Review: A Christmas Horror Story by Sebastian Gregory

A Christmas Horror StoryThe Blurb

On the night before Christmas, lock the doors to the house…

Forget the jolly old man in his red, big-buttoned suit. Because another creature is up on the roof preparing for his annual visit to little children everywhere.

With a belt of knives round his waist, a writhing bag on his back and a Santa-sized appetite, he’s a little…different to the St Nick you might be expecting.

And you can leave out all the carrots and mince pies you like…but it’s you he’s after.

A horrid Christmas to all and a terrible night.

Every white Christmas has a dark side. Don’t miss A Christmas Horror Story, the gruesomely festive new story from Sebastian Gregory.

The Review

Having read quite a few Christmas books over the past few weeks I will admit I was feeling a bit of a seasonal overload so it was refreshing to read a Christmas story with a difference.

Sebastian Gregory’s creepy Christmas tale features a family of three children who have faced the horror of losing a parent and now they have to battle evil on Christmas Eve when the Kinderfasser comes to try and eat their bones.

I swear this is a Christmas story!

A Christmas Horror Story is truly creepy and blends folklore with just honest to goodness sinister and spine-chilling story telling.

This is definitely a book that will break up the saccharine nature of the candy cane coated overload of Christmas books.

A Christmas Horror Story by Sebastian Gregory is available now.

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Review: Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe KissesThe Blurb

An uplifting, beautiful story about never letting go of your dreams, the special magic of a family Christmas…and the rush of falling in love under the mistletoe.

Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, when a friend recommends her for a small design job she jumps at the chance. How hard can it be?

Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multi-million dollar business – even if it is Christmas.

When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble…

With the snow falling all around, can Abbey take a chance to make her dreams of being a designer come true? And can she help Nick finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?

The Review

Meet Abbey. A wannabe interior decorator that has too much on her plate to pursue her dream; she has a young son, a mother on crutches and a granddad suffering with Parkinson ’s disease. However, when an opportunity to redecorate a massive mansion presents itself, Abbey can’t turn down the job. Little does she know that this job will change her life forever.

In a well known rags-to-riches Cinderella type tale, Jenny Hale whisks you into a frenzy with her wonderful new Christmas story. Hale executes the character of Abbey so perfectly that you instantly feel empathetic towards her and her situation. Strangely, you do not feel sorry for her because you feel that she (yes, Abbey, the fictional character) would not like that. Essentially, what Hale manages to do with her characters is make them so lifelike that you start to believe that they are real.

The story is a lovely tale to read and the burgeoning love story between Abbey and Nick is brilliant to watch develop. Frustratingly, whilst romance blossoms all through the book we have an ending that leaves us wanting more. Hopefully Jenny Hale will grace us with maybe stories of other characters in the novel that will allow us to return to Abbey and Nick and let us know how things are getting on for them. I’d like that.

This is a book that ticks all the right boxes for a Christmas story. It has love, festive cheer and gives you a good dose of the warm and fuzzies.

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale.

Follow Jenny Hale (@jhaleauthor) on Twitter.

Review: A Merry Mistletoe Wedding by Judy Astley

A Merry Mistletoe ChristmasThe Blurb

It is almost a year since Sean and Thea met and it’s been a roller-coaster ride: they’re getting married on Christmas Day!

Neither Thea or Sean want a big fuss – a simple wedding, with Christmas lights and just a few sprigs of mistletoe for decoration is all they need. But before they know it, things begin to get complicated. Trying to manage a long-distance relationship in the build-up to their Christmas wedding is one thing, but as one challenge after another comes their way, the happy couple begin to wonder if they’ll ever make it down the aisle…

With unforgettable characters, charming romance and lots of laughter, A Merry Mistletoe Wedding

Is a gorgeous Christmas read – perfect for fans of Carole Matthews, Jenny Colgan, Lucy Diamond and Milly Johnson.

The Review

Aww. This is how I feel after reading A Merry Mistletoe Wedding. Judy Astley’s latest Christmas book has you revisiting past fictional friends as they embark on their nuptials.

We originally met Thea and Sean in It Must have Been the Mistletoe; in a slight comedy of errors, each thought the other one was gay and spent the short time together trying to suss each other out. One year later, all confusion forgotten and the pair are getting married. They plan to have a beach wedding on Christmas day – a slight oxymoron of sorts but who are we to argue with the bride.

However, things are not going according to plan; with stubborn family members, creepy exes and a lack of wedding dress things start to fall drastically apart. Can Thea and Sean hold it all together and make it down the aisle?

It really was a joy to find out what happened to the characters that I fell in love with a year ago. Astley has kept the things we love about the characters and followed through on the things we learned in the previous book. Thea is still a bit insecure having lost her baby and fiancé in the space of a few days – although she is happy she can’t help waiting for disaster to strike. Her fallibility is what makes her likeable. As readers, it is this that we relate to.

Astley has written the family dynamics to perfection. The wappy parents and three very unique siblings create quite the entertaining scenarios. As with It must Have Been the Mistletoe, A Merry Mistletoe Wedding makes you feel like you have been invited into the family home on Christmas day.

I would have liked to have seen more scenes of Sean and Thea together but maybe this could be done in a short story prequel to this novel.

A Merry Mistletoe Wedding is such a lovely winter read. Make sure you all get yourselves a copy.

A Merry Mistletoe Wedding by Judy Astley is available now.

Follow Judy Astley (@Judyastley) via Twitter.

Review: Mistletoe and Wine by Faith Bleasdale

Title: Mistletoe and Wine

Author: Faith Bleasdale

Pages: 74 pages

The Blurb

One office party, three couples, lots of secrets. What could possibly go wrong?

Harry Augustus, the third generation boss of Augustus Estate Agents, is hosting the biggest and best Christmas party yet.

He is pulling out all the stops and has a big announcement to make.

Gabby, the glamorous office manager, is in charge of the festive bash.

But she’s also sleeping with the boss.

Their office romance has been anything but subtle and is made more scandalous by the fact that Harry is married with two kids.

But theirs is not the only secret relationship in the office…

Caroline, Harry’s dutiful PA, is dating her irresistible colleague, Rob Sharp, who wants to keep their relationship private so it won’t affect his chances of an upcoming promotion.

But Caroline is at her wits end; she’d rather face the inevitable gossip than the icy from Rob puts on in the office.

Why does she feel like she’s the one having the affair?

Gabby takes Caroline for a drink at the ‘Olive’ to plan the party and tells her she thinks Harry is going to leave his wife for her.

That’s what the announcement is going to be about.

While leaving the bar, Gabby sees Evie and Joseph, two juniors at the company, sharing a tender moment.

She thinks they’d make a cute couple but Evie has set her sights on Rob…

As Gabby, Caroline and Evie grow closer, their secret relationships threaten to catch up with them.

Trouble is brewing…

What is Harry’s speech going to be about? How will the couple cope when the truth is revealed during a not so secret ‘Secret Santa’ present swap?

Can mistletoe and wine save the day?

The Review

Fair play to Faith Bleasdale. Initially, I was unsure about whether Mistletoe and Wine would work. You see, the story has three main narrative threads and only 74 pages in which to tell the story of three women. Now those of you who have read my short story reviews before will know that I am not a huge fan of the format but Faith Bleasdale manages to get all three stories out there. Expositon to Ending. Kudos.

Mistletoe and Wine centres on three women – Gabby, Caroline and Evie – who all work together in an estate agent office; their lives are not only linked by their jobs but also by their willingness to fall at the feet of their male colleagues. The only problem is that one of the men is married and the other man is using two of the girls.

Yes, the girls are initially fooled and if I am completely honest come across as doormats. They fawn over men that are using them and rather than stand up for themselves they just remain the playthings for their lovers. It is a pitiful state of affairs but fortunately the fickle finger of festive fate is lingering over their Christmas office party to help the girls find their way.

Bleasdale manages to jam pack her short story, closing all threads and creating three main female characters who are, admittedly, somewhat misguided in their romantic pursuits but also likeable enough to come through the darkness of seedy affairs and office fumbles.

This is a quick, no-nonsense, Christmas romp that will, if anything, encourage you to be on your best behaviour at your office Christmas party.

Mistletoe and Wine by Faith Bleasdale is available now.

Follow Faith Bleasdale (@FaithBleasdale) via Twitter.

Review and COMPETITION: Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas JumperThe Blurb

You’ve seen Mark Darcy in the reindeer jumper his mother gave him, now meet Marco Cavelli in this season’s hottest Christmas knit!

For single mum Maggie, Christmas has always been a family occasion – her daughter Ellen filling the house with her bubbly warmth and mistletoe, her dad Paddy having one too many festive tipples, and the traditional family Christmas tree looking like a drunken elf vomited a rainbow all over it.

But this year, with both Ellen and Paddy away for the holidays, Maggie’s facing a truly blue Christmas – alone with nothing but a bottle of Baileys and an M&S turkey dinner.

Until walking the snowy streets of Oxford, Marco Cavelli quite literally crashes into her life – and, complete with broken leg, becomes her unexpected houseguest. All dreamy brown eyes and 6’5” of gorgeousness, the man is hotter and more delicious than a freshly baked mince pie.

Though Maggie always thought it’s a truth universally acknowledged that you never kiss a man in a Christmas jumper?

The next FABULOUS book from Debbie Johnson, author of the best-selling Christmas number one, ‘Cold Feet at Christmas’ and the summer hit ‘Pippa’s Cornish Dream’.

The Review

Oh my days, how I love books by Debbie Johnson!

This love started last year with Cold Feet at Christmas; it developed further this year with Pippa’s Cornish Dream and now it has been solidified with Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper.

Maggie is a young, single mum: she is a seamstress that creates fabulous wedding dresses for people but she herself is stuck in a romantic rut that has lasted since she gave birth to Ellen – her 18 year old daughter.

But then she falls for Marco Cavelli…literally. They crash into each other and fall of their respective bikes which leads to broken bones but is also starts a beautiful friendship. Could Marco be the man of Maggie’s dreams or will her darkest secret keep them apart.

On paper, people could easily write Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper off as being just “another Christmas romance” but they would be very wrong to do so. With Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper, Johnson has created a multi-layered story that entertains, amuses and yes – at times – makes you tear up. It is, for want of a better word, a magical story.

Johnson has an innate ability to make you fall in love and care deeply about her characters. What I especially loved about Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper is the return of Rob and Leah from Cold Feet at Christmas – it is like receiving a visit from old friends.

Johnson also makes you care about her tertiary characters. I want to read about Gaynor and Tony’s adventures in marriage; I want to know why Lucy and Josh found their wedding to be so stressful and most of all I want to read more about Isabelle and Michael – whose story within Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper deserves a book of its own, in my humble opinion.

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper is a wonderful story, one that I couldn’t put down and that I am genuinely saddened to see end. Like mulled wine at Christmas time, Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson is available now.

Find out more about Debbie Johnson by going to her website www.debbiejohnsonauthor.com and follow Debbie Johnson (@debbiemjohnson) via Twitter.

COMPETITION TIME

For a chance to win one of three (yes three!) copies of Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper then:

Leave a picture of yourself in a Christmas Jumper under the review for Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper on http://www.facebook.com/LisaTalksAbout for 5 entries.

Follow me on Twitter @LJBentley27 and comment with the hashtag #christmasjumper for 3 entries.

and

Leave a comment on this review 🙂 for 3 entries.

The winners will be notified on the 30th November 2015.

Enjoy and good luck.

 

Review: The Mini Break by Jane Costello

Title: The Mini Break

Author: Jane Costello

Pages: 69 Pages

The Blurb

An exclusive eBook short story from the bestselling author of The Wish List, Jane Costello. Featuring extracts from The Time of Our Lives and Jane’s brand new novel, The Love Shack, coming April 2015!

When Sophie’s friend Anisha is sent on her first foreign trip in her job at a travel agency – and gets to take Sophie with her – she jumps at the chance of some time away.

But what Sophie doesn’t realise is that there is a catch – a rather large catch. The five-star hotel is also a world-renowned golf resort. And its owners have offered the holiday on the basis of the girls’ golfing prowess. Of which they possess quite literally none…

A laugh-out-loud short story from the brilliant bestselling author, Jane Costello.

The Review

Sophie needs a break (don’t we all?) and when her friend Anisha offers her a holiday in a fancy pants hotel she almost bites her fingers off. If you are thinking that this seems too good to be true then you would be right. For the duration of their stay, Sophie and Anisha have to pretend to be experienced golf players – and since neither of them even know what a ‘birdy’ is they are almost definitely screwed. Can the two manage to keep their subterfuge under wraps?

So, as far as short stories go this wasn’t my favourite. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed The Mini Break but I felt that it would have made a better buddy novel. The capers and mistakes that Sophie and Anisha got up to could have been embellished a bit more. There was so much that could have been done with the basis of this story. I also think that it would have read better if it wasn’t told in the first person.

I just wish that this had been a full length novel.

The Mini Break by Jane Costello is available now.

Review: Flirting With French by William Alexander

Flirting With FrenchThe Blurb

William Alexander is more than a Francophile. He wants to be French. There’s one small obstacle though: he doesn’t speak la langue française. In Flirting with French, Alexander sets out to conquer the language he loves. But will it love him back?

Alexander eats, breathes, and sleeps French (even conjugating in his dreams). He travels to France, where mistranslations send him bicycling off in all sorts of wrong directions, and he nearly drowns in an immersion class in Provence, where, faced with the riddle of masculine breasts, feminine beards, and a turkey cutlet of uncertain gender, he starts to wonder whether he should’ve taken up golf instead of French. While playing hooky from grammar lessons and memory techniques, Alexander reports on the riotous workings of the Académie française, the four-hundred-year-old institution charged with keeping the language pure; explores the science of human communication, learning why it’s harder for fifty-year-olds to learn a second language than it is for five-year-olds; and, frustrated with his progress, explores an IBM research lab, where he trades barbs with a futuristic hand-held translator.

Does he succeed in becoming fluent? Readers will be as surprised as Alexander is to discover that, in a fascinating twist, studying French may have had a far greater impact on his life than actually learning to speak it ever would.

The Review

Some people might find it strange if you tell them that you are reading a memoir (of sorts) of a person that you have never heard of; a memoir that tracks their year of learning a language. On paper, this seems like a rather boring waste of time. However, William Alexander’s Flirting With French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me and Nearly Broke My Heart (from here on referred to as Flirting With French) was just plain wonderful.

Alexander’s pursuit of linguistic education is similar to my own. I, like Alexander, am a self confessed Francophile. I love everything about France: the culture, the food, and especially the language. As a teenager, I wasted five years of French tuition and failed my GCSE exam. As an adult (at the age of 29) I re-sat my exam – coming out with an A* – pretty nifty, right?

Wrong!

I had learnt how to function in France in an unrealistic way. I know how to say plenty of things and how to construct basic sentences. However, if you dropped me in the middle of France I would be completely lost – actually and linguistically. Like Alexander, I too am still pursuing fluency.

This is the reason I liked Flirting With French. I could relate to it far too easily. The desire, the stress, the determination and the heartbreak that Alexander so succinctly puts on the page – I have felt them all.

As I have said, I have never read anything by William Alexander before but I am glad I started with Flirting With French. It is a heart warming story that anyone who has known the pain and suffering of trying to learn a language will appreciate.

Flirting With French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me and Nearly Broke My Heart by William Alexander is available now.

Review: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

What We Left BehindThe Blurb

A sweeping, powerful and incredibly modern young adult love story. What We Left Behind follows teen couple – Gretchen, and Toni, who is starting to come to terms with being transgender. Despite the growing rift caused by distance and Toni’s shifting gender identity, they struggle to stay together during their first year in college.

The Review

Since reading Golden Boy by Abigail Tartellin a few years back, I have been intrigued by fiction that features central characters who are transgender. It is a subject that I am fascinated by; equally I am encouraged that more and more fiction discusses this topic.

The LGBTQIA community has been hidden away for so long that it truly makes me smile that young adults can read about characters’ struggles and maybe even identify with their stories. This is a great way to change opinions and remove ignorance along with giving the young adult reading the book (who is confused by their feelings in the convention societal arena) hope.

In What We Left Behind, we meet Gretchen and Toni(y) – our two protagonists; a lesbian couple who are trying to make their long distance relationship work as they head off to two different colleges. Alongside this struggle, Toni is discovering that s/he (for ease of description) wants to go through with transgender realignment. However, Gretchen is confsed as to what role she will play in Tony’s life now. Will she be his girlfriend? Does this make her straight? Both of them are struggling with these big life changes and are falling apart rather than anchoring each other.

What We Left Behind is a book that is essentially about relationships; our relationship with others and our relationship with ourselves. Robin Talley handles the topic with sensitivity whilst also managing to make the reader question our own levels of acceptance and how we perceive those around us.

What We Left Behind is an excellent novel.

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley is available now.

Follow Robin Talley (@Robin_Talley) via Twitter.

Review: The Liberty Colouring Book by Various

Title: The Liberty Colouring Book

Author: Various

Pages: 93 Pages

The Review

I’ll start this review with two little life anecdotes. Last year, I was really ill; as a recuperation gift, a good friend of mine bought me my first adult colouring book. I lost myself in the pages colouring each page (I was pretty much bed bound so having something to entertain me was a godsend).

Before this, I worked in a call centre and there were times when customers were rude and aggressive and it would get my friends and I all riled up. So we would bring in colouring pages and pencils to sooth the savage beast within.

Since then, the colouring in craze has swept the nation and adults have remembered the pure simple joy of spending hours colouring in. I know that I certainly have.

Earlier this week I received a copy of The Liberty Colouring Book. It is gorgeous. The handbag sized book features prints that Liberty used on their fabrics over the years, some from special collections and some from the archives. This beautiful collection shows you how high end fashion has changed over the years. Yet what is even more exciting, you can re-imagine the designs to your personal colour preferences.

The Liberty Colouring Book comes with an introduction by Sally Kelly, a fabric designer at Liberty and each print featured in the book has a brief but of information about when the fabric was used. This truly is the most delightful colouring book.

I cannot recommend The Liberty Colouring Book enough. It is pocket sized, the prints are intricate and it will provide you with hours of fun. So buy the book, get some colouring pencils and get colouring.

The Liberty Colouring Book is available now.

With special thanks to Annie Holland from Penguin books for sending me a copy of The Liberty Colouring Book.