Dec 9, 2015

Agi & Suze's Christmas Countdown: Interview with Emma & Giveaway!

About Emma

Hi , my name is Emma Crowley.I live in Waterford in the southeast of Ireland. I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember and can get through three or four books a week if time allows.I do regular guest reviews at . I’m a primary school teacher teaching first class in my old primary school. Christmas time is so special teaching six and seven year olds preparing for nativity plays and becoming so excited absorbing all their enthusiasm for Santa and Christmas. I’m also on Twitter @emthebookworm if any wants to chat. Many thanks to Suze and Agi for allowing me to take part in their festive feature for Christmas 2015.


1) What’s your best Christmas memory?

I always remember being fast asleep on Christmas Eve and I woke up because I had heard something outside on the landing . I was so small I thought Santa was coming into my room and if I looked and saw him that no presents would be there waiting for me in the morning. So I hid deep under the covers and kept my eyes closed in the hope I wouldn’t see him. I remember waking up the next morning with my little sister and there waiting for me was everything I had asked for from Santa but most special of all was a rocking horse which I had really wanted .It was white with a rainbow mane and to me then it was just the best thing ever and I can still remember to this day what fun I had.

2) What are your 3 favourite Christmas reads?

Oh ladies how can you make me pick? I will admit I really only got into Christmas reads in the last two or three years and even within that time I have noticed how the genre has grown and grown. There can be a real mixed bag when it comes to Christmas reads. Some are brilliant and nail it. While others claim to be Christmas themed and then barely give it a mention which is infuriating to say the least. Seen as I can only pick three here are the books I have chosen.
Alexandra Brown is one of my favourite authors so I had to include a book from her.Previously she had published the Carringtons series which did include a Christmas book. But last year saw the first in the new Tindledale series The Great Christmas Knit Off and it was mind blowingly brilliant. Defintely my favourite Christmas book of 2015. I remember spending a whole afternoon over the Christmas holidays curled up on the couch devouring this book.The characters, setting and storyline stayed with me for a long time and I adored the follow up released this summer The Great Village Show.Alexandra can’t write quick enough about Tindledale for me and I am so glad there is a whole series planned with The Mystery of Orchard Cottage coming in May 2016. The Great Christmas Knit Off introduces us to Sybil, heartbroken after being jilted at the altar.She is saved from the depths of her sorrow by her knitting obsession.But having committed the cock up of the centuary she abandons her house and retreats to the special place that is Tindledale.Tindledale within a few pages will capture your heart and not let go even long after you have finished the last page. Alexandra makes you feel as if the village is real and by god you wish it was.In the village Sybil discovers Hettie’s house of Haberdashery, an unique shop dedicated to the world of knitting and needle craft.But the shop is a picture of its former self as Sybil is old and the shop has not moved with the times. When Hettie sees Sybils wonderful wacky Christmas jumpers
and places it in her window display that is just beginning of a turn of events which will see the community pull together through the power of knitting. This is a story not to be missed but be warned savour every minute of it. I devoured it too quickly and was bereft to have finished it.
Oh how I love love love Scarlett Bailey’s books ( yes I know it is a pseudonym) and just wish she could write two a year. We have had nothing from her since last years novella Secret Santa but if you have never read anything by her what are you waiting for her books are simply brilliant. She writes the best stories.They are not all centred around Christmas though. She has written four full length novels and two novellas and each is better than the last. I picked Just for Christmas because it was the first book I had read by Scarlett and it really is the most perfect book to snuggle up with. Scarlett nails the Christmas mood and just about everything with this book is perfect – the setting, the characters, the atmosphere , the plot. God I could go on and on. Alex Munro learns the love of her life is getting married to another woman so she decides to upsticks and leave Edinburugh and settle somewhere far away from the memories. Alex moves to a Cornish cottage which comes with the worlds scruffiest dog Buoy who steals the book. She is the new harbour master in the village of Poldore. Poldore has to be one of the best creations ever .I want to move there so badly. Sexy Ruan sets Alex’s heart a flutter but Ruan has his own heartache to deal with and really doesn’t want anyone getting all that close. What follows is a fantastic tale with lots of love and adventure and a real development of the small coastal village feel. Inumerable laugh out loud moments filled with an outstanding cast of back up characters that you won’t forget in a hurry. This book has to be read and can’t be left forgotten on a shelf. Thankfully Scarlett fulfilled many of her readers wishes and has written a follow up- Two Weddings and a Baby and Secret Santa is also set there too.Described as the Queen of Christmas chick lit for me Scarlett more than deserves that title.
I had to pick a book from an Irish author considering I’m Irish myself and Maeve Binchy was the first adult book I read many years ago. So I have choosen this delightful read from Emma Hannigan – Driving Home for Christmas. I’ve loved Emma’s books right from her first release Designer Genes and just think she is a remarkable women considering she has battled cancer nine times and is still able puts her heart and soul into every book. This book was released two years ago and last year a follow up The Heart of Winter. Driving Home for Christmas has the perfect title and that cover is stunning drawing you in.Although I admit I’d rather be inside by the fire reading this book as opposed to driving down snow covered lanes. This book follows the ups and downs of the Craig family as the battle to save their family home Huntersbrook House begins. Can they save it for Christmas? There are lots of characters in the family to get to know and it was a pleasure to do so. Each had their own problems and issues but all had the common goal of keeping the family home and livery yard going. The descriptive scenes around Christmas and how the family celebrate were gorgeous and I fell in love with Pippa, Joey and Lainey and their mum and dad. Huntersbrook House has offered refugee to the children when they needed it and now they feel they can’t let their parents down and will do anything to help them. Driving Home for Christmas is a wonderful tale of family and love, filled with plenty of humourous moments too. It would be a lovely introduction to Emma’s writing if you haven’t read anything by her before.You have the added bonus of enjoying The Heart of Winter continuing on the family’s story straight after you finish this read. I wasn’t that lucky I had to wait a year but that wait was worth it.

3) If you could choose one person, dead or alive, to celebrate a one time special Christmas with, who would you choose and why?

I am going to pick two. This sounds like such a cliché but I would love to have my grandparents on my mothers side back to spend a one time special Christmas with. They both died before I was born and only some of my cousins got to meet them. From the stories my mum tells they sounded like wonderful people and I would have loved the opportunity to meet them and get to know them in the same way I did with my dad’s parents.

4) What are your thoughts about Santa?

Being a teacher of six and seven year olds of course Santa is real . I’m always amazed how there is no mention of him during any other time of the year. But come the end of November it’s all the chidlren can talk about.When I was teaching the class about the polar regions. My first question was – What is at the top of the world? They all said the North Pole. ( I was looking for the Arctic) . Who lives there ? Santa they screamed. ( I was thinking more along the lines of polar bears etc) So to the kids think he is real and I love going along with it and you do laugh at what they come out with regarding Santa. I always tell them I have Santa’s number on my phone and I can’t tell you the number of times in December when tempers are getting frayed that I step outside the door and give Santa a ring. Often to the sounds of no teacher he’ll only bring us coal. But I always make sure to tell him all the girls in my class are excellent !!!! Well most of the time ! As we have no young children in our family I feel I really get the whole Santa experience in school and that’s what makes Christmas so I would hate to shatter any young child’s illusions. For me Santa will always be real -well until I retire at least when I will miss this time of year in school. But that is many many years away . Unless I win the lotto!

5) What are your best and worst Christmas gifts and why?

This is a no brainer for me, the best Christmas gift has to be my Kindle Paperwhite. I’m not really into jewellery or anything way too expensive but this present is a bookworm’s dream and a once off. I only got it for Christmas two years ago but it has been a constant companion ever since. Without it I would never have been able to get into reviewing as much as I have as so many of the books I review are sent through the Kindle. I remember seeing an offer in a catalogue for a local shop which had a good deal on a Kindle. Needless to say I dropped plenty of hints and lo and behold there it was waiting under the tree on Christmas morning. Without doubt the best present I’ve ever received and it will hard to top it in the future.
The worst has to be a gift I got from a child I was teaching. Now I appreciate everything I receive from the children and their parents and it’s nice to get a little thank you at the end of the term. This woman was late in with her child and ran past the window brandishing one of those old fashioned candlelabra type holder things. Something you’d see in the middle of a table of a period drama on tv. It wasn’t wrapped or anything. I had the window open and heard her stop to say to a mum. I just grabbed this out of the attic. Well I needn’t tell you where the present went. If I hadn’t have heard that comment I still would have put it in the same place! I was young at the time and sure what need would I have had of it. Even now I still wouldn’t use it.I mean who would??? Unless you live in some stately home !

6) Your favourite Christmas song?

I know there are so many traditional songs to choose from and I hear so many with nativity plays etc in school but I really do love ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues. Whenever it comes on the radio at Christmas time be it at home or in the car I turn up the radio and blast out the song and sing along.It gives me goose bumps when I hear it for the first time each year as I know that Christmas is on it’s way. In school we discovered it had been translated in to Irish and we were going to teach it to sixth class (oldest class in the school around 11 or 12 years old) but the principal said no. Saying there was no way you could sing it at a carol service at mass! Not that we were going to ! It would have been nice just for the craic as a class.Oh well .Maybe in the future. Every year our school holds a carol service in the church on the Saturday before Christmas.In the two months before the service a nun who was a former teacher in the school (and once taught me) comes in to teach fourth, fifth and sixth class all the carols. The service is truly a wonderful experience as all the parents and members of our local community come together and watch the girls sing their hearts out at such a special time of year. My favourite of the carols they sing on the night is Silent Night.They do a verse in English, Irish and even German. It’s just magical and really sets the tone for the whole season.

7) Your favourite Christmas movie?

There are loads to choose from but whenever I see The Holiday with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in the tv listings, I just have to watch it. The scene where Cameron arrives in England for the first time and has to make her way to the beautiful cottage in the snow is fabulous. The whole setting of the small rural cottage and village just gives me such a warm feeling inside. Jude Law isn’t half bad to look at either. I have to confess I found this film over the summer on some obscure channel late one night and I stayed up to watch it.It sounds carzy but I love it that much.I remember people on Twitter were also commenting that they were watching it.So maybe I am not alone in my love for this film.I know once I have seen this film the Christmas season has well and truly begun for me.

8) Top 3 books that you’re giving as Christmas presents?

Do you know what I don’t really give books as Christmas presents as no one in my family is really a huge reader apart from me. My Dad reads but more thrillers and world war two stories. I’ve slowly gotten my mum into reading .She could take months to read a book but does enjoy what I pick out for her. So for her I would pick a Lucinda Riley book. I absolutely adore her books. She can do no wrong in my eyes and just gets better and better with each release. I would love for my mum to read The Storm Sister but I know she would say to me that’s too heavy for me to hold and the print too small. Lol. She has read Hothouse Flower and The Midnight Rose and is currently enjoying The Girl on the Cliff. So I suppose I would go for The Light Behind the Window.A story set in France where Emilie de la Martiniéres finds herself the new owner of her grandmothers childhood home and so begins a journey in search of the mysterious Sophia as she discovers a set of notebooks full of poems which led to questions needing answers. The other book I would pick is All I want for Christmas by Amy Silver – a real gem of a book written by Paula Hawkins before she achieved word wide fame for The Girl on the Train. This is a real warm, good hearted read following Bea who runs The Honey Pot Cafe as she navigates the ups and downs of life and the lead up to Christmas.It also focuses on two other women Olivia and Chloe who may need a helping hand from Bea although they don’t realise it yet. The last book I would give has to come from one of this years releases so I am going for Every Time a Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington. It was only the first book I had read by this author but it won’t be the last. It was simply brilliant, a heart wrenching book with such a strong message. Belle, Jim and Tess captured my heart and didn’t relinquish it until the very last page. It’s quite clear that Carmel put her everything into the writing of this book and I feel lots of people need to read it this Christmas. So much so that I have chosen it to donate as a prize in your Christmas Countdown in the hopes someone else will read it and feel the same way I do.

9) Most favourite and least favourite part of Christmas?

This sounds awful but the best bit is the two weeks holiday from school.I’m always shattered by the end of the term especially after preparing infants for a nativity play. So I just really look forward to a complete break where I switch off and enjoy reading as many books as possible. Of course the presents, food and xmas tv are an added welcome bonus.

The worst part is simply that it goes by far too fast. All the build up and enjoyment in the month of December is fantastic both in school and in the city where I live. Preparing for nativity plays is great fun. Here in the city we also have a Winterville festival for the month and it brings lots of vistors to the great attractions. But then when Christmas and the festivities are all over everything seems to just come to a complete stop .That time between Christmas and New year can be awfully dead after so much excitment. As soon as you go back to work in January it’s like Christmas never happened and then people start talking about Valentines and Easter. It’s like the magic of Christmas never happened. January even though it’s my birthday month is a month I really hate . It feels twice as long as any other month of the year and seems neverending when you are in school teaching. Couldn’t we have something at the end of the month to look forward to congratulating ourselves we made it through one of the gloomiest times of the year????

10) I must ask, sorry – the best Christmas food is…?

Don’t apologise for asking sure isn’t Christmas food such a huge part of all the celebrations .I know we remember the story of the nativity and Jesus’ birth but Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the fabulous dinner we all look forward to on the big day. For me the best Christmas food is the turkey, ham and roast potatoes my mum serves up for Christmas dinner ( yes the vegetables are ok but really not my favourite). There is no dinner like it during any other time of the year. Yes you may have ham at different times over the year but whatever way it’s cooked and the special time of year and celebrating just make it taste all that more special. Needless to say we are stuffed once we have finished. Somehow on that day you eat a bigger dinner more so than on any other ay of the year. Also I can’t fail to mention, like most people I love chocolate and at this time of year there is an abundance on offer. I like dipping into Roses and Quality Street. In the staffroom where I teach we always get tins sent in from the beginning of December as a thank you and I suppose as some form of sustenance to keep us going amidst all the Christmas madness and frantic Christmas play rehearsals. So we are thoroughly spoilt. Some of my other favourite snacks are definitely a Terry’s Chocolate Orange or for pure indulgence I go for those Danish butter cookies you get in the circular tin one just never seems to be enough. Whilst I am eating them I am often saying to myself you can walk it all off over the holidays( which never really happens! I must try harder this year !). I can’t forget a good old tube of Pringles or lastly Tayto cheese and onion crisps these are Irish made but are totally addictive.


One very lucky reader of our blogs will receive a copy of Every Time a Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington together with a lovely bookmark. Good luck!


  1. My favourite christmas movie is The Muppets christmas carol.
    jen dot barnard at btinternet dot com

  2. having my all family reunited

  3. Most favourite and least favourite part of Christmas? We host a big family Christmas dinner and that's my favorite part and the least favorite is when I go to bed that night I'm exhausted. Thank you for the giveaway!

  4. Even with a holiday reframe, all of the activities of the season can still be draining. It's important that we take care of ourselves -- that we don't say yes to everything. We should make sure that we take time for our spiritual practices of mindfulness, prayer, and meditation. It's important to be conscious of what we put into our bodies, and to eliminate stress through exercise and restful sleep.

  5. My favorite Christmas song is "Thank God it's Christmas" - Queen

  6. Christmas 1969 we lived in Colorado. My Dad had come home from Vietnam in May. My baby sister was in Kindergarten, middle sister in 4th grade and I was in 6th grade. My baby sister was sick and didn't get to go visit Santa. Our next door neighbors owned a store and they had their store Santa come to our house for us girls.

  7. My fave Christmas movie is Elf or Muppets Christmas Carol, I can't quite decide!!

  8. My favourite christmas movie is A Muppets Christmas Carol

  9. THE HOLIDAY is a great Christmas movie. A favourite of mine too.

  10. my mother and brother love to read but we all have very different tastes so i can't share my favourite with them^^

    Merry Christmas

  11. My favourite Christmas movie is Dinner For One, a black&white classic.

  12. My favourite Christmas movie is The Snowman


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