Bookends Christmas | Tell us  about a Christmas tradition you have with your family and friends

Bookends Christmas | Tell us about a Christmas tradition you have with your family and friends

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the traditions that make it – from counting down the days with an advent calendar or picking out the perfect Christmas tree! In celebration of the joy of tradition, we asked our authors to tell us one tradition they have with their friends and family.

Holly Miller, author of The Sight of You

We’re all about the food and drink at our place during Christmas. Pancakes for breakfast (I’ve finally mastered the art of doing them American-style), bucks fizz (ongoing) and always, always a Delia trifle. In November, my mother-in-law and I also make Christmas puds together, using an old family recipe, which gets us in the spirit.

Linda Green, author of One Moment

We try to make our Christmas as commercial-neutral as possible. We’re not religious, but Christmas is very much a time for thinking about those less fortunate than ourselves. So, for every pound we spend on presents, we donate the same amount to charity. When my son was little, we used to gather all the presents for his Santa’s sack from charity shops over the year. Now we do the 12 charity shop DVDs of Christmas over the festive period.

And we always choose the charities we would like to give to, in order to ‘off-set’ the value of gifts given to us. The Book Trust scheme to give children in need a book at Christmas is always in there (https://www.booktrust.org.uk/support-us/give-ten-pounds-today-and-bring-joy-to-a-vulnerable-child-this-christmas), as are gifts for children living in domestic violence refuges and children in care. It really is one of the nicest parts of Christmas to know that you are helping others.

Jill Mansell, author of It Started With a Secret

We always go to our local pub at lunchtime on Christmas day. It’s invariable packed out and we bump into old friends who have come home to spend Christmas with their families. After an hour or two there, we’ll then head back to our house and get on with cooking Christmas dinner. (Oh, and my other favourite tradition is eating mini Christmas dinners for breakfast for the next few days until all the leftovers have been used up!)

Jo Thomas, author of Coming Home to Winter Island

We have friends in Iceland and have visited there a number of times. We adopted the Icelandic tradition of everyone getting a book on Christmas Eve. I usually cook chilli con carne and set the table with a book for everyone to go to bed with. 

Bookends Christmas Gift Guide 2019!

Bookends Christmas Gift Guide 2019!

Are you still on the lookout for Christmas gifting inspiration? Look no further!

From stocking fillers, to foodie picks, and even a little treat for yourself – Team Bookends is here to help you find your next great festive read!

Top picks for food lovers

Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection by Mary Berry

Let Mary Berry solve all your Christmas troubles with this fabulous collection of her favourite Christmas recipes – a must-have for anyone entertaining this festive season! By taking the traditional Christmas fare and giving it a twist, Mary adds sparkle to every celebration.

Gino’s Italian Express by Gino D’Acampo

From bestselling cookery author, Gino D’Acampo, comes a brand-new cookbook inspired by a culinary journey along Italy’s most famous rail journeys. A perfect Christmas gift for those wanting a taste of Italy!

Gordon Ramsay Quick and Delicious by Gordon Ramsay

Create chef-quality food without spending hours in the kitchen. Gordon Ramsay Quick and Delicious contains 100 tried-and-tested recipes that you’ll find yourself using time and again. Each recipe takes 30 minutes or less and uses readily available ingredients that are transformed into something special with the expertise of global superstar chef Gordon Ramsay.

For the men in your life

How to Win by Clive Woodward

In his entertaining and informative new book, Sir Clive Woodward analyses the events of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, offering his unique perspective on the performance of players and coaches, from Owen Farrell and Kieran Read, to Eddie Jones and Steve Hansen.

Ask A Footballer by James Milner

Ever wondered what it’s really like to be a Premier League footballer?

‘Ask a Footballer is a fine read, showcasing how an unassuming man has forged success, winning the Premier League twice, the FA Cup and the Champions League’ Matthew Syed, The Times

Man vs. Toddler by Matt Coyne

More inept, more clueless and more exhausted than ever, the man behind the blogging phenomenon Man vs Baby is back with the latest instalment in his (and his son Charlie’s) journey through the chaos and comedy of parenting…

Lifestyle and entertainment hits

Last Christmas by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise

A beautiful, funny and soulful collection of personal essays about the meaning of Christmas, written by a unique plethora of voices from the boulevards of Hollywood to the soup kitchens of Covent Garden. Featuring the writing of Emma Thompson, Meryl Streep, Olivia Coleman, Caitlin Moran, Richard Ayoade and Bill Bailey, plus many more.

Finding My Voice by Nadiya Hussain

In this wise, witty, open-hearted book, Nadiya Hussain lets us into her life and, for the first time, shares the memories and experiences that have shaped her into the woman and role model that she is today, alongside her personal recipes and the stories they tell.

Lady in Waiting by Lady Anne Glenconner

The remarkable life of the Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret who was also a Maid of Honour at the Queen’s Coronation – and is a character in The Crown this autumn. Anne Glenconner reveals the real events behind The Crown as well as her own life of drama, tragedy and courage, with the wonderful wit and extraordinary resilience which define her.

Last-minute stocking fillers

We Should All Be Mirandas by Chelsea Fairless and Lauren Garroni

With sharp, sardonic humor and nods to the series’ most iconic moments, We Should All Be Mirandas is the perfect gift for fashionistas, pop culture mavens, and every woman who has dared to eat cake out of the garbage.

The Secret Diary of Boris Johnson Aged 13 ¾ by Lucien Young

** STRICTLY UNOFFICIAL **

The newly discovered diary of Boris Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson, aged 13¼, provides a fascinating glimpse into how Boris, a lazy, bumptious and overweening child, comes to believe he should be Prime Minister. Along the way, we see him hone the techniques and persona that will one day hoodwink a nation.

The Scotland Yard Puzzle Book by Sinclair McKay

How can a man be in two places at once? How might a murder be committed when no one is seen entering or exiting the house? Can an entire crime be solved with just a suitcase of empty beer bottles?

Show off your brainteaser abilities and prove that you have what it takes to be a Scotland Yard detective!

…and a festive treat for you!

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

‘Funny and winning… a Richard Curtis rom-com that also has its feet firmly planted in real life. A real treat’
Stylist

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

A young woman has gone missing from her home, Chester Grange, leaving no trace, save a large pool of blood in her bedroom and a slew of dark rumours about her marriage. A few miles away across the moors, the daughters of a humble parson, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified, yet intrigued.

The Carer by Deborah Moggach

From the bestselling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Tulip Fever, a deliciously funny, poignant and wry novel, full of surprising twists and turns.

Bookends Christmas | What are you hoping to find under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning?

Bookends Christmas | What are you hoping to find under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning?

We asked our author a VERY important Christmas question: What are you hoping to find under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning?

Jill Mansell, author of IT STARTED WITH A SECRET

I would most like to find under the tree a parcel containing a beautiful and wondrously flattering red velvet maxi dress with long sleeves. I got outbid for one on eBay last week and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. (I’m such an idiot – why, why didn’t I increase my bid??!)

Jo Thomas, author of COMING HOME TO WINTER ISLAND

I love getting cook books from my favourite chefs. This year I’m hoping for The Hairy Bikers under my tree! 

Linda Green, author of ONE MOMENT

We just get each other a ‘little something’ to wrap up for Christmas day, as our presents are usually an experience; theatre tickets and vouchers for alpaca trekking are always on my wish list! I think things to look forward to and memories to be made are far better than ‘stuff’. And it makes Christmas shopping so much easier!

Holly Miller, author of THE SIGHT OF YOU

I dream of finding a hairdryer/styler that will magically transform my hair, making it easy to manage and look effortlessly good. It hasn’t happened yet. Here’s hoping for a Christmas miracle.

Bookends Christmas | Favourite thing about the festive season

Bookends Christmas | Favourite thing about the festive season

The festive period has officially arrived and we could not be more excited! In the run up to Christmas we’ll be talking to authors, Linda Green, Jill Mansell, Jo Thomas and Holly Miller about Christmas traditions, presents and books for next year. To start spreading the Christmas joy, we asked our authors what’s their favourite thing about the festive season.

Linda Green, author of One Moment

One Moment

Spending time with my family. My husband and I are both self-employed and my teenage son is always busy with drama classes, rehearsals and filming, so it’s a rare treat for the three of us to have a couple of days off together. Christmas Eve is my favourite day of the festive season and we usually go to the theatre and for a nice meal. Christmas Day involves a lie-in, a walk in the glorious West Yorkshire countryside, followed by a late veggie mezze lunch and snuggling in front of some good films with Booja Booja chocolate truffles on hand!

Pre-order One Moment by today – out in e-book December 1st and in paperback March 5th 2020.

Follow Linda on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

Jill Mansell, author of It Started with a Secret

I have loads of favourite things about Christmas, but driving around at night looking at decorated houses is right up there. I think people who do this are always lovely people, and the more extravagantly sparkly their homes are, the more I love them. (And yes, of course we decorate ours – if people wouldn’t think I was mad I’d happily keep them up all year!)

You can pre-order It Started with a Secret is now – out January 23rd 2020

Follow Jill Mansell on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

Holly Miller, author of The Sight of You

Christmas tunes have got to be up there. The cheesier, the better. A bit of Mariah, a few bars of Buble, and I’m happy. Oh, and carte blanche to eat mince pies for breakfast throughout December.

The Sight of You is out June 2020 and available to pre-order now.

Follow Holly Miller on Twitter here.

Jo Thomas, author of Coming Home to Winter Island

What is your favourite thing about the festive season? I love getting the Christmas Tree. We usually go to a Christmas Tree farm and choose it as a family. It’s the start of festive season. I just love the smell of it filling the house. And then of course, my other favourite time is cooking the Christmas dinner! A glass of bubbly, in the kitchen, BBC Radio 2 playing whilst the family either walk the dogs or go to church.  That quiet time in the kitchen as the smell of turkey fills the house like a great big hug is my favourite time.

Coming Home to Winter Island is available to pre-order now – out December 12th 2019.

Follow Jo Thomas on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

Make sure you sign up to the Bookends newsletter so you don’t miss out on our Christmas blogs!

Friends of Bookends | Coming Home to Winter Island by Jo Thomas

Friends of Bookends | Coming Home to Winter Island by Jo Thomas

Wrap up warm and explore the breath-taking beauty of a remote Scottish island and an old house waiting to unlock enchanting family secrets.

Francine

Jo Thomas writes for an audience who wants a cosy comfortable read with a few hiccups along the way but with a reassuring satisfactory ending.

I found Ruby, the main character selfish and self centred. Determined to made a success of her singing, when she has to abandon her plans, she acts as a spoilt child.

When she reaches Winter Island she is suspecious of Lachlan , who clearly carers for Hector, just as it appears Isla is suspecious of Ruby.

From the start you know where this is heading but key elements makes it worth continuing.

 The introduction of singing in relation to dementia is topical, though Ruby’s voice does come and go when it seems convenient.

So too is the the production of gin which is highly popular at the moment.

With her extension of her enforced stay, Ruby attitudes soften towards the island and Lachlan. She forms a bond with her estranged grandfather before the obvious outcome happens.

The descriptions of the island dies create a vivid image of the magical island which adds realisation and enhances the story

Having all issues are revolved, the reader is left satisfied. An easy to read follow up to her previous novels, fans will not be disappointed, but for me it’s a little bit predictable.

A successful venture and romance is assured in this light, cosy story.

Jen

The definition of a good book is one which when you are forced to put it down, you are just waiting for the moment you can pick it up again. 

This is such a book and a lovely story movingly told in a quiet peaceful, yet entertaining  way. The pace of the story is perfect, not hurried and is all the better for that, arriving at a very satisfactory conclusion. 

Jo Thomas has hit her stride again and written a book where the reader cares about the characters. 

It is quite a shock to read of Ruby who loses her voice at a crucial time in her career. While attempting to rest and fulfil the dreams of her boyfriend, she learns from the family solicitor that the grandfather she has never known has dementia and needs to leave his dilapidated home on Winter Island. He has been a whisky and gin maker but needs a care home placement  now that his health is failing. 

This care is currently being provided by Lachlan, the sitting tenant, who stands in the way of Ruby selling the ancestral home. Lachlan has all the skills to restore the house and business, but Ruby suspects his motives. She regards him as a much resented obstacle to allowing her to return to life as a singer in a band far away from the Scottish Island. 

The story is about the development of a business, the love of family, friends and community and the importance of being true to oneself and one’s roots.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and was disappointed to finish the story. 

I do hope there is a sequel very soon! 

Angela

Jo Thomas is a very reliable writer: I  know when I pick up her books I will be entertained by a feel-good story; in a
fantastic location; with a rugged leading man and…that I will frequently feel hungry whilst reading! Coming Home to
Winter Island has all of these things, in spades.

Singer Ruby has lost her voice but, before she can head to Tenerife to a healing retreat, she must visit her father’s
former home: Winter Island off the coast of Scotland to decide the future of her long-lost Grandfather. At the ‘big hoos’
she finds her Grandfather suffering with dementia, and an unexpected lodger (the aforemention rugged leading man.)

What follows is a heart-warming winter tale of the meaning of family; the healing power of music; a gin-related mystery
and the power of living in the moment. I found Ruby to be an adequate protagonist, although at times I felt I was more
concerned about her voice than she was; so keen was she to rush out into heavy storms and shout above the wind! As always,
I enjoyed the mouth-watering descriptions of food, and the lush landscape Jo Thomas creats. My imagination looks forward
to Thomas’ next offering…My stomach and my waistline – they need to wait a while!

Linda

I’ve long been a fan of Jo Thomas’s writing and so it was with some trepidation that I began Coming Home to Winter Island because I didn’t want to be disappointed. I most certainly wasn’t. In fact, I think Coming Home to Winter Island is one of the author’s most perfect books and I adored it.

It almost goes without saying that Jo Thomas transports her reader to what ever setting she has chosen. This time it is the gorgeous Scottish Island setting where Teach Mhor house is situated where the author’s descriptions of weather, flora and fauna give such a vivid sense of place. Those wonderfully created moments with the stags or streams and on the beach, for example, add both warmth and depth to the story as well as a glorious sense of place.

I loved the quality of research that has gone into the gin making aspects of the book. I think it’s because it feels comfortable knowing that there won’t be any glaring errors in the methodology to distract from the enjoyment of the read.

I found all the characters so real in Coming Home to Winter Island and although Ruby may not initially agree, I was in love with Lachlan from the very first moment I met him. However, it was Hector’s predicament that really touched me. The concept of ageing and what is best physically and emotionally for a person are considerations that resonated so deeply that I found Coming Home to Winter Island quite an emotional reading experience. Indeed, the themes of identity as Ruby finds out what is truly important to her, community, love and friendship are beautifully presented here so that Coming Home to Winter Island affords an opportunity for reflection at the same time as being a wonderfully entertaining story.

All the hallmarks of a Jo Thomas book are present in Coming Home to Winter Island, from warm, flawed and believable characters through a captivating plot in a brilliantly described setting, encompassing romance and challenge. I loved every word. It’s a glorious book to savour.

Buy your copy of COMING HOME TO WINTER ISLAND by Jo Thomas here!

The Lost Orchard by Raymond Blanc

The Lost Orchard by Raymond Blanc

Picked as one of the Telegraph’s cookbooks of the year 2019.

‘I began to dream about an orchard filled with thousands of fruit trees… Today we have an orchard with over 150 ancient varieties of apple. Each one has its heritage in a village or a county that used to thrive on that particular variety. They tell the story not only of what we have lost in Britain but also what we could regain.’

Over the past seven years, Raymond Blanc has planted an orchard of 2,500 trees in the grounds of his hotel-restaurant in Oxfordshire. Yielding about 30 tonnes of fruit for his kitchen each year, it is full of ancient and forgotten varieties of British apples and pears, along with walnut trees, quince, medlars, apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums, damsons and cherries. A further 600 heritage fruit trees have been added from Raymond’s home region of Franche-Comté in France.

The Lost Orchard is a love letter to each of these varieties, complete with beautiful black and white drawings, photographs of Belmond Le Manoir and fascinating information and anecdotes about each fruit, along with recipes and stories.

Into the Dark by Karen Rose

Into the Dark by Karen Rose

Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Rose is back with the gripping fifth instalment of the Cincinnati series. Fans of James Patterson, Karin Slaughter and Tess Gerritsen will love this unputdownable race to stop a serial killer out for revenge.

When Michael Rowland saves his younger brother Joshua from the clutches of his stepfather, he runs for his life with his brother in his arms. From his hiding place he sees the man who has made their lives a misery taken away in the trunk of a stranger’s car, never to be seen again.

Doctor Dani Novak has been keeping soccer coach Diesel Kennedy at arm’s length to protect him from her dark secrets. When they are brought together by the two young brothers who desperately need their help, it seems they might finally be able to leave their damaged pasts behind them.

But as the only witness to the man who kidnapped and murdered his stepfather, Michael is in danger. As Diesel and Dani do all that they can to protect him, their own investigation into the murder uncovers a much darker web of secrets than they could have imagined.

As more bodies start to appear it’s clear that this killer wants vengeance. And will wipe out anything that gets in his way…

Praise for Karen Rose:

‘Intense, complex and unforgettable’ James Patterson

‘Karen Rose writes the kind of high-wire suspense that keeps you riveted’ Lisa Gardner

‘Fast and furious’ Sun

Remember remember the 5th of November

Remember remember the 5th of November

If you haven’t got any plans to celebrate Bonfire Night then look no further as we’ve pulled together everything you need to host your sparkling fireworks night!

What to eat

Why not try this mouth-watering Spiced Toffee Traybake recipe from Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes before you head out to watch those fireworks!

Download the recipe here: Spiced Toffee Traybake recipe

Fast Cakes

What to listen to

A great fireworks display needs to have an explosive soundtrack. And who better to recommend then BBC Radio 3 presenter, Clemency Burton-Hill? In her book, Year of Wonder, Clemmie explains why Music for the Royal Fireworks by George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) is THE piece of music to play when kicking off your fireworks display:

‘Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks has nothing to do with today’s tradition of Guy Fawkes’ Night and bonfires in Britain, but as pyrotechnical music goes, it’s hard to beat.

The piece was actually written to accompany a huge fireworks display in London’s Green Park in 1749 to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, seen as a major success for Britain. Before the grand ceremony took place in central London near the royal residence of St James’s Palace, a full public rehearsal was staged at the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, south of the river. Astonishingly, more than twelve thousand people rocked up, each paying two shillings and sixpence. The unexpected turnout caused a solid three-hour traffic jam of carriages on London Bridge – at the time the only way to cross the Thames around that stretch of the river.

This boggles my mind: I’m trying to think of pop stars, let alone classical composers, that could today command a paying audience of over twelve thousand people for a rehearsal. It just goes to show how central this music used to be to audiences of all backgrounds; and how the label of ‘classical’ or ‘popular’ is so nonsensical, so restricting, so pointlessly alienating. Popular music, surely, is just stuff people like to listen to; back in the day, everyone liked listening to this.’

Music recommendation from Clemmie Burton-Hill, Year of Wonder

Year of Wonder

What to read

Now that you’ve got your hearty food and fireworks playlist sorted, the final thing to do is build the perfect bonfire, and Norwegian Wood is just the thing to help!

“You know exactly where you are with a woodpile. Its share price doesn’t fall on the stock market. It won’t rust. It won’t sue for divorce. It just stands there and does one thing: It waits for winter. An investment account reminding you of all the hard work you’ve put into it. On bitterly cold January mornings it will bring back memories of those spring days when you sawed, split, and stacked as you worked to insure yourself against the cold. There’s that twisted knot that just wouldn’t surrender to your ax. And isn’t that the log you pushed in at the wrong angle, making the whole pile collapse? Yes, that’s the one all right. Well, winter’s here, and now it’s your turn to feed the flames.”

Whether you’re a seasoned woodcutter, or your passion is yet to be kindled, Norwegian Wood is the perfect fireside read, and the ultimate companion this bonfire night.

Norwegian Wood

 We hope you have a very happy Bonfire Night! 

BOOKENDS HALLOWEEN – Alison Littlewood

BOOKENDS HALLOWEEN – Alison Littlewood

Happy Halloween everyone! To celebrate Halloween, we’ve been asking some of our authors some ghoulish questions! This week, we’re talking to Alison Littlewood, author of the atmospheric ghost story, Mistletoe.

What are your favourite spooky reads?

So many books! It’s hard to name just a few, but some recent favourites include The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley, Little Eve by Catriona Ward and historical gothic The Corset by Laura Purcell. I just rattled through The Fisherman by John Langan and that became an instant favourite. I love a good ghost story and Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box certainly fits that bill. Sarah Lotz’s novella Body in the Woods is brilliant. I also enjoy short stories: Nathan Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters is an amazing collection, as is Priya Sharma’s All the Fabulous Beasts.

What book-to-film adaptations do you watch to get yourself in the Halloween mood?

I’m hoping that La Influencia, the Netflix movie based on a Ramsey Campbell novel, will be out in time for this Halloween. It certainly looks appropriate! And it’s been far too long since I watched Misery, based on the Stephen King novel, though I might just reprise The Shining too. Just don’t make me go in that room (shudders). Some newer movies I might revisit this year include The Silence, based on Tim Lebbon’s book – I couldn’t put it down – and The Ritual, developed from Adam Nevill’s incredibly haunting novel.

Of the characters in your book, who would you choose to trick, and who deserves a treat?

My poor main character in Mistletoe, Leah, has probably been through enough, so she would get the treat. At the outset she’s lost her husband and son and is trying to start anew by renovating a farmhouse in one of the more dismal corners of Yorkshire. She deserves to be jetted off somewhere fancy, though she’d probably settle for a good hot bath. As for the trick . . . ah, there is certainly a character who deserves it, though that might be telling! They’re pretty wily, though. When I was writing the ending they seemed to take over somewhat, upping the stakes from my original plan, so I’d be worried they might turn the tables on me!

What would the main character in your book dress up as for Halloween?

Well, Leah has run off to her farmhouse to make a new life for herself, but she’s also running away from all the festivities of Christmas, so she might well do the same for Halloween. I’m afraid she’d probably be unprepared. A dustsheet over the head might be the best she could manage, though when she begins to uncover her family’s history she is drawn into past events, so who knows, she might find a beautiful Victorian mourning gown all ready for her. 

What will you be reading on 31st October?

I rather enjoy books that remind me of childhood around Halloween. It’s such an evocative time of year. So I might re-read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, about a young boy, Nobody Owens, who is raised by the ghosts in a graveyard after his family is murdered. I’ve always loved fairy tales too, so for a short fiction fix I’ll read the Fearie Tales anthology, edited by Stephen Jones. It has retellings of some childhood favourites, though it’s aimed at an adult readership and has a scary twist. There are some fabulous writers in there, including Neil Gaiman (again), John Ajvide Lindqvist, Angela Slatter, Robert Shearman and Tanith Lee, and there’s a delightfully impactful tale by Joanne Harris.

Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood

Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood is out now.