Wednesday, 19 December 2018

๐ŸŽ„ Fabulously Festive with Anna Belfrage ๐ŸŽ„

In the run up to Christmas, I have wonderful author interviews to help get you into the festive spirit

Here's the fabulous, Anna Belfrage

Anna, thank you so much for being our guest on the blog today 

๐ŸŽ…What’s your earliest Christmas Memory?

We were living in Peru. It was hot. I was about four or so and my mother asked me to fetch the garden hose in the garage so that she could fill up my new inflatable pool, my favourite Christmas gift that year. I rushed into the garage and grabbed the hose. When I turned, I noticed that the heavy drain lid was hovering a metre or so above the floor. Below the drain lid was a huge snake. I screamed. And screamed. Screamed some more. My mother burst through the door and ran over to where I was standing. 

“What’s wrong?” she asked, hands flying over my body. I pointed. My mother turned. She screamed. I screamed. We screamed some more. Totally futile behaviour, but I was very young and my mother suffered from serious snake phobia. We’d have been standing there still had not my father come running to save us both.

๐ŸŽ…Do you have any special Christmas Traditions?

We celebrate Christmas the Swedish way, which means we do our main celebration on Christmas Eve. In our family, the day starts well before eight. I get up and tip-toe out into the kitchen. Hubby appears a minute or so later. In silence, we prepare hot chocolate, heap plates with warm saffron buns, with home-made ginger biscuits. 

Hubby lights the fire in the tiled stove. We flit about lighting candles all over. Steaming mugs of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream are set down on the table. And then, when everything is ready we crank up the Christmas music on max volume. Some moments later, they appear: with sleep-encrusted eyes, imprints of their pillows on their faces and hair standing more or less on end, our four children come down the stairs. (Said children are now adults, albeit young adults) We hug them and wish them a Happy Christmas. They hug us back and rush over to check what’s in their stocking. For a little moment, time hangs suspended and I see them as they used to be, small and cuddly and dressed in matching pyjamas. Now they have long, hairy legs (bar the daughter, obviously. She waxes) would rather die than wear a pyjamas, but they are still very cuddly. At least on Christmas Eve.

๐ŸŽ…What’s your favourite festive carol or song?

Oh, Come all Ye Faithful.

๐ŸŽ…Do you have a favourite festive film?

Not really. But I always watch Sound of Music at least once during the holidays.

๐ŸŽ…What’s your favourite festive read?

A Swedish poem called “Tomten”. And Luke 2:1 and onwards. “And it came to pass…” 

๐ŸŽ…Are you organised or do you leave everything until the last minute?

Very, very organised. 

๐ŸŽ…Christmas tree – real or artificial?


๐ŸŽ…Tinsel or Glitter?


๐ŸŽ…Christmas cracker or party popper?

Christmas cracker

๐ŸŽ…Mince Pie or Yule Log?

Neither. For me, it is Swedish saffron buns. 

๐ŸŽ…Christmas Dinner – Traditional Turkey, Nut Roast Veggie or something a bit different?

We eat filet of beef with mushroom & cognac sauce, roasted potatoes and a huge salad. The alternative would be a Swedish Christmas smorgasbord, but the family has nixed that. Personally, I am relieved: preparing a smorgasbord takes days and days, what with various types of herring, salmon, lutefish, ham, pig trotters, meatballs, ribs, pates, cheeses, sausages, smoked meats, rice porridge (very important), dried fruits and like fifteen other things I’ve forgotten. 

๐ŸŽ…Christmas Tipple – Bucks Fizz/Mulled Wine or something stronger?

Err…water and tea, please.

๐ŸŽ…A fun game of after dinner charades or more chocolates and the television?

Chocolates and telly. By the time we get that far, I’m exhausted! 

About the Author

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with three absorbing interests: history, romance and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. She has recently released the first in a new series, The Wanderer. This time, she steps out of her normal historical context and A Torch in His Heart is with a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. She has loved writing it – she hopes her readers will like reading it just as much. 


Twitter @abelfrageauthor

๐ŸŽ„Happy Christmas ๐Ÿ˜Š

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

๐ŸŽ„ Fabulously Festive with Amanda Prowse ๐ŸŽ„

In the run up to Christmas, I have wonderful author interviews to help get you into the festive spirit

Here's the fabulous, Amanda Prowse

A very festive welcome to you, Nicola and thank you for spending this special time with Jaffareadstoo

๐ŸŽ„What’s your earliest Christmas Memory? 

It is when I realised Santa was real because I wanted a particular make, type and colour of doll’s pram from the toy shop. I don’t remember telling anyone about it, so when, on Christmas morning I pulled off the wrapping paper and this magnificent toy pram was there, it confirmed to me that he was real. Not only did I have the pram, but it confirmed beyond any doubt that he was REAL! It was an amazing moment!

๐ŸŽ„Do you have any special Christmas Traditions? 

Apart from the usual, like leaving out a mince pie, glass of milk and carrot for Rudolf, every Christmas Eve, I sit alone in front of the Christmas Tree before I go to sleep and I say ‘Thank you’ for every single day that I’ve had since the last Christmas Eve and I put thanks out into the universe for all the wonderful things I have in my life and the reason I do it is because I’ve done it for the last twenty years when my son was a tiny baby and I was closing up the house and switching it off in preparation for Christmas Day and I had this overwhelming feeling of missing all the people that were no longer with me and the Christmas tree felt like a magical presence in the corner of the room. It always does.

๐ŸŽ„What’s your favourite festive carol or song? 

Easy, ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ – it’s a proper belter and I sing it better after fourteen egg-nogs or a few sherries!

๐ŸŽ„Do you have a favourite festive film? 

Yes, Elf! It doesn’t matter how many times I see it and even though I know the funny bits are coming, I still howl with laughter. ‘Santa!! I know him!!’.

๐ŸŽ„What’s your favourite festive read? 

Any good Christmas yarn, I’m a sucker for anything with the word Christmas in the title. My absolute favourite is the Dickens classic, ‘A Christmas Carol’, I had it read to me as a child and as a grown up, take great pleasure in reading it myself. Much of the imagery in this book sits behind my eyelids when I have to think of Christmas.

๐ŸŽ„Are you organised or do you leave everything until the last minute? 

A little bit of both – gifts, presents and house decorations, I start planning in May (I’m not even joking). But the food, where people are sleeping and do we have enough chairs around the table are the sorts of things I start pondering about around an hour before everyone arrives!

๐ŸŽ„Christmas tree – real or artificial? 

Real but for the past six years, it has been in a pot, grown from a twig that my nephew planted which rooted! We’ve moved to our forever house this year so we’re going to plant it in the garden and admire it there all year round.

๐ŸŽ„Tinsel or Glitter? Glitter

๐ŸŽ„Christmas cracker or party popper? Both!

๐ŸŽ„Mince Pie or Yule Log? Neither!

๐ŸŽ„Christmas Dinner – Traditional Turkey, Nut Roast Veggie or something a bit different? 

Ha ha, I’m a veggie so I have everything that a meat eater has apart from the turkey, so a huge plate of spuds and roasted veg!

๐ŸŽ„Christmas Tipple – Bucks Fizz/Mulled Wine or something stronger? 

I’m a real lightweight and hardly drink but I might have some Bucks Fizz or a glass of wine. I may even go crazy and have a small port!

๐ŸŽ„A fun game of after dinner charades or more chocolates and the television? 

I love family games and charades. We host the wider family so there is a great range of ages around and always something happening that will make us all laugh. 

Happy Christmas everyone! Much love, Amanda xx

About the Author

Amanda Prowse is one of the UK's most prolific and loved story tellers with global sales of 6 million copies and legions of loyal fans. Based near Bristol, Amanda is the author of 25 novels and novellas, with books sold in 22 countries and translated into 12 languages - no mean feat when you consider her first novel was only published in 2012.

Lake Union
11 December 2018 (ebook)
Out in paperback 20 December 2018

Rae-Valentine and Howard were childhood sweethearts. They’ve shared twenty-five peaceful years since they were brought together by Dolly, Howard’s larger-than-life sister. But now, on the night of their wedding anniversary, Howard reveals a shocking betrayal that leaves Rae reeling.

Heartbroken, she takes Dolly on her would-be anniversary trip to Antigua and the two women drink and dance and talk like they haven’t in years. But in the break from real life, Rae realises her choices have always been made for her, and suddenly she’s questioning not only her fragile marriage but also her one-sided friendships. Is she really the pushover everyone else sees?

When Howard comes looking for reconciliation, Rae has a choice to make: keep the peace, as she always has, or put herself first for once and find out who she really is.

Twitter @MrsAmandaProwse

๐ŸŽ„Happy Christmas ๐Ÿ˜Š

Monday, 17 December 2018

๐ŸŽ„ Fabulously Festive with Nicola Pryce ๐ŸŽ„

In the run up to Christmas, I have wonderful author interviews to help get you into the festive spirit

Here's the fabulous, Nicola Pryce

A very festive welcome to you, Nicola and thank you for spending this special time with Jaffareadstoo

๐ŸŽ…What’s your earliest Christmas memory?

I must have been about six. We lived in Baghdad since I was two months old, and I remember my mother showing me a Christmas card of a snowy church with robins and snowmen. It seemed so strange and I could hardly grasp the concept.

๐ŸŽ…Do you have any special Christmas Traditions?

Absolutely. The stockings must be hung up, the reindeer must have a carrot and Santa must have his sherry and mince pie. 

Then my husband reads the Night Before Christmas from the same book in 35 years and the kids all join in with the reindeers' names. I think they crib it moments before because they know them all and I never get them right!

๐ŸŽ…What’s your favourite festive carol or song?

It used to be Once in Royal David’s City but I’m afraid it’s now Driving Home For Christmas. The kids (they’re in their 30’s) text me to say they’re on their way and I get very excited.

๐ŸŽ…Do you have a favourite festive film?

Definitely The Snowman. I adore it and it always brings tears to my eyes.

๐ŸŽ…What’s your favourite festive read?

A passage in Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee – page 110 of my old school copy! It struck me when I first read it as particularly poignant, and I think of it every year. It’s the bit when the boys in the village go carol singing and they come to the final farm. They’ve been messing about until then, but right at the end they feel the real spirit of Christmas … And 2,000 Christmases became real to us then … It’s such a moving passage.

๐ŸŽ…Are you organised or do you leave everything until the last minute?

Organised to the extreme. Barely able to walk, but every thing’s ready by Christmas Eve.

๐ŸŽ…Christmas tree – real or artificial?

A big, branchy, sustainable, real tree, grown and cut by our local farmer and crammed into our car with no hope of shutting the boot. We have low ceilings in our house and the poor fairy spends most of Christmas with a crick in her neck.

๐ŸŽ…Tinsel or Glitter? 

Tinsel. Long strands of shiny gold tinsel hung on the tree. It’s the same tinsel I had as a child and every year there’s a little less of it. 

๐ŸŽ…Christmas cracker or party popper? 

Crackers – especially Bingo crackers; if I can get away with them again this year.

๐ŸŽ…Mince Pie or Yule Log? 

Both, I’m afraid Jo. There’s a chocolate log for those who don’t eat Christmas pudding and a plate of mince pies just in case anyone’s still hungry. 

Christmas Dinner – Traditional Turkey, Nut Roast Veggie or something a bit different? 

We’re very traditional … a local, organic turkey from the farm opposite, and a nut roast for the veggies in my family. There’d be a riot if I suggested something a bit different! 

๐ŸŽ…Christmas Tipple – Bucks Fizz, Mulled Wine … or something stronger? 

I’ve learnt to go easy on the before-lunch prosecco or else we’re faced with lumpy gravy. Definitely mulled wine on Boxing Day though – together with a good fridge raid and a collapse by the fire. 

๐ŸŽ…A fun game of after dinner charades or some chocolates and the television? 

Back in the day, we’d be all set for charades and party games but now, well, we’ll be lucky if we make it through lunch. It will be more like … ‘Grandad, come quickly. There’s snow on the line. Thomas is in trouble… he needs our help.’

Thank you so much, Jo, for inviting me to share my Christmas with you. I hope you have a very happy and relaxing Christmas. Don’t work too hard!

About the Author

Nicola Pryce trained as a chemotherapy nurse before completing an Open University degree in Humanities. She is a qualified adult literacy support volunteer and lives with her husband in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. Together they sail the south coast of Cornwall in search of adventure.

Cornwall, 1796.

Seamstress Elowyn Liddicot's family believe they've secured the perfect future for her, in the arms of Nathan Cardew. But then one evening, Elowyn helps to rescue a dying man from the sea, and everything changes. William Cotterell, wild and self-assured, refuses to leave her thoughts or her side - but surely she can't love someone so unlike herself.

With Elowyn's dressmaking business suddenly under threat, her family's pressure to marry Nathan increasing, and her heart decidedly at odds with her head, Elowyn doesn't know who to trust any more. And when William uncovers a sinister conspiracy that affects her whole world, can Elowyn find the courage to support the people she loves in the face of all opposition? 

Twitter @NPryce_Author

๐ŸŽ… Happy Christmas ๐Ÿ˜Š

Sunday, 16 December 2018

๐ŸŽ„ Review ~ The Snow Girls by Chris Mooney

November 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book 
It's been eleven years since Claire Flynn disappeared - abducted without trace from a snowy hillside, leaving her parents heartbroken.

Investigator Darby McCormick remembers the case. She knows there's only ever been one suspect, Father Richard Byrne, linked inconclusively to two similar disappearances.

Finally, terminally ill, Byrne is willing to talk. But he'll only talk to Darby.

She's expecting a confession - but what she hears is far more disturbing.

And it soon becomes clear that someone is willing to kill to keep this cold case on ice.

My thoughts about it..

This is the first time I have read any books by this author, so I come new to the character of Darby McCormick, who as a trained psychologist also works as an investigator, so, it would seem that she is ideally placed to help out with a cold case which involves the disappearance of six year old Claire Flynn, who disappeared one snowy night. It's coming up to the eleventh anniversary of the child's disappearance and when, Father Richard Byrne, the lead suspect in the case requests to speak only to Darby, it allows the investigation, once dormant, to take on a whole new lease of life.

This is the eighth book in the Darby McCormick thriller series and it's perfectly possible to read the story without having read the previous books as the author gives enough insight into Darby's character, so I soon felt as if I knew her and trusted her judgement. The story covers some dark stuff but it's all done with a fine eye for detail and the author's ability to weave a complicated tale made The Snow Girls quite a fascinating study into human nature. Told from Darby's perspective as the investigator and also from Mickey Flynn's viewpoint who, as the father of the missing girl, has his own demons to exorcise.

Like all psychological thrillers, this one is best read without any spoilers, that way the story evolves gradually allowing the clues to creep up on you. I really enjoyed trying to piece together all the clues and yet, there's a interesting twist to the ending which was a great reveal and not one I saw coming.

Like all book series I am sure that these US thrillers are best read from the start at book one, however, The Snow Girls certainly worked for me as a standalone.

Chris Mooney is the critically acclaimed author of Deviant Ways, World Without End, and Remembering Sarah, which was nominated for the Barry Award and the Edgar Award for Best Novel. He lives in Boston with his wife and son.

Twitter @cmooneybooks #TheSnowGirls

Saturday, 15 December 2018

๐ŸŽ„Blog Tour ~ Cuckoo by Sophie Draper

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting the final day of the Cuckoo blog tour 

29 November 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my ecopy of this book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour.

There’s a stranger in your home…

When her stepmother dies unexpectedly, Caro returns to her childhood home in Derbyshire. She hadn’t seen Elizabeth in years, but the remote farmhouse offers refuge from a bad relationship, and a chance to start again.

But going through Elizabeth’s belongings unearths memories Caro would rather stay buried. In particular, the story her stepmother would tell her, about two little girls and the terrible thing they do.

As heavy snow traps Caro in the village, where her neighbours stare and whisper, Caro is forced to question why Elizabeth hated her so much, and what she was hiding. But does she really want to uncover the truth?

My thoughts about it...

This spooky little story opens at the funeral of a woman who, it would seem, is not going to be mourned by either of her two step-daughters. Steph has made the journey from New York, meeting her younger sister Caroline for the first time for many years, and even though the sisters are now strangers there is a sibling bond between them which stretches back to the time they spent growing up at the isolated farmhouse in rural Derbyshire.

Almost against her better judgement, Caroline returns to the farmhouse to sort out her stepmother's effects and finds the house to be just as terrifying as she did when she lived there with her step-mother. The isolated nature of the farm, along with some very painful childhood memories, ensure that Caroline's stay at the house in charged with emotion and filled with an absolute terror of reliving past traumas.

I found Cuckoo to be a really interesting psychological thriller. It's proper scary in places, with noises and unexpected happenings in the house which seem to be beyond Caroline's control. The only bright spot in this rather dark tale is Caroline's burgeoning relationship with her neighbour, Craig, who came to her rescue with alarming regularity.

I read the book long and late in order to finish the story as I was quite enthralled in the melodrama that was constantly unfolding. I particularly enjoyed the references to some rather dark fairy stories, which were definitely not the cosy sort for children, and the long buried family secrets which were finally revealed took me by surprise.

Sophie Draper is a Derbyshire based author. Cuckoo is her first book and won the Bath Novel Award 2017. She also won the York Festival of Writing Friday Night Live Award 2017. A second book is due to be published later in 2019.

Twitter @sophiedraper9 #Cuckoo


Friday, 14 December 2018

๐ŸŽ„ Blog Tour ~ Friends Like These by Sarah Alderson

Jaffareadstoo is excited to be part of the  Friends Like These Blog Tour

Mulholland Books
13 December 2018
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of the book and the invitation to this blog tour

There's no such thing as a perfect life.Only a perfect lie.

We all know someone like Becca. 

She has the job everyone wants, a designer wardrobe, a hot-shot lawyer boyfriend, holidays to exotic locations. 

And she flaunts her perfect life all over social media. 

It drove her colleague Lizzie mad, but she couldn't stop looking. They were never really friends - and yet Lizzie knew everything about her. 

Or did she? 

When chance, and a terrible mistake, pulls Lizzie back into Becca's orbit years after they lost touch, she'll realise that you can't always believe what you see online... and that finding out the truth might be the worst thing you can do.

My thoughts about it..

Although Becca and Lizzie were once work colleagues they weren't particularly close but years later, Lizzie discovers something online about Becca which turns both of their worlds completely upside down.

What then follows is a story which pulls you in from the start, and there's so much going on that I don't know where to begin without giving too much of the plot away but what I can say is that the book cleverly shows just how much people can be taken in by social media and how everything you see on the screen is not necessarily the true story.

The author writes well and has created a set of unstable characters, who have no redeeming features, and I think that's what makes the story so much fun to read. I read the book quickly over the space of an afternoon and evening. I think the story benefits from being read in quick chunks rather than drawing out the action, as once the second half of the book gets underway there really is such a lot going on that you need to keep your eye on the game.

Friends Like These is a tense and taut psychological thriller which kept me gripped from first page to last, and the surprise at the end, which I didn't see coming, was a great finish to a good story.

Friends Like These by Sarah Alderson, Mulholland Books 
eBook, publication 13th December.

Sarah Alderson is a British born, LA based author and screenwriter. She left the UK in 2010 to travel the world with her husband and then toddler daughter (a journey documented in her memoir Can We Live Here?). After living in Bali, Indonesia for five years, during which time she published seven young adult books, they moved to California, where Sarah now balances screenwriting for TV and films with writing novels. She also has a successful career as a romance author under the pen name Mila Gray.

Twitter @sarahalderson #FriendsLikeThese


Thursday, 13 December 2018

๐ŸŽ„ Review ~ Around the World in 80 Words by Paul Anthony Jones

October 2018
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

From Monte Carlo to Shanghai, Bikini to Samarra, Around the World in 80 Words is a whimsical voyage through the far-flung reaches of the English language.

My thoughts about it..

Reading is always an adventure and, in Around the World in 80 Words, the adventure starts in London with a journey through the English language. Taking us from the derivation of the term, "Kent Street Ejectment", which I have to admit I hadn't heard of, but maybe Londoners have ๐Ÿ˜Š, through to being sent to Coventry, this absorbing etymological exploration, is a cornucopia of fascinating detail.

Like all readers, I have a curiosity with words, not just in speech and modern fiction, but also in the way our language has evolved, and of the diversity of the origins of words in our shared language.

This is one of those engrossing compilations which is easy to dip into and out of, picking a country or a word and then just letting the beauty of both, and the exemplary research, take you into the fascinating and complicated world of the English language.

Eighty stops, from London, to the Vire region of France, the source of the word Vaudeville, through to Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and all parts of Eastern Europe, from Colombo in Sri Lanka, home of Serendipity, to the Brazil nuts of Rio de Janeiro, there is such a wealth of information, not just about the words we have purloined from so many different cultures, but also in the way their use has changed and evolved over time.

I don't travel much, but that doesn't mean I'm not fascinated by different cultures and so the absolute appeal of Around the World in 80 Words, for meis that I've travelled thousands of miles and learned so much fascinating detail without ever having to ditch my cup of tea, or leave my favourite armchair.

Around the World in 80 Words is a perfect Christmas present for any wordsmith, linguist or book worm.

Since 2013 Paul has tweeted a new old word every day. After just six months, HaggardHawks had amassed more than 4,000 followers, been named as one of the best language-based accounts on Twitter, and had been profiled on The Huffington Post. It added its 5,000th follower in August 2014; its 10,000th in June 2015; its 40,000th in August 2017; and its 50,000th in June 2018. 

Supporters range from Stig Abel at the TLS to Susie dent on Countdown, and many famous names follow @HaggardHawks eg Jack Monroe, Rufus Sewell, Simon Blackwell, Robert Macfarlane, Sara Pascoe, Allegra Stratton and David Baddiel.

Twitter @HaggardHawks


Wednesday, 12 December 2018

๐ŸŽ„ Review ~A Winter Kiss on Rochester Mews by Annie Darling


Harper Collins
November 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Star baker Mattie has hated Christmas ever since she had her heart broken on Christmas Eve. The only thing she hates more is the insufferable Tom, who has rubbed her up the wrong way since she started running the tearoom next door to his bookshop. So when Mattie and Tom are left in charge in the frantic festive days before Christmas, it might be cold outside but things are sure to heat up.

Can a bookshop full of romantic novels, a life-sized reindeer and a mistletoe kissing booth persuade two scrooges to fall in love with Christmas… and each other?

My thoughts about it...

I've loved these books ever since I read The Little Book Shop of Lonely Hearts, so to meet up again with some of the characters who have featured in these delicious rom-com novels is a real treat.

This time the focus is on Mattie, the talented pastry chef, who runs the Happy Ever After tea rooms and Tom who works in the Happy Ever After Book Shop. Normally, these two don't see eye to eye on anything but when circumstances throw them together, well, as you find out, anything can happen !

What delights me about reading these novels is the way that Annie Darling brings her characters to life with such warmth that you can't help but be drawn into their stories. I loved Mattie from the start, and even though her heart was broken one Christmas Eve and she still has reservations about the festive season, she still manages to make wonderful festive confections which sound delicious. There's even a recipe for Gingerbread Cupcakes at the back of the book! Tom is a whole different matter and it took me a while longer to warm to his character but there are reasons, as we discover, why he acts in the way he does. Add into the mix a delightful cast of characters, who add lots of quirky personality into the story, and you have all the ingredients for a fabulously festive read.

A Winter Kiss on Rochester Mews is a heartwarmingly, gorgeous romantic comedy and is just perfect to read, with a gingerbread latte, in the run up to Christmas.



Tuesday, 11 December 2018

๐ŸŽ„ Fabulously Festive with Kathryn Freeman ๐ŸŽ„

In the run up to Christmas, I have wonderful author interviews to help get you into the festive spirit

Here's the fabulous, Kathryn Freeman

Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog Jo, I’m looking forward to answering your fabulously festive questions! 

๐ŸŽ„What’s your earliest Christmas Memory? 

Waking up to the feel of something heavy around my feet. Then sitting up bolt upright and finding the stocking I’d put on the end of my bed was overflowing with presents. 

๐ŸŽ„Do you have any special Christmas Traditions? 

As children my brother and I were forced to sit around the table and sign our names on each Christmas card my mum and dad sent. Needless to say, it often descended into chaos. I vividly recall introducing the guinea pig to the table at one point. Naturally I made my husband and sons continue the tradition … the name signing I mean, not the guinea pig. 

๐ŸŽ„What’s your favourite festive carol or song? 

Santa got stuck up the chimney. I have a very fond memory of my son at nursery, aged three, yelling his way through it. His was the only voice all the parents heard. 

๐ŸŽ„Do you have a favourite festive film? 

Ben Hur, The Great Escape, Gone with the Wind … I know, I know, not very festive, but when I was a kid they were the films always scheduled over Christmas, so they were the films I remember watching. Given the choice, I’d go with Lovely Actually, but males outnumbered females 3 to 1 in my house so the choice is rarely mine. 

๐ŸŽ„What’s your favourite festive read? 

I love, love, love Nora Roberts and really enjoyed the two stories in Christmas in the Snow. 

๐ŸŽ„Are you organised or do you leave everything until the last minute? 

I aim to be organised, but I’m not good at it. For example, I buy presents in the sales when I see them over the year and put them in the trunk. Clever eh? But two weeks before Christmas I usually panic and buy presents I didn’t need because I forget what’s in the damn trunk. 

๐ŸŽ„Christmas tree – real or artificial? 

Real – it’s the smell. 

๐ŸŽ„Tinsel or Glitter? 

Neither – but there’s no such thing as too many fairy lights. 

๐ŸŽ„Christmas cracker or party popper? 

Cracker. Party poppers last two seconds. Between the jokes and the daft plastic toys, crackers give a whole meal time of entertainment. 

๐ŸŽ„Mince Pie or Yule Log? 

Both please. 

๐ŸŽ„Christmas Dinner – Traditional Turkey, Nut Roast Veggie or something a bit different? 

Always turkey, though it’s the stuffing I like best so I’d be happy with a plate of just that. 

๐ŸŽ„Christmas Tipple – Bucks Fizz/Mulled Wine or something stronger? 

All of the above, but not at the same time. 

๐ŸŽ„A fun game of after dinner charades or more chocolates and the television? 

We’ve tried games in the past, including a quiz on my books (not many marks were scored) and stick the bauble on Jenson Button (best not to ask … no, no, not the real Jenson, a cardboard cutout that usually sits by my desk). Sadly nineteen and twenty-one year old boys tend not to do what you want them to anymore, so it’ll be television for us this year. 

Choc Lit
October 2018

Would you swap sea and sunshine for tinsel and turkey? Gabby Sanderson is used to being let down – even at Christmas. Which is why she’s happy to skip the festive season completely in favour of a plane ticket and sunnier climes. But this Christmas could be different, because this time she might not be spending it alone. Can Owen Cooper charm Gabby into loving Christmas in the same way he’s charmed his way into her life, or is he just another person who’ll end up disappointing her?

Twitter @KathrynFreeman1

๐ŸŽ„Happy Christmas ๐Ÿ˜Š

Monday, 10 December 2018

๐ŸŽ„ Blog Tour and #Giveaway ~ Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

 ✻ Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the Seven Days of Us Blog Tour ✻

October 2018
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

It's Christmas, and the Birch family is gathering for the first time in years.

Emma is elated at having everybody under one roof, but her oldest child, Olivia, is only home because she has nowhere else to go. She's just returned from treating an epidemic abroad and must stay in quarantine for a week - and so, too should her family.

For the next seven days, no one can leave the house and no one can enter.

It doesn't sound too hard. But a week with your nearest and dearest can feel like an eternity, especially when they're all harbouring secrets.

One of whom is about to come knocking at their door...

My thoughts about Seven Days of Us..

The Birch family like to spend the festive season at their Norfolk country home, and whilst certain traditions remain, like filling Christmas stockings and digging up the Christmas tree, they don't always spend time quality time together. This festive season is going to be very different, as they have to spend seven days together in complete isolation. The reason for this quarantine is that the elder daughter, Olivia, who for the first time in ages is spending Christmas with the family, has just returned from working as an medical aid doctor in Liberia, treating a deadly virus, known as Haag.

This forced isolation allows the family the opportunity to rediscover what's been happening in each of their lives but, very soon, the fragmentation of a family who don't really communicate with each other, comes to the fore and forms the basis for a fascinating look at the minutiae of family life. There's so much going on in the story, from the sibling rivalry between the sisters, particularly with Phoebe, who is just so flimsily materialistic compared to her ethically responsible older sister. Husband and wife, Andrew and Emma have their own complicated secrets which, when discovered, will have the power to change the family dynamic forever.

I enjoyed the story very much especially the multiple points of view, which help to give a fascinating insight into the innermost thoughts and feelings of the family as individuals. However, as we find out in the story, being in forced isolation doesn't always bring out the best in people, and the complicated journey of discovery they each travel, made the story, for me, quite a compelling read. 

There are some quite serious topics covered which are have an impact on the way the story evolves but there were also some lighter moments which made me smile. The Birch family with all their faults, flaws and failings could, very easily, be any family coping with life's problems.

Seven Days of Us is written with warmth, wit and compassion, bringing a whole new meaning to staying home at Christmas.

About the Author

Francesca Hornak is an author, journalist and former columnist for the Sunday Times Style magazine. Her debut novel Seven Days Of Us is published by Little, Brown. Little Island Productions has pre-empted TV rights to the book. Francesca's work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Metro, Elle, Grazia, Stylist, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Red. She is the author of two nonfiction books, History of the World in 100 Modern Objects: Middle Class Stuff (and Nonsense) and Worry with Mother: 101 Neuroses for the Modern Mama.

Twitter @FrancescaHornak



Thanks to the publishers 

I am giving away a copy of Seven Days of Us in this UK only giveaway

Sunday, 9 December 2018

๐ŸŽ„Blog Tour ~ Nici's Christmas Tale by Jean Gill

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of Nici's Christmas Tale Blog Tour

The Thirteenth Sign
November 2018

My thanks to the author and Random Things tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to the blog tour

A stand-alone short story in the multi-award-winning Troubadours Quartet series 1157: Aquitaine. The wolves are coming! At midnight on Christmas Eve, while the blizzard blasts snow through every crack in the castle walls, Nici the Shepherd's Dog stands guard in the sheepfold. Beside him as usual are his pack and the flock they protect but this night is not usual at all. A small boy braves the snowy night, seeking the protection of his great friend while he is banned from his parents' quarters in the castle. Nici recalls other times and other dangers, his trials and failures, the reasons why he ran away with a young girl, now the little boy's mother. He would still give his life in a heartbeat for Lady Estela. And yet, on this snowy night, he cannot help her. So, while he waits and comforts Estela's son, he tells his own puppies the story of a dog's life.

My thoughts about it..

Nici's Christmas Tale takes us back to Aquitaine in 1157 and huddled with his sheep is Nici, a large Pyranean shepherd dog, who guards his flock, and his pack of dogs, from wolves, but on this snowy Christmas Eve, Nici has someone else to watch over, as whilst his patron, Lady Estela is otherwise occupied, her son seeks warmth and comfort. This is a lovely gentle story which looks at the world through Nici's eyes, and as he recounts the stories of his eventful life to his offspring, so he protects Lady Estela's son from harm. 

Beautifully reminiscent of the age old tradition of gathering on cold night to tell stories, time and place sit comfortably within the time frame. There's a real sense of history and I found that I could well imagine the cold and dark and the pleasure of being held together in a safe place. Filled with adventure, danger, love and friendship, Nici's life, which hasn't always been easy, is explored in fine detail.

Whilst this is book five of the Troubadour Quartet series of books by this author, it is perfectly possible to read as a standalone and coming in at just under 60 pages, it's a lovely story to read on a wintry afternoon over a cup of hot chocolate.

Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a beehive named 'Endeavour', a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic. Publications are varied, including prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions. Sign up to Jean special readers' group at for exclusive news, offers and a free book.

Twitter @writerjeangill #NicisChristmasTale #Troubadors


Saturday, 8 December 2018

๐ŸŽ„Blog Tour ~ The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be hosting The Mother of All Christmases Blog Tour

Simon Schuster
November 2018

My thanks to  the publishers and edpr for my copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

The brand new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Perfectly Imperfect Woman; a gorgeous read full of love, life, laughter - and crackers! 

Here are thoughts about it..

Three very different women discover that they are expecting a Christmas baby. For one it’s a dream come true, for another it’s a case of being a bit slap dash with the birth control pills, and for the youngest of the three, it’s a baby conceived in rather unusual circumstances. They bond over tea and biscuits at the aptly named Christmas Pudding Club and as their friendship begins, so the details of their lives start to emerge.

The Mother Of All Christmases is a festive treat, from its setting in a winter wonderland theme park, at the gloriously named Winterworld, to making hand-made crackers in the Christmas cracker factory, there is never a moment when the story doesn’t pull you into the fabulous world that this author so lovingly recreates.

What Milly Johnson does so well is making her characters feel real. Anne, Evie and Palma could be any of the women you know. Their worries and problems, high spots and low ebbs are so relatable that after a few pages you forget that you are reading a novel as this just feels like you’re having a natter, over a cappuccino, with your best girlfriends. There is so much to enjoy about this heartwarming story, for readers who are already fans of her work it's another chance to meet up with some of the characters from a previous story and for new readers it is a perfect standalone story to enjoy.

The Mother of All Christmases is an absolute triumph from an author who is absolutely at the top of her game. It’s warm, witty, wise and wonderful and there really is no better tonic at this stressful time of year than settling down with a pot of tea, a plate of mince pies and let Milly Johnson take you into the magical world of her imagination.

Photo credit: Charlotte Murphy

Milly Johnson is a Top Five Sunday Times bestselling author of fourteen novels with plans for many more. Her novels are about the universal issues of friendship, family, love, betrayal, good food and a little bit of that magic in life that sometimes visits the unsuspecting. 

Milly is a columnist for her local newspaper and is also an experienced broadcaster on radio and TV. She is also patron of several local charities, including Yorkshire Cat Rescue and The Well at the Core, with community and animal welfare both things that are very close to her heart.

Twitter @millyjohnson #TheMotherOfAllChristmases