Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

The Christmas Promise

January 4, 2017 - 5:11 pm No Comments

The Christmas Promise
Author: Sue Moorcroft
Publisher: Avon (Harper Collins Publishers Ltd)
Page count: 368pp
Release Date: 1st Dec 2016
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin


With sales a bit thin on the ground at her Camden West Yard casual stall, Ava is battling through the sleet with friend Izz to Blaggard’s Bar, most definitely not in the ‘Christmas Spirit’.

Ava is Izz’s ‘plus one’ at her new company ‘do’. She’d already heard loads about Izz and bestie Todd’s new big important boss, Sam, so was curious to meet him. As she starts to chat to the successful entrepreneur, albeit briefly, she is reminded of her difficult finances and struggling business as a hat milliner.
Things get off to a decidedly rocky start, despite Sam buying her a drink, when she overhears two of his colleagues insisting he had the right to hit on her because he bought her a drink. She’s not impressed, and even more so when she realises Izz has a crush on Sam and then men are acting embarrassed, causing Ava’s feelings of indignation on her friend’s behalf. Sam soon makes an apology for his friend’s behaviour and conversation begins to flow, until Izz mentions the elephant in the room; Ava doesn’t like Christmas. Gasp, horror! But there are reasons for her lack of Christmas cheer.
And of course, she comes into contact with Mr Obligatory Jerk, at this difficult time of year, which provokes Sam into attempting to protect her.
When it comes to the millinery aspects of the book; the creation of hats, materials used etc, Moorcroft has obviously done her research and it reads as expertise. And knowing her from a couple of conventions, it is evident where she uses her genre knowledge in respect of Burlesque and Steampunk.
And as the novel progresses, she shows her knowledge of comics, and carries it off believably, throwing in the ‘New 52s’ though that’s been recently overtaken by DC Rebirth (I doubt publishing schedules would allow for this addition).
At the heart of the book, Moorcroft also deals with a couple of emotional issues; cancer and the impact of chemo through a secondary character, and ‘revenge porn’ or blackmail and humiliation, attempted again by a secondary character. Moorcroft deals with these issues sensitively and adeptly, offering her advice through Ava’s thoughts. Nicely handled. As an aside, for those being threatened with ‘revenge porn’, please research #NoToRevengePorn on social media. As Ava and Wendy put it, ‘No blame, no shame.’
As the book progresses, we have the usual ups and downs in relationships; potential romances, existing romances and current friendships. Plenty to keep the tension going. I was particularly impressed with the depiction of a panic attack at one stage.
When the physical scenes happen, as they do in romance novels, they are also very real; intimate, sometimes funny, passionate and above all, written in a respectful, satisfying way, if you get my drift. Ahem.
As for the last quarter? Wow, what an emotional roller coaster. I could literally feel my heart in the pit if my stomach et times, a curdling knot of fear, turmoil, guilt, love, laughter, everything.
Moorcroft has spun a wonderful tale bursting with emotional warmth and tears as well as fun. A brilliant, brilliant book.
Having just moved home, and facing my own roller coasters, ones that always come at this time if the year, The Christmas Prkmise gave me moments of sheer joy and satisfaction. In fact, a perfect Christmas.

Snowed by Maria Alexander

December 26, 2016 - 7:44 am No Comments

Snowed by Maria Alexander

Published by Raw Dog Screaming Press on 2nd November 2016

259 Pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies


511nz3llvzlCharity is a 16-year-old genius this has caused her to be an outcast at school. What hadn’t helped is she was the founder member of the Sceptics Club due to her non- religious ideas.  Aidan is a homeless boy that Charity’s mom bought home, talking like he has stepped out of a Jane Ayre novel, he will not tell anyone about his family and where he has come from. There is an instant attraction between them but when one of Charity’s bullies turn up dead, Charity and Sceptic club start to investigate and find out more about Aidan and his evil father than they expected. Adding to Charity’s problems is also her drug dealer, regular bad boy brother Charles, who blames everyone else for his wrong decisions.

I took to Charity straight away, even though she was constantly bullied, she stuck to her beliefs and didn’t change herself to fit in. It was a pleasant change to have a girl who was into robotics and science. All her history made her a natural born leader that was admired within her close nit of friends. Aidan character came across as a really sweet and you can understand why Charity’s mom took him in. I enjoyed how he took to modern technology and embraced the simple tasks of learning to ride a bike and to get a part time job. One of my favourite characters was Michael keeping himself to himself, I loved his one liners and I enjoyed how the author developed these characters throughout the book, telling us more about their stories

Even though, throughout the book there were hints of who Aidan’s dad was. The way the author wrote about this Jekyll and Hyde character, I ended up doubting my suspicions as I could not just believe it, so when Aidan’s story came out, it was still a surprise.

This book is tagged as a children’s story, but I would say that this story is great for adults and teenagers alike. I tend not to read books with a Christmas theme, but I am glad I read this. This story has everything for a YA fantasy read, action, with a touch of romance and you get the horror element from Aidan’s brother and sisters. I got so into the story that I could not believe that it ended on a cliff-hanger, but after I read the acknowledgements I was pleased to come across the epilogue which I thought would complete the story. How wrong I was, it just made me yearn for book 2. My first book from this author but will definitely not be the last. A good read Christmas or not

Ghosts of Christmas Present

December 30, 2015 - 10:19 am No Comments

Guest Blog: Ken Preston

Christmas wouldn’t be the season of joy and goodwill if there wasn’t at least the hint of a ghost story in the cold, frosty air. Just like roast turkey and pigs in blankets, Bing Crosby and the Queen’s speech, presents under the tree, crackers, mistletoe and the Doctor Who Christmas Special, ghost stories are a Christmas tradition we can’t seem to do without.
For most people, the mention of Christmas and ghosts will immediately conjure visions of Scrooge being visited by Christmas Past, cobwebs hanging from his ghostly frame as he rattles his chains and entreats the miser to follow him back to his childhood.
Dickens not only popularised the idea of ghost stories at Christmas, but invented the idea of a White Christmas. I know, you thought we could lay the balme for that at Bing Crosby’s feet, right?
Not quite. Dickens spent much of his childhood in an England gripped by a mini ice age, and so White Christmases were very common, and gave him the atmosphere for his seasonal story. And it’s stuck ever since.
For me the tradition of the Christmas ghost story was set by the BBC in the 1970s. My childhood might not have had a mini ice age, but I got to watch, among others, Denholm Elliot in The Signalman (another Dickens story), Robert Hardy in The Stalls of Barchester and Peter Vaughn in A Warning To The Curious, both adapted from stories by MR James. These chilling short films were a particular Christmas treat for me, feeding my inner budding horror author.
I’m sure it helps feed the tradition that the days are short and the nights long, and the weather is usually pretty bad at this time of year. It might be many long years since we last saw snow on Christmas Day, but it’s usually damp, miserable and grey, enough to keep a person indoors, reaching for yet another glass of mulled wine, and feeding the imagination with dank and grisly happenings just outside the front door.
Ghosts don’t own Christmas though. Pure, good old fashioned horror has its day too.
America might have been the homeplace of Father Christmas’s birth, in the advertising department of the Coca-Cola company, but the good old USA is also the place where the image of Santa in his red suit has been deconstructed and rebuilt as a demonic psychopath. After all, red and white might be the emblem of Coca-Cola, but aren’t they also the colours of blood and death?
Christmas Evil (1980) takes this to the extreme as a psychopath dressed up as Santa gets to decide who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, and of course slasher movie Black Christmas tips its hat in an ironic nod to Bing Crosby, as a group of sorority sisters are murdered during the Christmas break.
And those two Christmas themed horror movies are just the tip of the iceberg.
My favourite Christmas horror movie has to be Gremlins. Just like the mischevious little monsters themselves, Gremlins the movie is cute and nasty all at the same time, much like my image of Santa Claus really. How else can you view a man who breaks into your house, steals into your children’s bedrooms, but leaves them presents?
And seriously, Gremlins has to be the movie that does the greatest job of deconstructing the figure of Father Christmas, as we listen to Kate telling boyfriend Billy about the moment she simulteaneously found out that Santa is not real, and that her father had died.
You don’t get much more horrific than that.
So this Christmas Eve, why not snuggle down with a movie like Silent Night, Zombie Night (2009), (and do I really need to explain the concept behind that one?) or cuddle up with a good Christmas themed horror book. I would recommend Joe Hill’s N0S4R2, where you can visit Christmasland, presided over by the evil Charlie Manx, and where children never grow up, but for all the wrong reasons.
Merry Christmas!


Twitter: @kenpreston100


The 13 Ghosts of Christmas

December 8, 2012 - 8:45 pm 2 Comments

The 13 Ghosts of Christmas
Author: (Ed) Simon Marshall Jones
Publisher: Spectral Press
Page count: 204pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
The 13 Ghosts of Christmas released this December is an anthology of creepy Christmas themed stories from independent publisher Spectral Press.
Spectral Press has a well deserved reputation as a small yet quality driven independent press publishing a whole host of genre fiction from a solid and formidable group of writers. And here, with this spooky collection of stories, Spectral further cements its reputation.
The anthology starts with ‘An Odd Number at Table’ by John Costello, a wonderfully romantic and atmospheric ghost story, which finds young student Josh spending Christmas with the family of his girlfriend Kirstie at their ancestral home in Richmond. Filled with lyrical language and and an inherent beauty, this story kicks off the collection very well, and from there it goes full steam ahead.
The stories are varied from funny to downright scary in Gary McMahon’s piece to a fun and dark piece by William Miekle featuring Carnacki. There are stories by Jan Edwards, Raven Dane, Thana Niveau and Martin Roberts; a nice mix of new and established authors bringing their talent and expertise on board.
The stand out stories of the piece are Raven Dane’s tale of a disgruntled husband in ‘A Taste of Almonds’, Paul Finch’s story of two sisters at Christmas in ‘December’ and Thana Niveau’s tale of sentient evil snow The bios in the book give interesting highlights of the stories included and the tales themselves are a good range of creepy, spooky, funny and poignant.
A truly inspirational collection, the first of many, which brings the reader the feeling of listening to a Dickensian story-telling session, the scent of plum pudding or a seat by a log fire. Wonderful.

Wolfsbane & Mistletoe

December 3, 2012 - 10:34 pm No Comments

Wolfsbane & Mistletoe
Author: (Ed) Charlaine Harris & Toni L P Kelner
Publisher: Gollancz
Page count: 416pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
Following on from the success of Many Bloody Returns, (a birthday and vampire anthology), Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, returns to Editor duties with this cool collection of stories featuring werewolves and Christmas. Oh yea!
Joining forces with Toni L P Kelner, Harris delivers an anthology of fun, energetic stories, which runs wild with the themes (pardon the pun).
Whilst some of the stories are unlinked to the authors’ previous works, and remain fresh, some of the works are richer if the reader is familiar with the universe. For instance, the story ‘Gift Wrap’ by Harris features Sookie Stackhouse and adds to the True Blood mythology. This story finds Sookie alone on Christmas Eve wallowing in her loneliness until a surprise present arrives courtesy of a distant relative. The humorous ‘Haire of the Beast’ by Donna Andrews is short and sweet, whilst Simon R Green’s ‘Lucy at Christmastime’ is a poignant and delightfully funny look at the Nightside universe. ‘Il Est Ne’ is a piece featuring Kitty from Carrie Vaughn’s collection of novels and is a very nice seasonal piece, just as Keri Arthur’s story introduces new and old readers to her Para Investigation Squad.
For unrelated material we have ‘The Werewolf Before Christmas’, a rather amusing tale/tail in which a werewolf gets more than he bargained for after snacking on a certain red nosed reindeer. However, the top giggle award goes to ‘SA’ by J A Konrath. This laugh out loud story is an absolute hoot. I shall say no more other than I bet your bum you will enjoy this one!
So, how does this anthology rate overall? With only two tales falling a little flat, this is a great festive literary feast and well worth investing in at this time of the year. Great fun!