Farewell, 2015!

HAPPY NEW YEAR'S EVE!
And a HAPPY NEW YEAR for the arrival of 2016 tomorrow, too.

In today's post, I'll be saying a fond farewell to the wonderfulness that has been the year 2015. In fact, for the first time in a long time, I've loved a year so much that I really don't want to let it go. 2015 has been full of magic for me. I've learnt a lot about myself, I've learnt a lot about other people, but most importantly, I've learnt that actually, despite what other people have thought or said about me in the past, I am capable of something. And that, my dear friends, is a feeling to treasure.

So first thing's first, 2015 has been the year in which my first novel with Carina UK, Return to Bluebell Hill, was published. Even now, as I sit here, as close as I can possibly get to the radiator because it's freaking freeeeeezing, I can't actually believe that that happened. Publication day also fell on Mum's birthday, so as you can imagine, there were lots of reasons to celebrate that day, and celebrate we did. Still on the subject of writing and Carina, a couple of months ago I was offered a second two-book deal with them, which of course had my eyes popping out of their sockets. I finished writing my second novel, A Home in Sunset Bay, which is due to be published on February 9th 2016, and coming up very soon will be a cover reveal of that same novel, a cover reveal that has got me very, very excited! I hope you'll stay posted for that, because I can't wait to share it with you all! To sum up this bookish section, I'm now writing my third novel (title is top secret for now!) and will be beginning my fourth in the next month or so. *takes deep breath* I know, right? S-U-R-R-E-A-L.

2015 has also been the year in which I widened my reading selections too, and that's always exciting. Despite romance being my first love, this year I've stepped into crime thriller, psychological thriller and more horror (a genre that I've always enjoyed). It's been exciting in terms of reading. I've been introduced to some wonderful new authors who I perhaps wouldn't have picked up previously, and found myself waiting excitedly for releases from authors who I've loved previously too. On that note, there are some incredible books coming out in 2016 that I cannot wait to get my hands on, and if you fancied checking those out you can find them on my 2016 releases page which is right here.

I've learnt a lot about myself this year too. I've learnt that, despite what people have previously thought or said about me, I am actually capable of achieving something. I've learnt that I'm much braver than I originally thought I was, that there's nothing wrong with self-belief. There's also nothing wrong with self-love or confidence either, despite what people may think or say about that subject. I've learnt that I can't please everyone. I've learnt that, actually, I don't want to. I've learnt that I am in complete control of my life and my happiness, and if I want to say no, then I can. I've learnt that I won't always be everyone's cup of tea, and that's fine. I've learnt that the best things in life can't be bought, and some of the most happiest moments of 2015 have proved that statement. Basically, dear friends, I've learnt a lot of lessons that I feel I needed to be taught to help me on my way. It's amazing what can happen in a year, is it not?

So there you have it. It may or may not seem like a lot, but I have loved 2015 immeasurably. I hope yours has been brilliant too? Will you be entering 2016 with resolutions? If so, what are those resolutions? Do you feel confident that you'll stick with them? I won't be making any this year, all except one, and that's to be more organised, something I always fail miserably at! Let me know. What are you looking forward to in 2016? Do you have special plans coming up?

Whatever the New Year holds in store for us all, I really hope you enter with a smile on your face.
Here's to an excellent 2016! *raises glass*




COVER REVEAL

This evening on Becca's Books, I'm thrilled to be teaming up with the fabulous folk over at Avon to bring you an absolutely breathtaking cover reveal. Myself, as well as the rest of the bloggers on Avon's list, have been receiving emails about this book, telling us all to prepare for heartbreak, and so I could not wait to see what they had up their sleeve...

Rather than me rabbiting on until the sun comes up, I'll get straight to it. Tonight, alongside Avon and a number of brilliant bloggers, I'm revealing the cover of S.D. Robertson's Time to Say Goodbye.

Title - Time to Say Goodbye
Author - S.D. Robertson
Publication Date - February 11th 2016 (eBook & paperback)
Publisher - Avon
#saygoodbye

A heart-rending story about the unique bond between a father and his daughter, for fans of Jojo Moyes and John Green.

How do you leave the person you love the most?
Will Curtis's six-year-old daughter, Ella, knows her father will never leave her. After all, he promised her so when her mother died, and he's going to do everything he can to keep his word.

What Will doesn't know is that the promise he made to his little girl might be harder to keep than he imagined. When he's faced with an impossible decision, Will finds that the most obvious choice might not be the right one.

But the future is full of unexpected surprises. And father and daughter are about to embark on an unforgettable journey together...


Doesn't it sound beautiful? And, just like the emails hinted towards, heartbreaking! The blurb makes me wonder what exactly happens to put the promise Will made to his daughter, Ella, at risk. I can't wait to find out in February once Time to Say Goodbye is released, and I hope you're all excited too!

What are your thoughts on this cover? Do you like it? Does the blurb throw up lots of questions or feelings? I know one thing. It sounds like a book everyone is going to want to get their hands on.

You can pre-order Time to Say Goodbye by S.D. Robertson on the links below -






















Christmas on Becca's Books | New Years Cake Recipe with Sun Chara

~ New Year's Cake Recipe ~

With Sun Chara

GOOD FORTUNE ALL NEW YEAR THROUGH!

Different cultures celebrate this joyous season of Christmas and New Year with a variety of festive fun traditions! So, I decided to share with you this wonderful New Year’s Day Greek custom—and since I come from a Greek background from the lovely island of Cyprus, I thought it would be quite apropos.

On New Year’s Eve, we bake a New Year’s Cake, but no ordinary cake this! For inside the cake is a coin and whoever finds it, it is believed will have good fortune the whole year through. At midnight, the cake is cut into 12 pieces, and enjoyed with a flute of champagne, tea or coffee. Happy New Year!


 RECIPE for this light, fluffy and delish New Year’s Day Cake.

¾ cup of butter
1 1/2 cups of sugar
6 eggs
4 tablespoons of brandy
grated peel of 2 oranges
4 cups of flour
¾ milk or evaporated milk
1 coin wrapped in foil
½ cup blanched almonds
confectioner’s powder sugar

Cream the butter in a mixing bowl, and while still beating, add sugar, eggs, brandy, orange rind and milk. Fold in the flour a little at a time.

Lightly grease and flour a round cake pan and pour in the batter. Press the coin into cake batter. Arrange blanched almonds on top of batter to make the number of the New Year.

Bake in 325-degree F heated oven for about 1 hour or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar. Makes 12 servings.

*My SHORTCUT version – I buy 12 individual pastries from my local bakery, place on a platter, hide the coin beneath one of the pastries, and serve. Mmm, mmm, good!



SUN CHARA, a multi-published, JABBIC winner for Manhattan Millionaire's Cinderella, keys sexy, hip 'n fun contemporary romance. A three-book deal with Harper Impulse launched her global career! Then, a five-book contract followed...winging onto cyber shelves worldwide soon, Greek Millionaire, Unruly Wife. Globetrotting for lore and keeping tabs on Hollywood leads, she samples designer frappuccinos topped with whipping cream/sprinkles, making everyday a celebration!

You can find Sun Chara on Facebook | Twitter





Christmas on Becca's Books | Favourite Childhood Present by Caragh Finnan, Loaded Shelves

~ Favourite Childhood Present ~

By Caragh Finnan

Christmas! There are a lot of things that I instantly think of when I see or hear 'Christmas'. Mince pies, spiced apple & cinnamon - even brussel sprouts (which I actually LOVE...!). Like most people I think, it's not the presents that make Christmas special. Spending time with friends and family and finally having a solid reason to drink hot chocolate all day long is all that really matters. I never look a gift-santa in the mouth though, and i'm always happy to accept a nice little present at Christmas ;)


When I was 14, I had very few passions in life. Books and...okay don't judge me... Gareth Gates. You know the one. Spikey-haired, stammering choir boy from Leeds that graced our TV screens a long time ago in the form of Pop Idol. Not only did I ardently love this new shiny celeb, I was a bit of a performer myself. As a child I loved to sing and dance, and would perform for literally anyone who would listen. And a fair few that didn't want to listen but weren't given much choice...


At this point in my life, things were really difficult for me. I had depression and anxiety issues, little to no friends and no motivation for anything - but I sure did love to sing. My mum was struggling financially after relocating across the country just 5 days before Christmas for a new job and we were learning to live alongside my mum's best friend and her daughter as we shared a beautiful large house as a foursome.

I wasn't expecting much from Christmas and if I was honest, the magic had well and truly worn off by then. I was an angsty teenager who loathed Christmas and proudly announced my wish to disconnect from all of the festivities. The only thing that i'd been pining for was the most beautiful, silver and blue Karaoke machine. Not just any machine either - a Pop Idol one that was endorsed by Mr Gates himself!
With 5 days to go until Christmas though, a brand new house and very little money? We were going to be lucky if we managed a ham sandwich for Christmas dinner!

However, as i'm sure you could tell ;) - I woke up on the morning of December 25th to a festive miracle. Sparkly lights, an enormous Christmas tree, what looked like hundreds of brightly wrapped presents were bursting out from under there! My heart raced. If all of this could happen over night, could it be possible that I could get the Christmas present that i'd been dreaming of? ... No. Of course not. It was far too expensive and i'd already been told that it just wasn't going to happen this year. Despite the little ball of sadness, Christmas was wonderful. Our somewhat strangely formed family had a luxurious Christmas - lots of presents, food and a whole bunch of visitors to join us with our celebrations in our new home. As the afternoon wore on and the house became quieter (except for the post Christmas dinner snorefest!), my spidey-senses were tingling. Something was being plotted. 

Just after a leftover dinner sandwich, my mum called me into the living room. My eyes flitted between her and the box she was holding. It appeared that she'd 'forgotten' to give me one of my presents. You guessed it....


A genuine Christmas miracle! I'd wanted it for so long and had finally given up hope - and almost given up on the Christmas spirit that i'd so loved as a child. I immediately set it up and began 'recording albums' for everyone for Christmas. It's embarrassing really - knowing that there's so many cassettes out there with my warbling 14 year old voice (I was NOT talented, just passionate!). It was the best Christmas present that I ever received as a child and until a few years ago, it was still a big part of my life. It wasn't just getting the karaoke machine though, it was everything that came with it. How hard my mum must have worked in order to pay for it, how the spirit of Christmas was restored for me, and most of all - that family will do anything to keep each other spirited and feeling good.

You can find Caragh Finnan on Twitter | loadedshelves.blogspot.com

Christmas on Becca's Books | Melted Snowmen with Beth, The Reader's Corner

~ Melted Snowmen ~

With Beth, The Reader's Corner


            


I got the pack from Asda and it is called - Melted Snowman Cupcake Kit - makes 6.

Ingredients needed are:
1 x medium egg
30g melted butter
20ml semi-skilled milk

Pre-heat the oven at 180c/350f/Fan - 160c/Gas Mark 4
Mix altogether into a bowl with the cake mix in the pack until smooth then place them in the cupcake cases and put into the oven for 10-15 minutes.
Once baked and taken out of the oven, let them cool.
Take the icing (that is included in the pack along with red chocolate and icing pen) roll flat on a sugared surface then cut out 6 circles to fit the cupcakes.
I didn't have a circle cutter so I just grabbed a bit of the icing, rolled it between by hands then pressed down until it was a flat circle shape, then put the tiniest bit of water over the cupcakes and then put the icing on top of each of them.
I then used the last of the icing to make the snowmans head, then added the nose by using the icing pen to make it stick and then drew on some eyes, arms and buttons with the icing pen and viola! 

You can find The Reader's Corner on Twitter | wordsfromareader.weebly.com

Christmas on Becca's Books | Top 5 Christmas Songs with Em, Always Opinionated

~ Top 5 Christmas Songs ~

With Em, Always Opinionated
Do they know it's Christmas? - Bandaid
The first song I thought of when thinking about my favourite Christmas songs was this one. The original, not the recent cover. I really like this song and I like the idea behind the creation of this song. At Christmas time, most of us are so focused on ourselves and our families that we forget about those who aren't as lucky, so this is a thoughtful reminder. However on top of that, this song is super catchy and good fun to sing along to.

Last Christmas - Wham!
This is a feel good Christmas song which never fails to make me smile, as it has some great memories attached. One year, our teachers at school decided to raise money for charity by a filming a music video for a Christmas song and this was the one they chose. They raised lots of money as almost every student wanted to pay to view this hilarious video. Whenever I hear this song, I think of that moment, laughing with my friends and hundreds of other students at my teachers doing overdramatic acting and silly dance moves.

Mistletoe and Wine - Cliff Richard
This song was introduced to me by my Grandma who is a die hard Cliff Richard fan as she has loved him since she was a teenager and went to one of his concerts this year. This song always reminds me of her whenever I am, which is nice. The other thing I love about this song is it's traditional and family feel, it makes me think about all the memories I have of previous Christmases.

Happy Xmas  (War is over) - John Lennon
I don't really know why I like this song, but I do. There's just something about it's nice message and catchy tune. It seems to be included on most Christmas CDs and I listen to it every single year whilst I help decorate the tree and make the house all Christmassy. This song has a powerful message and inspires me to make a better start in the new year.

All I want for Christmas is You - Mariah Carey
How can anyone not like this Christmas song? It's such a feel good song and is perfect for dancing and singing along to with your friends. This song is just a Christmas classic for me and it can't really be Christmas without this song. It's catchy tune and fun lyrics make it impossible to resist, not matter who you are. Everyone secretly (or not so secretly) loves a good bit of Mariah Carey at Christmas time.

You can find Always Opinionated on Twitter | alwaysopinionated.wordpress.com

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Title - Behind Closed Doors
Author - B.A. Paris
Publication Date - February 11th 2016
Publisher - MIRA
Format - Kindle Edition (Provided via publisher via NetGalley)
Pages - 384

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do.

You'd like to get to know Grace better.

But it's difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.
Some might call this true love, Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn't work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

Sometimes, the perfect marriage is the perfect lie.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris was incredible. This was a novel that had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Edgy, sharp, treacherous and dark, I will be highly surprised if I don't see this book rising up amongst some of the most brilliantly compelling thrillers of 2016. Behind Closed Doors has it all. That endless piece of thread that you follow, hoping all the while that what you're thinking in your head is correct, but knowing at the same time that it's not going to be. That the author, somehow, is going to lead you completely astray and bend and warp their story in a whole new way. Brilliantly written, highly captivating and drenched in danger, I really can't recommend this novel enough.

Throughout the entirety of reading Behind Closed Doors, I felt this strange sense of unease. I couldn't put my finger on what it was that had me feeling this way, but it was quite clear that something wasn't quite right. In a world where people strive for perfection, Jack and Grace, at first glance, seemed to have it all. The looks, the money, the impressive home... As the author delivered her descriptions of this flawless couple to me, only one thing remained in my mind. It's just got to be too good to be true. I understand that from the blurb, the reader is given a vague idea of things being out-of-sorts, but this mystery of Jack and Grace is emphasised upon so much more within the novel itself. B.A. Paris begins Behind Closed Doors superbly. Serene surroundings, an elegant dinner party, and Jack and Grace playing the perfect hosts to their guests, but while all this is going on, B.A. Paris ensures that there's just the right amount of danger simmering beneath the shiny surface. Small hints and Grace's internal dialogue begin to reveal a different side to the picture-perfect scenario B.A. Paris gives the reader, and it isn't long before the truth begins to rear it's very gruesome head...

Switching between the past and present, B.A. Paris takes us on a shocking journey, beginning at the very moment Jack stepped into the picture, during an outing at the park. It took me by surprise, how very charming Jack was, and it seemed to take Grace by surprise too. I think this added so much to Grace's character. She's a humble woman, doesn't expect too much of herself, and so when Jack enters to the scene, she can hardly believe that she's been so lucky as to catch such a man's eye. The fact that Grace doesn't seem to understand exactly how she's ended up with him added a sense of power to Jack's character that I didn't take to, too much. I felt like there was something too perfect about him, and Grace's disbelief at having landed such a catch only went to highlight this further. Both characters were fantastically developed, and by the end of this novel I felt that I knew them inside out, and back to front. There's light and dark to everybody, but occasionally, more dark than usual is allowed to slip in, and that's when the danger heightens.

The past begins to catch up with the present at one point in the story, and let me tell you something, it was amazing. My heart was thumping in my chest, my breathing halted, and I couldn't read the words quick enough. My eyes were skittering all over the page, and I had to keep telling myself to slow down, so as not to ruin it for myself. But it was impossible not to hurry myself along! The tension was high, the characters at a major moment in the plot, and my restrain was non-existent. At this point, I'd been told all about Jack and Grace, the truth behind their marriage, the evilness that hid just around the edges, and I was shocked to my very core. I just could not believe it.

It's been a long time since a novel had this much of an effect on me. Powerful, all-consuming, twisted and not-at-all predictable, I'd recommend this to any readers who love a thrilling, punchy and addictive story that keeps a hold on you right the way through. Becca's Books is awarding Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris with five cupcakes. I would read this again in a heartbeat. It was BRILLIANT.









  








The Torn Up Marriage by Caroline Roberts

Title - The Torn Up Marriage
Author - Caroline Roberts
Publication Date - March 5th 2015
Publisher - HarperImpulse
Format - Kindle Edition
Pages - 342

A memory: golden-tipped sand dunes, early June heat waves blurring the Northumberland coastline. Michael racing towards the shore, Emily on his shoulders, their laughter ringing out against the crash of the rolling waves. A family together.

Two years later, and the landscape of Kate's marriage has changed irrevocably. When Michael came home one evening and dealt the the fateful blow to their marriage, neither could have imagined the heart-wrenching journey stretching before them. Her happy home with Michael and their two beautiful girls has been washed away like footprints in the sand.

As he tries to build a new home from home, Michael's about to learn just how precious his family is. Kate's left dealing with the consequences but can you ever forgive such a betrayal? And when your marriage is torn apart, all hope hanging by a thread, what will it take to stitch it back together?

There are so many words fluttering about in my mind, words to describe this novel with, it's hard for me to choose just one. Painful. Raw. Agonising. Heartbreaking. But then at the other end of the spectrum, hopeful, promising and golden-centred. The Torn Up Marriage by Caroline Roberts was a stunning dissection of a break-down of a previously sturdily-built marriage. Not shy of the uncomfortable, the story of Kate, Michael, and their beautiful daughters was a powerful one, displaying to it's readers how deep, painful and gutting a betrayal within a marriage can be.

I was involved within Kate and Michael's story from the get-go. Punchy and unwavering, the focus on marriage and intimacy within this book absolutely took my breath away. From beginning to end, I was completely immersed within the new circumstances Kate had somehow managed to find herself in. Reading, I felt the tone of Caroline Roberts' writing was almost overwhelming but at the same time, I couldn't bear to look away. Every single line of Kate's thoughts and dialogue hit the spot perfectly, displaying her distraught, heartbroken emotions as clear as day. There were moments where I felt that it was almost too painful to read, and couldn't even imagine being in Kate's shoes. Flashbacks to a once-perfect past only intensified this hopeless feeling and I couldn't really believe that things had turned out in the way they had. Written in three separate parts, Caroline Roberts truly does take her reader on a journey through every single emotion that is available to her as the author. From disbelief to sadness, heartbreak and denial, it was a memorable journey I won't be forgetting in a hurry.

Adding in the factors of children, friendship and family, not only does Caroline have her reader hoping and praying for the best outcome, but she had me guessing right until the very last page too. I was never quite sure of whether I'd be handed the happy ending or the separation. I won't say which as I wouldn't want to spoil it for any other potential readers out there, but the fact that I really couldn't have guessed made this novel all the more exciting for me. Not only are we handed a displaced jigsaw puzzle of a marriage, but we're witness to the lasting effect of what something so devastating can do to a previously happy unit of four. From chapter and chapter, Caroline Roberts tugged me further and deeper into this novel, so much so that I felt I was only able to come up for air once I'd turned the final page.

Another aspect of The Torn Up Marriage I loved was the switching of the narrative. Not only is the reader able to hear Kate's side of the story, but the author provides us with Michael's too, allowing an insight into both Kate and Michael's innermost thoughts. Being privy to each character's most secret thoughts provided a more intimacy to this novel, and there were times where I felt I was going behind Kate's back as Michael's reasoning behind what he did began to surface. As the novel progressed, I remained hooked to the story unfolding and was desperate to see where Caroline would allow her characters' journey to end. Throughout the ordeal, many themes were touched upon by Caroline, themes that only added to the power of this novel. It broke my heart a thousand times over, and I felt like I was waiting the entirety of the book for it to be put back together again.

I loved The Torn Up Marriage by Caroline Roberts. Every single aspect of this novel was dealt with beautifully, every emotion described faultlessly, and I was wholly dedicated to the characters within. Real, raw, and stunningly captured, this book not only follows the fallout of a 'torn up marriage', but the consequences too, in the most flawless way. Becca's Books is awarding The Torn Up Marriage by Caroline Roberts with five gorgeous cupcakes. My only annoyance is that I left it untouched on my Kindle for such a long amount of time, but now, having read it, I can say that it was definitely worth the wait.






  








Christmas on Becca's Books | Christmas is Made For Friends by Marcie Steele

~ Christmas is Made For Friends ~

By Marcie Steele

Christmas is made for friends, don’t you think? Whether it’s hooking up to go shopping with your bestie, having a few cocktails on a girls’ night out, swapping Secret Santa presents over a long lunch, or just having a giggle watching ‘Home Alone’ with a mug of hot chocolate, the fun is endless. And even my man is my best friend when he has a chocolate orange to share.

Having said that, I’ve known my best friend for over twenty years now. We met at college in our early twenties – ooh, I’m slighting giving our ages away there.
We’ve known each other through both of us getting married, each getting divorced and each married again, with two children for her, and we’re still going strong. There isn’t a time that we have fallen out. We’re always there for each other, to lend an ear to, offer a hug, share good news and console if it’s bad. She’s like the sister I never had.

I love shopping for her presents at Christmas. There are so many little gifts and sets on display, I just go to town (literally – no internet shopping for me). All the shops have something to entice me through their doors. Usually I come away with lots of two for her and one for me, I just can’t resist. Well, most things are on three-for-two sale for that reason, aren’t they?

I’m not quite sure where it started but it’s become a tradition now every year to buy each other a desk calendar, a wall calendar and a diary. We both have great fun finding new ones. Christmas cards are special for us too. Not a lot of people buy them now - I know I don’t miss them hanging around the house, falling over every time a door shut. But I do like the special ones. Again with this, it’s a tradition to get a nice one for each other.

We meet on Christmas Eve and open the pressies together over a coffee and mince pie. It’s our mini Christmas, before all the hard work starts in preparation for the next day. We have so much fun – I love to see her face light up when she likes something, or grins when it’s something silly.

It sounds as if we are fifteen – but I wouldn’t swap our Christmas fun for anything. Because really, isn’t that what friends are for?


I'm Mel Sherratt but I also write under the name of Marcie Steele. I'm a romantic at heart and have always wanted to write about characters who were not necessarily involved in the darker side of life. Coffee, cakes and friends are three of my favourite things, hence Stirred with Love for my first book writing as Marcie Steele. My second, That's What Friends are For, will be published in December 2015.

As Mel, I write crime thrillers, psychological suspense and fiction with a punch - or grit-lit, as I call it. Shortlisted for the prestigious CWA (Crime Writer's Association) Dagger in Library Award 2014, my inspiration comes from authors such as Mandasue Heller, Lynda la Plante, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes. Since 2012, all seven of my crime novels have been bestsellers, each one climbing into the kindle UK top 20 and I've had several number ones.

I live in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with my husband and terrier, Dexter.

You can find Marcie Steele on Facebook | Twitter




Christmas on Becca's Books | Traditions & Struffoli Recipe by Katherine Garbera

~ Traditions & Struffoli Recipe ~

By Katherine Garbera

It’s safe to say that most if not all of my traditions revolve around my family and food.  My earliest memories are of sitting in the kitchen at my grandmother’s house with my mom and her talking, laughing and eating.  I like to linger at the kitchen table when I have friends and family over. There is something that just feels so right about it.

I can still remember the sadness and sense of loss I felt the year my grandmother died.  My mom and sisters and I helped pack up her house and we were drawn to the kitchen and her pots and pans and her cookbooks.  We split the cookbooks up and I found that the cookbooks were a link to her.  She’d written all sort of notes on recipes and left her own variations on pieces of paper in the books.

Whenever I use one of her recipes I feel like she’s right there in the kitchen with us, giving us kisses and telling us how wonderful we are.  One of those recipes is a traditional Italian Christmas cookie.  They are called struffoli.  They are little bits of fried dough coated in honey and sprinkles.  Now my kids and husband will tell you I have an unnatural propensity to use sprinkles on every holiday and on everything—ignore stories of the green sprinkles for St. Patrick’s day in the biscuits which made it look like they might be mouldy.

And here is my typed up one with the parts she left out. 

2 cups sifted flour.  Mix in 3 eggs beat after each egg.  Add ½ teaspoon of vanilla.  Mix well to make a soft dough.  Roll into a long strip of dough (like when you gnocchi) and cut into 1 inch pieces.  Roll the pieces in your hand until they are round.  Drop into hot oil  and cooking until they are brown on all sides.  Take from the oil and drain on a paper towel for a few seconds then toss in honey and coat with brightly colored sprinkles.

In my novella A Cowboy For Christmas one of the pivotal scenes involves the starting of new traditions for Annie and Carson.  I think that traditions are a link between the past and the present.  I adjust them as needed.  For example my grandmother would have used orange peel instead of sprinkles on the struffoli but my kids thought it looked funny and wouldn’t eat them so we used just sprinkles until they were older to appreciate it. 

Annie is lost.  Her parents are dead and her sister and she are estranged so when she thinks of Christmas it’s a little tinged with sadness and Carson who has his own little boy and has also been lost helps her by creating a tradition. 

Here’s an excerpt of that scene:

He wrapped his arm around her shoulder.  “Then let’s start some.”
            She wanted to but then she started worrying if he’d be with her next Christmas.  “What if—
            “No.  No questions, we are going to start a tradition and that’s it.”
            “Okay, so what is the tradition going to be?”
            “Well it starts with me delivering your tree and you fixing me lasagna for dinner… see how I’ve guaranteed you’ll make dinner for me again?”
            “In a year?  Don’t you want dinner before then?” she asked, worried.  She realized that she was afraid because she wanted this to be real.  She wanted everything she felt for Carson to be perfect and if it wasn’t she had no idea what she’d do.  She was out of places to run to. Maybe that would be enough.  Maybe it’d be enough to stay this time.
            “We’ll have dinner again before next Christmas, but this is about our tradition.”
            “Okay,” she said.  Stop worrying, she warned herself.  “What’s next?”
            “Well, we decorate your tree,” he said.
            “You’re just saying the things we’re doing,” she said.  “Does that count?”
            “That’s how traditions get started,” he said. He took a box of hand-wrapped ornaments that had been her mom's and handed them to her.

USA Today bestselling author Katherine Garbera is a two-time Maggie winner who has written more than 70 books. A Florida native who grew up to travel the globe, Katherine now makes her home in the Midlands of the UK with her husband, two children and a very spoiled miniature dachshund. Visit her on the web at www.katherinegarbera.com, connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @katheringarbera.








Christmas on Becca's Books | All Things Christmas by Alison Drew

~ All Things Christmas ~

By Alison Drew

Christmas Memories
My earliest Christmas memories include being so excited to help decorate the tree, go out into the local countryside to collect holly branches with berries & mistletoe, helping my grandmother bake the cakes & puddings to have a 'magic wish stir'. I was the youngest of three children, with a large age gap so I was effectively the baby of the family so consequently spoilt! I knew I would always get an amazing present from my brother .. he always managed to get me the most wanted item on my 'wishlist'.  

I don't recall ever having lunch cooked at home by my mother we always seemed to visit grandparents! Plenty of food, crackers, silly jokes, games, the Queens speech & whatever film was on TV. 

Once I was married we tended to follow the same routine until we discovered travelling was a nicer prospect, so we have spent many holiday seasons in New York or touring the US. 

Favourite Christmas 
My favourite Christmas has to be the year my son was born .. I have never had a better present! He was born at 1:07pm so we always celebrate his birthday during Christmas lunch :) 
He was due a several days earlier, he hadn't arrived so I was determined I would enjoy the day .. he had other ideas so we spent the day/night in hospital but the atmosphere was wonderful although I never got any festive food at all! However we were presented with a silver spoon keepsake to honour the special delivery  & the local newspaper took our pic which was on the front of the paper .. so great memories & what better way to announce his birth as a Christmas Day baby.


Christmas Reading Recommendations (to keep it bookish)
I love Christmas books, one of my favourite times of the year & there is nothing nicer than curling up with a cup of tea, mince pie & a good read .. due to my heavy review schedule I haven't been able to read as many as I would like so far this year but I am determined to rectify that.

Read so far:
Christmas Ever After - Sarah Morgan
Wish Upon A Christmas Cake - Darcie Boleyn
Winter's Fairytale - Maxine Morrey 
What Happens At Christmas - TA Williams
Sex, Snow & Mistletoe - Laura Barnard 
Christmas At Lilac Cottage - Holly Martin
Survival Of The Christmas Spirit - Aimee Horton
The Little Bookshop On The Seine - Rebecca Raisin

Still on my to read list:
One Wish In Manhattan - Mandy Baggott
Every Time A Bell Rings - Carmel Harrington 
Merry Mistletoe - Emma Davies
A Miracle At Macy's - Lynn Marie Hulsman
My Big Fat Christmas Wedding - Samantha Tonge
A Very Country Christmas - Zara Stoneley
Snowflakes On Silver Cove - Holly Martin
How To Stuff Up Christmas - Rosie Blake
Never Kiss A Man In A Christmas Jumper - Debbie Johnson
With Love From Paris This Christmas - Jules Wake
The Boy Under The Mistletoe - Katey Lovell

And I keep adding them!!

You can find Alison Drew on Facebook | Twitter | Ali the Dragon Slayer


Christmas on Becca's Books | Christmas Memories by D.R. Graham

~ Christmas Memories ~

By D.R. Graham

Hi Everyone! My name is Danielle, and I write as D.R. Graham. Becca has invited me to share a little about my favourite holiday moments. I was born in the Yukon and grew up in Prince George, Canada, where it gets very cold in the winter. Christmas was always a highlight for us as kids. Baking gingerbread and cinnamon buns, setting up the nativity scene, and playing in the snow once it got dark on Christmas Eve are some of my most vivid memories.


My all-time favourite Christmas movie is NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION. I watch it every year, and even though I know each line by heart, it still makes me laugh.

My favourite baking tradition in our family is the gingerbread carousel. It's fun to make, but even more fun to eat.


My favourite types of gifts to give and receive are homemade. This year, my family members are getting these cute little pine cone elves and a donation to a charity in their name:


What are your favourite holiday traditions?


Thanks for letting me share a little about our memories and traditions. I hope everyone has a happy and peaceful holiday season. 



D.R. Graham is the author of One Percenter (Entangled), The Handler (Entangled), RANK (HarperCollins), the upcoming BRAMPTON BEACH series (HarperCollins), and the Apple iBooks best selling young adult novel, HIT THAT AND YOU'RE DEAD. She is also an award winning columnist for the Richmond News.

She worked as a social worker with at-risk youth for seven years before becoming a therapist in private practice. The clients she works with are children and teenagers. Her novels deal with issues relevant to young and new adults in love, transition, or crisis.

She currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband.

You can find D.R. Graham on Twitter | drgrahambooks.com