Saturday, 28 December 2013

Attachments- Rainbow Rowell


Having read and adored Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park earlier in the year (see my review here ) I was nervous to pick up Attachments.  What if it failed to live up to my high expectations?

I needn't have worried.

Attachments is set in 1999, when the internet and email were still novel and the millennium bug was a cause of real concern.  Lincoln works at a newspaper office, monitoring emails for inappropriate usage.  Beth and Jennifer, colleagues at the newspaper, email back and forth, talking work, life and a cute guy.  Lincoln knows that it is voyeuristic and inappropriate, but he can't stop himself from reading their exchanges.  Before long he is falling in love with someone he has never met...

My own experiences probably added to my enjoyment and understanding of Attachments. I met my now husband on an internet forum way back in 1997, when meeting people online was still a bit weird.  Rainbow Rowell transported me back to that excitement, the constant checking of my inbox to see if there was a new email waiting.  I found myself totally relating to Lincoln, reliving the overwhelming 'feels' I had way back then. 

Rainbow Rowell taps into her characters insecurities, quirks and obsessions, giving readers an almost alarming insight into their true selves.  There are very few authors who manage to touch me as much as she does. Without giving too much away there was one part of the novel that had me in tears, revealed in a way that physically made my heart ache for the characters involved.

Overall, I loved Attachments.  The characters are real and believable, the plot unique , the romance acutely painful and beautifully portrayed.  A humorous and heartwarming read, I didn't want it to end.

8.5/10

Attachments is out now, published by Orion.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Wish Upon A Star-Trisha Ashley *Review and Author guest post*

It's the final day of Advent-ures in Fiction 2013!  It's Chriiiiiiiiisssssstmmmaaaassssss! (In Noddy Holder style).

Today I am fortunate enough to have an exclusive piece by Trisha Ashley and a review of her most recent book Wish Upon a Star.

Blurb
The perfect gift isn’t always under the tree…

Single mum Cally’s life is all about her little girl Stella. She’s resigned to the fact that the only romance she’s going to get is from the rom-coms she watches, and with her busy job and her daughter, she doesn’t have time to even think about love.

But life gets very tough when Stella gets sick. Balancing her job as a recipe writer and looking after Stella is all consuming, so when Cally meets handsome baker Jago the last thing she wants to do is fall in love, especially when she’s been badly burned by a Prince Charming from her past.
Can laid-back, charming Jago unlock Cally’s frozen heart and help her find true love and magic under the mistletoe?

Come home for Christmas with this gorgeous festive treat, perfect for fans of Katie Fforde and Jill Mansell.

Review
Trisha Ashley writes cosy books which appeal to a slightly older chicklit audience.  This is another heart warming read about the village of Sticklepond, somewhere that community spirit still reigns and the same families have lived for generations.  I found it really uplifting how the village pulled together to raise money for Stella to have a much needed operation.  It is especially poignant at Christmas when so much pressure to consume and 'have' is all around- a reminder that all the fuss is unimportant and what really matters is family, hope and love.

I really like Cally as a character, she is easy to relate to and I expect all mothers will be able to see aspects of themselves in her.  The desire to help her daughter in whatever way possible and provide for her as well as possible shines out from the pages and I loved the romance between her and Jago.  Infact, I think Jago was just about perfect as a romantic hero and developed a bit of a book crush on him myself!

This isn't an out and out Christmas book, but it is a touching, emotive read that warms the heart.

Wish Upon a Star is out now, published by Avon.

8/10

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Trisha very kindly agreed to share some of the special gifts she has received in Christmases past... 

When I was young and just married and we were hard-up, my ex husband always seemed to buy me practical woolly hats, gloves and scarves, when what my heart craved was something pretty, sparkly or frivolous.  Much later he redeemed himself with the inspired gift of the unabridged audiobook of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones read by the author, which I still have.

      My son chooses the most wonderful gifts – quirky, lovely, amusing – and, knowing my tastes so well, usually puts in some chocolate violet creams and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans – in fact, I now associate the smell of freshly ground Blue Mountain coffee with Christmas!
 

     

Monday, 23 December 2013

A Christmas Wish- Carole Matthews *including author Q and A*

 
A Christmas Wish is a festive ebook short released by Carole this month.  At the time of writing it is free to download on Amazon and also gives a sample chapter of Carole's latest novel, Calling Mrs Christmas (being reviewed on Books with Bunny very soon!)

A Christmas Wish is written in a first person narrative, giving us an insight into broken hearted Hannah's feeling.  She is revisiting Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland, a place which holds memories of a date with he ex Mitchell. 

The absolute highlight is how wonderfully the carousel is described.  All it's magical glory is described vividly-the colour, the speed, the escapism.  I am a bit of a fan of traditional fairground rides anyway, but Carole Matthews really reminded me why.  They are aesthetically beautiful, allow for nostalgic reflection and enable us adults to regress to a time of life where we had fewer cares.

It is a really lovely read, beautifully written and well worth a download.  It gives a flavour of what Carole has to offer in her novels (which are fantastic-I particularly recommend some of her more recent releases).

A Christmas Wish is out now in ebook format.

8/10

Carole very kindly agreed to take part in a festive Question and Answer with me and here is what she had to say....

Do you have any festive traditions that are important to you at Christmas?
 
I love spending time decorating the house. Inside and out. We put the cheesy Christmas tunes on - thank you, Michael Buble - break out the wine and the mince pies and spend most of the day knee-deep in glitter.
 
Would you like a white Christmas this year?
 
Yes! I’m one of the few people who love snow. I think it comes from working from home and not having to go out in it except to play. We always build a snowman.
 
What are you hoping for under your tree this Christmas?
 
Ugg boots. It’s a dead cert as I went and bought them myself to make sure!
 
What is your favourite Christmas carol?
 
I’m not a big one for carols, but my favourite song is Judy Garland singing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’. Has me in bits every time I hear it.
 
If you were a Christmas Elf what would your name be?
 
Tiddly Jingle Pants.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Christmas at Claridges- Karen Swan


Blurb
‘This was where her dreams drifted to if she didn’t blot her nights out with drink; this was where her thoughts settled if she didn’t fill her days with chat. She remembered this tiny, remote foreign village on a molecular level and the sight of it soaked into her like water into sand, because this was where her old life had ended and her new one had begun.’ Portobello – home to the world-famous street market, Notting Hill Carnival and Clem Alderton. She’s the queen of the scene, the girl everyone wants to be or be with. But beneath the morning-after makeup, Clem is keeping a secret, and when she goes too far one reckless night she endangers everything – her home, her job and even her adored brother’s love. Portofino – a place of wild beauty and old-school glamour, and where a neglected villa has been bought by a handsome stranger. He wants Clem to restore it for him and it seems like the answer to all her problems – except that Clem has been there once before and vowed, for her own protection, never to return . . .

 
 
Review
I'd heard really good things about Karen Swan's previous books and was very keen to read Christmas at Claridge's.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  I knew it was in the chicklit/women's fiction genre, but Didn't know if it would be out and out humour, fairly serious, chock full of romance, borderline farce...  It is actually very much a book about relationships.  Friendships, work relationships, siblings, work colleagues-all of them are explored in Christmas at Claridge's.  It has attitude without losing heart, which is what most appealed to me. 
 
Like a few of the other books in my Advent-ures in Fiction project, it isn't a full on Christmas read.  I'd gone into it thinking it would be very much about a shop in the run up to Christmas (purely going on the title), yet in reality it isn't that festive.  This will make it readable at any time of year (I know lots of people who don't want to read a Christmas book when lying on a sunlounger in Majorca in July). 
 
I really liked Clem, the protagonist and found her easy to relate to.  I especially enjoyed finding out more about her close relationship with her brother Tom, loving how their bond was examined throughout the book.
 
I did find it took maybe 80 pages to get really interested in this book, but once I had found out a bit about the characters and their history I was engrossed.  I'll definitely be looking out for Karen Swan's other books as I found Christmas at Claridge's a warm, entertaining read.
 
Christmas at Claridge's is out now, published by Pan.
 
7.5/10
 
With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this title in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

I Heart Christmas- Lindsey Kelk *review and author guest post*

Blurb
Angela’s planning her very own fairytale of New York…

• Enormous Christmas tree
• Eggnog
• Eccentric British traditions
• Gorgeous man

But Santa’s throwing her a few curveballs – new job (as if it’s not mental enough already), new baby-craze from her best friend Jenny, and Alex determined they should grow up and settle down. Once friends start turning up uninvited on her doorstep (and leading her astray), can Angela really have a merry little Christmas? So much for happy holidays – something’s got to give…



Review
Just incase you've been living under a rock for the past few years, I need to start by saying I Heart Christmas is part of a series.  You could read it as a stand alone novel, but it would be much better to start at the very beginning to get to see the characters develop and find out how they are interlinked.  Lindsey Kelk's writing style is fun, fresh and particularly appealing for a new adult/20s-30s female audience.

It was lovely to catch up with Angela, Alex and friends as they juggle life, love and Christmas mayhem in New York City.  Let's face it, it is a perfect place at Christmas. *insert gratuitous, yet grainy picture of me and hubby at Rock Center in New York on our honeymoon, Christmas 2005*



Despite the title, I Heart Christmas is not overly festive.  There are Christmassy references but these aren't dished out every other sentence, which will make this novel readable whatever the weather outside.  Personally, I had hoped for slightly more festivity as I was reading it the week before Christmas and tinsel, fairy lights and wrapping paper were taking up every other aspect of my life!

I Heart Christmas is full of the trademark humour Kelk is famous for, the quick one liners and larger than life characters.  If you've read the other books in the series this is very much of the same ilk-a warm, entertaining read.  If you haven't read any before then think the fun of Sophie Kinsella with a bit more edginess and you won't be far off the mark.

I think it's time for me to do some rereading of books by the Kelkster and I'm making plans to run a Lindsey Kelk week here on Books with Bunny during 2014!

I Heart Christmas is out now.

8.5/10

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Lindsey very kindly agreed to write an exclusive piece for us about Christmas, in her own inimitable style....


I have been in love with Christmas for as long as I can remember and yet, when I think back, there were so very many traumatising Christmases that really should have challenged my devotion. One of my very earliest Christmas memories involved a particularly unpleasant illness that resulted on me laying on the settee all day when I was about five, wrapped up in a very attractive quilted dressing gown, and whimpering pathetically until I threw up all over said attractive quilted dressing gown, my teddy bear and the settee.

A couple of years later, when I was a very mature six years old and had totally grown out of quilted dressing gowns, I remember sitting on the same settee (it had been cleaned) watching my mum dress the Christmas tree. I remember being utterly consumed by a desperate need to help put the baubles on the tree. Seriously, I can’t even begin to describe to you how badly I wanted it. As an adult, the only vaguely comparable yearning I can compare it to, would be waking up to find Michael Fassbender naked in your bed, holding a Chanel 2.55 in one hand, a pair of Louboutins in the other and dangling a Tiffany diamond necklace from his peen and not knowing where to start. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Pete’s Dragon was on the telly. Pete’s Dragon is a really emotional film. Anyway, it was 1986, I was probably very badly dressed and I wanted to hang one bloody bauble on that bloody tree. But my mum wasn’t having any of it. And so I did what any right-minded young lady would have done. I had a complete and utter emotional breakdown. Screaming, crying, hiccupping, the works. Of course, my mum responded as any right-minded young mother would. She turned, raised an eyebrow and calmly explained that behaviour such as this was the reason I was not allowed to help dress the tree.

When you throw those two in with the Christmas I threw up at eight am after beating my brother in a pre-breakfast chocolate orange eating contest, the year I went to my boyfriend’s parents’ house for Christmas dinner and went to bed hungry (they were clearly savages) and the time I burst into tears upon being presented with a My Little Pony that I already owned because I had been so excited to open a present and then didn’t know how to explain that I already owned it, oh and that year Nicolae Ceaușescu was executed on Christmas day while I was busy trying to place all the stickers in exactly the right place on my Sindy Kitchen Café, you’d think I’d have a complicated relationship with Christmas. But I don’t. I bloody love it. So come on Christmas 2013, throw it all at me – I’ll be busy scoffing a chocolate orange while trimming my own tree and not watching Pete’s Dragon in an attractive non-quilted dressing gown. Because that’s how I roll.

 

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Kiss Before Christmas- Sophie Pembroke



The Blurb
As the snow starts to fall on Manhattan, PA Dory Mackenzie is a long way from home, far from the comforts and cheer of her cozy family Christmases back in Liverpool.

So when her boss Tyler Alexander offers to pay her pricey ticket home for New Year, Dory just can’t say no… even if she has to pretend to be his girlfriend for the holidays!

Tyler may be hiding the real reason he needs a girlfriend-of-convenience but that’s the least of Dory’s worries when she’s up against the disapproval of his high society mother, and the suspicions of his gorgeous older brother Lucas, the black sheep of the family.

There’s no fooling Lucas, and it’s not just the truth he wants to get closer to… So before the bells have even rung out for Christmas day, Dory finds herself caught up in the Alexander family’s dramas – and sharing more than just a few kisses under the mistletoe!

Lose yourself in this gorgeously romantic and heart-warming novella this holiday season.

Review
I really enjoyed this humorous Christmas read from Sophie Pembroke.  As a Brit myself I appreciated the references to a typical British Christmas (it just wouldn't be the same without a bit of Cliff, would it?), but also the escapism of the high flying New York lifestyle and the opulent living of the wealthy Alexander family.

The characters were great-I really warmed to Dory in particular.  She seemed very 'real', the type of girl you could easily come across at work or sitting across from you in a pub.  I also liked the Alexander family- from typical protective, cynical mother Felicia to the wild cannon of Tyler they were almost caricatures, which made them highly amusing to read about!  The relationship between brothers Tyler and Lucas and how they were viewed by their parents was also really interesting and made me contemplate how children are perceived by their parents.  Family and Christmas...not always as easy as it looks in the movies!

This was a really easy read that I seemed to speed through at a rapid pace, always the sign of a good story!  The tension built well as the story progressed, and I was desperate to know how it would end. 

The Kiss Before Christmas is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

8.5/10

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this novella in return for an honest review.

Find out more by clicking the banner below. Visit

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The First Christmas Without You- Michelle Betham



Jessie Collins is going to Lapland.  It's somewhere she's always wanted to go, particularly at Christmas.  But her trip isn't going to be how she'd imagined it.  Her beloved husband Jase passed away and Jessie will be making the trip with her brother and his friends.  Can the magic of Lapland help her face her loss, allowing her to move forward with her own life?

The First Christmas Without You is not an out-and-out Christmas romance as it also tackles bereavement and loss.  It did take me a while to become fully immersed in the story, but once I did I really wanted happiness and peace for Jessie.  One thing I especially liked about this book is that at 42 the protagonist is a bit older than in many romances, which will perhaps add appeal for a slightly older readership.

The setting was absolutely perfect, dreamlike imagery of Lapland and the snow-covered landscape added to the romantic feel of the book. 

Tender and poignant, if you are looking for a book that will touch your heart this Christmas, you may just have found it. 

The First Christmas Without You is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

7.5/10

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review. Find out more by clicking the banner below. Visit

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Revenge of a Chalet Girl- Lorraine Wilson *Review and author guest post*

Blurb

All she wants for Christmas is…revenge.

When chalet girl Amy Wright finds her ex’s name on Chalet Repos’ guest list she sees her chance to get back at him – Josh Carter, the guy who broke her heart. Getting revenge without losing her job will be tricky but luckily the other chalet girls are on hand to offer their support. Pretty soon she’s in too deep and realises she doesn’t want to hurt him anymore. She wants him back.

There’s just one teeny complication…

Review

Revenge of a Chalet Girl is the third instalment of Lorraine Wilson's wintery romance novellas set in glorious Verbier.  They could be read as stand alone books, but I'd definitely recommend reading them in order to get the full impact and learn the chalet girls' backstories.  The first in the series is Confessions of a Chalet Girl (read my review here ), followed by Secrets of a Chalet Girl (you can find my review here ). 

Revenge of a Chalet Girl didn't disappoint.  I always enjoy stories about what happens when exes meet up, and Josh and Amy's story was no exception- the tension was intense!  The ski resort as a setting is full of romance- snow, hot tubs, smouldering fires-everything you would expect from a wintery romance.

Lorraine Wilson also touched me with her description of depression, something I have been struggling with myself.  She managed to put into words the extreme fear, loneliness and overwhelming apathy that can eat you alive.  Anyone who says that authors of romance can't deal with difficult issues should read this- it is one of the most realistic portrayals of the illness I have come across in fiction.

However, it isn't all doom and gloom.  Revenge of a Chalet Girl is full of girly humour and has one character (I won't give away who, but if you read it'll be obvious!) who I loved to hate.  Honestly, one of my favourite book baddies of the year!

It did take me a bit longer to get into than the previous Chalet Girl books, but then I was immersed, hook, line and sinker.  An escapist, wintery novella to devour in one go.

Revenge of a Chalet Girl is released tomorrow, published by Harper Impulse.

8/10

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Visit

Lorraine Wilson very kindly agreed to write a short piece about why Revenge of a Chalet Girl is the book she is most proud of writing...
 
Being asked to pick your favourite book as an author feels a little like being asked to pick a favourite child. But I have to say my Christmas release, 'Revenge of a Chalet Girl' is my favourite so far. Partly because it was such fun to write - at no point did I curse it, feel the urge to hit delete or feel stuck - but also because I included the Christmas markets at Montreux, Switzerland, in the story. I love the festive markets on the lakeshore of Lac Leman and while the market in Salzburg, Austria is more impressive (even curing my other half of his Scrooge-like tendencies!) the Montreux markets are special for me. The lakeshore at Montreux with its views of Evian and the French Alps is one of my favourite places in the world at any time of the year.
 

 
 
But at Christmas the decorations are gorgeous, the food scrumptious, the gifts to buy entirely unique and lots of the handbags I've made and sold have been created from Indian fabric purchased at one of the stalls. Chateau Chillon even holds its own medieval Christmas market and you can take the cog railway up the mountain past snow-laden fir trees to see Père Noël - http://www.montreuxnoel.com/en-site-1-christmas-market.html

 
 
 
I will be there again this year (for which I blame my editor ;-) If you can't make it for real why not go along with my heroine Amy?


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Nativity- The Story of Baby Jesus- May Eliot illustrated by Richard Johnson


The Nativity- The Story of Baby Jesus is a perfect introduction to the Christmas story for the very young.  It contains all the facts and isn't too simplistic yet the sentences are short and accessible, offering the opportunity for questions and discussion throughout. 

The illustrations are mesmerising, particularly one beautiful image of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.  The artwork wouldn't be out of place on a Christmas card, stunning and appropriate.

The Nativity-The Story of Baby Jesus is out now.

9/10

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.



Dear Snowman- Katherine White and Alison Edgson

The Blurb
 
Little Rabbit and Snowman are the very best of friends. But when winter fades, Snowman is nowhere to be found. Wherever can he be? Soon a postcard arrives for Little Rabbit. It's from Snowman - and he's travelling the world! This brilliant book about an adventurous snowman has a gorgeous shiny cover and comes with six postcards and masses of stickers, so little readers can send messages to their family and friends just like Snowman. Children will love the excitement of reading Snowman's postcards and letters and finding out where in the world he has been. This lovely book would make a fantastic Christmas present but is sure to be enjoyed throughout the year.
 
The Review
I really enjoyed this picturebook.  The tale is original and comforting, and the postcards from Snowman are such a sweet idea!  The story itself is fun and charming, a reassuring book perfect for pre-schoolers. It taps into the excitement that children have about receiving post of their own and is a wintery book that could also be enjoyed throughout the year.
 
The bold illustrations will capture children's imagination and the additional postcards and stickers are a bonus feature which may add appeal for reluctant readers.  I fell in love with the snowman-he is so cute!
 
This would definitely make a great gift as Dear Snowman is a high quality book.  It is a sturdy hardback designed to be enjoyed again and again.
 
Dear Snowman is out now.
 
9/10
 
I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Christmas is Special- Anita Ganeri and Jennie Poh

 
Do you have children asking you why we celebrate Christmas?  Do they ask why we give presents or sing carols?  Christmas is Special is a charming, accessible introduction to the Christmas story.

The book starts by telling the Christmas story in a simple, succinct way and continues by explaining how Christians celebrate Christmas with a tree, carols, giving gifts and nativity plays.  This would be a lovely book to use with children of pre-school and infant age who are wanting to learn more about the meaning of Christmas.  The bright, bold illustrations will capture the imagination of your little one and the hardback edition has a glossy cover similar to that of the annuals which spring up at this time of year.

With a glossary and index, this is also a great introduction to non-fiction texts. 

Christmas is Special is out now, published by Wayland.

8.5/10

With thanks to the publisher who provided me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.



From Scotland with Love- Katie Fforde *including guest post from Katie!*

 
Blurb
When Daisy travels to Scotland to confront notorious author Rory McAllan, little does she know that within hours she'll be snowed in with him. But surely she's not going to have to spend her precious New Year's Eve with him too?

Put the champagne on ice, get the fireworks ready and step into the wonderfully warm, witty and romantic world of Katie Fforde.

Review
From Scotland with Love is a delightful story.  It is a quick, one sitting read, yet manages to grab the readers attention through skilled creation of strong characters.  Mediocre publicity assistant Daisy is full of surprises, and Rory McAllen is a rugged, private author.  Polar opposites in many ways, the two find out they have more in common than they expect when they are thrust together due to a snow storm. 

I was completely charmed by this novella- not a lot happens in many ways, but that doesn't matter as it is written in a way that hooks you in. I found the characters likeable and real, the snowy Scottish landscape vividly described and Rory's cosy cottage a haven that any writer will lust after!

If you love books about writers, winter and puppies, you won't be disappointed.  I only wish it had been longer as I am desperate to learn more about the characters-follow up please, Katie?!

From Scotland with Love is out now is ebook format.

9/10

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in return for an honest review.

Katie very kindly agreed to write an exclusive piece for Books with Bunny about how she has captured Christmas in some of her books...

'Christmas in books is so much easier than it is in real life.  You do have some measure of control.  You can make it snow, you can invent exciting relations you don't have yourself, you can have a big enough dining table (something else I struggle with), that said they can be tricky to make different from Christmases you've previously written.

In The Rose Revived, I had three protagonists and they all had to go through Christmas and all have a different kind.  May, my lead girl, went home to her parents and had to cope with the man she found quite tricky spending time in her boisterous family.  Harriet, quiet, restrained, had to endure Christmas with her incredibly stuffy grandparents.  But the girl who had to work hardest, and bless her, it was very hard, was Sally.  She was ostensibly and actress but she had fallen in love with a farmer who seemed not to reciprocate.  Somehow she finds herself organising Christmas in his very dilapidated farmhouse.  He had a lot of sisters and nieces and nephews, not to mention eccentric aunts.  She had to use a barn door as a table.  And yet that Christmas is  the one a dear friend has as her favourite literary Christmas ever.  In the book it all ended well, in real life, Sally would have had to murder someone.
In spite of my best intentions, my next book had to have Christmas in it, too.  This was very close to a real Christmas at my house one year.  It included vegetarians and neurotic women.  Luckily for the real life me, there were no heavily pregnant women present.
The most recent literary Christmas, in A French Affair, out in paperback in March, involved a diorama using every gold-foil covered chocolate animal available (and there are many.)  This was real wish full-fillment on my behalf.  One year, I'll do it.  I'll turn chocolate Father Christmases into the Three Kings and shepherds and really have fun.  Mm, may be this is the year to do it?  Or will having my 94 year old mother in law make that difficult?'

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Festive titles from Harper Impulse

Find out more by clicking on the links below-there really are some cracking festive reads! Visit Visit Visit Visit Visit Visit Visit

When It Snows- Richard Collingridge

 
The Blurb
When everything grinds to a halt because of the snow, one small boy and his teddy bear refuse to allow the weather to spoil their fun. They embark on an amazing journey in which they ride a polar bear and meet huge snowmen, an ice queen, fairies, elves, a giant reindeer and Father Christmas.

And at the very end of the story, in a wonderfully cosy and festive fireside scene, there's a clever twist - he has simply become immersed in the magical scenes of his favourite book.


 
The Review
If you are looking for a perfect wintery read to enjoy with a child, then When It Snows could be the answer to your prayers.  It is a captivating book, with illustrations that will whisk both young and old away.  The simple, short sentences allow the beautiful artwork to do the talking.  Unsurprisingly this book was shortlisted for the V and A illustration award 2013- the illustrations really are mesmerising.
 
My son (age 5) really enjoyed this book and loved the adventures, although was disappointed by the revelation at the end.  I must admit that I can understand why- although reassuring and cosy to adult eyes, the final scene is perhaps not as gripping as children expect.  However, this gentle story would work well at bedtime and the detailed illustrations offer many opportunities for discussion.
 
Out now in paperback with brighter, clearer artwork, this enchanting book would be a great addition to pre-schoolers/infants bookshelves.
 
8/10
 
With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in return for my honest opinion.
 
See the trailer here -prepare for the magic!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe - Rebecca Raisin *Review and author guest blog*

 
The Gingerbread Café is a special place, especially at Christmas.  At the heart of the community the café is a delightful haven, warm and welcoming with owner Lily and employee CeeCee full of the Christmas spirit.  Lily is recovering from the breakdown of her marriage and CeeCee is determined to matchmake.  When handsome, mysterious Damon opens up a shop across the road, CeeCee encourages Lily to make a move for him, but before long it becomes apparent that Damon's business is in direct competition with the Gingerbread Café...

The relationship between Lily and CeeCee is one of the key features of Christmas at the Gingerbread Café, and their friendship is heart-warming and reassuring.  CeeCee is like a mother hen, desperate for Lily to find love and she was my favourite character, coming across as larger than life.  The combination of her and feisty Lily is fabulous!

I also loved how the café was portrayed as a cosy, snug place, somewhere full of warmth and festive shimmer.  I wish that I had a café like this near me-I'd certainly be a regular customer.

Christmas at the Gingerbread Café is a lovely, cheery festive read, a good old fashioned feel-good romance to warm the cockles of your heart.  This is one of my favourite Christmas reads of the year.

Christmas at the Gingerbread Café is out now, published by Carina.

8.5/10

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book in return for an honest review.

Now read the fabulous  foodie guest post from Rebecca Raisin....


Writing Christmas at the Gingerbread Café had certain perks. Firstly there were the hours searching the internet for recipe ideas that were mentioned throughout the novella. Then there was the actual making of said recipes, purely for research purposes, of course! I was amazed at the way ginger spice can be used from humble gingerbread men, to a fancy four tier cake, and everything in between. I fell in love with gingerbread cookie dough truffle recipes, and gingerbread pancakes with treacle butter, and lots of little treats that I thought would make ideal Christmas gifts.

I thought I’d share a few of these recipes today, and you might get a little sense of what the gingerbread café is all about. The crux of the story is romance, but food, and friendship, and general festive cheer go hand in hand in Christmas at the Gingerbread Café.

I stumbled across “Gingerbread in a jar” and thought they’d make a sweet gift for teachers at the end of term, or for friends and family at Christmas. A great activity for kids to help make, too. I can’t wait to find some nice jars, and a cute little gingerbread man cookie cutters to tie to the side. This website also has printable instruction labels, so the person you’re gifting it to knows how to make it.


Lil, the owner of the Gingerbread Café uses cooking almost like a meditation, it calms her, it’s something that she enjoys doing for the pure sake of it. And with CeeCee’s help, food is something that binds them and the townsfolk of Ashton. People come into the café to escape the snow, to sit by the fire, chat with Lil and Cee, and of course taste whatever delectable delight they happen to be baking that day.

Here’s a recipe for Gingerbread fudge. I can see Lil taking her time and cutting the fudge into star-shapes, and setting up a nice display to tempt people in to the café. These would be nice as a present too.


Of course, I can’t forget to mention new guy in town, Damon. He opens a shop across the road from the Gingerbread Café, which brings out Lil’s fighting spirit. It’s a small town, old Ashford, and Lil is threatened by Damon’s sudden presence, and the fact he’s selling similar things to her café. With his charm and rugged good looks, Lil knows the girls in town are going to flock to his shop just to get a look at him. This means war! And so the battle begins between Lil and Damon to try and entice customers to their respective shops. Damon begins cooking classes for the townsfolk.  One of the recipes mentioned is a slow cooked pork shoulder. A delicious meal any time of year. Here is the recipe that inspired the idea. If only I could bring Damon to life to cook it for me …


I hope these recipes have inspired you, like they did me. Gingerbread has the unique ability to transport us back to childhood. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas.

Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe

Christmas is the season the Gingerbread Café was made for…but owner Lily couldn’t be feeling less merry if she tried. She’s spent another year dreaming of being whisked away on a sleigh-ride for two, but she’s facing festive season alone – again. And, just to give her another reason to feel anything other than candy-cane perky, a new shop across the road has opened… Not only is it selling baked goods, but the owner, with his seriously charming smile, has every girl in town swooning.

But Lily isn’t about to let her business crumble — the Gingerbread Café is the heart of the community, and she’s going to fight for it! This could be the Christmas that maybe, just maybe, all her dreams – even the someone-to-decorate-the-Christmas-tree-with ones – really do come true!


Find the novella here:


Amazon UK http://ow.ly/qvis0

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Friday, 13 December 2013

Just for Christmas- Scarlett Bailey *Review, author guest post and giveaway!*

I am absolutely delighted that Scarlett Bailey agreed to write a small guest piece for the Advent-ures in Fiction event, especially as I have been a huge fan of all Scarlett's books to date.  Just for Christmas was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year (no pressure there then, Scarlett!) and I adore the warm characters and quick quips that are part of the author's style. 

You can see my review and Scarlett's piece below, plus there is the opportunity to win a signed copy of Just For Christmas.

 
Blurb
 
When Alex Munro learns that the love of her life is getting married to another girl, all she wants is to be alone - and as far away from Edinburgh as possible.

Moving to a Cornish cottage, which comes complete with the world's scruffiest dog, Alex finds that her new neighbours are determined to involve her in their madcap Christmas festivities.

Then she meets her sexy neighbour Ruan - and somehow Alex doesn't want to be alone this Christmas after all. But having lost one fiancée, Ruan has no intention of letting anyone get close to him again...
 
 
Review
 
Just for Christmas has the perfect winter cover.  I am a bit of a magpie and anything that glitters grabs my attention and makes me go 'oooooooh!', so the twinkly cover appealed to me from the get-go. 
 
I'm also a sucker for books about animals, and Alex, the protagonist in Just for Christmas finds herself lumbered with a mad, scruffy dog called Buoy.  I warmed to both characters immediately, they were both vibrant, full of personality and desperately in need of love.  Infact the characters are the biggest success in this story.  I felt like I knew them all, from Ruan, the slightly aloof boatman to Lucy, the barmaid with a hidden past, and I cared for them too.
 
Village life in Cornwall was also beautifully portrayed.  Images of warm, bustling pubs where everyone knows everyone else, a strong community spirit and the importance of festive traditions being upheld made me want to be resident in Poldore myself. 
 
There were elements of the plot that moved unrealistically fast, but I really didn't mind that at all-sometimes life does move crazily fast and situations change overnight, and even if they didn't I wouldn't care because one of the great benefits of fiction is that anything goes!
 
If you have enjoyed Scarlett Bailey's other books, or are a fan of Amy Silver, Sophie Kinsella or Marian Keyes, I am sure you'll love this heart-warming story.  As well as Christmas fun and froth it touches on the importance of  family, friendship, acceptance and community-something we all need more of at Christmas.
 
Just for Christmas is out now, published by ebury.
 
8.5/10

With kind thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this in return for an honest review.

If you would like to enter to win a signed copy of Just for Christmas, please enter the rafflecopter giveaway below.

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Scarlett very kindly offered to write a short piece about what Christmas means to her...

I love Christmas so much. But there was a time when I didn't love it at all. Obviously when I was a little girl it was all about the excitement, closing my eyes and waiting for Santa, determined to stay awake and finally catch him in the act, although it never worked out that way. (Any one who's read my short novel 'Santa Maybe' will know that Santa is far to clever to get caught out) But then when I was about twelve my parents split up, and I took it really hard, especially at Christmas. Once when there had been a table, crowded with family, and lots of parties to go to, and trips up and down the country to visit relatives, now there was just me, my mum and my brother. And Christmas became a sort of sad and disjointed time for me, when all I could think about was what was missing, and I thought that I would never recapture that magic that I had once believed in so much. 

Then, many years later I found it again, sort of by accident. It was on the day I realised that the magic isn't about the perfect family sitting around a table, and its not about who isn't there. Its about the people who are there with you, and the people that matter. Its about the family that you have made for yourself. So one Christmas a few years ago, I looked around at the people who mean a lot to me, and who I mean a lot to, and I thought there are no gaps at my table anymore. I still have my mum and my brother, but now I have a wonderful husband, incredible children and amazing friends. And when I look at the bright and shining eyes of my children on Christmas Eve I know that the magic is still there, its still real and I believe. 


Scarlett Bailey has loved writing stories since childhood, before writing her first two novels The Night Before Christmas and 'Married by Christmas' she worked as a waitress, cinema usherette and bookseller. Passionate about old movies, Scarlett loves nothing more than spending a wet Sunday afternoon watching her favourite films back-to-back with large quantities of chocolate. Currently she lives in Hertfordshire with her dog and very large collection of beautiful shoes.
 
Her latest novel 'Just For Christmas' was published by Ebury in November 2013.

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Thursday, 12 December 2013

Kiss Me on this Cold December Night- Charlotte Phillips *including author guest post*



Ella and Tom had a romantic fling five years ago.  Ella has no plans to relive it, but when she unexpectedly bumps into Tom at a London hotel memories of their red hot connection come flooding back- can she resist temptation? 

I'd enjoyed Charlotte Phillips' Did Someone Order Room Service? earlier this year (see my review here ) and had been looking forward to this latest release in the Do Not Disturb series. 

I was completely swept away by the winter romance of Kiss me on This Cold December Night!  Ella and Tom's relationship was engaging and I particularly liked that they had history which added a bit of extra spice.  Their date to Hyde Park is sweet and tender whilst the steamy scenes in the hotel will leave you hot under the collar- a fabulous balance of classic romance with some mild erotic scenes.  The characters were likeable and developed as the story progressed.  I found myself willing them to find the happiness they deserved.

Once I started this book I struggled to put it down- Charlotte Phillips has written a festive romance that had me hooked.  I am desperate for more from this series now! 

Kiss Me on This Cold December Night is out today, published by Harper Impulse, a digital imprint of Harper Collins.

8/10

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  Find out more by clicking the link below.

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Charlotte very kindly offered to write an exclusive guest piece for Books with Bunny which you can read below....


Thanks so much for hosting me and reviewing my story!

This is the third story in my Do Not Disturb series of novellas. The stories in the series are all standalone, but they are linked by the same backdrop – a luxury boutique hotel in London.

When I first decided I wanted to write a Christmas story for the series, it was the end of August, the weather was toasty warm, and Christmas was the furthest thing from my mind. All I knew about the story was that it would be a reunion – Tom and Ella had a one night stand five Christmases ago and I liked the idea of Christmas throwing them a second chance.

The best part of writing this story was choosing some of the fantastic Christmas London sights to use. I had a lovely time surfing the internet and looking at pictures of Somerset House ice skating rink, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and Trafalgar Square’s huge Christmas tree.

I like to think of Christmas as a time when anything can seem possible, and I really wanted to play around with the idea of fate, so I looked for ways of bringing Tom and Ella back together that depended on total chance. So Tom is on his way to his annual festive family holiday in Barbados when his plane is grounded by the bonkers British weather, and Ella has won a Christmas shopping weekend in a competition. Ella left Tom sleeping five years ago for a good reason, but amid the magic of snowy London things might be different this time around.

I hope it’s as much fun to read as it was to write!