Review of A Most Desirable Marriage by Hilary Boyd

A Most Desirable Marriage

Published: 9th October 2014
Publisher: Quercus
Pages: 400

Blurb:

Lawrence and Jo have enjoyed a strong marriage, the envy of their friends. Even after thirty years they have lots to say to each other, many interests in common and, until recently, a good sex life. But Lawrence seems wary and restless. Something’s wrong. Just how wrong, Jo is about to discover…

Can they use their years of history – all the things they’ve shared – to overcome a devastating betrayal?

Review:

Thank you to Quercus for kindly sending me a review copy.

Lawrence and Jo are both in their sixties and they’ve recently retired. Jo isn’t sure how she feels about having her husband around the house 24/7, but all that changes when a shocking truth is unleashed… IN THE FIRST CHAPTER! I love it when twists are put into the first chapter rather than leaving it until the middle and then having a rushed ending. This book was all about the truth and it just made me love the book even more.

It was very interesting to see how the rest of the family dealt with the shock. One family member in particular (I won’t name names), but they included the truth into their job which I thought was brilliant. I was desperate for Lawrence and Jo to work out their differences, but it just wasn’t that simple.

There is always a lot of depth within Hilary’s books and that’s why I enjoy them so much. To my surprise, I found myself enjoying reading about an elderly couple which doesn’t have very often in the books I choose to read.

Twitter: @HilaryBoyd

Review of A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

Published: 28th August 2014
Publisher: Macmillan Children
Pages: 272

Blurb:

Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop-culture references, order the same Chinese food and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush it looks like they are never going to work things out.

But somehow, even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative-writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at the local Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Now they just need to realize that they’re meant for each other, and start falling in love…

Review:

Thank you to Macmillan for kindly sending me a review copy.

The narrative begins in September when college in the US has just begun. We meet a selection of characters including roommates, teachers, a bench (yes, one that you sit on), brothers, squirrels (yes, as in the animal), students, the bus driver, friends, teacher’s wives etc. For me, there were far too many point of views changes and I really want to hear directly from the two main characters.

Gabe is an awkward teenager and Lea is shy around new people – so they’re perfect for one another! I liked that they met through their Creative Writing class, but I just didn’t feel the chemistry between them and that really let me down.

A Little Something Different was definitely something different to other Young Adult books which I have read. Sadly, this book just wasn’t for me. The point of view really put me off and if it had been from Gabe/Lea, I would have probably enjoyed it more. I could see the author’s concept but it just didn’t click with me.

Twitter: @iamsandyhall

Lisa Dickenson Talks Writing Tips

A year and a half ago a rather lovely Editor named Manpreet changed my life.  In a totally platonic way.  She and Little, Brown Book Group liked the idea of my Christmas story, The Twelve Dates of Christmas, and asked if they could publish it in six parts, starting in November 2013.  I said yes, obvs, and seeing as it was already July I got cracking, sharpish.

Fast-forward to now.  My second book with Little, Brown (You Had Me at Merlot) is behind me, The Twelve Dates of Christmas has just been released as a full ebook, and next year it’s down to be a paperback.  I’m so fond of this book now – my first ever novel – and it’s so fun for me to revisit Claudia and Nick, not to mention Penny, Seth, and the notorious Eddie.  I hope you like it too J.  It’s especially nice to come back to this book now the weather is turning, the evenings and mornings are darker, and winter is coming, because when it all started, I was in a very different season indeed…

My tips on writing a book in the wrong season:

I wrote The Twelve Dates of Christmas during the three hottest months the British summertime had seen in years.  While everyone else was outraged if a Christmas card appeared in Clintons in August, I was wringing the sweat out of my shorts and turning up the volume on Santa Claus is Coming to Town.  So here are my top two tips on getting into the spirit of writing a novel in the wrong season…

  1. Let the music take you there. Whatever I’m writing I tend to make ‘mood playlists’ to help get me into the frame of mind of my leading ladies during particular scenes, but for Twelve Dates I listened to one big Christmas playlist practically 24/7.  I think little else can awaken the first sparkles of Christmas spirit than the opening bars to your favourite holiday tune, so without Mariah, Wham!, Band Aid and Bing Crosby I would never have been able to happily conjour up images of cold air, mulled wine and snowflakes.

You can see Claudia’s Christmas Playlist here, with songs inspired by (and to get you in the mood for) each date she goes on in The Twelve Dates of Christmas.

  1. Pinteresting. Pinterest mood boards are so easy to create, and you can access thousands more inspiration-giving images than you could if you were creating a real life one, cutting images from magazines.  I spent an afternoon creating a board full of the best images I could find of not only the activities and dates that occur in the story, but also anything that brought to life the atmosphere of Christmas in London – snow covered red telephone boxes, fairy lights by the Thames, kissing next to Christmas trees.

Here’s my Twelve Dates mood board, which I hope helps you bring the book to life.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas is now out as a complete ebook here, and you can try Dates 1&2 for free here for another couple of weeks.

Thanks for reading, and big thanks to Emma Louise for having me!

Lisa x

Twitter: @LisaWritesStuff
Website: www.lisadickenson.com

Sophie Hart Talks Books

Sophie Hart captivated the hearts of readers with her debut novel The Naughty Girls Book Club. Just over a year later, she’s back with her new release The Beginner’s Guide To The Birds And The Bees. I sat down with Sophie to discuss her love of writing and her relationship with book bloggers…

Q. Since I reviewed your debut book, things have changed… You’re with a new publisher Bookouture. What made you decide to leave Avon?
A. It wasn’t really my decision! Avon did an absolutely brilliant job of launching Naughty Girls and there was talk of doing another book with them, but we couldn’t find a direction that we agreed on and eventually it seemed best to go elsewhere. Fortunately, Bookouture liked my ideas, and I’ve found a new home there.

Q. I’m pretty sure all my readers know what the birds and bees is in reference to. Why did you decide to name your new book The Beginner’s Guide To The Birds And The Bees?
A. Readers really seemed to respond to the title of my last novel – The Naughty Girls Book Club – so I wanted a similar cheeky sort of title, but nothing overly graphic. As the main character is a sex therapist, the couples who come to see her are effectively re-learning about their sex lives, and beginning all over again, so I thought The Beginner’s Guide to the Birds and the Bees was a good fit – even if it is one of the longest titles I’ve ever come across!

Beginner's Guide Cover

Q. Your new book is highly anticipated by your devoted readers. For those who haven’t Googled the blurb, what is it about?
A. As I mentioned, the lead character, Annie, is a sex therapist, but although she’s great at her job, she’s not so good when it comes to her own relationships… We also follow the stories of three different couples who come to see her – Zoe and Simon, who’ve taken a vow of celibacy in the run up to their wedding; Julia and Nick, who are trying for a baby and their sex life has become all about function not fun; and older couple Linda and Ray, whose love life has ground to a halt. It’s hopefully heartwarming and funny and a little bit naughty too!

 Q. We must talk about your relationship with book bloggers. You came onto the author scene when the blogging community was hitting a high and the reaction for you was incredible. How does that make you feel?
A. It really was incredible, and I can’t overstate how much I appreciate the massive support I received from bloggers. I really do feel that it was because of the blogging community that Naughty Girls was so successful, as there was a real buzz around the book, and it seemed to be featured everywhere. It’s very hard to make your book stand out nowadays, and when you have support like that it makes such a difference, so I’m hugely grateful.

Q. I remember picking up your book in ASDA and thinking, “ohh, I like the sound of this.” I literally didn’t put the book down for the next two days. How do you react when a reader loves your books?
A. It’s genuinely amazing and such a wonderful feeling. I honestly don’t quite believe it – I feel as though someone’s playing a trick on me, and they’re actually just joking when they say they like my writing. It’s hard to believe that something I’ve created can have such an effect on people, but it’s a really lovely feeling.

Sophie Hart

 Q. Your new book is romantic comedy. How do you find writing funny dialogue?
A. It’s not something I’m deliberately trying to do – I’d like my books to be entertaining, but I’m not trying to make them hilarious. I was very surprised when readers started saying how funny they were, so maybe I should focus more on that. I once read an interview with Sophie Kinsella (one of my favourite authors) and she said that she writes and re-writes a funny scene until it really makes her laugh, so perhaps I need to start doing that!

Q. The Beginner’s Guide To The Birds And The Bees is out there for anyone to download onto their Kindle or pick up from their local Waterstones. But I have to ask the question: what are you writing next?
A. I’m brainstorming ideas with my editor and working on the synopsis for the next book at the moment. But I do know that it will feature some of the same characters from Birds and the Bees, as well as some great new characters for you to get to know. It should be out next spring/summer, so not too long to wait.

Q. Finally, what is your favourite line from your new book?
A. Ooh, that’s a tough question! Each chapter starts with a great quote about sex, so rather than picking a line I’ve written, I’m going to go with this fantastic quote by the late, great Robin Williams: ‘The problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time’. Genius.

Twitter: @Cafe_Crumb

Review of The Seafront Tea Rooms by Vanessa Greene

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Published: 9th October 2014
Publisher: Little Brown
Pages: 416

Blurb:

Charismatic journalist Charlotte is on a mission to scope out Britain’s best tea rooms. She knows she’s found something special in the Seafront Tea Rooms but is it a secret she should share? Kathryn, a single mother whose only sanctuary is the ‘Seafront’, convinces Charlie to keep the place out of her article by agreeing to join her on her search. Together with another regular, Seraphine, a culture-shocked French au pair with a passion for pastry-making, they travel around the country discovering quaint hideaways and hidden gems. But what none of them expect is for their journey to surprise them with discoveries of a different kind…

Review:

Thank you to Little Brown for kindly sending me a review copy along with a goodie bag filled with sweets!

The narrative opens in Scarborough, France and New York with three very different ladies. Kat deserves a break in life, as she is constantly trying to make ends meet whilst pleasing her three year old son. Seraphine wants some culture in her life and hops on a plane to the UK without a second thought. Then there’s Charlie – the workaholic of her family, yet she can’t seem to please them. I immediately loved these characters and the others surrounding them.

The plot was light, warm, relaxing and comforting. Vanessa’s writing was extremely inviting and there wasn’t a dull moment. In terms of having three leading ladies, in the past, I’ve normally favoured one over the other two – but this wasn’t the case with The Seafront Tea Room as I loved every single point of view which was brought to us. The characters really clicked with one another and their lives were so indulging. I valued their lives, their journeys and their thoughts quite a lot and I was gutted when I turned the page to spot the word ‘epilogue’ because I didn’t want it to end. I really liked that Vanessa put the topic of family/friends before romance in this narrative and as I read a lot of Chick-Lit, this was really refreshing and a lovely change.

It’s the first book which I’ve read by Vanessa and it certainly won’t be the last. If you’re a lover of tea – then this is one for you!

Twitter: @VanessaGBooks
Website: www.vanessagreene.co.uk

Review of Hello From The Gillespies by Monica McInerney

Published: 6th November 2014
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 528

Blurb:

For the last thirty years, Angela Gillespie’s annual Christmas letter has been full of her family’s triumphs. But this year Angela surprises everyone, including herself – she tells the truth. Angela’s husband is in the throes of a mid-life crisis. Her grown-up daughters are more out of control than ever. And her youngest child spends all of his time talking to an imaginary friend. With fantasy thoughts of a life before marriage and motherhood becoming more than just an innocent daydream, Angela’s real life is slowly slipping out of focus. But, as the repercussions of her ruthlessly honest letter begin to pile up, a shocking event takes Angela from her family, and she realises she should have been more careful of what she wished for…

Review:

Thank you to Penguin for kindly sending me a review copy.

Angela Gillespie is a mother and a wife. She uprooted her life in London for her husband in Australia. Her annual Christmas letter to family, friends and neighbours is how the narrative begins which I thought was a brilliant and clever idea. I enjoyed how Angela described her three daughters, son and her husband in turn – carefully explaining who was in which city and her opinion on their current lives.

The plot immediately felt very homely and comforting. But Angela, now fifty-five, doesn’t want comfort, she wants adventure. Even within the opening chapter, Angela’s voice was strong and the descriptions were so beautiful and vivid. I wanted to learn more of how Angela and her husband met as Monica touched on it briefly and it gave Angela a wonderful glow.

I enjoyed the change in viewpoint and soon enough, the entire family was involved in the plot. Monica’s writing was so inviting and her love for the Gillespie family shone through. I felt as if I had known the family for years and I was revisiting old family friends.

Twitter: @MonicaMcInerney
Website: www.monicamcinerney.com

Samantha Tonge Talks Books

Samantha Tonge enjoys writing romantic comedy novels as well as short stories. Her upcoming book Mistletoe Mansion is out on 10th November and we all know it’s never too early to discuss Christmas…

Q. Mistletoe Mansion is your new book. For those who don’t know what it’s about, could you please give a hint (or two) of what it’s about?
A. It’s about wannabe celebrity Kimmy who ends up living the high life she dreams of, when she house sits a supposedly haunted mansion. There’s a famous golfing wife next door, an annoying but hunky handyman and lots and lots of cake as she also hopes to run her own baking business! And the question is… Will the celebrity lifestyle live up to her fantasy or not?

Mistletoe Mansion

Q. The main character Kimmy is an aspiring baker and wannabe celebrity. Why did you create a central character who is unsure of what she wants to do in life?
A. Because I think many of us are, in our early twenties. I mean, goodness, I didn’t work out I wanted to be a serious writer until I was nearly forty! I think we are vulnerable in our twenties, not really knowing who we are yet, but still trying to forge a path forwards for ourselves, career and love-wise. And I think it’s interesting to see how people reach life-changing decisions.

Q. Mistletoe Mansion is the title and of course, mistletoe is in reference to Christmas. How did you find writing a Christmas book when it wasn’t the festive period?
A. Strange! But then I am used to doing this as a short story writer – the magazines I used to sell to always work at least 3 months ahead. I am now working on a summer novel!

Q. Your books are romantic comedy novels. Do you ever struggle with writing humour?
A. Not now – but it took me a long time to find my humorous writing voice. My first book wasn’t a comedy and looking back was very stilted. I was advised to really try to “let go” when I wrote, and the result of that was the tone of how I write now. Although I do manage to switch that off when writing short stories.

Q. Christmas is ALMOST upon us (she says while we’re in October…), are you one of those who buys presents months in advance or do you panic on Christmas Eve?
A. I used to be reasonably organised until I started writing, and now all I can say is, thank goodness for Amazon and their quick delivery times!

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Now for the quick fire round…

Father Christmas or Santa?
- Father Christmas

Christmas Eve or Boxing Day?
– Christmas Eve

Mince Pies or Terry’s Chocolate Orange?
– Terry’s Chocolate Orange

Stocking Fillers or Big Presents?
– Stocking Fillers

Putting the tree up or taking it down?
– Taking it down

Jingle Bells or Santa Baby?
– Santa Baby

Twitter: @SamTongeWriter
Website: www.samanthatonge.co.uk

Jenny Hale Talks Books

A Christmas To Remember is the new book from Jenny Hale which consists of the magic of childhood memories. I sat down with the author who is known for her well loved characters.

Q. A Christmas To Remember is available for readers to download onto their Kindle. What is the book about?
A. A Christmas to Remember is about nanny, Carrie Blake, who has worked so many years as a live-in nanny that she hasn’t ever had a chance to have her own life. She decides to take one final, temporary job watching the Fletcher children for Christmas. It’s here that she meets their father, single dad, Adam Fletcher, who has made himself a quite wonderful life, but he works so much that he doesn’t ever enjoy what he’s built for himself. As his family arrives for Christmas, including his sensitive sister, Sharon, and his fun-loving, elderly Grandpa, Walter, Carrie realizes that she might just have found the perfect allies in her quest to persuade Adam to loosen up. She wants to make this his family’s best Christmas, but in doing so, she may have a quite memorable Christmas herself!

A_Christmas_to_Remember_Website

Q. Your new book is all about childhood memories. What is your favourite childhood memory?
A. I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood, but I suppose if I had to pick one, it would be when my parents would drive us to my elementary school on snow days. When it snows in Virginia, the neighborhood roads don’t get plowed sometimes for a few days. The school buses can’t run on unplowed roads (although cars usually can do okay) so schools are closed. My elementary school sat atop a hill that was so high that to a child, it seemed like a mountain. My mom would pile our sleds into the car and drive us there so that we could go sledding. We’d stay until we could hardly feel our fingers and toes. It was so much fun.

Q. Christmas is THE best time of the year. I’m in the UK whereas you’re in America. How do you think the festive period differs between the two?
A. To me, it’s actually quite similar. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is the food. Most of it is the same: We often have a big Christmas dinner, like in the UK (although some of us have our big meal a month before at Thanksgiving) and we eat turkey with cranberry sauce or a ham. The differences: We do like to mash our potatoes rather than roasting them. I ate a lot of Brussels sprouts in the UK. We have them, but I can’t say I’ve ever prepared them before! In the southern US, we usually make green beans that we stew all day with a ham hock which gives them a very salty flavor. What I’ve never had in the US are Christmas pudding or mince pies.

Q. If you could write a Christmas book with ANY author in the world, who would it be and why?
A. I think Harriet Evans would be fun! I love her stories.

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Q. What’s the best part of Christmas for you and your family?
A. It’s hard to pick just one. Let me make you a list:

-baking cookies for Santa (Chocolate chip is his favorite.)

-watching the kids as they eye the new presents under the tree each morning

when I’ve wrapped new ones (I wrap on and off through December.)

-decorating the tree

-tracking Santa with the kids! We go to http://www.noradsanta.org and watch where he

is all over the world on Christmas Eve.

-making treats for our neighbors and watching the kids deliver them

-of course, seeing the kids’ faces on Christmas morning

 Now for the quick fire round…

Christmas Eve or Boxing Day?
– We have no Boxing Day! Christmas Eve.

Father Christmas or Santa?
– Santa.

Mince Pies or Leftovers?
– Leftovers. (I’ve never had a mince pie! Are they any good?)

Jingle Bells or Santa Baby?
– Santa Baby.

Twitter: @jhaleauthor
Website: www.itsjennyhale.com

Review of Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Published: 4th November 2014
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 416

Blurb: 

Jenna Metcalf was with her mother the night she disappeared in tragic and mysterious circumstances, but she remembers nothing.

Over ten years have passed, and still Jenna reads and rereads her mother’s journals, hoping to find some clue hidden there, in the meticulous recording of her scientific research with elephants. Desperate for answers, Jenna uses all her savings to recruit the aid of a private detective – and a psychic. Jenna knows her mother loved her. She knows she would not leave her. And she will not rest until she finds out what happened that night.

Review:

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for kindly sending me a review copy.

The prologue begins with elephants. It immediately got me thinking about how baby elephants never leave their mothers, but in this story, the baby has no choice but to be apart from her mother. We hear from Jenna and her mother Alice throughout the entire narrative and I really enjoyed hearing from both sides.

Jenna is 13 years old and desperately trying to locate his missing mother. I admired her determination more than anything. She’s not the typical teenager, she’s far smarter than anyone else in her class and probably the teachers. I thought that the pacing of the plot at the beginning was rather slow and at times, it put me off from reading. I wanted to pick up the book and not want to put it down, but that simply wasn’t the case. It took me quite some time to really get into the plot and that was only towards the end.

I thought the twist at the end was superb. It was unique, mind blowing and quite shocking. I would never have guessed that, not in a million years. If you do happen to have a review copy or if you’ll be purchasing a copy – please DO NOT spoil the ending.

Twitter: @jodipicoult
Website: www.jodipicoult.com

Debbie Johnson Talks Books

Harper Impulse author Debbie Johnson is excited for Christmas and not only that, but she’s been writing about it for a good couple of months. Why’s that you ask? Her new book Cold Feet At Christmas is all about getting married on Christmas Eve. I sat down with the Liverpool lady to discuss all things books and the festive period…

Q. Your new book, Cold Feet At Christmas is set to be published on 6th November. For those who are unaware of the blurb, can you tell them a little bit about the book?
A. I have a confession to make: it’s actually all about NOT getting married on Christmas Eve! Our heroine, Leah, is in Scotland for the big fairytale castle wedding deal: tying the knot with her long term partner. The whole fairytale takes a slightly Brothers Grimm turn when she discovers him in a compromising position with one of the bridesmaid’s before the ceremony – not exactly an ideal start to wedded bliss! Understandably taken aback, she runs away and ends up lost, with a broken down car, in the middle of a snow blizzard. Wearing just her wedding frock and Jimmy Choos, she starts the long hike to the nearest cottage – where she meets Rob Cavelli, the kind of tall, dark and handsome we’d all like to find in our Christmas stocking! The story really picks up where it all starts to go wrong for Leah – but, in a strange way, also where it all starts to go right. It’s about finding yourself in the middle of an emotional and practical disaster zone, and rebuilding from the ground up – one Christmas at a time.

Cold Feet at christmas (2)

Q. Harper Impulse are your publishers *squeal* – I do love those guys! How did you react when you discovered that you were going to be one of their fabulous authors?
A. I was thrilled – my books had been sent by my agent to a few different companies, some of whom had also said yes, but I was hanging on and hanging on and hoping and hoping…and eventually, they said yes! I love the wide variety of romances they publish, and they do a fantastic job on the covers. Mine looks good enough to eat!

Q. The book is based upon a wedding at Christmas Eve. I noticed that the dedication read: “For Jane and Mark – who renewed my faith in happy endings!” How important was it for you to make the ending as realistic and unpredictable as possibly?
A. Well, this is a romance with a strong chick-lit tone – and while there are twists and turns along the way, I always wanted a happy ending. I think most readers do – it’s very cathartic to go through an emotional journey with someone you are rooting for, sharing their ups and downs and their heart breaks and their laughter, but feeling somewhat reassured about the fact that – in the end – love will prevail. If that is predictable, I don’t mind – because you know what, real life is strangely short on happy endings! Plenty of the heartbreak and turmoil, but not so much of the euphoria – which is precisely why we like reading! It’s all about escapism and fun and humour and emotion, about losing yourself in a good book and forgetting the ‘real’ (allegedly!) world around you. I make no claims to be writing great literature, or anything gritty enough to be Booker Prize material – for me, whatever genre I’m writing in, it’s about that escapism. That’s not to say there can’t be a hefty dose of realism – but with romances in particular I think we all like a little bit of sugar!

Q. I presume you wrote your book in the Spring/Summer months, how did you find that experience? Did you blast Christmas music all around the house?
A. I actually started it not long after winter, when we’d had lots of snowy dog walks across glistening fields, which always kind of blurs reality. And to be honest I am always halfway to a Christmas state of mind anyway – it’s my favourite time of the year, I absolutely love it! I’m one of those annoying women who buys Christmas gifts all year round, and has my wrapping done by the end of November. Don’t hate me for it – I just get over-excited!

Q. Why did you decide to write about a romance which COULD go wrong at Christmas?
A. Christmas is such an emotional time of year – everything is heightened, be it good or bad. I lost parents in the run up to Christmas, so that always plays on my mind – it’s a time of celebration and cheer, but it can also be a melancholy time, and for some people downright lonely. Things that are both right and wrong in your life tend to feel more vivid, don’t they? I think it’s partly why so many of us see New Year as a fresh start. So while I do  love Christmas, and it’s generally a fab and fun time in my house, I do also see it as having a lot of dramatic potential. Leah, like most of us, wanted so desperately for everything to be right at Christmas – and instead, it went as wrong as it possibly could for her!

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Q. If you could write a book with any author (dead or alive), who would it be and why?
A. Hhmmmm…there are some heavyweight writers I totally adore, like James Lee Burke and John Connolly, who write the most exquisite crime novels. But I suspect I’d be a bit out of my depth, so I’ll go for Nora Roberts/JD Robb – a sublime storyteller, and someone who seems like a lot of fun!

Now for the quick fire round…

Christmas Eve or Boxing Day?
Christmas Eve – the excitement, the excitement!!!

Christmas at home or Christmas on holiday?
At home – I’ve tried it on holiday, and I miss my extended family and my dog!

Kindle or Paperback?
Aaagh…sorry, but I desperately need both!

Describe your perfect Christmas in FIVE words…
‘Happy, healthy family, all together’

Twitter: @debbiemjohnson
Website: http://www.debbiejohnsonauthor.com