My Top 5 Reads for 2017


I’ve read around 25 books this year, but these are my favourite (mostly because they’re some of my favourite authors). 

Anyone who knows me would tell you I have a small obsession with dragons, and whilst none of these feature dragons, they do transport the reader into adventure and beautiful places; and I do love to travel.

Without further ado, here are my picks for 2017.

1. Origin – Dan Brown 


 

Dan Brown is one of my favourite authors, so it’s only fitting his latest release would top my reading list for 2017. Dan Brown brings us Robert Langdon again in this science fiction mystery thriller and I couldn’t put it down.

When Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the Guggenheim, Museum Bilbao, to attend the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever”, his life is spun out of control in a desperate bid to save his life and the lives of others. With his life under threat, Langdon is forced to flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret, along with the museum’s director, Ambra Vidal.

The heart racing quest with Robert Langdon (I always picture Tom Hanks) through Barcelona was nothing short of fantastic and if you feel like a holiday to Greece, I’d definitely read this one!

Here’s the Kindle link;

 

2. The Break – Marian Keyes


This is the latest release for one of my favourite authors and I wasn’t disappointed. Marian Keyes is a wise, witty, Irish writer who seems to be able to mingle humour and heartbreak like they belong together in a delicious chocolate cake. Really! Take my word, she does it so effortlessly.

In The Break, Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her. He says he still loves her, but he needs a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. I couldn’t believe what I was reading! It caught my attention so dramatically; I couldn’t put this book down. Hugh wanted six months to lose himself in South East Asia (which did sound great), and there was nothing Amy could say or do about it.

Gosh, now that’s some mid-life crisis! 

Hugh’s mid-life crisis is enough to send Amy and her extended family of gossips and eccentric friends into damage control – bringing tears of laughter and heartbreak (so have plenty of tissues!).

Here’s the Kindle link;

 

3. The Stationmaster’s Cottage – Phillipa Nefri Clarke


I love a good romance novel; one with mystery, beautiful settings and hunky love interests – oh and a dog is always a winner! When this book was released, I couldn’t wait to buy my Kindle copy, settling on the couch with a wine and some tissues.

The book opens with Christie Ryan’s carefully constructed life being turned upside-down with the inheritance of an abandoned cottage in an Australian seaside village. A damaged painting, a hunky guy (with dog) and the discovery of old love letters draws her into the heart wrenching world of Thomas and Martha and their fifty year old mystery. Christie is a gorgeous character who I immediately connected with and found myself cheering her on as she unravelled the mystery she’d been plunged into.

If you love a good romance; one with mystery, beautiful settings and a hunky love interest (with a dog), then get your copy here;

 

4. The Art of Keeping Secrets – Rachael Johns


I recently attended a Rachael Johns book tour for The Greatest Gift at the gorgeous Katherine Susannah Prichard library in Perth, Western Australia. I won’t lie, I was a tad excited to be meeting Rachael, after speaking with her over social media and us becoming Facebook friends. So, as I had my books signed and I settled down in my chair to listen to her speak about her latest release – with the burnt orange sun setting behind the surrounding gumtrees (we have the best sunsets!) – I was already planning how and when I’d read my first Rachael Johns book, The Art of Keeping Secrets.  

I was holding a signed copy of The Greatest Gift and The Art of Keeping Secrets, feeling like I’d won the lotto. The blurb on The Art of Keeping Secrets had really caught my eye!

 They started out as the “misfit moms”–the trio of less-than-conventional parents at their sons’ tiny private school. They’ve shared everything. Or so they thought. Now, on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to New York City, they’ll sightsee, they’ll shop, they’ll catch a few Broadway shows. They’ll tell all…

After seventeen years as a single parent, Neve will reveal a past sin that could destroy her relationship with her son. Emma will uncover the roots of her exhaustion and divulge the inappropriate feelings she has for her boss. And Flick–who knows a little about crafting a flawless exterior–will share the shocking truth that lies beneath the veneer of her perfect marriage…
So, of course when I arrived home, after saying hello to the hubby and the poodle, Moet, I poured myself a glass of wine and settled onto the couch with The Art of Keeping Secrets – I’m so glad it was a Friday! 

Here’s the Kindle link;


5. Stars of Fortune (Book I of the Guardian Trilogy) – Nora Roberts


I’ve read almost all of Nora’s books – yes, I’m slightly addicted. And when my daughters bought this gorgeous book for me at Christmas, it wasn’t long before I’d sunk my teeth in (well not literally, but, you get the gist?).
This story has everything (except dragons). In true Nora style, it has steamy romance, mystery and adventure, but it also has a fantasy element and supernatural theme. 

I was immediately drawn to the main character, Sasha Riggs, a reclusive artist, haunted by vivid dreams that she turns into extraordinary paintings. As she becomes more and more desperate to understand her visions, she finds herself drawn to the Greek island of Corfu, and I was there with her. Isn’t is fantastic when you can read a book and travel to beautiful places?  

Sasha arrives in Corfu (and this is on my “to visit” list) and encounters Bran Killian, an Irish magician with a warm charisma and secrets dancing in his eyes. She’s never met Bran before, but she knows him only too well – because this is the man from her dreams. Bran is the man she seems fated to be with… if she can find the courage to accept who she really is.
Together they meet up with others who have come to Corfu to find answers and a dangerous, yet, wonderful adventure begins.

Here’s the Kindle link;

 

 

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New Release for Rebecca Raisin – Brides & Bouquets


Brides & Bouquets

Cedarwood Lodge #2

By our very own Aussie author Rebecca Raisin!

Blurb:

Christmas has come to Cedarwood Lodge in the second part of the feel-good romance serial from best selling author, Rebecca Raisin!

Dreaming of a happily ever after at Cedarwood Lodge is Clio Winters’ current focus, especially with a winter wonderland wedding expo planned. But with brides coming from far and wide the heat is on for Clio to fulfil everyone’s dream of a Christmas wedding!

It seems like Clio’s new business might be off to a rocky start and surrounded by love struck brides she can’t help but hope for a little Christmas romance of her own…

Cedarwood Lodge is a delectable romance told in three parts – following Clio Winters journey back to her hometown of Evergreen. This is Part Two.

Book Links: Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Google Play | Goodreads

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fq1tj9

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2eOQqg4

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/brides-and-bouquets-at-cedarwood-lodge-rebecca-raisin/1124085231;jsessionid=937A4B68C1C02AE2433A994A91C0BFE5.prodny_store02-atgap05?ean=9781474058421

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Rebecca_Raisin_Brides_and_Bouquets_At_Cedarwood_Lo?id=tGKoDAAAQBAJ

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31423832-brides-and-bouquets-at-cedarwood-lodge

Author Info:

Rebecca Raisin is a true bibl​iophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been published in various short story anthologies and in in fiction magazines, and is now focusing on writing romance. Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships, and most importantly believe in true love.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Website: http://rebeccaraisin.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RebeccaRaisinAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jaxandwillsmum

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6915386.Rebecca_Raisin

Snowbound – Monique McDonell


Book Information
Title: Snowbound – A Chick Lit Christmas Novella

Author: Monique McDonell

Release Date: November 22, 2016

Genre: Chick lit

Publisher: Redfish Publishing

Summary

When Zara’s boyfriend can’t come home to Sydney from New York for Christmas she decides to surprise (go to) him instead. Sure, the ticket costs a bomb and her overbearing family thinks it is a bad idea but that’s what you do for love right? Or so she tells the tall and hunky ex-basketball star, Kyle who is squeezed into the plane seat beside her.

But when a blizzard hits and she finds herself snowed-in/stranded in Denver a few things become clear – her boyfriend isn’t that heartbroken about her absence, the airport doesn’t seem like a very festive place to spend the holiday/be snowed-in and there aren’t enough pumpkin spiced lattes to fix the situation.

So when Kyle offers to take her to stay at his buddy’s empty house she decides to take a chance and make the best of her first white Christmas. What she hadn’t banked on was Kyle’s ex and a reality television crew crashing the Christmas party.

If you like fun and flirty heroes, ugly sweaters, snow covered mountains and sugar cookies, you’ll enjoy reading Snowbound these holidays.

 

Book Links

Goodreads: LINK COMING

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NA89EDQ/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01NA89EDQ/

Amazon AUS: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01NA89EDQ/


Author Biography

I am an Australian author who writes contemporary women’s fiction, including chick lit and romance. When I began to write again, I noticed a trend – writing dark unhappy stories made me unhappy. So I made a decision to write a novel with a happy ending and I have been writing happy stories ever since.

I am the author of five standalone novels, including Mr. Right and Other Mongrels and Hearts Afire and the Upper Crust Series. Many of my novels focus on Australian characters meeting and visiting US characters.

I have been a member of the writing group The Writer’s Dozen for ten years. Our anthology Better Than Chocolate raised over $10,000 for the charity Room to Read and helped build a library in South East Asia. I am also a member of the Romance Writers of Australia. In 2015, I had a piece on writing chick lit featured in the successful Australian non-fiction book Copyfight.

To learn more about my books, my writing, my caffeine obsession and my upcoming books please visit http://www.moniquemcdonell.com.au.

Social Networking Links

Website: http://www.moniquemcdonellauthor.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6154665.Monique_McDonell

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MoniqueMcDonellAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MoniqueMcDonell

Amazon Author: https://www.amazon.com/Monique-McDonell/e/B0086R9S2U/

Authors Down Under

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G’day from Australia! I wanted to share some fabulous authors and their books.
I’m very blessed to be able to call these great Aussie authors, friends, and know you’ll love their work as much as I do.

First up, I have D.S Williams (AKA Deb), with her absolutely magical Nememiah series.

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Charlotte Duncan relocates to the small town of Puckhaber Falls with only one goal on her mind – to end her life after a devastating tragedy in her past. 

The friendly nature of the local residents, along with an accidental meeting with a mysterious stranger, gives Charlotte reason to pause and reconsider the path she has chosen. She finds herself drawn to Lucas Tine – the man is an enigma and Charlotte has difficulty understanding why she is so enamored of him. What is it about this man, who she finds so difficult to ignore? 

As time passes, Charlotte discovers Lucas’s mysterious background – and in turn, reveals some secrets of her own.

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Wife and mother to four demanding teenagers, D.S. Williams started writing at the age of five, when life was simpler and her stories really didn’t have to make much sense. When you’re five, happily ever after always ended the story and how you got there didn’t matter so much.

Older and wiser, D.S. Williams has continued to write… and write… and write. With the support and encouragement of her husband and friends, she has finally come to the conclusion that she can’t keep hiding from the world forever and should try sharing the numerous novels which have been written over the past 40+ years.

D.S. Williams enjoys writing (obviously), reading (voraciously) and making lists (obsessively). She’s enjoyed a lifelong addiction to foods starting with ‘ch’ – cheesecake, chocolate and chips – and when it comes to books, she loves a really good cliffhanger. Be warned!

She shares her life with her husband of twenty eight years, the Gang of Four and the current furry residents, Tuppence the Groodle and Angus the Bull Mastiff.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next book from D.S. Williams 🙂

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http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00APUUJPQ/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1444688251&sr=1-1π=SY200_QL40&keywords=nememiah&dpPl=1&dpID=5169GoFgnML&ref=plSrch

Next up is Demelza Carlton and her Turbulence & Triumph series, and who doesn’t love mermaids?

Turbulence and Triumph

The books in t
he Turbulence and Triumph series to date are: 

Ocean’s Justice (#1)
Ocean’s Trial (#2)
Ocean’s Triumph (#3)
Ocean’s Ride (#4)
Ocean’s Cage (#5)
Ocean’s Birth (#6)
How to Catch Crabs

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A mysterious castaway. A Scottish hero determined to protect her. Can they survive the storm? 

Cast adrift on the Indian Ocean, Maria carries a terrible secret. Wherever she goes, death soon follows, and she’s powerless to prevent it. 

William McGregor boarded the SS Trevessa in search of adventure, but he gets more than he bargained for when he saves the mysterious Maria from the sea. She can’t tell them her tragic tale, so the superstitious sailors make up their own stories – and some would sacrifice her to the waves to save themselves from the coming storm. 

When the sharks start circling and the storm closes in, are sirens more than just a myth? 

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My defiance was futile. What did it get me? A small raft drifting across the Indian Ocean, with nothing but the sound of waves and the smell of salt and coal-smoke. 
Smoke meant a ship. I was saved. 
I squinted into the sunlight, but the waves hid the vessel from me. Maybe I was looking the wrong way. I didn’t have the strength to sit up and see. 
Rough hands seized me. I struggled, but my weakness won. 
Blue eyes drifted above, the same colour as the ocean below. A tangle of wiry seaweed obscured the rest of the man’s face. 
“It’s all right, lass. I’ll take care of you.” 
Darkness took me first. 

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Demelza Carlton has always loved the ocean, but on her first snorkelling trip she found she was afraid of fish.
She has since swum with sea lions, sharks and sea cucumbers and stood on spray-drenched cliffs over a seething sea as a seven-metre cyclonic swell surged in, shattering a shipwreck below.
Sensationalist spin? No – Demelza tends to take a camera with her so she can capture and share the moment later; shipwrecks, sharks and all.
Demelza now lives in Perth, Western Australia, the shark attack capital of the world.
The Ocean’s Gift series was her first foray into fiction, followed by the Nightmares trilogy. She swears the Mel Goes to Hell series ambushed her on a crowded train and wouldn’t leave her alone.
To get an email whenever Demelza releases a new title AND get a free book, sign up for her VIP newsletter at demelzacarlton.com (just copy and paste into your browser).

Here’s the link to this series, but sign up for Demelza’s newsletter so you can read all her stuff!

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**Free at time of blog

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00MUVJ9JA/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1444690079&sr=1-1π=SY200_QL40&keywords=oceans+justice&dpPl=1&dpID=51hi3YVNjUL&ref=plSrch

Now, here’s a series filled with sweet romance, topped with books and best friends. Rebecca Raisin is the author of The Bookshop on the Corner and is sweeping the romance arena with her delightful characters and beautiful settings.

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Who said that only real heroes could be found in fiction?

Sarah Smith had an addiction – she was addicted to romance novels. The meet-cute, the passion, the drama and the gorgeous men! Now this wouldn’t have been such an issue if she hadn’t been the owner of the only bookshop in Ashford, Connecticut.

Ever since her close friend Lil, from The Gingerbread Café, had become engaged she had been yearning for a little love to turn up in her life. Except Sarah knew a good man was hard to find – especially in a tiny town like Ashford. That was until New York journalist, Ridge Warner stepped into her bookshop…

Love could be just around the corner for Sarah, but will she be able to truly believe that happy-ever-after can happen in real-life too!

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This little gem is linked to the Gingerbread Cafe series and has all the delightful characters you meet there. Here’s the link, so have fun!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00JBGZKJK/ref=mp_s_a_1_sc_1?qid=1444691355&sr=1-1-spellπ=AC_SX110_SY165_QL70&keywords=the+boookshop+on+the+corner

Lisa Swallow is fast becoming our queen of Rock Romance, however my all time favourite Lisa Swallow book is her paranormal romance Between.

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What do you do when two men enter your world and both have the power to kill you with a touch or a kiss? Can Rose trust either of them – or anyone in her new life? 

Ghosts? Demons? Angels? Or something more? The supernatural you find living and working in this English city are a little different to those you usually find in the genre… 

Rose survived the accident that killed her friend. The problem is the life she returns to scares her more than the night she almost died. 

When Alek and Finn enter her world, Rose discovers the after-effects of the accident are worse than she thought. The slow recovery and fogged nightmares aren’t the only changes she needs to cope with. 

Rose has an immediate and intense attraction to arrogant housemate Alek. This confuses her as much as the chilling effect of her enigmatic work colleague Finn. As Rose struggles to cope with her new life, she learns that her connection to the two men threatens all their futures 

Alek has lived years closed off from people. He didn’t expect someone like Rose to come into his life and challenge the reality he grips onto. 

If  Finn doesn’t fix the mistake he made, his life is in danger. His desire to help and protect Rose makes his task difficult, especially when she’s the mistake he needs to fix. 

When Alek’s past catches up, Rose disappears. Trapped between the living and the dead, on the edge of Hell, Rose is unable to find her way back. Alek and Finn could help her – but are they prepared to risk the consequences? 

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Here’s the link!
http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00LT48ZR6/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1444692139&sr=8-1π=AC_SX110_SY165_QL70&keywords=between+lisa+swallow

Let’s keep the ghosty theme going and I’ll share another great Aussie author, Anna Hub.

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“A violent shudder travelled up my spine, each vertebrae snapping together like a zip lock, all my muscles tensed but I couldn’t tear myself away from the image …” 

If your shadow was trying to consume you, how would you run from it? 

What if you were afraid of something you could never escape? 

Selena Parker’s journey into the unknown begins in her dreams, but the consequences are carried back into her conscious life and she soon realises paranormal forces are at work. Her shadow has become more than just an image, it is a gateway to a sinister new world where mysterious creatures roam and she is confronted by danger that challenges her will to survive.She finds the man whose fate is linked inexplicably to her own but she knows nothing of him and doubts his true nature. Her only option is to place her life in his hands while they search for a way to stop the shadows claiming them forever.

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http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00WKXG0HW/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?qid=1444692826&sr=8-3π=SY200_QL40&keywords=shadow+anna+hub&dpPl=1&dpID=51EObuoTPZL&ref=plSrch

Linda Perre is one of our newest Aussie authors and her book is not for the soft-hearted. It’s a thriller to creep out even the well-seasoned thriller reader.

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With Laura, his wife, out of the way Cooper is finally free to pursue his fantasies and build a fictitious life with beautiful, trashy Sheryl, the only woman capable of fulfilling his insatiable sexual needs. But he cannot allow his professional reputation to be tarnished by the reality of his depraved secret life. Sheryl simply does not fit his image. He needs a wife, and not just any wife … the perfect wife. 
When Renee meets Cooper through an internet dating site she thinks her dreams have finally come true. He is Mr. Right, a catch, and he looks set to make all her dreams a reality. But all is not as it seems and the arrival of Luka, a man from Cooper’s former life with Laura threatens to reveal the truth behind the Cooper’s lies and deadly deceit. 
Bringing Laura Home is a darkly sinister tale of passion, murder and secrets that refuse to stay hidden. 

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Born in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and subsequently living in both New Zealand and Australia, L R Perie has great insight when writing about these countries and the people therein. This brings credibility and humour to her characters. Her book takes you from the bustling, dynamic city life of modern Perth to the hard, but beautiful, Waikato in New Zealand and then even further ashore to the remote Zambezi Valley in a country devastated by past wars and current political strife. Not the romantic type L R Perie has still managed to create a novel fraught with suspense with an underlying story of romance, passion and deceit.

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http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00VTVKABS/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1444693321&sr=8-1

And one other newby to the Aussie Author Scene is Sasha Wasley with her YA series.

The Seventh by S.D. Wasley

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So, here we all were. Wasn’t it nice to be in the car together as a family? My parents, me … and my ghosts.
Sixteen year old Mimi Alston has company. No less than three ghosts follow her around, and only she can see them. At her last school, she was known as the girl-with-imaginary-friends.
Now Mimi’s starting fresh in a new town, where she’s determined to make some real friends and fit in for once. She’s ready for a normal life … except Mimi never counted on her fascination with troubled Goth-boy, Drew.
When she’s invited to join the elite Gifted Program, Mimi discovers she’s not the only one at the school with an unusual ‘talent.’ Maybe being normal isn’t even an option anymore.
A suspenseful tale of secrets and first love, The Seventh pulls you into a world of premonitions, psychic powers, and friendships forged in unlikely places.
The Seventh is SD Wasley’s debut novel, released 23 January 2015. It has been awarded the Editor’s Pick seal by the Evernight editing team. Book 2, The Rift is coming on November 6, 2015.

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Available in Hard copy (paperback) from Createspace (ships internationally) and lots of other places, but here’s the Amazon link

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00RSSZNZO/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?qid=1444694486&sr=8-2π=AC_SX110_SY165_QL70&keywords=the+seventh+s.d+wasley

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S.D. Wasley was born and raised in Perth, Western Australia.
She has been composing literary works since before she could write – at five years of age she announced her first poem in the kitchen, improv-style. Today, she lives in a wine region with her two daughters, surrounded by dogs, cats and chickens.
The Seventh was S.D. Wasley’s debut novel, but she has the release of The Rift out next month.
Pre-order here:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B015UPOIHU/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1444694506&sr=8-1π=AC_SX110_SY165_QL70&keywords=the+seventh+s.d+wasley

Keep up to date with her here:

Website/blog: http://sdwasley.com/
FB Author Page URL: http://www.facebook.com/sdwasley
Twitter URL: http://www.twitter.com/sdwasleyauthor
Amazon author page URL:  http://amazon.com/author/sdwasley
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12020546.S_D_Wasley
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sdwasley/
Instagram: https://instagram.com/sdwasley_author/
Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bahrs9

Well readers, this should keep you all occupied for a while!

xx Mich

Not Just For Christmas

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I’ve been meaning to do this for a very long time, but, always either had an excuse or let ‘life’ get in the way.
This Christmas, and not just at Christmas, I’m going to do it.
I’m going to get actively involved with helping the Homeless in Perth.

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I’m not doing it because I think I’m Christian or out of some misguided feelings of guilt, I’m taking the opportunity to return something that was given to me as a child ~ faith, hope and charity.

As a young girl I have many memories of the Smith Family Christmas hampers being delivered to our door and times spent at our local Woman’s Refuge. Some of these memories are good and some, not so much.

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I’ve been in touch with a couple of local groups and am planning to gather as many friends and family to help. It can be as simple as collecting items of food and clothing over a few weeks and letting me know when you’re ready to donate. There’s no need to hand over money, as I know a lot of us don’t have extra cash. But, sometimes when you’re doing groceries, you might pick up a can of food or a bargain you feel can be donated. Even (used) kid’s school bags, back packs and ladies handbags can be filled with essential items and donated; the list is endless.

I’d like to make this an ongoing thing, so if it’s something you’d like to help with, just email me at
faithhopeandcharity1@gmail.com or PM me on Facebook.

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I know there’s many groups that need help, but I’ve chosen the Homeless in Perth (for personal reasons). There will always be people and animals in need, and I’m hoping to make just a small difference. Maybe, once I’ve really got this little army of helpers going, we can band out to animal shelters and our aged community? It will be a fabulous venture.

All my love,

Mich xx

A Gingerbread Cafe Christmas ~ Rebecca Raisin

All I want for Christmas is…

A sweet novela by Aussie author Rebecca Raisin, now out in paperback!
I’ve read this gorgeous book, so I’m VERY excited to FINALLY get my hands on this yummy  little treasure! 

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gingerbread-Cafe-Christmas-Chocolate-Wedding/dp/0263918033/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444216818&sr=1-1&keywords=a+gingerbread+cafe+christmas

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CHAPTER ONE

Amazing Grace blares out from the speakers above me, and I cry, not delicate, pretty tears, but great big heaves that will puff up my eyes, like a blowfish. That song touches me, always has, always will. With one hand jammed well and truly up the turkey’s behind I sing those mellifluous words as if I’m preaching to a choir. Careful, so my tears don’t swamp the damn bird, I grab another handful of aromatic stuffing. My secret recipe: a mix of pork sausage, pecans, cranberries and crumbled corn bread. Punchy flavors that will seep into the flesh and make your heart sing. The song reaches its crescendo, and my tears turn into a fully-fledged blubber-fest. The doorbell jangles and I realize I can’t wipe my face with my messy hands. Frantic, I try and compose myself as best I can.
“Jesus Mother o’ Mary, ain’t no customers comin’ in here with this kinda carry-on! It’s been two years since that damn fool left you. When you gonna move on, my sweet cherry blossom?”
CeeCee. My only employee at the Gingerbread Café, a big, round, southern black woman, who tells it like it is. Older than me by a couple of decades, more like a second mother than anything. Bless her heart.
“Oh, yeah?” I retort. “How are you expecting me to move on? I still love the man.”
“He ain’t no man. A man wouldn’t never cheat on his wife. He’s a boy, playing at being a man.”
“You’re right there.” Still, it’s been two lonely years, and I ache for him. There’s no accounting for what the heart feels. I’m heading towards the pointy end of my twenties. By now, I should be raising babies like all the other girls in town, not baking gingerbread families in lieu of the real thing.
I’m distracted from my heartbreak by CeeCee cackling like a witch. She puts her hands on her hips, which are hidden by the dense parka she wears, and doubles over. While she’s hooting and hollering, I stare, unsure of what’s so damn amusing. “Are you finished?” I ask, arching my eyebrows.
This starts her off again, and she’s leg slapping, cawing, the whole shebang.
“It’s just…” She looks at me, and wipes her weeping eyes. “You look a sight. Your hand shoved so far up the rear of that turkey, like you looking for the meaning of life, your boohooing, this sad old music. Golly.”
“This is your music, CeeCee. Your gospel CD.”
She colors. “I knew that. It’s truly beautiful, beautiful, it is.”
“Thought you might say that.” I grin back. CeeCee’s church is the most important thing in her life, aside from her family, and me.
“Where we up to?” she says, taking off her parka, which is dusted white from snow. Carefully, she shakes the flakes into the sink before hanging her jacket on the coat rack by the fire.
“I’m stuffing these birds, and hoping to God someone’s going to buy them. Where’s the rush? Two and a bit weeks before Christmas we’re usually run off our feet.”
CeeCee wraps an apron around her plump frame. “It’ll happen, Lil. Maybe everyone’s just starting a little later this year, is all.” She shrugs, and goes to the sink to wash her hands.
“I don’t remember it ever being this quiet. No catering booked at all over the holidays, aside from the few Christmas parties we’ve already done. Don’t you think that’s strange?”
“So, we push the café more, maybe write up the chalkboard with the fact you’re selling turkeys already stuffed.” This provokes another gale of laughter.
“This is going to be you in a minute—” I indicate to the bird “—so I don’t see what’s so darn amusing.”
“Give me that bowl, then.”
We put the stuffing mix between us and hum along to Christmas music while we work. We decorated the café almost a month ago now. Winter has set in. The grey skies are a backdrop for our flashing Christmas lights that adorn the windows. Outside, snow drifts down coating the window panes and it’s so cozy I want to snuggle by the fire and watch the world go by. Glimmering red and green baubles hang from the ceiling, and spin like disco balls each time a customer blows in. A real tree holds up the corner; the smell from the needles, earth and pine, seeps out beneath the shiny decorations.
In pride of place, sitting squarely in the bay window, is our gingerbread house. It’s four feet high, with red and white candy-cane pillars holding up the thatched roof. There’s a wide chimney, decorated with green and red jelly beans, ready for Santa to climb down. And the white chocolate front door has a wreath made from spun sugar. In the garden, marshmallow snowmen gaze cheerfully out from under their hats. If you look inside the star-shaped window, you can see a gingerbread family sitting beside a Christmas tree. The local children come in droves to ogle it, and CeeCee is always quick to invite them in for a cup of cocoa, out of the cold.
I opened up the Gingerbread Café a few years back, but the town of Ashford is only a blip on the map of Connecticut, so I run a catering business to make ends meet. We cater for any party, large or small, and open the café during the week to sell freshly made cakes, pies, and whatever CeeCee’s got a hankering for. But we specialize in anything ginger. Gingerbread men, cookies, beverages, you name it, we’ve made it. You can’t get any more comforting than a concoction of golden syrup, butter, and ginger baking in the oven in the shape of little bobble-headed people. The smell alone will transport you back to childhood.
CeeCee’s the best pie maker I’ve ever known. They sell out as quickly as we can make them. But pies alone won’t keep me afloat.
“So, you hear anything about that fine-looking thing, from over the road?” CeeCee asks.
“What fine thing?”
She rolls her eyes dramatically. “Damon, his name is. The one opening up the new shop, remember? You know who I mean. We went over there to peek just the other day.”
“I haven’t heard boo about him. And who cares, anyhow?”
“You sure as hell wouldn’t be bent over dead poultry, leaking from those big blue eyes of yours, if he was snuggled in your bed at night.”
I gasp and pretend to be outraged. “CeeCee! Maybe you could keep him warm—you ever think of that?”
“Oh, my. If I was your age, I’d be over there lickety-split. But I ain’t and he might be just the distraction you need.”
“Pfft. The only distraction I need is for that cash register to start opening and closing on account of it filling with cold hard cash.”
“You could fix up those blond curls of yours, maybe paint your nails. You ain’t got time to dilly-dally. Once the girls in town catch on, he’s gonna be snapped right up,” says CeeCee, clicking her fingers.
“They can have him. I still love Joel.”
CeeCee shakes her head and mumbles to herself. “That’s about the dumbest thing I ever heard. You know he’s moved on.”
I certainly do. There’s no one in this small town of ours that doesn’t know. He sure as hell made a mockery of me. Childhood sweethearts, until twenty-three months, four days and, oh, five hours ago. He’s made a mistake, and he’ll come back, I just know it. Money’s what caused it, or lack thereof. He’s gone, hightailed it out of town with some redheaded bimbo originally from Kentucky. She’s got more money than Donald Trump, and that’s why if you ask me. We lost our house after his car yard went belly up, and I nearly lost my business.
“Lookie here,” CeeCee says. “I think we’re about to get our first customer.”
The doorbell jangles, and in comes Walt, who sells furniture across the way.
“Morning, ladies.” He takes off his almost-threadbare earmuff hat. I’ve never seen Walt without the damn thing, but he won’t hear a word about it. It’s his lucky hat, he says. Folks round here have all sorts of quirks like that.
“Hey, Walt,” I say. “Sure is snowing out there.”
“That it is. Mulled-wine weather if you ask me.”
CeeCee washes her hands, and dries them on her apron. “We don’t have none of that, but I can fix you a steaming mug of gingerbread coffee, Walt. Surely will warm those hands o’ yours. How’d you like that?”
“Sounds mighty nice,” he says, edging closer to the fire. The logs crackle and spit, casting an orange glow over Walt’s ruddy face.

Doesn’t it sound delightful? Get over to Amazon and order your copy!

Xx Mich