12 Reads of Christmas: Book 9 – Comfort & Joy by Cathy Bramley

12 Reads of Christmas: Book 9 – Comfort & Joy by Cathy Bramley

Author: Cathy Bramley
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Release Date: 13 October 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance Short Story

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The Blurb: 

**Contains Christmas recipes!**

Curl up with this fabulously festive short story from bestseller Cathy Bramley, full of Christmas cheer and sparkle.

It’s been a busy year for Verity Bloom at the Plumberry School of Comfort Food, but Christmas Eve is finally here. With delicious treats all wrapped up and the ingredients packed away, Verity is looking forward to a relaxing few days with her new boyfriend.

Good food, family and friends – it’s a simple recipe for true comfort and joy, and all Verity’s friends in the village are full of excitement about the holidays too.

But the weather has other plans in store… Relentless rain leads to a power cut that spells disaster for many of Plumberry’s residents. It’s starting to look like this year’s celebrations could be a total washout.

With dreams of a perfect Christmas dashed, will the last of the festive cheer be swept away in the downpour? Or can the cookery school create a Christmas miracle for everyone Verity holds dear?

The Review:

Sometimes your not quite ready to say goodbye to a character. For me this was definitely the case with The Plumberry School of Comfort Food.

When we left them Verity and Tom had finally gotten over themselves and become a couple to be reckoned with. Tom left the cooking school to open his own restaurant Dinner at Tom’s. Verity’s business seems to be going from strength to strength as students are tucked in here, there and everywhere learning everything they need to know for their Christmas dinners.

Rushed off their feet and surrounded by Turkeys and Chocolate Truffles Tom and Verity are looking forward to having a quiet Christmas just the two of them, and their steak dinner!

We also get to be reacquainted with some of Plumberry’s local business owners. Jack the town’s butcher and his lovely other half wine merchant Annabel – who appears to have something up her sleeve for the festive season, as Jack prepares for his children’s arrival.

Then there is cheesemonger Harriet who is taking Kevin, who appears to be the world’s largest turkey further north to Newcastle. That is before the news breaks that York is under considerable amounts of water as the Ouse has broken its banks and that the motorways are closed so there can’t be any non-essential trips for the foreseeable future.

On Christmas morning the rain is still siling down and it doesn’t look like it will be stopping anytime soon. It’s not long before a heartbroken Harriet is knocking at Verity’s door. What is everyone going to do? Are all the homes and businesses safe?

Readers in the UK will see a link to last Christmas in the north of England. The devastating floods that happened in the city of York. Those floods were that vast that some businesses still aren’t open. One thing did happen, the community spirit that rose from the boggy streets and houses was spectacular. The people who left all their plans behind to help those that were afflicted during this time was moving.

Cathy has tapped into this. I could see direct parallels between  what the people at Archbishop Holgate School and the surrounding emergency shelters were doing, and how on Christmas morning surrounded by power outages on hearing about everyone else’s misfortune Verity opens up the cookery school and with the aid of her trusty generator powers up the ovens. Flanked by Tom, Harriet, Pixie and Mags the doors are open to house everyone in need of help and an oven so they could have a warm meal and keep safe together.

This is another Cathy Bramley tale that I will hold close to my heart, and not just because I grew up just a few miles away from York. Verity is the person I hope most people would aspire to be. Fun, loving and generous.

This story also comes with three recipes at the back, the Christmas Chutney recipe is already on my list of things to make this year!

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Book Tour: 12 Reads of Christmas Book 6 – Midnight and Mistletoe at Cedarwood Lodge by Rebecca Raisin

Book Tour: 12 Reads of Christmas Book 6 – Midnight and Mistletoe at Cedarwood Lodge by Rebecca Raisin

Author: Rebecca Raisin
Publisher: Carina
Release Date: 22 December 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance

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The Blurb:

Join Rebecca Raisin for the final festive part of the Cedarwood Lodge serial and see who might be kissing under the mistletoe…

Planning a New Years Eve Party might be the kind of event Clio Winters used to dream about organising, but when everything is feeling a bit up in the air, she has to hope that this New Years her wish really will come true.

Cedarwood Lodge is a delectable romance told in three parts – following Clio Winters journey back to her hometown of Evergreen. This is the final part in this feel-good romance serial.

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The Review:

I have to say I have loved being part of this series of book tours so a big thank you to Rebecca Raisin and Love Reading Romance for inviting me to be able to introduce these novellas to you all.

In book 3 we reunite with Clio and Amory at Cedarwood Lodge. Amory is head-over-heels with Cruz. All her misgivings all but forgotten she is planning her future in Evergreen with her beau, who is still enjoying his role as chef at the lodge.

After the success of the wedding fayre Aunt Bessie is the talk of social media, her bespoke doughnuts are a hit on Instagram and she has been invited to be on America Today.

Clio’s mother Annabelle is slowly coming around to her daughter owning the Lodge. Annabelle is working hard to put her issues behind her so she can be there for Clio.

Monty and Isla are still going strong. Isla is hard at work in the grounds getting ready for spring, uncovering a complicated maze with a sad history.

As for Clio, her matchmaking powers are at full kilter, just not in her own best interest. Kai, the Aussie builder, is still on the scene. Midnight yoga is very much on both their minds.

It has been lovely to be there as Clio bloomed from being the unsure party planner that arrived back home from New York under a cloud to the proud business owner she is in book 3. She has grown and developed. Clio is that person that everyone wishes they knew. Kind and generous to a fault, it’s just a shame that she never truly wants to put herself out there. Her life seems to be about everybody else.

Amory arrives as the flighty friend, in Brides and Bouquets she proves that she has a grounding effect on Clio. Lifting her up when she needs it most, and in Midnight and Mistletoe she is the voice of reason. In essence Amory is Clio’s Jiminy Cricket, and the voice of the reader. Coaxing Clio out of her comfort zone.

I have very much taken Clio and Amory into my heart and I don’t think I will ever be ready to say goodbye to them fully.

Book Links: Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Google Play | Goodreads

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12 Reads of Christmas: Book 5 – Lizzie’s Christmas Escape by Christie Barlow

12 Reads of Christmas: Book 5 – Lizzie’s Christmas Escape by Christie Barlow

 

Author: Christie Barlow 
Publisher:
Bookouture
Release Date: 21 October 2016
Genre: Festive romance

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The Blurb:

A gorgeous country house hotel, a liberal dusting of snow, a cosy weekend away…what more could Lizzie ask for at Christmas?

Every Christmas Lizzie promises herself that things will change and she will leap into the new year a new woman. And yet here she is again, at the beginning of December and nothing is different. Her girls have grown up and left home, her husband Henry is slumped in front of the TV and she is alone in the kitchen, seeking refuge in the cooking sherry and talking to her Gary Barlow calendar. She’s also been very diverted by handsome new neighbour Marcus and she knows she shouldn’t be …

So when best friend Ann suggests a weekend away in the country, Lizzie jumps at the chance. Will this Christmas escape give Lizzie some much needed perspective and allow her to mend her marriage? Or will Marcus prove to be too much of a distraction?

A funny feel good festive read about rediscovering the magic of Christmas – just the thing to curl up with on a cold winter’s night.

The Review:

From the beginning Lizzie’s Christmas Escape felt like something familiar. I grew up fully aware of the Shirley Valentine film. A woman of a certain age who feels stuck in a rut, spending her time in the kitchen talking to a poster on her kitchen wall. Replace the poster with a Gary Barlow calendar and Shirley with seamstress Lizzie and we have Christie Barlow’s latest novel.

Lizzie is stuck in a rut, bored of her lot in life. Her life up until recently was all about looking after her home, husband and children. Then her daughters Abbie and Freya leave home. Empty nest syndrome has moved in. Lizzie Stevens doesn’t feel like herself, her marriage which was once happy and loving, has settled into something much less content. Henry isn’t the same man he used to be. Lizzie misses the little things, the kiss he used to give her on the way to work, cuddling in bed at night. Everything seems stale.

Then new neighbour Marcus moves in. Lizzie has a new spring in her step, and extra beat in her heart. The idea that she is still wanted and needed makes her bloom.

With trusty best friend Ann by her side Lizzie works her way through her emotions and decides that it is time for change. As the Christmas festivities get underway Lizzie has a difficult decision to make. Should she follow her heart or her head?

I truly loved reading this book. I really identified with Lizzie. There is something about reaching a certain age that makes you re-evaluate your life. Making changes that will rock you out of the rut you are often stuck in becomes and almost annual ritual. I could fully understand how her head was turned and she was tempted to follow a different path, albeit in her case it was for a shorter time than others.

Maybe I need my own Gary Barlow in my cupboard under the stairs!

You can get Lizzie’s Christmas Escape at Amazon for £1.99 on Kindle.

12 Reads of Christmas: Book 4 – Christmas at the Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant

12 Reads of Christmas: Book 4 – Christmas at the Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant

Author: Tilly Tennant 
Publisher:
Bookouture
Release Date: 16 September 2016
Genre: Festive romance

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The Blurb:

It’s time to get toasty by the fire with a glass of mulled wine and a slice of chocolate yule log sprinkled with a little romance. Welcome to Christmas at the Little Village Bakery.

Snow is falling in Honeybourne and Spencer is bringing home his American fiancée Tori for a traditional English Christmas with all the trimmings. But when his hippie mum and dad meet her high-maintenance parents, sparks of the wrong sort start to fly. Then Spencer bumps into his first love Jasmine and unexpected feelings come flooding back.

Millie is run off her feet with Christmas orders at the Little Village Bakery and new baby Oscar. Thank goodness her cousin Darcie is here to help her. Although she does seem to be rather flirty with Millie’s boyfriend Dylan.

Will Darcie ever find true love of her own? And is marrying Tori a terrible mistake for Spencer if his heart is with someone else?

The Review:

Back in August I reviewed Tilly Tennant’s  The Little Village Bakery and I’ve been sitting on this book until now so I could read it at a seasonably appropriate time.

Last time I met and fell in love with Millie and Dylan, and we left as Millie opened her new bakery in Honeybourne, looking like she had tamed the village bad boy – much to the local women’s disdain.

As we return to Honeybourne Millie and Dylan are parents to little baby Oscar, a master of torture – well sleep deprivation! Jasmine and Rich are still working through the issues that arose in the last book, and to be honest they’re not looking as rock solid as they once did, it doesn’t help that Jasmine is now broody as hell, and Rich… let’s just say he isn’t!

This time the story focuses on Dylan’s best friend Spencer, who has spent the last year on an exchange programme teaching in America, where he meet Tori over what can only be described as the world worst coffee. On the rebound from the greatest, if unrequited, love of his life he ran to the States, not expecting to find Tori. She soothes his soul and his mind, and he hers. If only her parents could see that.

Instead they have their eye on a corporate suit for their precious daughter, and Spencer will never be good enough. They are very much the villains of this story, however what they actually have to say is few and far between but the air they give off is tenable. Tilly has crafted such an obnoxious cloud around them that it even seems to be catching to some of the other characters. A job really well done.

I mostly had trouble warming to Darcie, Millie’s younger cousin. She has her own demons. An unrequited love, she has no friends and no real outward desire to move on and do anything on her own. Something about her screamed give her a slap. However, by the end of Tilly’s tale I had come round. I just wish that she’d had a bit more of a story earlier on because her storyline seemed to start and end far too quickly. I can only hope that this is because Tilly is saving her arc for another book.

I really enjoyed this book, what it needs is a warm snuggly blanket and cake.. lots and lots of cake!

12 Reads of Christmas: Book 2 — The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

12 Reads of Christmas: Book 2 — The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

Author: Tom Fletcher
Publisher: Puffin
Release Date: 6th October 2016
Genre: Festive Fantasy

The Blurb: 

The Christmasaurus is a story about a boy named William Trundle, and a dinosaur, the Christmasaurus. It’s about how they meet one Christmas Eve and have a magical adventure. It’s about friendship and families, sleigh bells and Santa, singing elves and flying reindeer, music and magic. It’s about discovering your heart’s true desire, and learning that the impossible might just be possible…

Book Links: Amazon UK | Google Play | Goodreads

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The Review:

As a child I was drawn to Christmas. Not the presents, but the feel. The smell. The food. The music. The films, and overall the stories. Not a lot has changed.

The Christmasaurus is Tom Fletcher’s (husband of Giovanna Fletcher, sister of Carrie Hope Fletcher, oh and that Tom from McFly) first full length novel. Not that you can tell. He has crafted a well-rounded, feel good tale for readers young and old.

Previously co-authoring the Dinosaur Who Pooped… picture book series with Dougie Poynter Tom has learnt how to tell a story on the page, as well as dabbling his toe into the festive book market.

There is a spin on the usual Christmas fayre too. The elves aren’t hard at work in the toy workshops. No in Tom’s magical frozen world the elves mine for the presents. And how do the presents make their way into the mine? They grow, from a magical seed which comes from the first ever Christmas tree after Santa reads the child’s Christmas letters to it.

This tale isn’t just about Santa and his rhyming elves (the names are just adorable I was a sucker for Snozzletrump and Snowcrumb), it is also about William Trundle. A sweet and kind boy. His father is Christmas’s biggest fan, he knows all there is to know about every part of the season of joy.

William isn’t the happiest of children, he finds himself at the mercy of new child on the block Brenda Payne – the school bully. With the sweetest of smiles and a flutter of her eyelashes she has the ability to unleash her own discontentment on anyone that crosses her.

Christmas is approaching and William is feeling lower than ever. He has been abandoned by his friends and as he sits and writes his letter for Santa. With a lump in his throat he wishes hard as he can for his most favourite thing in the whole wide world… a dinosaur.

This is where his adventure begins. Tom has created a classic, film-worthy adventure. There is the down-beaten hero, the mis-understood bully, the down trodden believer and a bad guy, so evil he could have come straight from a Roald Dahl book.

On top of all of this the illustrations by Shane Devries are just the cherry on top of the cream. I think it’s fair to say that more books should have illustrations.

Magic jumps off every page.

Settle down with a toasted crumpet, or half. Embrace your inner elf and enjoy.

Snowbound

Snowbound

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Author: Monique McDonell
Publisher: Redfish Publishing
Release Date: November 22, 2016
Genre: Chick lit

Goodreads   Amazon US   Amazon UK   Amazon AUS

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Summary

When Zara’s boyfriend can’t come home to Sydney from New York for Christmas she decides to surprise (go to) him instead. Sure, the ticket costs a bomb and her overbearing family thinks it is a bad idea but that’s what you do for love right? Or so she tells the tall and hunky ex-basketball star, Kyle who is squeezed into the plane seat beside her.

But when a blizzard hits and she finds herself snowed-in/stranded in Denver a few things become clear – her boyfriend isn’t that heartbroken about her absence, the airport doesn’t seem like a very festive place to spend the holiday/be snowed-in and there aren’t enough pumpkin spiced lattes to fix the situation.

So when Kyle offers to take her to stay at his buddy’s empty house she decides to take a chance and make the best of her first white Christmas. What she hadn’t banked on was Kyle’s ex and a reality television crew crashing the Christmas party.

If you like fun and flirty heroes, ugly sweaters, snow covered mountains and sugar cookies, you’ll enjoy reading Snowbound these holidays.

 

About Monique McDonell

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I am an Australian author who writes contemporary women’s fiction, including chick lit and romance. When I began to write again, I noticed a trend – writing dark unhappy stories made me unhappy. So I made a decision to write a novel with a happy ending and I have been writing happy stories ever since.

I am the author of five standalone novels, including Mr. Right and Other Mongrels and Hearts Afire and the Upper Crust Series. Many of my novels focus on Australian characters meeting and visiting US characters.

I have been a member of the writing group The Writer’s Dozen for ten years. Our anthology Better Than Chocolate raised over $10,000 for the charity Room to Read and helped build a library in South East Asia. I am also a member of the Romance Writers of Australia. In 2015, I had a piece on writing chick lit featured in the successful Australian non-fiction book Copyfight.

To learn more about my books, my writing, my caffeine obsession and my upcoming books please visit http://www.moniquemcdonell.com.au.

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