Friday 30 December 2016

Giveaway: Win a Monster Calls film merchandise bundle

TITLE: A Monster Calls (Movie Tie-In Edition)
AUTHOR: Patrick Ness
PUBLISHER: Walker Books

PUBLICATION DATE: October 13, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

The bestselling novel about love, loss and hope from the twice Carnegie Medal-winning Patrick Ness, soon to be a major motion picture. Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It’s ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking tale of mischief, healing and above all, the courage it takes to survive.

To celebrate the upcoming release on January 1 of A Monster Calls, a beautiful film based on the fantasy novel by Patrick Ness starring Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Lewis MacDougall and Liam Neeson, I'm giving you the chance to win one of two merchandise bundles, seen below.

To enter the giveaway, fill in the easy Rafflecopter below. There's an automatic entry if you click the Click to Enter button, and an optional extra entry every day if you tweet about the giveaway. This is open to UK residents only. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Whilst you wait for the giveaway to end, why not check out these trailers for the film below which I'm sure you'll agree looks brilliant!

Saturday 17 December 2016

Guest Post: Freda Lightfoot on what life was like for women during the war

TITLE: Always in My Heart
AUTHOR: Freda Lightfoot

PUBLICATION DATE: December 15, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

Brenda Stuart returns to her late husband’s home devastated by his loss only to find herself accused of bestowing favours upon the Germans.

Life has been difficult for her over the war, having been held in an internment camp in France simply because of her nationality. Thankful that her son at least was safe in the care of his grandmother, she now finds that she has lost him too, and her life is in turmoil.

Prue, her beloved sister-in-law, is also a war widow but has now fallen in love with an Italian PoW who works on the family estate. Once the war ends they hope to marry but she has reckoned without the disapproval of her family, or the nation.

The two friends support each other in an attempt to resolve their problems and rebuild their lives. They even try starting a business, but it does not prove easy.

What was life like during the war for women? Give a brief background on the domestic situation in the UK post-war.

Most women endured six years of war work and became much tougher as a result of doing men’s jobs. Sometimes their children were sent away as evacuees, so they would have no family life. They would worry over their loved ones, often receiving only censored letters, and could spend endless sleepless nights in shelters fearing they might be killed. They could even lose their homes if it was bombed.

By the end of the war they were exhausted, but the men did not always appreciate the traumas they’d had to endure. When their husbands returned they did not expect their wives to have gained a sense of freedom and independence. They still dreamed of the young and beautiful girl they’d married. Now she’d aged and that didn’t always appeal. Many women found themselves dismissed from their jobs when the fighting men returned, even though they might be war widows, or a deserted wife. Men too would often struggle to find work, or resent having to return to a boring desk job, finding it difficult to settle back into Civvy Street. The government insisted women return to wifely duties, keep house and produce and care for children, which to some felt like going back to prison. They were even urged not to wear suits or trousers, but to be bright and pretty females again.

The effect of war upon a marriage or relationship was not always good. Some couples were happy to be back together again and their love blossomed. Others were less fortunate, particularly if they’d suffered traumatic situations, or long periods of separation. Once back together they might feel like strangers, particularly true of hasty war marriages. Some wives had to deal with a shell-shocked or disfigured husband who suffered from nightmares, sleepwalking, outbursts of violence or depression. He might have turned into a bully if he was accustomed to giving orders. Children too would often react badly if they didn’t even know their father, having rarely seen him for years. The country too was in a mess, still enduring shortages and rationing, a lack of homes, jobs, and near bankruptcy. This was the brave new world that women had fought for and they needed infinite patience, tact and strength to rebuild their lives.

Always in My Heart by Freda Lightfoot is out now in paperback (£7.99, HQ Stories)

Friday 16 December 2016

Cover Reveal: Secrets We Keep by Faith Hogan

I'm happy today to be sharing the cover reveal for Secrets We Keep by Faith Hogan, which will be published by Aria on February 1, 2017. I loved Faith's debut novel My Husband's Wives - it was one of my most memorable reads of 2016. You can catch my review of Secrets We Keep early in February next year. But first, here's the beautiful cover...

Two distant relatives, drawn together in companionship are forced to confront their pasts and learn that some people are good at keeping secrets and some secrets are never meant to be kept.

A bittersweet story of love, loss and life. Perfect for the fans of Patricia Scanlan and Adele Parks.

The beautiful old Bath House in Ballytokeep has lain empty and abandoned for decades. For devoted pensioners Archie and Iris, it holds too many conflicting memories of their adolescent dalliances and tragic consequences – sometimes it’s better to leave the past where it belongs.

For highflying, top London divorce lawyer Kate Hunt, it’s a fresh start – maybe even her future. On a winter visit to see her estranged Aunt Iris she falls in love with the Bath House. Inspired, she moves to Ballytokeep leaving her past heartache 600 miles away – but can you ever escape your past or your destiny?

Purchase Links:

Google Play:

About the Author:

Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and two very fussy cats. She has an Hons Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.

Facebook: @FaithHoganAuthor
Twitter: @GerHogan
Instagram: @FaithHoganAuthor

Thursday 15 December 2016

Guest Post: Helen Carey’s Top Ten (Not) Writing Songs

TITLE: London Calling
AUTHOR: Helen Carey

PUBLICATION DATE: December 15, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

It will take more than Hitler's Luftwaffe to break the spirit of the residents of Lavender Road. If courage and resilience could win wars, the conflict would already be over.

It's not all harmony, though. Nurse Molly Coogan and would-be actress Jen Carter certainly don't see eye to eye. Molly, despite hating the discipline of wartime hospital life, is unimpressed by Jen's prima donna ways. Jen, unaware of Molly's secret heartache, can't resist taking her own frustrations out on Molly. It's just as well that no one knows what challenges lie ahead...

From stolen glasses in the Flag and Garter to fancy dinners in the heart of the West End, from a desperate battle for survival on a hospital ward to a torpedo hitting its target in the Mediterranean Sea, LONDON CALLING takes readers into a world of ordinary people living extraordinary lives.

Helen Carey’s top ten (not) writing songs

People often ask me what kind of music I listen to while I write, and I generally find my self having to admit that I don’t like background music when I’m working. Even when I was a kid I preferred to do my homework in stony silence!

And I realise that if I had been alive during the Second World War, like the characters in my books, I would have found the BBC Radio’s ‘music while you work’ campaign a complete nightmare. How people like me coped with endless rousing wartime songs while trying to fit rivets or fill shells I cannot imagine. I would have probably have run screaming for the Women’s Land Army instead.

Don’t get me wrong, I love music, it’s just that if I’m listening to music, I want to listen to music, and not do anything else at the same time, apart from perhaps dance!

And if I’m writing, I want to write, and not be distracted by the urge to get up and practice my favourite Strictly moves ...

Nevertheless, I have various go-to songs and pieces of music that help me get in the mood for writing, and indeed for the Second World War.

So here are my Top Ten (not) writing songs:

Any old wartime songs like Run Rabbit Run - to get me in the WW2 London mood.

The magnificent opening of Tannhäuser (Wagner) to get me in the historical mood!

The good old fashioned lover boy (Queen) - because I love my heroes!

The Book of Love - (Peter Gabriel) - to get into a romantic mood, you can’t get more romantic than this ...

Wonderful Tonight - (Eric Clapton) - …unless it’s this!

As Time Goes By as sung by Sam, (Dooley Wilson) in Casablanca - my favourite wartime film ever!

No Surrender (Bruce Springsteen) - brings back fond childhood memories

'Un bel di' (from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly) - if I need to crank up the emotion even more ...

Desperado (Eagles) - to let off steam when the words aren’t flowing ...

The Sovereign Light Cafe (Keane) - lets me go for a nice walk on the beach, even if I haven’t got time to do it.

Thank you to Helen for sharing her favourite (not) writing songs. London Calling is out now.

Monday 5 December 2016

Reviewed: Reunited by Daniel Gothard

TITLE: Reunited
AUTHOR: Daniel Gothard
PUBLISHER: Urbane Publications

PUBLICATION DATE: October 6, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

1992, and Ben Tallis is coming to terms with the recent death of his father. His ability to cope isn't helped by the fact he's secretly in love with one of his best friends. At least keeping a daily journal helps him make sense of events, and he believes it's the perfect preparation for his plan to one day become a successful journalist.

2012 and Ben has achieved his career ambition - he's a highly respected journalist and is engaged to a hardworking and ambitious lawyer. But this seemingly 'perfect' relationship is fraught with problems. Ben mentions in passing to his editor he has received an invitation to a 20 year school reunion but doesn't want to go. His editor however smells a great feature article and insists Ben returns home, faces his past - including his secret teenage yearning - and writes a feature on how much we change, and yet in so many ways stay the same.

As Ben reluctantly re-engages with his past he soon comes to realise that we can never run from the truth...or who we truly are.

Reunited is the second book I have read by Daniel Gothard and both are sharp, witty and entertaining reads. Reunited is my favourite of the two as I was quickly engrossed in the story of a man who has been invited to his school reunion. Just those two words send a shiver up my spine and I was looking forward to seeing how things would unfold for Ben, especially the further into the story I was when I read about the difficult time he’d had at school.

The book switches in time from the early 1990s to 2012. We read from both first person and a journal Ben had kept for many years as a journalistic practise, something which has become his career and unfortunately for Ben, is the reason he has to attend his school reunion. I really enjoyed how we could read from both timeframes and get to see the differences between Ben’s old life and how he is now. The changes between someone from school to someone twenty years after is noticeable and I was fascinated seeing how Ben, Ross, Emma and Catrina were at school in comparison to how they were when some of them met up for the reunion. Catching up with people at a high school reunion reminded me of this generation of searching for people you didn’t particularly like on Facebook just to see what they’re doing now. It can waste away hours of your days and I felt like Ben could probably relate to how cringeworthy that is!

With switching between past Ben and present Ben, we really get to see the tough and mad times he and best mate Ross endured at school and develop an understanding of why they, more than most, were unsure about being at the reunion. I kind of wondered why they were going at all really. Even though Ben as a journalist was there to write about it, he seemed to be sacrificing his relationship to do so. Even though he has argued with his fiancĂ©e, and she has supposedly left him, he still seemed to be obsessing over a girl that was going to be at the reunion. This obsession is just one of the many reasons the idea of a school reunion is awful to me, but I did enjoy reading about one knowing it wasn’t mine!

The author really nailed the dread of a looming school reunion and I could feel and understand the apprehension Ben felt as well as the awkwardness at reuniting with his old friends. I would have liked to have seen the reunion pushed a bit more though. The book is more about the lead up to the event rather than the event itself, which realistically portrays how people’s worries about things can sometimes turn into nothing – like all the fuss about the school reunion was a bit unfounded really. Even though I did find this realistic, I missed some of the drama that we saw in the sections from their time at school. This could have been a sign of their development as people but really Ben, Ross and Cat still all appeared to be acting like teenagers in the present day anyway.

I did like Ben’s character. He was a bit of a car crash waiting to happen but this was entertaining. I could definitely feel his pain right the way through his school life to the reunion. This book does touch on bullying but not in a conventional way as the victims have their own way of dealing with things, shall we say. I found the antics of Ben and Ross funny and their interactions amusing. Their friendship in both sections of the book was lovely to read with warmth and humour amongst the typical banter and mishaps involved in a male friendship. They didn’t mature much over the years, even if they felt otherwise, but in a way it was refreshing and appealing to see that they had come through being bullied at school okay.

Once I picked up Reunited, I couldn’t put it down. The author’s writing style is engaging and the way Ben tells the story involves the reader more. He had me thinking about how characters from his school days could have changed come 2012 and how my own school reunion would turn out – thankfully it will be many years away and I won’t be going! I felt like aspects of the story could have been developed further such as both Ross and Ben’s own relationships and I think I enjoyed the parts of the book more when they were at school as the author really well builds up their school life from the bullies to the romance and friendship and the chaos that went with it all. Overall this is another bold and entertaining book from Daniel Gothard and I’m looking forward to reading more in future.

About the Author

My name is Daniel David Gothard.

I have a CertHE and Masters degree in creative writing from Ruskin College, Oxford and Bath Spa University. I have been published in anthologies and literary journals in the UK and abroad, including "Eight Hours" (Legend Press) and the prestigious "The View From Here".

My first novel - "Friendship and Afterwards" (Yolk Publishing) - was published in 2014 to critical acclaim and a People's Book Prize nomination.

In 2015 my second novel - "Simon says" (Urbane Publications) was a WHSmith's Christmas and New Year promotion bestseller.

My third novel - "Reunited" (also published by Urbane Publications) - was released in October 2016.

Both "Simon says" and "Reunited" have been nominated for RNA awards.

I am also an arts correspondent for After Nyne Magazine.

My commissioned short story - "Curtains and Lights" - is due to be published in the February 2017 colour supplement edition of The Oxford Times.

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Excerpt: Hell is Empty by Conrad Williams

TITLE: Hell is Empty
AUTHOR: Conrad Williams
PUBLISHER: Titan Books

PUBLICATION DATE: November 25, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

Private Investigator Joel Sorrell is exhausted and drinking hard, sustained only by a hopeful yet baffling note from his estranged daughter, Sarah. An SOS from an old flame whose child has been kidnapped gives him welcomed distraction, but the investigation raises more questions than answers. Then comes the news that his greatest enemy has escaped from prison with a score to settle. With Joel's life and the remnants of his family at stake, any chance of peace depends on the silencing of his nemesis once and for all. But an unexpected obstacle stands in his way...

Exclusive Excerpt from Hell Is Empty

I used to own a book of Irish jokes when I was a kid. You know, the kind of casually racist collection you’d be hard pressed to find on the shelves these days. And a good thing too. This one joke, though, has been preying on my mind.

Have you heard the one about (Paddy/Mick/Seamus) who fell down a ight of stairs while carrying a crate of Guinness but didn’t spill a drop? He kept his mouth shut.

I thought of that joke while I lay there, drifting in and out of consciousness for six months, tubes in, tubes out, stapled, stitched and – in all probability – superglued. I thought how much like Declan/Ardal/Liam I was, only I had spilled plenty, and it wasn’t Guinness but ‘claret’. And it wasn’t a crate but a body full. Two bodies full if you count the transfusions.

How did I survive?

I almost died, and I would not have been conscious to appreciate it. I was put into a medical coma. I suffered kidney failure and underwent dialysis. I lost weight. When I revived I was scared to check my body in case there were any limbs missing. All I could think about was the way Ronnie Lake’s blade slid into my thigh like a rat through a shitter.

Eventually, one night, when all the lights were out and my sheets were on for a change, and not soaked through with fear sweat, I took my fingers exploring. Everything present and incorrect, as usual. Plus added bandages and splints and scar tissue. I was building up quite a collection of scar tissue. It twisted and turned under my fingers like cooled molten plastic. It was me but it was not me.

Doctor, please, tell me how I made it.

I was visited often while I was in hospital. Romy, mainly, but Lorraine Tokuzo came to say hi too, as did Henry Herschell, sort-of friend, martial arts expert, flashy dresser, doorman (which was a bit of a surprise), and even Mawker popped his head around the door on occasion, to ask me how I was doing, and to tell me how easy policing was these days with me out of action. He ducked out before I could pin him down with questions. Everyone was doing that lately. Avoiding, evading, ignoring. Why was that? Did someone else die that night? Someone that I cared about?

Nurse, I was bleeding to death... did she save me? Did my daughter—

Strength returned, incrementally. I gritted my teeth through months of physio. Apparently Lake’s knife had sliced through any amount of nerves and ligaments as well as my femoral artery. Walking, I looked like newborn Bambi hobbling across hot coals while pissed. But things kind of improved. Physically, that is. I was taken off dialysis. I gained a little weight back. I found the strength in me to smile when someone displayed a kindness.

I was allowed home in December. The first thing I did was register with the supermarket and do some online grocery shopping. Here’s the list I compiled:

It turned up within a couple of hours. I signed for it and the delivery guy went off with a distasteful look on his face. It’s not as if I ordered a packet of butt plugs, I thought, and then realised I’d answered the door wearing only a T-shirt and my woolly bobble hat.

That first drink stole away any embarrassment, and scoured my innards clean of all the overcooked vegetables and claggy desserts that I’d forced down over half a year of horizontal life. I was home. I had another drink to celebrate.

Sunday 27 November 2016

Reviewed: The Reading Group by Della Parker

TITLE: The Reading Group: December
AUTHOR: Della Parker

PUBLICATION DATE: December 1, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

Meet the Reading Group: six women in the seaside village of Little Sanderton come together every month to share their love of reading. No topic is off-limits: books, family, love and loss . . . and don't forget the glass of red!

Grace knows that the holiday season is going to be different this year. No turkey, no tinsel, no gorgeously wrapped gifts under the tree . . . how on earth is she going to break it to her little boys that Christmas is effectively cancelled? And can she bear to tell anyone her embarrassing secret? Enter the Reading Group: Grace's life might have turned upside down but there's no problem they can't solve.

TITLE: The Reading Group: January
AUTHOR: Della Parker

PUBLICATION DATE: December 1, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

Anne-Marie has always considered herself a bit of a matchmaker - never mind that she's only got one real success under her belt. And this year she's determined to up her game: Little Sanderton's singles could certainly benefit from her expertise!

But while Anne Marie thinks she knows what's best for everyone else, her own life couldn't be less of a fairytale romance. Between looking after her cranky father and running her own business, she doesn't have time for a relationship. Her friends in the Reading Group know better though: after all, love can be found in the most unexpected of places . . .

This January the Reading Group is tackling Jane Austen's Emma . . . but who's got time for fiction when romance is in the air?

TITLE: The Reading Group: Feburary
AUTHOR: Della Parker

PUBLICATION DATE: December 1, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

Kate has tried to be a good wife to her husband Anton. Ever since he got demoted at work - answering to a woman no less - Anton simply hasn't been the same. Kate wants to help, but as the months pass and Anton pulls away from her both emotionally and physically, Kate can't help but feel a bit abandoned.

Then Kate means Bob: the handsome, blue-eyed carpenter that Anton has hired to refurbish their kitchen. Kate instantly feels a powerful physical connection between them . . . but dare she risk her marriage for a man she barely knows?

This month the Reading Group is enjoying Lady Chatterley's Lover . . . and trying not to giggle too much at the naughty parts!

The Reading Group: December is the perfect introduction to the series. I loved how in just a few pages, the author had me engrossed in the story, caring for a few of the characters already and picking up on some hints of where things will go for some of them in later novellas. Though we only meet the other members of The Reading Group briefly, their friendship and solidarity is evident and although like most book clubs reading wasn’t massively on the agenda, Grace, Serena, Kate, Anne-Marie and Jojo felt like a really welcoming group of friends and this made me want to dive into the first three books straight away.

December is Grace’s story and in the lead-up to Christmas, herself, her husband Ben and their boys (triplets!) are going through a tough time. I was moved by this story. I loved the dynamics between the triplets – a realistic representation of the chaos kids can cause, the kind that is fun to hear about but not so fun to deal with yourself! I also loved how Grace’s worries led to meeting the Reading Group and how understanding and willing to help they were. This was a truly heart-warming read.

The Reading Group: January is Anne-Marie’s story. Anne-Marie is a matchmaker – not a hugely successful one, but she tries! Spurred on by the news of her best friend’s engagement to a guy she set her up with, she decides to set some more of her friends up with new men too.

I really enjoyed Anne-Marie’s story. I smiled at her very failed attempts to read January’s book, Emma, and at how persistent she was with the match-making even though it never worked out right. There was less of the Reading Group girls in this book but instead we see more of her other friends, Manda and Sophie .Della’s characters always seem to be really well characterised as I feel like I can picture them almost instantly which helps me connect with the novellas more. I couldn’t put January down and found myself falling for one of the characters within the pages – so it’s always a bit of a shame when the book ends – but I couldn’t wait to read the next book either.

The Reading Group: February tells Kate’s story. Kate’s marriage to Anton has gone sour and things quickly turn on their head when she meets her new builder – Bob the builder. Bob is a hunk and Kate feels an attraction straight away. The theme of the classic the girls are reading in February is sex and infidelity – and Kate hates the thoughts it’s putting in her head. By now I really wish I was a member of the Reading Group. I love catching up on their meeting each month, keeping up-to-date on the lives of all five of them and seeing how things have changed for them. I like how the book they’re reading has links to their own lives and the author really captures their friendship brilliantly and their dialogue and the way their monthly book club goes really sets up each novella perfectly.

So far Feburary is probably my favourite of the three books so far although I love them all. Each story is entertaining and uplifting, full of laughs and romance and characters who feel more like friends than strangers. I’m so looking forward to the other novellas in the series.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Reviewed: The Mine by Antti Tuomainen

TITLE: The Mine
AUTHOR: Antti Tuomainen
PUBLISHER: Orenda Books

PUBLICATION DATE: October 10, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

A hitman. A journalist. A family torn apart. Can he uncover the truth before it's too late?

In the dead of winter, investigative reporter Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mining company, whose illegal activities have created an environmental disaster in a small town in Northern Finland. When the company's executives begin to die in a string of mysterious accidents, and Janne's personal life starts to unravel, past meets present in a catastrophic series of events that could cost him his life.

The Mine is an environmental thriller with a compelling theme at the heart of it – the desperation and depravity of keeping secrets in a world where secrets never stay hidden for good.

Janne is a journalist who at the beginning of the book receives an email imploring him to investigate corruption at a mine in Suomalahti, Finland. Following this email leads him to an environmental disaster and more so, a company whose executives are being murdered. The mystery in this book is engaging and the dark theme heightens the tension as Antti Tuomainen has the reader in the palm of his hand as lies and conspiracy slowly begin to unravel and the truth presents itself.

A big aspect of this book is how Janne’s journalism career is causing a divide between him and his wife, Pauliina – mother of his daughter Ella. At the beginning I had assumed this would just be a supporting story to add depth to the character of Janne but actually it was a much bigger part to the book than that and added another dimension to the story, which I enjoyed. Janne’s personal life is a mess, especially when his father is back on the scene.

This book was much more emotional than I had been anticipating. Though there is danger and corruption, there is also a layer of emotion as far as delving into the theme of family goes as The Mine has a very vivid and conflicted outlook on the makings of a family and the secrets they keep.

The author’s style of writing is quite simple with short sentences and snappy dialogue, but the prowess of the storytelling in his prose is extremely captivating. That the book is translated did not hinder the beauty of the writing as it is a great translation which keeps the flow and pacing of the book at an addictive level which made The Mine a book I did not want to put down.

Right from the start of the book I was drawn into the setting with the atmospheric description and the sharp details which allow you to picture the location or the scene with just a couple of words used to describe it. The author’s beautiful writing is one of the reasons I loved this book as much as I did because it played out like a movie in my mind and I could really buy into what was happening in the story because of that. The entire book had me gripped from start to finish and did not disappoint come the end.

Reviewed: The Christmas Guest by Daisy Bell

TITLE: The Christmas Guest
AUTHOR: Daisy Bell

PUBLICATION DATE: November 3, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

A puppy for Christmas. A friend for life. The story of a homeless puppy with a huge heart who healed a family . . .

When Teddy runs away from home a week before Christmas, he's far too excited to worry about what lies ahead. But all too soon Teddy realises just how cold and scary the world really is, and what was supposed to be the perfect adventure now seems like a terrible mistake.

Then Teddy is discovered on a snowy doorstep by the Woods family. With their kind hearts and cosy cottage, Claire, Ben and their daughter Emily are the family Teddy is desperate to have. But Emily is ill, her parents are stressed and, with Christmas around the corner, raising and training a well-meaning but unruly puppy is hardly a priority.

Teddy knows he and little Emily have a once-in-a-lifetime bond, and that he can be the best friend she needs in this dark time. If only he can prove to Ben and Claire how much happier he could make them all, Teddy might just find the family of his dreams this Christmas.

The Christmas Guest is one of several cute pet-related festive stories out this year but I love this trend – magical Christmas stories featuring adorable animals is always a winner in my eyes.

Teddy, or Mr Snuggles as he is unfortunately known as to start with, belongs to Veronica and Richard, but from the moment Veronica was first presented with the puppy and she threw him to the floor when he had an accident on her, he’s known she didn’t particularly love him. When the chance arises a week before Christmas, Teddy runs away and finds himself sleeping out in the snow beside the house which could become his new home, if they want him.

Teddy was just the cutest of narrators. I think I loved him from the moment he called snowflakes moonflakes – and from then on it was lovely watching him learn about life with his new family. For a dog he was full of character and with the story being told from his viewpoint, it only enhanced the uplifting qualities to the story as his character was a lovely, animated one who gets up to various adventures but always means well. He’s a kind-natured dog with a big heart and his new family are one that could use some of his joy.

Claire, Ben and their daughter Emily are, picked up on by Teddy straight away, weary-eyed and struggling with their own problems despite all the love that is evident there. We soon learn that Emily is sick and she is feeling quite low – until Teddy arrives. The story of this new family of four is a really tender one which tugs at your heartstrings and has you eager for some festive cheer and happiness for the characters as Christmas approaches.

There’s more to this story than simply the cute dog on the cover (though of course he is a delight) – through Emily and her family’s story, there are parts of this book that bring out a range of emotions and have you, or me at least, fighting back the tears. I love those books that break your heart a little bit and then mend it back together, and The Christmas Guest is the perfect example of one of those books – a real, heart-warming, Christmas treat of a novel.

I really enjoyed the author’s style of writing too – how the chapters were set out in the form of a countdown to Christmas, and how with each chapter it becomes more wintery and full of a feel-good festive nature. Despite tough times for the family meaning Christmas is a more stressful time than usual, the connection between Emily and Teddy is truly lovely to read and had me smiling on many occasion. Overall The Christmas Guest is a beautiful novel of the true meaning of Christmas with a star character in the form of a loveable dog – what’s not to love?

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