year I won’t be sobbing in church with the other mums at ‘Little Donkey’ and watching a teacher trying to stop Joseph from picking his nose. 

It’s a time for making memories and I just hope that my boys take some lovely ones through to adulthood of Christmas with their grandparents lit up like the Christmas tree on brandy, the dog with a reindeer headdress on, the cats scoffing turkey and their mam enjoying every minute of it."

You can read my review of Milly's latest book An Autumn Crush here. It's available to buy in paperback or as an eBook now!

eBook News - Six Geese-a-Laying by Sophie Kinsella

Calling all Sophie Kinsella fans! Some exciting news for you all! Sophie has a brand new eBook out TOMORROW calling Six Geese-a-Laying, and it's a short Christmas story that also includes a sneak peek of her new novel due out February 2012, I've Got Your Number. It's due out tomorrow, December 16th, but unfortunately only available for those who have a Kindle... words can't describe how angry it makes me that this can happen... they moan we don't buy enough paperbacks yet do things like this exclusively for Kindle users. Very unfair but there you do. Oh, and did I mention it's free?!

"In Six Geese a-Laying, Christmas is approaching, and Ginny is looking forward to the birth of her first baby. It's a pity her partner Dan is so useless, and she has to keep reminding him where he's going wrong. Luckily she's enrolled into the most exclusive antenatal class going - all the highest achieving, smartest mothers-to-be aspire to be taught by the legendary Petal Harmon. Like the other five women in the class, Ginny already knows exactly what she wants, and how she's going to handle motherhood.But when they turn up for the final class it isn't quite what they expect. As Ginny discovers what parenthood is really going to be like, she begins to realize the things that really matter..."

You can pre-order Six Geese-a-Laying as an eBook now!

14 December 2011

Book Review: Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes by Sue Watson

Can you really make a living from indulging in your dreams? TV Producer Stella Weston is over worked, over weight and under fire. Having battled uphill for years to balance her career with her family life, she is repaid by being put out to pasture on a religious gardening programme complete with a nervous vicar, his nymphomaniac wife, and 22 stone Britney wannabe gardener, Gerald. In the past, comfort has always been found at the bottom of her mixing bowl but when even the most delicious lemon sponge with zesty frosting cannot save the day, Stella decides enough is enough. However, finding the courage to quit is sometimes the easy part. Can you really turn a passion into a profession? Does more time at home actually give you a happier family life? Are men truly from Mars or another universe altogether? Stella has to roll up her sleeves and find out - when the going gets tough, the tough get baking....

This is the second self-published novel I have decided to try this year, and I was tempted to read this one because the reviews on Amazon made it sound fantastic, and like a book I would really like... not mention I'm rather partial to a bit of cake myself! When the book arrived, I was really impressed with the quality of it - if you didn't know it was a self-published novel, you certainly wouldn't guess it was. The cover is also perfect for the story and has a really good look to it, so first impressions were really good! Once I had finished the book, I realised this book is another reason I am glad I've decided to give self-published a go - it was brilliant, and certainly deserves the great reviews it has been getting.

The lead character for this book is Stella. I loved her right from the off, and could really find myself relating to her a lot, perhaps why I liked her so much. She's a hard-working mum who loves her job, but is constantly feeling guilty that she isn't there enough for her daughter, and that her marriage is suffering too. After a particularly bad incident at work, Stella jacks in her telly job and instead resorts to being a stay at home mum, but finds she still needs to work to make ends meet. The other main characters are Stella's best friends, Al and Lizzie, and they are great too. I wasn't so keen on Lizzie because of some of the choices she makes, but the other friend, Al, the typical gay best friend was fantastic, and I actually thought Watson wrote the relationship between he and his fiancé Seb perfectly, it was a touching love story and the twist towards the end was shocking and really made me love them more!

I think a lot of mums out there will be able to relate to Stella, and her problems. For example, when she's away and she calls late at night wanting to speak to her daughter, but not being able to  - yes she knows she's wrong for calling so late but there's that irrational mum instinct that makes us need to talk to our kids whenever we want to. There's the problems with her marriage, and her struggle to pull herself together afterwards, I could certainly relate to that and loved how Stella decided to make something of herself with her business afterwards. I felt that Watson really did know what she was talking about with the cake business, and I loved how Stella started making pretty cakes out of her kitchen and then realising what a talent she had. I have a few friends who have done exactly the same thing as Stella, so I know that's a realistic story! But I just loved that Stella was a normal woman, and for that I think Watson did a great job writing this.

There are lots of things I loved about this book, and I can most definitely recommend it! I found the characters were realistic and likeable, especially the fab Stella, and not only was the main story fab, I found the sub-story within of Al and Seb's relationship fitted in perfectly and was lovely to read about alongside the main story of Stella and her cakes. I enjoyed reading about her success, and loved the way she handled herself after the things that happen to her. I found the book hard to put down because I wanted to see what Stella was going to do next, and I was sad when I turned the last page. However, I will be recommending this book to anyone who loves a great story with fab characters, because it's so enjoyable, and I loved every page. I defy you not to want to scoff a cake whilst reading it too, yum!

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes in paperback and as an eBook now! (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

My Favourite Christmas... by Lucy-Anne Holmes

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the lovely Lucy-Anne Holmes!

One of my favourite bits of Christmas, happens every year and never fails to make me giggle. It’s after Christmas dinner when the family is all sitting around the table. We’ve devoured the meal. We’ve fought over the crispiest roast potatoes, the crispiest turkey skin, the crispiest bacon wrapped sausage and we’re all talking again now. We’ve sat in the dark, throwing matches on a brandy soaked Christmas pudding and procured one tiny, fleeting flame.

We’re stuffed. Belts and top buttons are undone and the oceanic whir of the dishwasher is punctuated by the odd belch. We’re currently working our way though the cheeseboard. And one member of my family will always, always say something along the lines of.

            ‘Do you know what I’m going to do next year? I’m going to take up running. Can you push the Lurpack down this end, I’m too full to lean. I might do a half marathon.’

            ‘Oh, yes,’ My father who’s in his 70s with a dodgy leg, will say, looking up from his book about The Dukan Diet. ‘I’ll join you.’

            ‘Let’s all do it!’

            ‘Why not a full marathon?’

            ‘Or what about a triathlon!’

Thus we chatter about the ambitious diet and fitness regimes we plan to implement in the new year, and polish off an entire brie.


My all time, favourite, the number 1, the champagne, the 5 Star, the multiple orgasm, the ‘YES! YES! AND AGAIN PLEASE!’ of festive films has to be Love Actually. Ooo, I adore Love Actually. It’s a perfect festive rom com.

            Billy Mack, Bill Nighy’s hilarious jaded rock star, reworks the lyrics to the song Love is All Around to Christmas Is All Around. And in this film both love and Christmas are indeed all around, by the tinsel adorned bucketlaod.

            All the Christmas staples are here. The school nativity play.

            ‘They gave out the parts for the nativity play today.’

            ‘Oh, and what are you?’

            ‘The lobster.’

            ‘There was a lobster at the birth of Jesus?’

            ‘Yeah. Der.’

A battle for Christmas number one, where straight talking ex heroin addict, Billy Mack, goes head to head with squeaky clean boyband Blue.

            ‘Ask me anything,’ he says, to the DJ at Radio Watford.

            ‘Who’s the best shag you’ve ever had?’

            ‘Brittany Spears.’


            ‘Not really, I was joking….She was rubbish.’

There’s an office party, Christmas shopping, card writing, Christmas lights and snow flurries. And, of course, beautiful love stories, capable of making grown men weep, even my 6 foot 4 friend who’s built like a bungalow and known as Big Dong, blubbed like a baby.

You just can’t beat a man wiping away a tear whilst watching a good rom com. Go on, watch Love Actually, this Christmas.
You can read my review of Lucy-Anne's latest book (Un)Like A Virgin here. You can also buy the book in paperback and in eBook now!

13 December 2011

My Favourite Christmas... by Jill Mansell

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the fab Jill Mansell!

I will actually take a bet that I watch more Christmas films than any other author. As lots of people now know, I always have the TV on while I'm working. As soon as the Christmas cable channels start plying their wares, I'm there. I know all the movies and can watch them again and again. Go on, test me, I have most of them permanently imprinted in my brain!

I adore decorating the outside of our house ready for Christmas. In our road hardly anyone else does it. We don't go completely wild but I do love the icicle lights and plenty of glitter. And inside, we have a couple of trees, lots of candles and fairy-lights galore. My best new buy is a long-handled lighter that means I can light dozens of candles-in-jars and tea-lights without endlessly burning my fingers. Life-changing! We also enjoy decorating my bear. His name is Bear and there's a photo of him below - isn't he a fine figure of a bear?

We'll be here at home, as usual, for Christmas, with the rest of the family coming to us. We'll cook all the traditional food and have a wonderful day, and in the evening will crash out in front of the TV amid a sea of new stuff that doesn't yet have a proper home. On Boxing Day we'll go to our local pub with friends for a raucous afternoon of Christmas Karaoke. Food will be traditional Boxing Day things - hams and pickles and absolutely anything left over from the day before. The more cold roast potatoes there are, the better. Last year I sprinkled iridescent glitter over them for added pizazz. This year I've bought edible gold spray...

The other fabulous thing about Christmas is not doing any writing for a few days, which I probably shouldn't admit. Well, it's nice to have a break from all that hard work! But I'll always be secretly gathering ideas for future books, so it still manages to count as research.

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, everyone. And look, here's Bear!

You can read my review of Jill's latest book To The Moon and Back here. Jill's next boko A Walk In The Park is due out on 16th February 2012, and you can pre-order it in paperback or eBook now.

Book Deal: Amy Bratley signs new deal with Pan Macmillan

"Pan Macmillan has bought a novel following five couples in an antenatal class ahead of the births of their first children, written by author of The Girls' Guide to Homemaking, Amy Bratley.  

Editorial director for fiction Jenny Geras bought world rights in The Antenatal Group by Bratley through Veronique Baxter and Laura West at David Higham Associates. Pan will publish in mass market paperback in early 2013.

The novel follows five couples as they attend antenatal classes, and looks at the relationships they form, and their experiences of pregnancy, birth and parenthood.

Geras said: "For all the women's fiction that is out there about pregnancy and birth, I've never found anything like this which encapsulates what is such an important part of late pregnancy and early motherhood for so many women."

I really enjoyed Amy Bratley's debut novel The Girls' Guide to Homemaking which was released last year, so I am pleased that she will be back soon with a new book, it's just a shame we have to wait until 2013 to read it!

Taken from The Bookseller

12 December 2011

Book Review: Manhattan by Ronni Cooper

Raine: Born in Brooklyn, the undisputed queen of the City, Raine owns the sexiest, starriest nightclub in New York - and no one is ever going to take her crown. Mei-Lin: The beautiful, enigmatic madam moves in all the right circles - but it wasn't always that way. Now her American dream has become a nightmare and she may have to pay the ultimate price for freedom. Stevie: Once the lead singer of the biggest female rock band in the world, Stevie is now flying solo – but she has a secret that could destroy her. Now all three women are about to discover that payback is the biggest bitch of all… 

I read Ronni Cooper's debut novel Rock Chicks last summer, and to be honest, had mixed opinions on it. I liked the idea behind the story but found it a bit hard going and quite crude in places. However, I decided that I would give Ronni Cooper another go with her new book Manhattan. I'm not a huge fan of the cover, I don't generally like white covers as they look a bit bland, but the story sounded interesting, quite along the lines of something I'd expect from Tilly or Louise Bagshawe in a way. I settled down to read, unsure of what I would make of this one after my previous experience, but I didn't expect an utterly engrossing read that had me captivated right until the last page!

The book follows the lives of three ladies; Raine, Stevie and Mei Lin. Each of them has had their life ruined in some way by one horrible man - Jason Tang. Due to that fact, they're determined to make their new club 'Manhattan' a success, even though they're all sure Tang is going to somehow get his revenge on them one day too. However, the book doesn't really focus on the women's present day lives, instead the book is virtually the entire back story of all 3 women, told through alternating chapters from the early 1980's through to the mid-90's, which is the present day of the novel. I actually really enjoyed the way the book was told, changing the focus every other chapter as to which character it was following, but I found it really easy to keep up with it. This way of telling the tale allowed us to really get into the heart of these characters, what drove them to their determination in the present day, and made for really interesting reading.

Each of the characters were very different, and each had a very different story to tell. Raine witnessed the death of someone close to her, and is determined to get revenge for that death, no matter the cost. However, her path leads to her to find herself a career she least expected. Stevie is a talented singer, and heads up a famous rock band. At the height of their fame, someone surfaces with something that is set to ruin Stevie and her career forever, so instead she runs away from the problem, scared to hunt down those responsible. Finally, Mei Lin was taken from her childhood home at a young age and forced to work for Tang, doing unspeakable things that she will never forget. Mei Lin needs to get out, but has to find a way to escape that means Tang will never come after her. Eventually, the women decide to work together to bring down Tang, and hopefully rid themselves of the stain of all of their lives.

I have to warn you now that this book is not for the feint-hearted. Some of the scenes, especially those involving Mei Lei cover topics that some people may not like to read about, and some quite graphic scenes will not be suitable for all readers. I'll tell you the topic now - Mei Lin is a prostitute, working in various brothels and due to the nature of her job, sexual scenes are frequent and some make for uncomfortable reading at points. However, I feel that Cooper writes convincingly about the topic - it isn't something I know anything about, nor would I care to but I really felt for poor Mei Lin reading it and while I was cringing at what she was forced to do, it did add to the topic and didn't feel like it was in there just to shock the reader. Other unusual topics are covered within the books, also in Raine's scenes, with again some graphic scenes and description but again, it didn't feel too out of place given the nature of the book.

I have to confess that despite some of the topics covered which I didn't exactly enjoy reading about, I found the book as a whole was fantastic read that I didn't want to put down. I found the story to be exciting, constantly moving and as a reader, I really didn't know what was going to happen next which I loved. I really liked each of the characters, they made for such interesting reading and really worked for the story. I feel like Ronni Cooper has really stepped up her game for this new book, and its an extremely well thought-out and constructed story. This won't be everyone's cup of tea because of the themes within, but if you fancy something a bit different and a bit racy this Christmas, then do look out for a copy of Manhattan, I thought it was fab!!

Rating: 5/5

You can pre-order Manhattan in paperback or eBook now! (Links go to Amazon.co.uk)

Giveaway: Win a copy of 'Manhattan' by Ronni Cooper

Thanks to Hannah at Little,Brown publishers, I have another fab giveaway for you today! You can win one of five copies of Ronni Cooper's fantastic new novel Manhattan, which I'll be reviewing later this afternoon on the site. It's a superb and racy read, and you'll definitely want to read it!

To enter, simply fill in the Google form below, and answer the question correctly! Winners will be drawn from all correct answers at random after the closing date. One entry per household, open to UK residents only. Closes on Sunday 18th December 2011 at midnight. Good luck!

11 December 2011

My Favourite Christmas... by Tamar Cohen

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the brilliant The Mistresses Revenge author, Tamar Cohen!

"Favourite Christmas? They’re all favourites!

I have to say I’m not a natural Christmas person. To be honest, each November brings with it a sense of unease that builds until, by December, it has blossomed into full-blown panic. As a mother-of-three, the expectations of me seem so impossibly high. And being a rubbish-present-buying, non-cooking type of person makes me feel even more of a miserable under-achiever in the festive stakes. But here’s a funny thing: in spite of my inherent Scrouginess, I invariably end up loving Christmas.  I can’t pick out a single favourite as all are pretty much spent the same way - with my partner and kids, plus mum, sister, her family and sometimes my brother too. There’s something so reassuring about family traditions – even if those traditions mostly revolve around eating your bodyweight in Quality Streets and spending the day failing to coax recalcitrant kids into a Nice Bracing Walk. For four years between 2004 and 2008, we lived in Southern Spain and had a few Christmases there, which broke the usual festive mould. Breakfast on the terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, Turkey cooked in the outside bread oven, and a nice walk down to the beach rounded off with, for the more hardy of us (of which I’m certainly not one) a quick dip in the sea. Idyllic, but somehow not the same. Not Christmas As We Know It. One year my oldest son performed an ill-judged back flip off a rock, smashed his head as he came down and we ended up spending the rest of Christmas Day in the local A&E, while the in-laws waited at home wearing wilting paper hats and the turkey burnt to a crisp. Give me a traditional British eat-and-drink-all-day-in-front-of-the-telly Christmas any day – so much safer!

Favourite Christmas movie

There’s something about Christmas isn’t there, that allows you to set aside your critical faculties and wallow in schmaltz without feeling the least bit embarrassed? I can’t watch Love Actually at any other time of year without a cynical voice in my head reminding me I’m being emotionally manipulated, but at Christmas I become a total romantic. Andrew Lincoln standing outside in the cold with carols playing on a boombox and his declaration of unrequited love scrawled in black felt pen on giant cue cards. ‘To me you are perfect’. Come on, who wouldn’t melt just a little bit?

Favourite Christmas food

As a long-time vegetarian, I can take or leave Christmas dinner itself. But Christmas Day brunch? Now that’s a completely different kettle of smoked salmon. In our house, it’s the whole traditional hog – champagne and orange juice (in my mum’s case, just the champers – ‘what’s the point in spoiling perfectly good bubbly?’ she says), bagels and blinis, cream cheese, smoked salmon, twists of lemon, plenty of ground black pepper. Pre-brunch, the house is full of grumpy teenagers who’ve been woken up approximately a million hours before their habitual holiday wake-up time, and hyperactive younger children who’ve already consumed their entire chocolate selection box by 6.30am, but as soon as that first cork pops, smiles appear as if by magic and Christmas officially starts.

Favouite Christmas photo

This one of my dog Toffee last year after the kids dressed her up as a reindeer."

You can read my review of Tamar's debut novel 'The Mistresses Revenge' here. You can also buy the book in paperback and as an eBook!

10 December 2011

Book News: Tinseltown by Victoria Fox

It's been brought to my attention that Victoria Fox has brought out a festive story, and best of all it's free, and out now! Tinseltown is unfortunately only available for Kindle users (one of my biggest bugbears, its so unfair to those of us who only like PAPER books!) but it sounds like a great read, especially if you want to get into the Christmas spirit!

"Dom Judd is the hottest man in Hollywood. He'll do anything to get out of being a sexy Santa in Hollywood’s famous Tinseltown parade…but can he persuade his brother to take the reins? Waitress Clare has just been dumped. Playing Rudolph is hardly going to help her single status - until she sees how drop-dead gorgeous Father Christmas is! Laney Allen has shot to fame, but hates the limelight - and it seems only Santa can help her overcome her stage-fright... As the snow falls and sleigh bells ring, whose Tinseltown dreams will come true?"

You can buy Tinseltown as an eBook now!

9 December 2011

My Favourite Christmas... by Molly Hopkins

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the lovely Molly Hopkins!

"I love Christmas, who doesn’t? For me Christmas begins mid November, when my daughter starts dragging me around Top Shop and River Island dropping enormous hints. She’s exceptionally good at hinting, and I’m brilliant at spotting the clues, it’s uncanny really, it’s like we have a telepathic chord pulling our trails of thought together.

Dressing Room River Island, a good starting point for any dedicated Christmas shopper.
    ‘Mum it’s freezing now!’ She complains forcefully, and gives a little shiver to prove her point. ‘You may as well buy me the hat early so that I can get the full benefit of it.’
    She’s not wrong it is freezing.
    ‘Mmmmmm.’ I ponder, peering in the mirror at said hat that she’s jamming on my head. 
    ‘The hat suits you mum! Why don’t you buy one?  Buy it in a different color from me . . . and we can share,’ she suggests thoughtfully and in a rush, and then scooters out of the dressing room.
    I have to admit, I like the hat.  And she’s right, I decide assertively and in a business-like-way, what is the point of buying winter clothes right at the end of winter? The sooner I buy the hat, the better value it will be. It can be a Christmas present to myself, everyone buys themselves presents at Christmas. 
    She’s back!  And panting, staggering under the weight of a pyramid of coat hangers in her arms and a couple of handbags over her shoulder.
    She dumps the whole lot on the floor and smiles broadly.
    ‘Mum, they’re got a scarf, gloves, jacket and handbag to match the hat;’ she tells me informatively, wiping a bead of sweat from her forehead. ‘Shall we try it all on?’
    ‘We might as well,’ I agree, ‘because I don’t have anything to go with this lilac hat,’ I tell her truthfully, patting the hat which I’ve grown quite fond of.
    ‘And I don’t have anything to go with the orange hat,’ she says, sounding hard done by.
She picks the orange hat up from the floor and tweaks it on her head, and splays her 18 inch clip-on hair extension over her shoulder.
 ‘Mum, d’you know what is missing here that would go really well with this hat?’
    ‘No. What?’ I ask, a little bewildered, because judging by the state of the dressing room we have absolutely everything to go with the hat.
    ‘Nars Chelsea Girl lip gloss,’ she tells me, looking a bit wounded.
    ‘We’ll get some,’ I say, thinking she’s absolutely right now that she mentions it.

On the pavement priming our new hats and scarves awkwardly, weighted down with five River Island bags between us.
    ‘OK, where’s our shopping list? What are we buying for Auntie Pauline and cousin Bex?’ She asks.
    I bite my glove off and fumble for my shopping list in my coat pocket.
    ‘I was thinking of buying Auntie Pauline a dress to wear on New Year’s Eve, and Bex wants a dressy blazer,’ I tell her.
    She gives a happy shopper sigh. 
    ‘OK, well that’s easy enough, we’ll go to Top Shop,’ she says, pointing a gloved finger Topshopwards.
    ‘Right, let’s go,’ I say, keen to get cracking.