The Happy Endings Book Club by Jane Tara

"A happy ending for one person might not be so happy for another. Or it might not be a happy ending, but a beginning, or even both, because they're often the same thing."

The blurb

This Christmas, the women of the Happy Endings Book Club are about to uncover a world of love and magic as they discover how to have their own happy ending... or beginning, as they're often the same thing. 

Once a month, seven very different women come together to discuss books. 
They all love a happy ending, but have lost sight of how to get their own. Paige misses glimpsing the magic in the world. Sadie doesn't see the beauty inside people. Amanda wonders what she ever saw in her ex-husband. Tilda literally can't see herself. Michi can't bear looking at her family, while Clementine is blind to what's right in front of her. And Eva looks for romance in all the wrong places. 

But things are about to change...

Meet the women of the Happy Endings Book Club as they celebrate Christmas, and themselves, in London, Paris, Vienna, New York, Sydney... and in love. 

Becca's thoughts

I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review, so that is what I shall give it. 

Firstly, I absolutely ADORE the cover for The Happy Endings Book Club. It's so feminine and classical looking, which is one way to describe the women involved in the story. It's not overloading with flowers or bright colour. It's plain, but it's a beautiful plain, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I love it. 

Now, the characters in The Happy Endings Book Club were lovely. But that's all. I realise the story itself is only 200 pages long, therefore this was a quick read for me. There wasn't a lot of depth to the characters, but I still got a feel for them, just maybe not as much as I usually like. With so many women's lives to keep up with, I did find it a little bit difficult to keep track of what was going on with whom. I think again, this is due to not going into too much depth with each character. Each chapter is a different woman's story carrying on, but when I begun a new chapter, I'd forgotten what had happened with that character previously and found myself flicking back through the pages to re-read it again. 

Putting that aside, I did love the magical twist to this book. At points I was confused with what was real and what wasn't, because random things were thrown into it, and I just sat there blinking, waiting to read the words, "and then she woke up." Once I realised it was actually part of the story, I began to enjoy it, but I did wonder why certain parts had been put in there. 

One part I did LOVE was how Jane Tara described her settings. There's lots of different places involved as you can read from the blurb, including Paris and Sydney, so you're not just stuck in one country which is exciting! Tara goes into detail with each place, placing you right there in the country with the character at the time. Vienna was a particular favourite, 

"In the middle of this spellbinding scene was the most beautiful Christmas tree Eva had ever laid eyes on. It was tall and alight with what looked like a swarm of fireflies. She felt like she was standing inside a snow globe she'd once owned as a child."

In this scene, you're transported to Vienna during a Christmas market, and the detail given to you whilst you're reading allows you to see everything perfectly in your mind, which I love!

Overall, I'm giving The Happy Endings Book Club a rating of 6/10 stars. 
I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys a quick, romantic read and doesn't like to stick with just one or two characters throughout an entire story. Swapping and changing between all the women allows you an entertaining and enjoyable read, getting a glimpse of numerous different lives and scenarios. The Happy Endings Book Club was a good read, but there could have been more history behind the characters or even just a little more time getting to know them before swapping to the next.

Buying links

(Kindle only)
(Kindle only)

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan

"Family could be like a cushion, Kayla thought. Something soft to protect you from the blows of life. You couldn't stop the blows happening, but if you had people who cared around you then the blows hurt less."

The blurb

Once upon a time Kayla loved Christmas. 

Now she's more dedicated to her job than decking her halls, and can't 
wait for the 'most wonderful time of the year' to be over. 

Until she arrives at the enchanting Snow Crystal ski resort, 
determined to win gorgeous owner Jackson as a marketing client. 

But wooing Jackson professionally quickly turns personal as they
spend flirty festive nights in this glittering winter wonderland. With 
snowflakes swirling and slight bells ringing. 

Could she fall back under the Christmas spell? 

Becca's thoughts

I brought the paperback version of Sleigh Bells in the Snow when I decided to buy a three-book-bundle from Amazon UK a few weeks before Christmas. As well as Sleigh Bells in the Snow, I brought Just for Christmas by Scarlett Bailey which was wonderfully festive and Calling Mrs Christmas by Carole Matthews which has to be my favourite out of the three. I'm not going to lie to you readers, it was the cover that sold it to me. It's gorgeous, overloaded with festivity and romance, the setting an incredibly Christmassy vision; including snow, wooden cabins and a sled pulled by dogs. You also have an image of the two main characters, Kayla and Jackson, wrapped up together on the front too! Extremely romantic.

What I loved most about Sleigh Bells in the Snow is the effort put into the setting. Apart from at the very beginning, you're transported into a world that's constantly in Christmas mode until the story ends. Snow Crystal Ski Resort is where Kayla's story develops. It's a beautiful holiday resort; log cabins in secluded areas, perfect hot chocolates, sleigh rides through the sparkling white forests and frozen lakes to wonder upon. I fell in love with the place from the moment Kayla arrived at her secluded snow cabin,

"Forgetting she was wet and shivering, Kayla walked across the wooden floor, taking in all the tiny details from the basked of roughly chopped wood logs next to the flickering fire, to the twist of delicate lights that hung from rafters to floor turning the space into the equivalent of a fairy grotto."

Everything about this place is magical. You're constantly reminded of the freezing weather, the falling snow and the icy ground, so the image and feel of the setting is imprinted into your mind as you read. 

The two main characters are an absolute delight and I love when the male and female characters contrast, creating a chemistry that's scorching hot. Kayla is a woman who lives to work. Her career is incredibly important to her and she's fantastic at what she does; a full on business woman with the pencil skirt and stilettos to go with it. Jackson on the other hand is an outdoor man. He loves to ski, loves the place where he was brought up and finds Kayla hilarious. The amount of times she ends up face first in the snow is unbelievable and Jackson can't seem to figure out why she dislikes Christmas so much. They're both lonely and completely immersed in work; Jackson trying to keep the family business afloat and Kayla trying to make it happen. The reason for her stay in Snow Crystal is so that she can experience everything first hand in order for her to sell it to people better. During her stay, she begins to realise that there is so much more to the place that meets the eye, including the huge O'Neil family. 

This book is a beautiful story about falling in love with Christmas again. From the skiing to the sleigh rides, it has everything to make you feel like you've stepped inside a Christmas wonderland. 

I'm giving Sleigh Bells in the Snow a rating of 7/10. 
Although a beautiful story, it's not one of my favourite Christmas reads but there's definitely a lot of sexiness and chemistry within the pages, which makes it a fantastic one for romance lovers. 

Buying links

What does Christmas mean to YOU?

Christmas is now just one week away, so to add a sparkly sprinkle of Christmas festivity to your moods, I have invited some of my lovely book blogging friends to tell you all about their personal Christmas meanings, traditions and thoughts on the wonderful day that is Christmas Day! There's a hint of everything in ; sadness, love, cheer, excitement, humour and remembrance. All the little things that come together and make Christmas a day to remember each year. So now I'll be handing it over to the fabulous ladies that have helped make this special post what it is. I really hope you enjoy reading all of their precious Christmas feelings and thoughts, and have yourselves a very, merry Christmas.

"Christmas usually begins in November for me. We have a recently established tradition, well we intend to make it a tradition, which involves me and my mum heading off to the Metrocentre in Newcastle to hammer our Christmas shopping, and get as much of it as possible. This year I got almost all of it done when we were there, so score for me. 

Then comes the wrapping and writing of cards. I like to be coordinated. I order my Christmas wrapping and have everyone's presents laid out so that I can wrap them all with ribbons and bows to match each other, I would even go as far as to say that it's a bit obsessive. 

I meet with my two best friends and we exchange gifts together, opening them before Christmas, naughty I know, but we are able to share in the Christmas spirit as we won't see each other on the day. 

The countdown to Christmas then begins and I usually like to take Christmas Eve off work so that I can help my mum with things like setting the table and making last minute adjustments/Christmas card drop offs. Christmas Eve night we all head down to our local church, watch the night service and welcome Christmas surrounded by family and friends in a friendly atmosphere and then head out into a usually chilly night and home to leave out a carrot and milk for Santa and Rudolph!

On Christmas Eve, I usually find it hard to sleep, even though I'm in my twenties. When we wake up, my sister and I head downstairs and wait outside the lounge door until my mum and dad are ready, armed with coffee and bin bags, only then can we enter to see if Santa has been. We exchange gifts and have a small glass of bucks fizz before getting ready, wrapped up and head to Church for the Christmas morning service where we meet friends we've known for years and wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Carols are sung and the children in the congregation go up onto the stage to show a present that Santa delivered for them. 

After the service we head home for lunch. Last year we had Christmas dinner at my boyfriend's house. This year, lunch is at our house - not turkey though. Usually we have steak pie, then we watch a movie when we are so full of lunch, dessert and then cheese and biscuits and fall asleep in front of  it before going to my boyfriend's house to spend Christmas night. That is my usual Christmas. 

This year Christmas will be different. 

Last year my gran passed away. My papa joined us early on Christmas morning to open our Santa presents with us and then exchange gifts, he came with us to Church instead of meeting us there and then spent the whole day at our house. After we had dinner at my boyfriend's house we came back to my house and that's when the board games came out. My 90 year old papa wired in, hitting out with hilarious statements and generally just having a great time and enjoying Christmas night with my family round the kitchen table, fizzy wine, chocolate and board games in full swing. 

My papa passed away in June this year, so Christmas 2013 will be an entirely different affair. It will no doubt be sad, but we will be able to recall the memories of Christmases gone by, spent in the company of wonderful family and friends. That is what Christmas means to me. 

Erin xx"


- - -

"Here in Switzerland we celebrate Christmas a bit differently. Santa Claus visits families with children on the 6th of December. He brings some oranges, nuts etc. Then he tells the children what good things they have done in the past year. There is also Schmutzli (wearing all black), his spooky companion. Schmutzli has a skein for all the naughty children. 

We celebrate with our families on the 24th of December, Christmas Eve, and the Christmas spirit or Christ child brings our presents. As a child I always had to hide in my room with my brother and grandparents, until the Christmas spirit had arrived with the presents. It's our family tradition to sing a lot at Christmas and we always eat Fondue Chinoise (meat fondue). On Christmas day we celebrate again, mostly with the other part of the family. 

What really gets me into the Festive mood is decorating the house and listening to Christmas songs. I always loved to help my mum putting up our silver stars and angels. We decorate in the colours white and silver. With the Christmas tree we wait until a few days before Christmas, at around December the 20th. It became a tradition that I go buy the Christmas tree with my dad (because he always chooses the wrong ones) and then my mum and I decorate it. 

I absolutely love listening to Christmas songs. That's when I really start to get in the Christmassy mood. I love singing and so I always sing along, which annoys my family sometimes, but I don't care. In the last few years I always had the possibility to take part in Christmas concerts and it was always such a great experience. Last year I was an angel. Unfortunately, this year I didn't have the time, so next year again. It was always really funny when we started rehearsing the songs in September. 

Another thing I really like to do, is baking Christmas cookies, especially with some of my closest friends around. It's so much fun and we always end up in a total mess. 

One last thing I can't without during Christmas is of course all the Christmas books I read, at the moment it's mostly chick-lit. I love diving into a book and forget everything around me. The Christmas spirit in the book transfers into me and I'm all festive. Reading is dreaming with open eyes, and that's also true for all the Christmas books. I can dream about Christmas with the books and I get into the joyful mood. 

Christmas really means a lot to me. I love spending time with my family and getting all dressed up and stuff. My little cousin is five years old now and it's always so cute to have her around in the house at Christmas time, in a cute little dress and surprising her. Since my grandma died it's kind of the only time we meet up as a whole family and my little cousin always makes me smile. Sadly they don't come around that often. 

When I wake up in the morning and then see all the lights, candles and decorations in silver and white I get a really warm feeling and just feel so at home and comfortable. It's nice to have these warm lights inside, when it's freezing cold outside, although I have to say I love Christmas in a Winter Wonderland full of snow. And we get that pretty often here in Switzerland. 

Merry Christmas to all of you and I wish you all a great festive time with moments of laughter, love, happiness and bliss."


- - -

"Christmas is such a magical holiday. I am a Christmas fanatic! I would have tinsel and garland all over my house if it were up to me! 

I love all the lights and decorations, I love the timeless music and, of course, the shopping! I adore watching the marathon Christmas movies (Home Alone is still one of my favourites). I get excited about all the egg nog and cider - but isn't a lot of this what everyone loves about Christmas? So let's get down on a personal level for a moment, here is a typical Christmas in the life of Stevie J: 

For me, it all starts the day after Thanksgiving (I live in the U.S, in case you weren't aware). To completely appreciate this you must first understand that my significant other is the definition of Scrooge. 

I am curled up on my leather couch flipping through the sale papers from department stores and Jay walks in. I glance up and soak in his gorgeous face. I just start to think how lucky I really am to have a man that looks likes like he walked off a magazine cover - and then he opens his mouth. 

"Oh yes! 'Tis the season to spend money on things no one really needs!"

He plops down on the couch next to me and pulls the sports section from the paper. "I mean it Stevie, this year we aren't buying anything for anyone besides the kids - and they each get three things. Baby Jesus only got three things you know!"

I stare at him and then glance back down to the paper in my hand. That comment just cost him an extra hundred bucks!

Fast forward to putting up the tree. 

"Jay. Babe? Do you want to help decorate the tree this year?"

Jay stops in the doorway and looks blankly at me. "No." He turns and walks back into the kitchen. 

Alright, so now let's go to a normal ride in the car. I turn on the station that plays nothing but Christmas music until the day after Christmas. I start loudly singing Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas" and Jay cuts his eyes over me. 

He let's out a heavy sigh and faces back towards the road as he says, "Bah-humbug!" Yes, he actually says that, I told you - he's like Scrooge, except attractive and burly. 

Then comes Christmas morning. 

We wake up and trudge down the stairs to our living room. He pours us both cups of coffee, making sure to put mine in my penguin coffee mug, and then sits next to me on the couch. He turns on Christmas music and plugs in the tree. We hear the girls at the top of the stairs; they look so adorable in their Christmas pajamas. Jay reaches over and gives me a tender kiss on the cheek and says, "Merry Christmas babe." 

We watch the girl's tear through their presents and revel in their excitement. Jay has a perma-smile plastered on his face the entire time. He even starts to sing some of the Christmas carols that are playing on the radio. 

As I'm cleaning up the wrapping paper and getting ready for family to come over for dinner, he looks at me and asks, "So, how much did you spend?"

No matter how much of a Scrooge you are you can't help but love Christmas, even if it is only for a fleeting three hour span on Christmas morning. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Bah-humbug!" 


- - -

"When Rebecca invited me to take part in her Christmas blog posts, I was quite excited! I couldn't wait to see what I would be writing about, so when she asked me to tell her what Christmas meant to me, I was super excited. I love Christmas. It's my favourite holiday. It's the only holiday where you can dress your house up all pretty (except Halloween, but we don't really do Halloween in our house). As soon as December rolls around, it means we're on the countdown to Christmas. From opening my advent calendar (yes, I still have an advent calendar, even at 23) to wondering what presents I will buy, to decorating the tree, it means my favourite time of year has arrived. 

This year our tree went up the first week of December, we bought a new one because our old one was quite patchy, and had massive gaps. So a new one was the order of the day, and it is beautiful. We've put on three sets of lights, tons of baubles, some strings of beads, and a star on the top of course. I thought that was all we were doing this year, but when me and my sister went out Christmas shopping my dad took it one step further, putting lights up outside, lights around the fireplace, and loads of decorations and tinsel on the walls. It now looks 100 times more festive and I love it. It now feels Christmassy as can be and I love seeing the lights on - I'll have them on all day, every day, just to watch them twinkle. I also have my own little Christmas tree up in my room with lights on. Really, I just love the lights I think. 

I have to be super shallow and say my favourite thing about Christmas is the presents. I LOVE receiving new things! But, I also love buying presents for the family. I love wondering what to buy everyone and I had a blast buying presents for my kids cousins when I was in England in November. I love thinking of something to buy my parents and sister that they won't expect and will love so much more than the normal, boring stuff they always ask for. I love buying beautiful wrapping paper, and glittery, sparkly gift tags and I love wrapping my presents as much as I love opening them. I just love the whole gift giving/receiving bit of Christmas. 

Christmas also means a MEGA Christmas dinner. My mam makes a pretty awesome Sunday dinner, but the Christmas dinner eclipses that because you have turkey, bacon wrapped around little mini sausages. You have crackers and silly hats. You can eat your weight in food and it's OK because it's Christmas! It's the only time of year we all sit around the table and it is AMAZING. 

Christmas is just a time for family, for presents, for beautiful tree decorations, for wonderfully happy Christmas movies, for a mega good game of Monopoly. It's the only time of year where you're not really allowed to to argue because everybody should be happy, because it's Christmas for crying out loud. I adore Christmas. I will always love Christmas. It is my favourite holiday, and I just wish we could keep the tree up all year. The only thing that would make my Christmas more perfect, is if it snowed in Tenerife for once because it is super weird waking up on Christmas morning to boiling hot sun." 


- - -

"Although I'm a huge Christmas addict when it comes to my festive reading, the more the merrier which is why I've set myself a Christmas reading challenge in December, the same cannot be said for the actual day itself. It hate it as far too many memories reminding me of what I no longer have. 

My mum was the glue that kept our family together and she was a huge Christmas addict but it's never been the same since she died almost 14 years ago. The first few years afterwards we all would still come together but over time as relationships change we've drifter apart so haven't spent a family Christmas together in quite some time. 

When we were younger it was a big deal putting up the tree and decorations but not as early as everyone seems to be doing it these days, mum was very traditional in that the tree came down on the 12th night but generally didn't get put up until the Sunday before Christmas after we'd come home from Church. Another tradition was going to midnight mass and then coming home and unwrapping a present, although as we got older it was going to the local pub after Church and meeting up with old friends who were all home for Christmas! 

Christmas morning there would always be carols playing with mum singing along from the kitchen as she was prepping the turkey and we always without fail had to watch the Queen's speech followed by playing board games. 

But the one thing that does still remain is the catching up with friends, we all lead such busy lives these days and most of them now have their own kids, and some even grandchildren, so it's nice to be able to catch up over a coffee to see what's going on since we last met up. 

So for me this Christmas I'll be raising a glass in memory of my mum." 


- - -

"Christmas is such a wonderful holiday. Christmas has always been my favourite time of year. It's a time to meet all your relatives that you haven't seen for a while, to share laughs and stories that happened over the years. Christmas to me means something spending time with those you love and who love you, my family. It's not about presents as a lot of kids think. It's all about giving and receiving.

I enjoy the build up for Christmas! The decorations, the music, the movies, the shopping and just getting everything sorted. The only think I surely don't enjoy is wrapping the gifts. I'm not very talented at that. I'm always very happy when I shop for presents around Christmas time, shops offer wrapping for free!

Santa's got a long list of books I want to read. I hope I might get a few of them. 

The gift shopping can be quite exhausting. Running around the shops and looking for presents. I'm relieved when I've got everything I wanted. Despite of that I am just happy. Christmas also means to me I have a couple of days off of work and I can enjoy the time with my family. Christmas also brings up another emotion. Sadness. Why? It is my grannie's birthday on Christmas day. She left us a few years ago and she is very missed during our celebration."


- - - 

"Christmas for me begins with putting up the decorations, which I have to admit is getting earlier and earlier, although I still have succumbed to putting them up before December! I love the tinsel and the lights and my favourite this year is my matching winter booties, mitten and bobble hat tree decorations - they are so cute!! 

Christmas for me is waking up to a cold, crisp morning, a stillness over the house as the family are fast asleep, then the slight shuffles as one by one we all start to rise and soon the house is full with the hustle and bustle as it comes alive infused with the excitement that awaits on Christmas day. It's about following the little traditions from when you were a child - putting milk and cookies out for Santa and some carrots for the reindeer (even though it is myself that puts them out and and takes them away again! Crazy?) It is about piling up your plate with all the yummy Christmas dinner even though you know you can't possibly eat that much, and then still wanting the cheese and crackers. 

Christmas used to be very different for me... I was born in South Africa, so grew up with Christmas falling in the middle of our Summer. This meant that Christmas day was spent outside splashing around in the swimming pool, followed by a large buffet style lunch consisting of cold meats, salads, chicken drumsticks etc. When I first moved to England I found it so strange that Christmas time was cold, and particularly the snow!! This was a whole new level of excitement for me as I had never seen snow before (I was 14 when I first saw snow!) After living in England, it then occurred to me that I had never questioned why even in South Africa we had Christmas cards with snowmen on, even though it was Summer for us - surely we should've had elves having a BBQ or Santa on a surfboard!?

When I was 15 my parents separated - generally I took the separation OK as I knew my parents were happier apart, but Christmas became a difficult time. I had always been used being a really big family affair, but after the separation it was just me, my mum and my brother. It just didn't seem to have the same atmosphere and excitement any more. But as the years went on the Christmas spirit found its way back again! As I got older I started to appreciate that Christmas didn't have to be only the one day of celebration, so splitting my time between families, although can be tricky, wasn't an issue. And for me it is more about families coming together over the Christmas period to relax and put their feet up and just remove ourselves from our normal chaotic lives. My family has grown since as my Dad remarried and my mum has a boyfriend, and the great thing is I get on really well with all of them. So for me now, Christmas is even bigger and better than before, as I have so many more special people in my life to share it with."


- - -

"What Christmas means to me is spending time with my family especially now that I have a 3 1/2 year old nephew. I generally like Christmas, putting up the tree and decorations, but as I have got older feel it is more commercial and definitely more for children. 

I start to feel the Christmas spirit when I see the Coca Cola advert with the truck. I love all the Christmas songs, my favourite being Last Christmas. I really start to feel Christmas on the Friday before, in the town where I live it's named 'Mad Friday', this used to be because it was the day most places of work closed before Christmas, now I think it's just an excuse to go out for a Christmas meal with work colleagues and have a few drinks. 

The last few Christmases have been dominated by my nephew and opening his presents. I can't wait for this year as he understands more about Father Christmas, if you ask him if he's been good you always get a yes, even when he has just been naughty. I am looking forward to seeing his face on Christmas day. 

This year I'm not really feeling Christmas and I don't know if this is because I have recently met 'man of my dreams' or at least I hope he is, who will working away over Christmas. So my thoughts will be with him over Christmas and New Year. 

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!"


- - -

"To me, Christmas means having my mum Cancer free for the first time in 9 months. I don't need any presents; that's the greatest gift of all."


- - -

"It was very interesting that Becca asked me to take part in this blog feature as I had a few days previously wrote one titled festive blues which is over at, so a big thank you for asking me. 

Christmas for me has varied over the years from my every changing situation in life. Last year I was at my sister's and her family as my children were at their father's. Had Xmas with in-laws or just me and the kids which is how it will be this year. I think where I didn't have them last year I'm more appreciative and enjoying the festive season more. The tree went up earlier and I'm looking forward to panto and Christmas baking, well will attempt! 

Christmas is about family which is something I've had to learn, doesn't matter if your family is small. It's also about eating and drinking. My son still believes in Santa so it makes it more magical. Christmas Eve the goodies will be left out for Santa and his reindeers. Then my kids will get up at the crack of dawn and be tired by lunch time. 

Despite it being a happy time it can make me emotional, I think you look back over the year and it can highlight certain things for people. For me, it's not having parents, I do notice it more at certain times of the year. However, I'm learning to focus on the positives and the fact that I have 2 beautiful children. So our Christmas is small and quiet but its our's and we will make our own routine and traditions, and enjoy eating too much, watching Christmas films and probably getting the cooking wrong!!

Merry Christmas xx"


- - -

"Christmas has to be my favourite time of year - combined with the fact my daughter's birthday is the 23rd, it's so exciting in our house. I don't really start to feel Christmassy until about this point (at least this year) but we have so many little traditions that build up until the big day. 

On the first of December, we get all the decorations down and put them up. On the second weekend, I sit down with my daughter and we write her letter to Santa - this year we her brother's too. This is the first year my daughter has really understood Christmas and it's amazing. Don't tell anyone, but I totally believe in Santa this year ;)

My favourite tradition is on Christmas Eve, and it's one I've carried on from when I was a child. Santa's elves drop off an early present which is always Christmas jammies, so we change into those - yes, the whole family! -then set out his sherry, mince pie, and carrots for the reindeer. And my absolute favourite thing of the night is going to bed and reading The Night Before Christmas. It's such a magical story, and I even read it to her when she was 1 day old and when we were still in the hospital. 

The excitement I have absolutely stems from having children - then going to my in laws and seeing the three kids there. Christmas is completely family orientated in my eyes and all about the kids. The roast dinner is all about me, from the turkey to the pigs in blankets, (to wine. Ahem.) and dessert. 

Okay, so I buy in dessert, but I do make my daughter's birthday cake which counts for something, right?!

I also have to admit I've lied a bit. My favourite part is actually the music. 
Because who doesn't love Last Christmas by WHAM!?"


- - -

I hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I did. Such a fantastic mix of people's traditions, routines, Christmas wishes and festivity, with a special sprinkle of memories, sad times and remembrance. 

I would also like to say a special thank you to the ladies that took time out their day to write about their Christmases and chose to share them with me. 

Merry Christmas everyone! 
I hope you all have a magical time
Becca xx

Just for Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

"Dogs. Family. True Love. 
There are some things that aren't Just for Christmas."

The blurb

Her best friend's wedding...

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 fiancé, Ruan has no intention of letting 
anyone get close to him again...

Becca's thoughts

Just for Christmas is a beautifully written story, all wrapped up in Christmassy goodness and romance. I loved the plot, the characters and the festivity which is included within the pages of this heart-warming story by Scarlett Bailey. I purchased my copy from Amazon UK, and I will also include the buying links at the end of my review so you can grab yourself a copy too. 

Let's talk covers. Let's also be serious. What is there not to like about the cover of Just for Christmas? I think it's gorgeous, with it's glittery and sparkly illustrations, and if there's one thing that I love to see at this time of the year, it's glitter and sparkles. The colours used make you feel all warm and snuggly, and the snow is also a fantastic detail to add, giving it that full-on look of Christmas and Winter. 

The characters in Just for Christmas are a joy to be introduced to. You meet the main character, Alex Munro, who's just fled from her home due to issues within her family and love life, just as she's arriving at her new Cottage in the lovely, little town of Poldore. Alex is a great character, full of life but also full of secrets too. I love when an author does this; let's you know that there's more to the character, but doesn't let you know exactly what that "more" is, not until they're ready to reveal it to you. The wonderful thing about Alex is that she's a harbour master. She's taking on the job in Poldore's harbour, keeping a look out over the incoming and outcoming boats, making sure everyone's arriving and leaving safely. The funny thing is, people normally look at her and assume she wouldn't take up the job position because of the fact that she's a woman, but she's actually extremely good at what she does and most men end up envying her because she knows more about boats than they ever will. Alex has been in love with her best friend, Marcus, since they were about five years old. Marcus is now getting married to someone else, an orange faced, fake haired girl called Millie, and Alex has escaped by running to Poldore, where no one knows her and no one knows her story either. It's a fresh start for Alex, and she's about to make the most of it. It's a wonderful experience, being alongside Alex as she becomes more confident with herself and takes life head on, letting whatever is going to happen happen and throwing caution to the wind. You'll love her, I promise.         

Another character who deserves a mention in this review is Buoy. Buoy isn't your average character, Buoy is a scruffy, smelly dog who's been living in the town of Poldore for years and years. The cottage that Alex moves into is Buoy's home, and he's not too happy about having to share his abode with the new woman in town. He smells, he's very dirty and he growls a lot too, but by the end of the story, Alex and Buoy are inseperable. Watching the bond between woman and dog grow is absolutely adorable, and incredibly heart-warming. Buoy is a charming addition to the cast of characters in Just for Christmas and the story just wouldn't be the same without him. 

Now, the one character who I honestly can't wait for you to meet is Ruan, Poldore's lighthouse keeper. Ruan is a moody, miserable man who likes to keep himself to himself. He doesn't intend to get close to anyone, especially the ladies because he has loved and lost before. But when Alex Munro comes to town, that all changes. Ruan begins to come out of his shell and opens up to Alex like he has known her for years. You'll find Ruan drinking on his own in the pub, out on the water sailing his boats or just generally slouching around with his head in the clouds. He's the silent, beautiful type, but he has a good reason for his silence. 

There are many, many more characters awaiting you in Just for Christmas! The town of Poldore is a tight knit community and Alex is quite shocked at how well she actually fits in with every one. 

Just for Christmas is one of those books that I really, really don't want you to miss out on. If you're a lover of romance, of chick-lit, of Christmas, then this story is for you! You will not be disappointed, and you won't finish reading it out without feeling like a Christmas fairy.

I'm giving Scarlett Bailey's Just for Christmas a very worthy rating of 9/10. 
A perfect addition to any Christmas lovers book shelf. 

Buying links 

Calling Mrs Christmas by Carole Matthews

"If anyone should try to call Mrs Christmas now, I'm afraid that they'll find her otherwise engaged."

The blurb

Cassie Smith has been out of work for a while but she has an idea. Drawing on her love of Christmas, she begins charging for small things: wrapping presents; writing cards; tree-decorating. She's soon in huge demand and Cassie's business, Calling Mrs Christmas, is born. 

Carter Randall wants to make Christmas special for his children, so he enlists Cassie's help, and his lavish requests start taking up all her time. Thank goodness she can rely on her loving partner Jim to handle the rest of her clients. 

When millionaire Carter asks Cassie to join his family on a trip to Lapland, she knows she shouldn't go...
Suddenly Cassie finds herself facing a heart-breaking choice that could change her entire life. 

Becca's thoughts

Calling Mrs Christmas is a beautiful, festive story, full of warmth and joy and everything that Christmas entails! From the moment you open the book and turn to the first page, you are dropped into the ultimate Christmas story, and you will not want to leave, I can assure you. 

I'm not going to lie to you. The cover for Calling Mrs Christmas was what caught my eye. I didn't even read the blurb until it came to reviewing the book. That's naughty of me, I know, but sometimes you just can't help it, and when a cover is this gorgeous it doesn't even matter. It's festive, it's emotive, drawing from you every feeling associated with the Christmas season! Absolutely fabulous!

I found Calling Mrs Christmas rather like a big, Christmas adventure. You're alongside Cassie as she starts her business up, and you get to join her as she visits her clients and gets her jobs done, with a flair for Christmas creativity. She decorates trees, wraps presents, writes cards and even puts together Christmas events for local businesses and companies. It really is the ULTIMATE Christmas story, bringing together all the excitement and merriment that's included with this time of year. It's impossible to not get the Christmas bug after reading this book. 

The characters that you get to meet in Calling Mrs Christmas are all wonderful fictional creations. Cassie Smith is the main character, and you meet her first! Cassie was made redundant from her previous job, and since then she's became a bit of a slob. Lying around on the sofa whilst her boyfriend Jim works full time at Bovingdale Young Offenders Unit. Cassie lives for Jim's phone calls during the day, it gives her something to look forward to, and is basically the highlight of her long, repetitive days spent at home in front of the TV. When her idea for Calling Mrs Christmas pops into her head, she suddenly realises that this is her perfect job. An avid lover of all things Christmassy, Cassie gets right to it. She's creative, she's enthusiastic and she is perfect for the founder of Calling Mrs Christmas. She hopes that thinking up her dream job is going to end her and Jim's days of worrying about and struggling with money. 

What I really loved about Cassie was her flair for Calling Mrs Christmas. Turns out she is a dab hand and making things look beautiful and magical and extremely festive. She even learns to write in calligraphy, to give her customers who want her to write out their Christmas cards the ultimate professional look.She ends up watching tons of YouTube videos and learning how to wrap up presents like Santa's elves. It's wonderful watching her get into her new job role and you suddenly feel the urge to get your presents wrapped, write out Christmas cards and swing around the tops of your Christmas trees! (If they're big enough of course! Mine would crumble underneath me unfortunately. But it sounds like a fantastic idea!)

Jim, Cassie's partner, is an absolute sweetheart. There are many moments in the story where you will want to cuddle him up and just give him some snuggles. He's a very hard-working man, working full-time with "lads" who are took to the Young Offenders Unit because they've stole, attacked someone or are just plain pains in the arses. Day in, day out, he puts up with fights, cleaning out cells and doing routine checks to make sure there are no sharp objects hidden in pillows and mattresses. He goes home each night to Cassie, but never speaks about what his day involved. He likes to keep this to himself as his job also entails rather dirty work and it's not exactly the perfect conversation starter. Jim is so, soo lovely! I know lovely isn't a great word to use in a review but it describes this guy perfectly. He's loyal, he does everything to make Cassie happy, and he wants to put a ring on her finger and start a family as soon as they are financially able to. That's his ultimate dream. He's Cassie's biggest supporter, always behind her, and completely in awe of her when Calling Mrs Christmas really begins to get going. He helps her with wrapping presents, writing cards out and even dresses up as Father Christmas himself on a few occasions just to make sure everything goes smoothly for her. He is the ultimate gentleman, one of those nice guys who you know you can always depend on. 

From reading the blurb, you may have also noticed that a millionaire is involved in this story too. That's right. Carter Randall is an affluent, swanky attractive man who happens to bump into Cassie at one of her functions and manages to get covered in a drink by her. After finding out that the function has actually been put together by Cassie herself, and that she is the one and only Calling Mrs Christmas, he decides to put her in charge of turning his home into a Christmas palace. With his no-limit budget, Cassie can hardly contain her excitement in getting started on his huge, million pound mansion and acre long gardens. Carter himself is an okay guy. He is drenched with money and nothing is beyond his reach. He is in the middle of a separation with his ex-wife, Tamara, and his two children, Max and Eve are caught up in the middle of it all. After Carter is allowed to have his two children for the Christmas period, he puts Cassie in charge of arranging a once in a lifetime holiday for him and his children. He's got money coming from everywhere, and he doesn't care about going over the top. In fact, the house on the front cover is meant to depict Carter's abode. Pretty nice eh? ;) Carter holds more in store for Cassie than just a fat paycheck. 

There are many more characters for you to feast your imagination on, all full of surprises and fantastic personalities. The characters and the settings definitely made the story what it is. With the point of view switching between Cassie and her partner Jim, it makes for a very entertaining read. There's also a sort of contrast between each character's part in the story. I found Cassie's viewpoints are always upbeat and full of excitement, whereas Jim's are more grey, constantly working and slogging away. The two of them make the perfect Christmas fictional couple, and I loved every single little bit! 

It's emotional, full of ups and downs, but with the ultimate message hidden within. That Christmas is just about the presents under the tree or the money that's been spent. It's about being with your loved ones, sitting around the dinner table, and just basking in the glow of love that radiates between everyone, because that's all that really matters. 

Overall, I'm giving Calling Mrs Christmas a well deserved rating of 10/10. 
Giving this book anything less than that would be rather silly. 
If you haven't found a book that throws you into the Christmas spirit, then read this. 
You will NOT be disappointed, I promise you!

Buying links

Thanks for reading lovely book lovers! 
I'll be back again soon. 

The Ghost Hunters by Neil Spring

"Of all ghosts, the ghosts of our old loves are the worst."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The blurb

1926. London. 

My name is Sarah Grey.

I knew of Harry Price before
I became his trusted assistant.
He was notorious - London's
greatest ghost hunter.

Working alongside Harry meant 
devoting myself to his work, leaving
behind my past - and I trusted him. 

I knew of Borley Rectory, too, before
I visited it with Harry - supposedly the 
most haunted house in England. 

I knew there was no such thing as 
phantoms; the many witnesses must
be mad, or lying. 

I knew I could visit Borley Rectory 
without fear, return without harm. 

These are the things I thought I knew. 

I now understand the true meaning of terror. 

Becca's thoughts

I read The Ghost Hunters in paperback, and my copy was purchased from Asda. 
513 pages devoured in just a couple of days. 

This kinda steps away from my whole romantic, chick-lit genre, but I just HAD to post a review on my blog, because this story was sensational. I don't think I have ever been more intrigued or creeped out than I was when I was reading The Ghost Hunters. What's even better is the story is written about an actual house. I became that intrigued with it all that I just had to get myself onto Google and research EVERYTHING about the people, the stories and all the other little bits that came along with it. The Ghost Hunters really gets inside of your mind, and makes you think twice about going downstairs with the lights off. It makes you begin to wonder what's really lurking within the dark. 

The cover of The Ghost Hunters is superb. It's creepy looking, it's chilling and it looks like what a book about the paranormal should look like. What I love most is the little house which resembles Borley Rectory. Everything fits perfectly, even the font looks the part! It looks very dated and old-fashioned, really taking you back in time to when the whole story began with Sarah Grey and Harry Price. 

Written in first person, everything we read is from Sarah Grey's point of view, except at the very beginning and the very end. I don't want to say too much about this as it will give a huge part of the story away so I'll leave it at that! 

We first meet Sarah Grey when herself and her mother are on their way out to attend a seance, which Sarah is rather reluctant to go to, but with her mother's insistence, she decides to hold her tongue. From the second Sarah Grey was introduced to me, I liked her. She's smart, witty and refuses to let anybody push her around. She makes her own decisions and stands by them, no matter what or who gets in the way. Her dedication to her mother is absolutely beautiful, and so lovely to watch. After Sarah loses her father, and her mother loses her husband, both women look to each other for support and love. I think the loss of Sarah's father still effects her deeply, as is said on page 13.

"My father had meant the world to me. He was a terrifically busy man, of the most highly respected barristers in west London. Work, for him, had been a matter of survival."

Sarah's father actually got killed during the war, and you find out at a later stage in the book how and why he died. 

Sarah's mother is a hopeless dreamer. That's the impression I got any way. Since the day she was told at her front door of her husband's passing, she has gone to seance after seance, trying to make contact with the man she loved and still loves. Much to Sarah's aggravation and frustration, her mother continues to pray upon a medium bringing forth the spirit of her husband so they can talk once more. Not having chance to say goodbye is one of the worst feelings in the world, and I can totally relate to how she feels. I think Sarah wonders why her mother hasn't gotten over the death of her father yet, but as you find out later on, there's a much bigger story behind it all. Behind why her mother is so eager to speak to her father, behind why Sarah hears her mother late at night, rooting around in the wardrobe and restlessly walking about. I liked Sarah's mother, as much as she is a hopeless dreamer, it's also so sad to read about her constant desperation to talk to the dead.

Harry Price is an absolutely amazing character in The Ghost Hunters. I loved him. From the minute he first waltzed onto the page, I found everything he said entertaining. Mr Price works in a laboratory in London, which he uses to shine a light on fake mediums and people pretending to be able to speak to the dead. He pulls up countless fakers, and shows them to the public, and Sarah Grey is intrigued by this. When her and her mother attend Mr Price's seance at the beginning of the book, she is quite literally mystified by his ways and finds herself wanting to know more about the man that is on everybody's tongues. He's immense, he's passionate about his work, and he always seems distracted, even when he's doing absolutely nothing, which is very rarely mind you. He's got tons of crazy ideas, and he is obsessed with anything to do with the paranormal. Harry Price was actually a real guy, which makes the story even more interesting than it already is! I loved his character in this story. He seems totally deranged, yet Sarah Grey loves to be beside him, working with him on yet another surreal project. 

Everything about this story is enchanting. Not in a fairy-tale kinda way, but a ghostly kinda way, if you know what I mean. I really, really enjoyed The Ghost Hunters. I, like many others out there, find the paranormal mysterious and I've always enjoyed reading stories, seeing pictures of haunted houses and "apparitions". What's included in the book is exceptionally mystifying; maps of the actual Borley Rectory, illustrations of the house and newspaper clippings. It's terrifying yet entertaining and I just couldn't put this one down. There's something about this book... I can't put my finger on it, but there's definitely something different about it. And personally, I LOVE different. There's nothing better than it. 

I'm giving Neil Spring's The Ghost Hunters a fantastic rating of 8/10. 
It has everything a paranormal lover could want, everything that keeps you hooked and the pages turning. 
Brilliant story! 
I've already told most of my family about it, and they all want to read it now too ;)
My work here is done ladies and gentleman! Buying links will be included below.

Until my next review...

Buying links