Dec 15, 2015

Australia Days: Turquoise & Jasper Bracelets Giveaway


Enter this giveaway for a chance to win two turqoise and a jasper gemstone bracelet made by TJBsimplebeauty. Good luck!

I will contact the winner via e-mail. If I don't get a reply within 60 hours the prize will go to someone else. All of my giveaways are international, you can find the official rules here.

Book Review: The Fix Up by Tawna Fenske

Amazon USA Amazon UK

Review by Suze

Ben is the new CEO of the family company, but he's a geek and doesn't have a clue how to change his image. That's why he hires Holly, to give him a makeover. She helps him with his presentation skills, his clothing and many other things. Holly is the owner of a public relations and branding firm and she desperately needs money. Helping Ben will also help her to keep her business going. Only they don't count on finding much more than just a business partnership when they start working together...

The Fix Up is fun and flirty. There's a lot of chemistry between Ben and Holly, which is actually what most of the story is about. I liked the jokes between them and often laughed out loud. Ben is a geek, I like geeky main characters, so that was a big plus for me. Ben and Holly are great together, they have such a sweet and lovely vibe while the story is also sexy.

The Fix Up isn't a deep and meaningful story, it's easy going and cute. It's a book that will cheer you up and that will put a smile on your face. It's perfect for a grey and rainy day. Ben and Holly are good looking, smart and kind, a combination that works. I like stories written by an author with a sense of humor and think The Fix Up is definitely amusing reading material. 

Dec 14, 2015

Agi and Suze's Christmas Countdown: Interview with Zoë Miller & Giveaway!


About Zoë Miller

Zoë Miller writes contemporary fiction laced with intrigue and drama. She is published by Hachette Books Ireland and her latest book, A Question of Betrayal, is out now in paperback. When Zoë’s not escaping into her writing world, she juggles her time between her family and the day job. Find out more at her website , Facebook, or follow Zoë on Twitter.

Interview

1) What’s your best Christmas memory?

My best Christmas memory comes from my childhood Christmases. The excitement of Christmas Eve was almost too much to bear. As soon as darkness fell, my father always ‘saw’ Santa Claus and his sleigh lighting up the sky above our house as it whizzed around, but by the time we children got to the window (there were five of us) the sleigh had invariably disappeared behind neighbouring roofs. Nowadays, the excitement might have diminished a little, but the magic of Christmas Eve is always in my heart. 

2) What are your 3 favourite Christmas reads?

When I think of Christmas reads I always remember the Jack and Jill annual that was under the tree the Christmas I was four. Although I couldn’t read properly at the time, I pored over that annual from cover to cover, loving every story and making sense of the pictures. In recent years I’ve enjoyed Emma Hannigan’s warm, cosy, and very Christmassy novels – ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ and ‘The Heart of Winter’.

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

My father – he passed away in December, 24 years ago now. He loved Christmas so much because it meant all the family gathering together, and it would be wonderful to have him sitting at the Christmas table one more time.

4) What are your thoughts about Santa?

I love the idea of Santa as a warm, magical, generous, gift-bearing character, who’s for everyone, not just the children. He’s the wonder and excitement shining out from children’s faces, which resonates with the child in every adult, and he’s the generosity of spirit and the kindness of strangers that seems to prevail in a special way at Christmas time.

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

My best Christmas gifts are books – any kind of book, fiction, travel, biography. There’s nothing more relaxing than snuggling up with a book in the lazy, fireside days after Christmas.

I don’t really have a worst gift – all are welcome!!

6) Your favourite Christmas song?

Can I have two? ‘Let it Snow’ and ‘O Holy Night’.

7) Your favourite Christmas movie?

It’s hard to choose, as I enjoy the warmth, silliness and escapism of all Christmas movies, the snow scenes and cosy, decorated houses, but I think ‘Love Actually’ is my favourite.

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

For a friend: An inspirational 2016 diary that’s full of monthly motivations and daily messages

For my daughter: Jojo Moyes latest bestseller, ‘After you’

For my sister: Kate Morton’s latest, ‘The Lake House’

9) Most favourite and least favourite part of Christmas?

I love the weeks before Christmas when the lights begin to shine, on city streets, in shops and windows of houses. Think how dreary winter would be without them. My least favourite part is the financial and time pressure people can sometimes put themselves under looking for perfection or trying to make the celebrations bigger and better. I think it’s best to keep it as simple and easy as possible for all family members, so that everyone can just relax and enjoy the get togethers.

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

Those tasty little pieces of ham I pull off the freshly cooked joint on Christmas Eve. Well, as chief cook, I do have to check it’s okay, don’t I?

Giveaway

One very lucky reader of our blogs will receive a wonderful prize:

Amazon USA Amazon UK

A copy of A Question of Betrayal will be for the winner of the giveaway. Good luck!

Book Review: The Things We Do for Love by Alice Peterson

Amazon USA Amazon UK

Review by Suze

January raises her daughter Isla on her own. It isn't always easy to be a single parent with a daughter who isn't healthy, but January can manage. She loves her daughter very much and having Isla is the best thing that ever happened to her. January works for an estate agent. Her boss is a kind older man who's also a really good friend. Only it's time for him to leave the firm to retire. Ward, his replacement, is a challenge. He isn't as easy to deal with and there's tension between them. He isn't an open person. Will January be able to keep her finally nice and safe life or will there be too many changes all at once?

Alice Peterson is an emphatic author. She knows how to write about feelings in detail and her descriptions are always spot-on. Because of that I always feel involved when I'm reading her books. January and Isla are very close and I loved reading about both mother and daughter. They have a great outlook on life and even though a lot has happened to them they're still cheerful and open people. I liked that very much.

The Things We Do for Love is a beautiful story about love in plenty of different classifications and aspects. It's heartwarming to read about January and the people she cares about. I love how Alice Peterson writes romantic stories that have a lot of depth. There are so many layers in her book when it comes to relationships, history and feelings. The reader will read about every key moment in January's past and present and therefore gets the chance to know her through and through. That's what I liked most about this book, being able to come so close to the main character. The Things We Do for Love is a unique love story, it's special in countless ways.

December New Release Giveaway Hop


I usually give away a new release I loved together with a book of choice. I have to admit that this month I've hardly requested anything. I have a lot of older books to get through and don't want them to just sit on my shelf. I still try to read every review copy I receive. So this time I'll let the winner of this giveaway choose books released in December this year up to $20 instead. Good luck!

I will contact the winner via e-mail. If I don't get a reply within 60 hours the prize will go to someone else. All of my giveaways are international, you can find the official rules here.

Thank You!


Yesterday I reached my 2,000,000th view. It's a fantastic milestone and I'm thankful I managed to reach it. My blog is almost two years old now and I'm so happy I started it. The past few months have been difficult for me. I'm still battling an infection and because of that I've been a bit slower with my replies and packages. In September I had to make the decision to keep going or to take a break. I'm glad I'm still blogging as I love every minute of it.

I have a lot of great plans for next year. There will be plenty of new events (I have a lot of ideas), I will keep featuring different countries and areas and I'm working on a new bookish website. During the last days of the year I'll get some extra help, so I can catch up with my prizes. I want to start 2016 with a lot of fun and happy posts and plenty of new giveaways to celebrate my second anniversary.

What makes my day is the comments I receive from my readers. It's wonderful to read them and it's what makes me want to keep going. It's what makes blogging so much fun for me. I'm proud when I hear that someone purchased something from a shop I featured or that someone enjoys a book I recommended. I'll try to keep up my reading and have the plan to feature plenty of Etsy shops again, as many as I can. I'm lucky to have three fantastic sidekicks, two on screen and one behind it. Without them I wouldn't have been able to keep things going. I love them all and am glad I have them in my life.

I want to thank everyone who reads my blog. It means the world to me. A big hug for all of you! 

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


About Birgit

Birgit has two blogs, The Picture Garden and The Book Garden. She says about herself: I’m a writer and photographer, living in a world of stories. Sometimes the stories knock at my door, other days they attack me without a warning. Sometimes I have to chase them with an iron cast skillet, then I need to gingerly lure them out with a carrot. Ultimately they all succumb to my pen or camera, my weapons of choice in the pursuit of story-telling.

Interview

1) What’s your best Christmas memory?

When I was still a child I loved nothing more than sneaking up to the gifts already neatly arranged around theChristmas tree, spotting all book-shaped ones, and trying to catch a glimpse of the titles through the wrapping paper. Nothing beat the thrill of guessing which books I’d receive, and it goes without saying, those were the first presents I unwrapped too. And when I finally turned in for the night, I already got started on one of the many books I had received. Ah, those were good times!

2) What are your 3 favourite Christmas reads?

This is really hard to answer as I’m not exactly drawn towards Christmas-themed books. That said, I do have one favorite, namely „A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

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

Seeing how I still have plenty of chances to celebrate Christmas with the living, I’d pick my maternal grandma who passed away more than ten years ago. I fondly remember our family spending Christmas at our weekend home when I was little and I really wish I could experience one of those Christmases again.

4) What are your thoughts about Santa?

I don’t really give Santa much thought. I’m too preoccupied with trying not to appear on the Krampus’ radar. 

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

The best are the ones where I am utterly surprised how well someone knows me when I unwrap a gift that I never would have expected, but which is just perfect for me. The worst are the ones that scream „re-gifted” especially if it turns out I gave the item to the person three years ago just to receive it back, which is both thoughtless and rude.

6) Your favourite Christmas song?

„Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” 

7) Your favourite Christmas movie?

„While You Were Sleeping” which is such a sweet romance taking place around Christmas time. 

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

I have no clue … apparently I’m running a bit late this year!

9) Most favourite and least favourite part of Christmas?

I love surprising people with my ingenious gift ideas, so my favorite part is seeing (or hearing) how they like their presents. My least favorite part of Christmas is when the time comes to take down the tree and put away all the festive decorations in early January.

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

Gingerbread, of course.

Giveaway

One very lucky reader of our blogs will receive a book of choice up to $15 from The Bookdepository. Good luck!


Australia Days: Interview with Helen J Rolfe & Giveaway!


About Helen J Rolfe

My English teacher at school told me to never give up on my dream of becoming a writer. Somehow I ended up with a business degree and a job as a computer programmer, but I never forgot her wise words and encouragement. 

In August 2000 I answered my call to adventure and headed to Australia where I ended up living for fourteen years. I made my home in Melbourne for just over nine of those years and in 2003 I left the I.T. industry and began my writing career as a freelancer.

After a relocation to Sydney and with more time on my hands once the kids started school, I continued freelancing for women's health and fitness magazines, I studied four units of a Masters in Writing and finally I realised that all I wanted to do was become an author.

Australia will always hold a special place in my heart but in 2014 the pull of family brought us back to the UK to live, and we have relocated to Hertfordshire.

Aside from writing and reading, my passions include yoga and Pilates, chocolate and a good measure of Baileys on ice :-)

Interview

1) Could you tell a bit about yourself?

I'm a mum of two, living with my husband and children in Hertfordshire. I've been writing fiction seriously since 2011 and now have three books published. It's my dream career for sure!

2) Suze: You've lived in Australia for a long time, but are now living in the UK again. Why have you chosen to set your stories in Australia?

My first three stories were already well and truly underway (two were almost finished) before we returned to the UK and my third novel, What Rosie Found Next, is set in the fictitious town of Magnolia Creek. It's the first in the Magnolia Creek Series so I'll still be setting my books in Australia for a little while yet.
I think when you've lived somewhere for such a long time (14 years) the way of life becomes ingrained in you and it's easier to write when you've had such close experience with the setting.
I'm thinking of writing a Christmas novel for 2016 however, and I think that'll be set in the UK. Really looking forward to writing it as it'll be something totally different for me.

3) Suze/Tanya What's your favourite place in Australia? Australia is a big place where would you tell a first time visitor that they should visit and why?

My favourite place / city is Melbourne. I love everything from the climate and the outdoor lifestyle, to the cosmopolitan feel and the friendly people. I really miss it, especially when I'm answering these sorts of questions. I lived in Sydney for 5 years but never fell in love with it the same way unfortunately.

There are so many places you should visit! Melbourne and Sydney are top of my list...both fabulous, yet different cities. Melbourne is gorgeous with its little laneways, the culture, the easiness of the city for finding your way around. Sydney has the stunning harbour, amazing beaches. I'd recommend going up to Palm Beach for sure...it's the setting for Home and Away and it's lovely. Some days I'd treat myself and drive up there as it was only half an hour from our house, and I'd take a book and sit on the grass by Snapperman Beach. Okay, now I'm missing Australia heaps!!

The Great Barrier Reef is another must. I snorkelled, went up in a helicopter to see the heart-shaped reef, went to Hamilton Island and South Molle. Amazing stuff. 

4) Tanya: You seem very knowledgeable about bush fires is it something you have to deal with regularly? Or something that you have unfortunately have experience off?

Bushfires are a way of life in Australia. We always lived in the suburbs but not in the country so it wasn't a massive concern for us. I have friends and a brother who live out in the country however, so for them they have to be extra careful. I interviewed Elissa Jans for my research for What Rosie Found Next and she works as a volunteer with the CFA (Country Fire Authority). They do an amazing job every year and the fact that it's voluntary is outstanding, showing how Aussies pull together so well.

5) Suze: Your main characters have been through a lot, where do you find inspiration to tell their life stories?

I like to create characters who are real and have challenges that any one of us may face, whether it's a health scare (Handle Me with Care), family problems (What Rosie Found Next), or running away from a past (The Friendship Tree). I get my inspiration from all around me, what I read in the newspaper, see on the television, my own life experiences.

6) Tanya/Suze Your female main character in What Rosie Found Next, is very strong and determined do you think that is a quality that you have? What do you like most about her?

I'm not sure I'm quite as strong as Rosie, but I'm proud of the way she turned out when I created her. She's had her challenges and tries to do the right thing and Rosie isn't afraid to stand up for herself either. And she always sees the best in people too which I really like. I think sometimes people can come across in a different way when they have something going on in their life, but Rosie sees the good in people. 

7) Tanya: Is there a particular place in Australia that you would like to visit again and who with?

Of course...I'd love to go to Melbourne again with my family as we have lots of friends there. One day we will but not for a while yet. It's a long way!

8) Tanya/Suze What are your plans this Christmas? As Christmas is part of your novel, could you tell your experience of Christmas in Australia versus Christmas in the UK?

This Christmas it'll be the first in our new house so we're very excited! Our neighbour has invited us for drinks in the morning so while the turkey is cooking I'll have a glass of Prosecco i'm sure :-) We will have lunch at home and then we all love the Christmas movies so we'll be watching a few of them. 
Christmas in Australia was never too different for us, apart from the weather. We still had the big dinner even if it meant putting the air conditioning on!

9) Tanya/Suze You always describe food really well in your novels, where does your inspiration for it come from? As we are on the run up to Christmas could you describe what you will be eating?

Wow, I never realised I described food so well! It must be all those lovely Aussie restaurants I went to during my time there. I lived a five minute walk from Southbank and they have the most amazing seafood there. 

We will be having turkey of course, with pigs in blankets, gravy, a selection of vegetables. Usually we're all too full for dessert straight away but I'll get some mini Christmas puddings for later in the afternoon. I'm really hoping it doesn't rain so we can all get outside for a walk and work off some of the Christmas dinner!

10) Suze: What are your 3 favourite Australian writers or books?

I love Lianne Moriarty, Dianne Blacklock and Monica McInerney. I started reading Monica McInerney's books a few years ago and I loved the settings...really vivid. Lianne Moriarty has written two incredible books: The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies so I'm a lifelong fan!

11) What can we expect from you in the future?

I'm working on book 4 - first run through since completing the first draft so I'm hoping that'll be out in 2016 some time. It'll be a standalone book but book 2 in the Magnolia Creek Series so will have some of the same characters who appeared in What Rosie Found Next. It has been a lot of fun to write and I fell in love with Magnolia Creek.

Giveaway

One very lucky reader of my blog will receive kindle copies of The Friendship Tree, Handle Me with Care and What Rosie Found Next. Good luck!


I will contact the winner via e-mail. If I don't get a reply within 60 hours the prize will go to someone else. All of my giveaways are international, you can find the official rules here.

Dec 13, 2015

Australia Days Book Review: Mistress of Greyladies by Anna Jacobs

Amazon USA Amazon UK Amazon Au

Review by Suze

Joseph and Harriet Latimer have been happy at Greyladies. Then World War I breaks out and the house has to become a hospital. Joseph and Harriet are allowed to stay, but they don't feel welcome in their own home any longer. They want to do anything they can for the country and for the wounded, so they're trying to help out as much as they're allowed to.

Phoebe has a family connection to the Latimers. She doesn't know anything about this though. Her step-cousin Frank, who doesn't have a pleasant character, wants to force her to marry him. Because of the war Phoebe loses her job and she needs to find somewhere else to stay as soon as possible. Somewhere far away from Frank. Fortunately she meets Corin, a Captain in the army who wants to help her. They become good friends, but because of the war they can only spend limited time together. Will Phoebe meet her family eventually? And will she be able to marry a man she loves or will Frank eventually get his way?

Mistress of Greyladies is another wonderful book by Anna Jacobs. It was great to read about Harriet and Joseph again. After reading Heir to Greyladies I wasn't ready to say goodbye to them yet. Phoebe is a wonderful girl who's had a difficult past. She's strong and resourceful though and I liked her immediately. The war makes things difficult for everyone and I always feel sad when I think about all the soldiers who have given their lives. It's good they won't be forgotten and I'm glad there are stories like Mistress of Greyladies to remember them.

Anna Jacobs has a lovely writing style that has an easy flow. I can't put her books down. When I start reading I have to keep going. I love the way she tells her stories, it's gentle and sweet. Greyladies is an unusual house with a fantastic history. I like the idea a lot and can't wait to read more about the next mistress. I highly recommend this series, it's warm and welcoming, just like Greyladies itself.

Australia Days Etsy Spotlight & Giveaway: Suze Loves Mosaic Treasure!



I love Mosaic Treasure.


The owner, Tania, makes the most beautiful glass jewelry.


It's colorful and unique and I love the style.


I like how the pieces sparkle and how vibrant they are.


I've asked Tania a few questions to find out more about her and her shop:

1) Where did you learn your craft?

After years of wanting to do mosaics, I signed up for a night class at the local high school in Auckland, NZ, about 6 years ago. As an absolute newbie it took me a while afterwards to work out I had been told to buy the wrong tool, used the wrong glue and given bad grouting advice, but I wasn’t deterred. Glass mosaics became my hobby to combat stress in my day job, and I started to research techniques myself. I came across Laurel Skye’s book, “Mosaic Renaissance” at the library and was introduced to millefiori. It was love at first sight, and when I imported some to play with, I couldn’t resist making them into mosaic jewellery. Family circumstances meant at this time I was able to walk away from my day job, and I started developing my mosaic jewellery using grout and resin. So mostly I am self-taught, trial and error method.


2) How did your Etsy adventure start?

Soon after I started making jewellery a successful crafty friend told me about Etsy, and I opened a shop immediately. The response was minimal, probably because my first pieces weren’t very good, the photos were lousy and I was so busy making I didn’t put any effort into marketing. Earlier this year I revisited Etsy, and began to sell. I was lucky enough to join an Etsy Creative Courage Challenge several months ago which has helped me enormously in terms of SEO, photos, marketing and of course, sales. I have always done well at physical markets, so it is gratifying to see online sales increase as well.


3) How would you describe your style?

Probably eclectic more than having one particular style, working with millefiori means I can create loud, multicolour pieces one day, then monochrome delicate ones the next. I love colour, and richness of detail, and the lustre of shining glass. I have a tried and true range of jewellery, but also love experimenting with interesting colour and shape combinations and seeing how customers react.


4) What inspires you?

A lot of my inspiration starts with the colours of the glass I have in front of me, and the different colours and sizes of the millefiori. Now living on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne, I am often inspired by the sea and the sky and these colours are among my favourites to work with.


5) What is your signature piece?

The multi-coloured flower pieces, which I make in almost all forms and sizes.


6) What are your plans for the future?

Next year I hope to expand online and retail sales and move away from standing in the cold at too many markets. There are plans for some mosaic tile workshops, and I want to learn more about fusing glass. I also have a large collection of vintage paperweight millefiori with which I will be creating a range of one-off pieces. I also hope to go back to Venice to visit Murano again in the next few years.


I love the technique Tania uses, her designs are fantastic.


Tania is very kind and helpful. She accepts custom orders, so don't hesitate to contact her if you have a special request.


On Facebook you can find a gallery where you can see all the amazing designs she's made.


Check out this brilliant Etsy store.


Enjoy browsing...


And have fun shopping!


One very lucky reader of my blog will receive an amazing prize. Tania will send some beautiful surprise jewelry to the winner of this giveaway.


Good luck!

I will contact the winner via e-mail. If I don't get a reply within 60 hours the prize will go to someone else. All of my giveaways are international, you can find the official rules here.

Agi and Suze's Christmas Countdown: Interview With Angela Britnell & Giveaway!


About Angela Britnell

I was born in the beautiful county of Cornwall in southwestern England and grew up in a small village there. I return frequently to visit family and friends but especially to savor the cool rainy weather and hot tea. After school I joined the Royal Navy and served for nearly six years. I held varying jobs from being the only woman in the staff of a sports center to arranging social engagements for the Captain of the base. My last assignment was to Denmark where I thought I would spend a wild two years in Copenhagen only to discover I was being sent to a NATO Headquarters in a quiet town on the Jutland Peninsula. I was only disappointed for a while as I met my own tall, dark, handsome stranger there – a US Naval Officer named Richard who became my husband.

That was the beginning of an itinerant life as from Denmark we went to Sicily where we had our first son. Then it was on to Monterey, California and the birth of our second son. From there we headed to Patuxent River, Maryland where we had our third son. Richard’s last assignment was to London where we spent a wonderful three years. Retiring from the Navy he took a job in Brentwood, Tennessee near where he grew up. Since 2008 we are empty nesters which allows more time for my writing.

I have always been a voracious reader, even at 5 years old my school reports show a keen interest in English and very little in math – some things never change! Although I enjoyed writing in school it wasn’t until 2001 that I was tempted to take a creative writing class at a local recreation center which has sparked my new career.

When I’m not busy writing I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I try to grow English flowers in the Tennessee heat and succeed some of the time. I belong to the wonderful Red Bandanas Writing Group, Jubilee Readers Book Club, and volunteer at my local library so you can see that words are important to me.

I hope you enjoy reading my work as much as I enjoy writing it so sit back, make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy a break from everyday life.

You can find Angela on her website, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Interview

1. What is your best Christmas memory?

I love how every family’s traditions are unique and that we all think our own are the way it should be! As an only child we had a relatively quiet Christmas Day and it never varied. We started with opening our stockings before breakfast. That was followed by going to church and coming home for a traditional turkey lunch. We would have tea and chocolate biscuits while listening to the Queen at 3pm. Then it was finally time to open our presents – my husband thought it was terrible to make a child wait until so late in the day but I didn’t realise it was unusual at the time. We’d have more tea with homemade Christmas cake around five o’clock and later it would of course be turkey sandwiches for supper.

2. What are your 3 favourite Christmas reads?

First I’ll choose Dickens’ classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ because it completely embodies the spirit of the season with wonderful characters that still live and breathe off the page over 160 years after they were created. My second choice is ‘The Night before Christmas.’ I don’t remember it from my childhood but was introduced to the story by my American husband. We bought a copy when we had our first baby and started our own tradition of reading it to our boys every Christmas Eve after we hung up our stockings. I’m now looking forward to reading it to our first grandson who’s due in April! I debated about my third book and finally decided on ‘The Jolly Postman.’ This magical children’s book with envelopes to open and letters to read fascinated my children and despite being handled by three lively boys the book has survived (almost) unscathed.

3. One person to celebrate Christmas with.

I went backwards and forwards on this one and finally decided on the Queen. I think it’d be amazing to experience her traditional Christmas and I’m sure she’d have some incredible stories to tell over the sherry and mince pies!

4. My thoughts on Santa

The traditions of a loving, generous figure who brings gifts in the middle of a long, dark winter vary around the world but the different names and customs only prove that these emotions have no borders and we are far more similar than we are different.

5. My best and worst Christmas gifts and why?

My best Christmas gift ever was a shoe box full of beautiful clothes hand-sewn for my Sindy doll (she was the English version of Barbie back in the dark ages) by my Aunt Rene and cousin Marlene. They were so much better than anything you could buy and I particularly remember a beautiful dark green satin evening dress. My only regret is that they disappeared over the years because I’d love to still have them.

My worst gift has to be the sewing machine my dear husband gave me about twenty-five years ago. That particular Christmas I was suffering with the flu and his family from Tennessee were visiting us in Maryland for the holidays. Richard video-taped our present opening time to send to my family in Cornwall so there I am with a red nose, feeling like death, and trying desperately to smile as I open my gifts. I will admit that afterwards I did give in and learn the basics of how to use the machine. I made Halloween costumes and outfits for school plays etc for my 3 boys – nothing that would withstand scrutiny from any genuine sewers but good enough to last for the day! I’ve now passed on the machine to one of my daughters-in-law, who enjoys sewing, with my blessing!

6. Your favourite Christmas song

I know I’ll be slammed for this but I have to confess to a real dislike of sentimental Christmas songs – the first time I hear ‘White Christmas’ played each year it makes me want to run away and hide until the season is over. But I do love traditional Christmas carols and my favourite is ‘Silent Night’ preferably sung in a candlelit church at midnight on Christmas Eve. Then I know it really is Christmas.

7. Your favourite Christmas movie

I’m also not a fan of sweet, sentimental Christmas movies but could watch ‘Love Actually’ over and over again because it captures the spirit of the season without being sickly!

8. Top 3 books you’re giving as Christmas presents.

‘Slow Roads Tennessee’ for my mother-in-law. It’s a lovely pictorial record of the back roads and small towns of Tennessee including the area where she grew up. My oldest son is getting ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ and my middle son has asked for Orson Scott Card’s ‘First Formic War’ books.

9. Most favourite and least favourite part of Christmas.

These are intertwined because my most favourite is sharing a traditional Christmas meal with my family and the least is clearing up afterwards with all the dishes to be washed!

10. Best food

– Warm mince pies with Cornish clotted cream, with either a glass of sherry or a mug of scalding hot tea! I didn’t realise putting out mince pies and sherry out for Santa was unusual until my husband said they always did milk and cookies – no wonder Santa preferred coming to our house That’s one tradition I continued with our own children and considered it a well-earned reward by the time we got them to bed on Christmas Eve!

Giveaway


One very lucky reader of our blogs will receive a fantastic prize. The winner of the giveaway can choose a kindle book from Angela Britnell's amazing range of titles. Good luck!


Book Review: The Aubrey Rules by Aven Ellis

Amazon USA Amazon UK

Review by Anniek

Aubrey Paige is on her way to a job interview when she falls flat on her face coming out of an elevator. She is so embarrassed when the most handsome guy she has ever met helps her up and makes sure she gets to the interview on time. Aubrey lives by her rules and is very strict with them until she meets Beckett. 

Beckett is a professional hockey player. He is the captain of the team, a beast on the ice who stands for his team, but who is socially awkward off the ice. His boss wants him to be more open about his personal life and to use social media more. He has no idea how to do that but when he meets Aubrey he's found the perfect person to help him. 

I loved Aubrey. She feels so real to me. She is clumsy, likes her pizza and fries and she is also feisty. She stands up for herself even though it is sometimes hard to do so. Aubrey could be the girl next door. She is really easy to relate to. Beckett is one guy I wished was real. He is gorgeous, big, dorky and oh so sweet. He really went out of his way to make Aubrey feel comfortable and stood his ground when he needed to. Even though he is shy it didn't stop him from speaking his mind and I really liked that. 

This was my first time reading a book from Aven Ellis and it absolutely won't be my last. The first thing I noticed was the cover. It really pulled me in before even have read the blurb. When I looked up her other books I noticed that they all have equally gorgeous covers. The way Aven Ellis writes feels so comfortable. Her story was really easy to read because of the fact that the words just flow somehow. Her characters feel like real people and I found myself laughing out loud more than once. 

In The Aubrey Rules you will also meet Landy and Livy both best friends to Beckett and Aubrey. I can't wait for their story to come up next because they will be a sure thing for some fireworks. In Aven Ellis I have found a new writer to follow. I look forward to reading much more from her.

Dec 12, 2015

A Christmas Giveaway Hop


One lucky reader of my blog will receive a $10 Amazon gift card and a lovely Christmas kindle book of my choice. Good luck!

I will contact the winner via e-mail. If I don't get a reply within 60 hours the prize will go to someone else. All of my giveaways are international, you can find the official rules here.


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



Interview with Anniek

What’s your best Christmas memory?

I actually love every Christmas I have ever had. I'm a family person and I love to be with my family on these special days. We are all very close. There is nothing like a real Christmas tree in your home with presents underneath and the warm and cozy feeling from just being with one another.

What are your 3 favourite Christmas reads?

A Christmas Carol from Charles Dickens is a book that everyone should have read once in their life! Love that story. 
Unexpected gifts by Elena Aitken. I have reviewed this book before. The magic of Christmas combined with love it doesn’t get any better than that. (This book is also still free on Amazon).

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale. I have also reviewed this story not long ago. The book really warmed my heart and I absolutely love the way Jenny Hale tells a story.

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

No need to think about this one. Without a doubt: James Bay. I am addicted to his album and to his beautiful voice. He could just sing for me and I would be perfectly happy.

What are your thoughts about Santa?

I love the thought of what Santa represents. My son is too young right now but I absolutely see him on Santa’s lap surrounded by elves and having a wonderful magical time. It would be great to start a new tradition to write a letter to Santa each year just so we could create this magical time for him.

What are your best and worst Christmas gifts and why?

We always have a lots of presents under the tree. My birthday is right after Christmas so it’s double fun for me. My family and close friends know me so well. I am blessed to be given the most incredible gifts. I can’t think of one present that would be the best because even if the gift is a little bit more out of my field of interest it's always the thought that counts. I am not forgetting the fact that I'm blessed with my life and that there are also lots of people and children who are experiencing Christmas in a completely different way. 

Your favourite Christmas song?

When I hear Bianca Ryan with Couldn’t it be Christmas every day I always get a smile on my face and sing along with all I got. (looks a bit funny when I’m driving)

Your favourite Christmas movie?

It isn't really a Christmas movie but it is shown during Christmas every year. All the movies of Harry Potter. In the Netherlands they show them all around Christmas so I love to curl up on the couch and watch them again and again.

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

Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews. I didn’t know about this series before but I will definitely be reading this one myself as well.

A Christmas book from Tummy Tom and The very hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Obviously I love to read so I give my son books as well (hoping he will pick up my addiction to books as well) and I also love to give books to my loved ones.

Most favourite and least favourite part of Christmas?

Choosing and decorating the tree is my favorite part. We always have an 'ugly’ tree. One way or the other my husband always comes home with probably the worst looking tree of that year. I don’t mind though because I tell myself that even the less pretty trees want to fulfill their Christmas destiny. Their destiny is to shine bright and proud in people's houses, so we have a place for the trees that are likely not picked.

My least favorite part is to clear out all the Christmas stuff. If it was up to me I would keep all the decorations and the tree all year round!

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

I don’t have a special food connected to just Christmas alone. My biggest weakness is Pizza. I could eat this all day every day (if it wouldn’t fatten me up so much). So whatever time it is during the year pizza will probably be on the menu or will at least be present in the freezer.

Giveaway

One very lucky reader of this blog will receive a kindle copy of one of Anniek's favorite books:


Good luck!

Book Review: Midnight at Tiffany's by Sarah Morgan

Amazon USA Amazon UK

Review by Suze

Matilda's dream is to be an author. Being a waitress pays the bills, but she writes whenever she can. She's living in New York, the city where anything is possible. When one night she has to work at a party hosted by Chase Adams things aren't going the way she planned. The beginning of the night is a disaster and the end of it is like a fairytale... Only, it's a dream, isn't it?

Midnight at Tiffany's is such a lovely romantic story. It's great cheerful reading material. Matilda is endearing. I liked the fact that she's writing and also that she's chasing her dreams even though she's scared. Chase has forgotten how to be a person instead of a money making machine. The only thing he still does is work, but deep down the real Chase is still there. It was fun to see him change. 

Sarah Morgan always writes great love stories. Midnight at Tiffany's has that typical sweet Sarah Morgan quality that makes you fall in love with the story and the characters. It doesn't matter if her stories are long or short I always feel better after reading them. I highly recommend this amazing novella.
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