Can you believe that it is Christmas Day TOMORROW?! In the final blog as part of our Bookends Christmas author series, we asked Graham Norton, Cate Woods, Jo Thomas and Olivia Beirne, which books would you most like to find under the tree on Christmas morning?
So I never usually ask for specific books, I ask my family members to pick me out something (which we all tend to do for each other). Last Christmas our house was like a library. Saying that, I am really desperate to read Libby Page’s The Lido, Joe Heap’s The Rules of Seeing and Emma Cooper’s The Songs of Us.
From all of us here at Team Bookends, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
As I write this, I’m at a farm in Sussex with my girls, unable to feel my fingers, while they play and I frantically try and finish my second novel! Looking back, it’s been an crazy, incredible year and one for which I am very very grateful. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe The Girl in the Letter would be so warmly received by so many.
I am so grateful for all the support I’ve had. From the team at Headline,the wonderful bloggers who have posted about my book, the generous novelists who have given me quotes and for the wonderful reviews on Amazon. From family and friends. Thank you all!
Looking forward I cannot wait to see what 2019 brings but Christmas and New Year is, obviously, a time for looking back.
A year ago, I was rushing around, trying to make Christmas perfect – totally oblivious to the fact that it was my mum’s last. I would do anything to go back, stop rushing and just sit and be with her. To talk and share memories and say all the things I never did. Forget the presents and the food and the decorations and the efforts to keep up with it all.
For me this year Christmas is about people. The house is still full of unpacked boxes from our move, I haven’t bought enough presents, or put up enough decorations, lunch will be from Marks and Spencers followed by a freezing muddy walk and wonky mince pies made by Ellie and Grace. But I will be with my gorgeous family who hopefully won’t mind!
And we will be toasting to this incredible year of change and raising a glass to Granny.
As the wonderful J.K. Rowling put it:
‘Remember Christmas Day is, in the end, just a day. It isn’t a test or a scorecard of you or your life,so be kind to yourself.’
Merry Christmas everyone and hold your loved ones tight!
Stuck on what to get that one last person on your gifting list? Next up in our Bookends Christmas author series, we ask some of our lovely authors who is the most difficult person to buy for on their own Christmas gifting lists, and their advice on how to get around it!
Definitely my Dad, without question. He’s never loved a present I’ve bought him. One year I thought I’d hit the nail on the head by giving him a framed photo of myself (which, looking back sounds incredibly narcissistic, but after four years of unsuccessful Marks and Spencer jumpers I was getting desperate) which I thought would be great for his new office. He put it straight in his room behind another photo. This year I’m going to buy him a snickers.
Any male person. What do you get men? What does anyone ever get men? They always buy what they need the moment they need it, rather than waiting for Christmas. And, if you click the ‘presents for him’ box on an online store for ideas, all you get is silver whiskey flasks or cufflinks. I know no man who wouldn’t think I was literally insane if I gifted him a hip flask and some cufflinks. He’d be like, “what sort of crazy James Bond life do you think I live?!”
We’ve all got those pesky hard-to-buy-for people on our Christmas lists, but it turns out the best people to buy for are fictional! In this latest blog post four of our fabulous authors positively spoil their characters with presents…
I’d buy Halley, from A Winter Beneath the Stars, a new suitcase, one that looks different from everybody else’s! But then, if she had that, she may never have gone on the journey of a lifetime! So maybe just a new travel journal, to write down all her new adventures!
I would buy a Christmas pudding costume for Dot, my lead character Annie’s six-month-old daughter in More Than a Feeling, because one of the best things about babies is that you can dress them up in ridiculous-slash-adorable costumes. Plus it would give Annie something to put on Instagram – and she really needs new material after that social media mortification in chapter 37…
As those who’ve read The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Villagewill know, Peggy desperately needs a new swimming costume. I’d dearly love to buy her one for Christmas, but after her debacle with the “Miraclesuit”, I’m apprehensive. We all know that choosing swimwear is tricky at the best of times and after her marathon shopping trip with Angie, I’m not sure I’d get Peggy anywhere near a changing room. I think I’ll play it safe and treat her to a day out at Cadbury World instead.
It’s finally December, so let’s crack out the Christmas tunes, festive baking and wintery reads!
In memory of one of our beloved and dearly missed authors, Emma Hannigan, Bookends HQ thought it was only best to honour her memory by celebrating all-things-Christmas with Emma.
Why not try Emma’s delicious Christmas biscuits?
“These divine shortbread biscuits make wonderful edible gifts. I have had more appreciation for a pretty tin of these than any expensive purchases and they’re so quick to make. I give the old fashioned ounce measurement also as it makes it so easy to recall (2, 4, 6)”
Are you still stumped on what to get your friends and family for Christmas? Look no further, as here at Team Bookends, we have curated a list of the best book gifts you could give! From stocking fillers to a treat for yourself in the New Year, Bookends is here to save the day.
Do you have a sporty Dad, or a brother who is looking to start cycling regularly in the New Year? Why not gift them The Tour According to Gby Geraint Thomas, the inspirational inside story of the 2018 Tour de France from Geraint Thomas, the first Welshman and third Brit ever to win the Tour!
Or for something more thrilling, try Chris Ryan’s Head Hunters. Former SAS corporal and the only man to escape death or capture during the Bravo Two Zero operation in the 1991 Gulf War, Chris Ryan turned to writing thrillers to tell the stories the Official Secrets Act stops him putting in his non-fiction.
If you miss Mary’s wisdom and inspiration in The Great British Bake Off, or want a brand-new companion to Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, Fast Cakesis the cookbook for you with over 200 easy recipes to make with confidence. Perfect for fans of the Bake Off or girlfriends who want to learn a new (and tasty) skill in 2019!
Or perhaps you have a friend who into discovering new flavours and dishes? Khazanais a new Indo-Persian cookbook filled with recipes inspired by the Mughals and written by Masterchef Winner in 2017, Saliha Mahmood Ahmed.
Maybe you have a food-lover in your life who wants to know more about the great TV chefs we watch weekly? Cheeky Treats is the debut cookbook from Bake Off’s Liam Charles and is great for those who want to get creative with their bakes.
Lifestyle and entertainment…
Got a film-buff in your life? Hollywood legend and British national treasure Michael Caine shares the wisdom, stories, insight and skills that life has taught him in his remarkable career in Blowing the Bloody Doors Off.
Or for your more crafty friends, Craftulness – an all-you-need-to-know friendly guide to inspire you to give making a go – is the perfect fit!
Know someone who has been obsessed with Sky’s adaptation of A Discovery of Witches? Gift them the book that inspired the hit TV show!
Last minute stocking fillers…
With Christmas comes cosiness. In Cosy: The British Art of Comfort, Laura Weir celebrates the very best of our cool and quirky traditions and habits and rituals with a big dose of comfort.
Do you have a budding artist in the family? Drawn together from speeches, poems and creative manifestos,Art Mattersexplores how reading, imagining and creating can change the world, and will be inspirational to young and old.
How many spiders do you eat in your sleep? What does the ice-cream you eat have to do with the back end of a beaver? Do komodo dragons have toxic slobber? If these are the kind of questions you are constantly hearing a child (or adult . . . ) in the family ask, then True or Poo?is the perfect stocking filler!
A treat for yourself!
Christmas can be chaotic, so take a moment to yourself and enjoy some quality ‘me-time’ by snuggling up with one of these cosy reads.
A Winter Beneath the Starsby Jo Thomas is an unforgettable winter story, which follows Halley as she embarks on the journey of a lifetime to snowy Sweden.
Winter Without Youby Beth Good is a cosy winter romance to warm you heart, perfect for fans of Heidi Swain and Lucy Diamond.
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult is a powerful and provocative new novel about ordinary lives intersecting during a moment of heart-stopping crisis.
From everyone here at Team Bookends, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and good luck with your Christmas shopping!
Can you believe that it is December already? Here at Bookends HQ, we are MORE than ready for all the joys that the Christmas season brings – including the food! Next up in our Bookends Christmas author series, we’ve asked, what is your go-to Christmas dish?
My friends and I always have a girls’ night in on Christmas Eve, where we eat one baked Camembert each. Then we feel so ill afterwards that we can’t sleep when we get home, and spend actual Christmas day sleep-deprived, sweaty, groaning and messaging one another: “We’ve got to stop doing this each year. One cheese between three is enough.” But it’s sort of an unbreakable ritual now.
Nigella’s Christmas book introduced me to an Italian liqueur called Tuaca, which she winningly describes as panettone in a glass. A splash of this mixed with Prosecco is the perfect accompaniment to Christmas brunch: it’s like the beverage equivalent of ‘Good King Wenceslas’
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Oh gosh that’s a good question. I think they’d all be terrible to buy for. I reckon I’d have to buy for Georgia and I think she’d really enjoy one of those cushion scarfs so that she could nap on the tube/in meetings/flick her sunglasses down so Sally can’t see her eyes when she’s talking. As I’m writing this, I realise that I would also really enjoy one of those and why haven’t I done all of those things sooner?
Oh, that’s hard…I would buy for all of them and feel bad if I forgot one! I think I would pick Cora from I Will Find You, and I would give her a voucher for John Lewis – I know a voucher can sound quite anonymous, but Cora loves weaving and sewing, and the selection of fabrics and craft materials in John Lewis is amazing…so I think she could go and have a little splurge on me. I would also like to make a girly package for Anna from Take Me Home, with a nice top and make up. Anna loves pretty things but she tends not to indulge herself, and treat her daughter instead (like most mums do!). So I’d like to spoil her a little.
I adore Home Alone 2 for a festive reminder of how much I love New York when the decorations are up (and how gothically spooky Central Park can be). But in terms of sheer sing-along joy, it would have to be A Muppet Christmas Carol. I do all my harried Christmas eve wrapping to it every year. The bunny gets me every time
Katherine Clements picks the best costume drama to watch over the festive season.
The Crown (Netflix from 8 December)
When The Crown first aired last year it was much hyped as the most expensive TV series ever made. I doubted whether a show about our current royals would live up to such grand claims. I was pleased to be proved wrong. Despite a couple of missteps in early episodes The Crown was compelling viewing, with solid performances and occasional emotional weight. Anyone interested in vintage fashion should watch for the costumes alone. It returns to Netflix on 8 December. This will be Claire Foy and Matt Smith’s last outing as Elizabeth and Philip – next season will see them replaced by more mature actors as we move forward in time. But for now, we pick up pretty much where we left off. This season will cover the years up to 1964, taking in the Suez crisis, the Queen’s relationship with Prime Ministers Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan, rumours of Philip’s bad behaviour and Princess Margaret’s famously tempestuous love life. I like to imagine our Liz settling down with a glass of sweet sherry for a Netflix binge and a good laugh at the inaccuracies. For the rest of us, it should be an enjoyable watch with a palatable history lesson or two along the way.
Howards End (BBC1, iPlayer, available on Amazon Video)
This remake of E.M. Forster’s novel aired in November in the traditional Sunday 9pm slot and is typical BBC adaptation fare. You might remember the excellent 1992 Merchant Ivory production starring Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter as the independent, unconventional Schlegel sisters, which won three Academy Awards. What more could a new version bring? But with a screenplay by Kenneth Lonergan (of Manchester by the Sea and Gangs of New York fame) the story feels modern and relevant. Lonergan admits that much is owed to the book that Forster described as ‘my best novel, and approaching a good novel’. ‘Most of the dialogue is right out of the book’, Lonergan says, ‘so the style and freshness is a tribute to Forster’. With extended screen time (four hours as opposed to Merchant Ivory’s two and a half) we get more depth of character, and a slightly more faithful retelling. There have been rumblings in the press about the inclusion of black characters (were there really black people in Edwardian London? Erm…yes) and an overbearing score (which I didn’t notice at all) but ignore the naysayers. With gorgeous production design and great performances from Hayley Atwell, Philippa Coulthard and Matthew Macfadyen, this one is a satisfying slow burner.
Knightfall (the History Channel from 6 December)
The History Channel follow up their success with Vikings (season five of which is currently on air) with this new series about the Knights Templar. Set in the fourteenth century, it deals with the downfall and last days of this powerful and ever intriguing organisation. ‘Knightfall goes deep into the clandestine world of this legendary brotherhood of warrior monks’ claims the puff from the History Channel. ‘From their battles in the Holy Land, to their complex relationship with the King of France, to the betrayal that would ultimately lead to their tragic dissolution, the story of the Knights Templar has never been fully told until now’. I know a few historians, and a few novelists, that might argue with that, but a fresh take is always welcome. With the big-budget polish, gut-churning violence and gripping storytelling we’ve come to expect in Vikings, it should be worth a watch. For the nerds, there’s quite a bit of historical information on the show’s official website too, suggesting we might get some real history among the blood and gore.
The Miniaturist (BBC1, expected late December)
No historical fiction fan will be unaware of the phenomenal success of The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton’s million-selling debut novel. So far, details about the TV adaptation have been swathed in almost as much mystery as the seventeenth-century world she created, but it looks set to air on the BBC in late December. Set in Amsterdam in 1686, The Miniaturist tells the story of 18-year-old Nella, newly married to merchant Johannes. Gifted a dollhouse replica of her new home, Nella soon notices a mysterious connection between the miniature figures who inhabit the dollhouse and their real-life counterparts, gradually uncovering a world of secrets and betrayal. I always welcome more drama set in this relatively underserved period and this one stars Anya Taylor-Joy, who was so good in recent seventeenth-century horror film, The Witch, and the supremely talented Romola Garai. Produced by the team behind National Treasure and The Last Post, it should be a highlight of the BBC’s festive offering.
Little Women (BBC1 expected in December/January)
Another Masterpiece co-production for the BBC’s Christmas schedule is this new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a classic that needs no introduction. Adapted by Call the Midwife’s Heidi Thomas and produced by Playground – a company with a slate of high-quality period pieces in their back catalogue (Wolf Hall, Dancing on the Edge and the above mentioned Howards End) it’ll air on BBC1 in the UK and PBS in the US. A promising cast includes some big names: Angela Lansbury, Michael Gambon and Emily Watson. Thomas said:‘Little Women is one of the most-loved novels in the English language, and with good reason. Its humanity, humour and tenderness never date, and as a study of love, grief and growing up it has no equal. There could be no better time to revisit the story of a family striving for happiness in an uncertain world, and I am thrilled to be bringing the March girls to a new generation of viewers’. She has a point. The last big adaptation was in 1994 (can you believe it?). Expected to air in three episodes over Christmas, you could do worse than spend a duvet day getting cosy with the March sisters. And you’ll probably get to use your Christmas hankie.
The Man Who Invented Christmas (at cinemas now)
If you’re in festive mood, or need something to get you there, this movie about Charles Dickens might be your best bet. Based on the book by Les Standiford, it tells the story of the brief period in 1843 when Dickens, debt-ridden and desperate for book sales, wrote A Christmas Carol. The book famously became a sensation, forever cementing our collective cultural ideals about the holiday season and inventing a whole Christmas lexicon. Just don’t expect a gritty portrayal of Victorian London. Starring Dan Stevens as Dickens, supported by a venerable cast of acting nobility (Jonathan Pryce, Christopher Plummer, Simon Callow and Miriam Margolyes to name a few), this looks to be part rom-com, part morality tale and part health warning about the perils of authorship. Reviews are reasonably good, so if you want a heart-warming, feel-good option, or you’re looking for something to entertain the kids, this might tick the box.
Peaky Blinders (BBC2, iPlayer, Netflix from 21 December)
Right at the other end of the spectrum is this superb series. If you’re not already gripping the edge of your sofa in delighted horror every Wednesday evening (why not?), then you’re missing some of the best TV drama around. It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of this show, with a soft spot for the Shelby boys. If you like your costume drama with a serving of violence, a side of grit, and a glass of something hedonistic, this might be one for you too. I’m constantly amazed at writer Steven Knight’s ability to keep us guessing, aided by a stellar cast capable of carrying off the most ludicrous plotlines with glorious panache. If you’ve never indulged I suggest starting at the beginning – seasons one and two are currently available on Netflix in the UK, with season three expected at the end of December. US viewers can already access all three, with season four available on 21 December, just in time for your holiday hangovers.
The Coffin Path, Katherine’s latest eerie and compelling novel is available for pre-order now