Tag Archives: Orenda Books

The book review café book of the month **February 2020


Whohoo March is here, and spring is in the air! (Well hopefully it is). It feels like I have spent the WHOLE winter, coughing and sneezing, and feeling generally unwell.  I’m seriously thinking of hibernating next winter!


As usual I’m digressing but as it’s March it means it’s time to choose my book of the month for February. I read some cracking books in February, but if I’m honest the book I’ve chosen was always going to be a contender for my book of the month, and it’s already one of my top reads of the year so far.

How do I choose my book of the month?

I choose a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a read, an original  plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reach the very last page. So without further ado here’s my book of the month for February.

I Am Dust by Louise Beech


Louise Beech is such an extraordinary author, she doesn’t just write a book; she gives each book a heart, a heart that gives life to her stories and her characters. I Am Dust takes you on a journey of magic and murder, love, ambition, jealousy and loss. It’s a ghost story entwined with a murder mystery, but it’s not the kind of ghost story that’s outside the realm of possibility, it’s plausible, heartbreaking, unnerving and creepy. You can read my full review here…I Am Dust by Louise Beech

Highly recommended

Full reviews can be found here…

The Other People by C.J. Tudor @cjtudor @MichaelJBooks #MustReads

The Guest List by Lucy Foley #BookReview #TheGuestList @lucyfoleytweets @HarperCollinsUK

Never Look Back by A. L. Gaylin #BookReview @Orionbooks

Liar Liar by by Mel Sherratt @writermels @AvonBooksUk #BookReview #BlogTour #LiarLiar

The Dilemma by B A Paris #BookReview @BAParisAuthor #TheDilemma @HQstories

The Murder House by Michael Wood #BookReview @MichaelHWood #CrimeFiction @0neMoreChapter_ #TeamDarke @HarperFiction #MustReads2020

Books I’m hoping to read in March

I have a couple of books to read for book blog tours, but apart from that I’m hoping to read some up and coming book releases, plus a couple of my own book shelf reads.




I Am Dust by Louise Beech #BookReview @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks #IAmDust #BookHangoverAward

Today I’m thrilled to share my review for I Am Dust by Louise Beech, a book that’s definitely going to be one of my top reads of 2020. Read on for my thoughts…..


When iconic musical Dust is revived twenty years after the leading actress was murdered in her dressing room, a series of eerie events haunts the new cast, in a bewitching, beguiling and terrifyingly dark psychological thriller…

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…


For once I’m lost for words, or rather the written word, I’m not sure I can put my thoughts into a coherent review for I Am Dust by Louise Beech. So how about you just buy the book and save me the trouble of trying to write a review that can do justice to this extraordinary, haunting novel. Louise Beech is such an extraordinary author, she doesn’t just write a book; she gives each book a heart, a heart that gives life to her stories and her characters. I Am Dust takes you on a journey of magic and murder, love, ambition, jealousy and loss. It’s a ghost story entwined with a murder mystery, but it’s not the kind of ghost story that’s outside the realm of possibility, it’s plausible, heartbreaking, unnerving and creepy. 

I Am Dust moves flawlessly between the past and the present, Chloe and two friends, Ryan and Jess are attending a Summer youth theatre group and decide as a group to experiment with an Ouija board, events spiral out of control, friendships are tested, and the horror of those days will continue to haunt Chloe into adulthood. These scenes are so powerful and hauntingly creepy, they crackle with anticipation, horror and an increasing sense of dread. Fast forward to the present and Chloe is working at The Dean Wilson theatre as an usher, when she is told Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years, a show that never made it past its fourth performance when the show’s star was found dead in her dressing room. Chloe should be elated, but instead she feels a premonition, a growing sense of dread, as she experiences eerie noises and ghostly sightings, and forgotten memories from her past come back to plague her. 

The scenes set in the Theatre are wonderfully descriptive; they conjure up the excitement of a new performance, the glitter and the glitz, and the hustle and bustle of a working theatre, a place where glitter and dust collect and move as one. The theatre is shrouded in a tragic story, one that has led to ghost stories, hauntings and strange occurrences, it’s the setting along with the characters that capture the reader’s imagination.  As the novel progresses Louise Beech weaves Chloe’s past and present together creating a mystical, all-consuming read that’s nigh on impossible to put down. 

Chloe’s story is one that will break your heart, it’s haunting, emotional, her character will capture your heart, she will linger in your thoughts, you sense Chloe’s vulnerability, the emotions she experience are raw, emotive and powerful. When I reached the last pages of I Am Dust the tears flowed at the beauty of this story, for Chloe and for the power of Louise Beech’s written word. Definitely a contender for my book of the year and my favourite Louise Beech read so far. Highly recommended.

  • Print Length: 300 pages
  • Publisher: ORENDA BOOKS (16 Feb. 2020)

pre-order link:   Amazon 🇬🇧

And yes in case you hadn’t already guessed I’m giving I Am Dust my shiny Book hangover award, It’s given to a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a read, an original  plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reach the very last page.


My thanks to Karen Sullivan for my ARC in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.

#Beast by at Matt Wesolowski #SixStories @OrendaBooks @ConcreteKraken #HangoverAward

Today I’m thrilled to share my review for Beast by Matt Wesolowski. Beast is the fourth book in the #SixStories series and although they can all be read as stand-alones, I would urge you to read them in order, just because it’s such a brilliant series. Read on for my thoughts on the latest book in series……


Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the legendary local ‘vampire tower’, in another explosive episode of Six Stories…

In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old Vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘The Vampire Tower’, where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged ‘cult’, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong’

However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses – people who knew both the victim and the three killers – to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, the tragic and chilling legend of the ‘Ergarth Vampire… 

Both a compulsive, taut and terrifying thriller, and a bleak and distressing look at modern society’s desperation for attention, Beast will unveil a darkness from which you may never return…


The Six Stories series by Matt Wesolowski is one of my favourite crime series EVER! It’s deliciously dark, extremely imaginative, each book has been beyond riveting. Beast like the other books in the series features modern day themes, combined with darkest folklore, and yet again the author’s vivid imagination propels the reader into a plot that’s marked by an unrelenting bleakness, and yet Beast makes for an all consuming read.

Six Stories is precisely that, Six Stories told from the perspective of six witnesses narrated in the form of pod casts with online investigating journalist Paul King. I’m not going to rehash the plot details, I think the tagline on the book sums Beast up perfectly “A frozen girl, a haunted town, a deadly challenge, six stories, which one is true?”. What follows is a tense, horrifying read that’s darker than the dead of night.  

The author has an unique ability to create the perfect setting, Tankerville Tower in the small town of Ergarth is a character darkly atmospheric, and creeping, it’s a place shrouded in folklore tales of bloodthirsty vampires, a place where evil lies. Even the climate is the perfect backdrop for this book, set during the wake of  ‘The Beast from the East’, with its plummeting temperatures, the biting winds, it gives the sense that Ergarth is inhospitable, a place you wouldn’t want to visit for the fear of what you might encounter.

Beast is very much a modern day tale, and one that highlights, a phenomenon that’s very real, society’s need for validation and attention through social media. The author paints a bleak and disquieting picture of the negative side of social media, it’s disturbing and frighteningly credible. As each pod cast ends, trepidation and dread grows, the darkness of the book pulls you in, holding you in its clutches until the final page.

If there’s one thing I love about this series, it’s the author’s ability to write a book that doesn’t fit one particular genre, Beast is no different it has components of horror, thriller and crime with a modern day twist, it’s impossible to second guess where the plot is leading, which for me made this such a memorising read. Each book Matt Wesolowski writes is imaginative, captivating, and cleverly constructed, this is an author who doesn’t rest on his laurels each book is as good if not better than the last. Matt  Wesolowski has once again written the epitome of a page-turner. Highly, highly recommended. 

Yes you’ve guessed it I’m giving Beast, my second book of 2020 the shiny Book hangover award, 

What criteria does a book need to meet to win this award?

It’s given to a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a read, an original  plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reach the very last page.


  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Orenda Books (6 Feb. 2020) kindle edition (out now)

Buying links:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧    Amazon USA 🇺🇸

My thanks to Karen Sullivan for my ARC in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.


Other books in the Six Stories series



The Home by Sarah Stovell @sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks #BookShelfReads #BookHangoverAward

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my first review of 2020, it’s for The Home by Sarah Stovell, and what a fabulous, heartbreaking read it turned out to be. I’m not sure I have conveyed just how amazing this book is, but you can read on for my thoughts and apologies for my ramblings……


One more little secret … one more little lie…

When the body of a pregnant fifteen-year-old is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away…

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

A gritty, dark and devastating psychological thriller, The Home is also an emotive drama and a piercing look at the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all.


I’m not sure I can convey just how much this book affected me, The Home by Sarah Stovell is a book that will swallow you up, and then spit you out, your heart will break, you will live and breathe the tragic and horrifying story of three young girls Hope, Lara and Annie. These characters will burrow their way into your heart and mind leaving you bereft as this haunting tale reaches its final pages. The Home is part mystery, part thriller, and yet it’s so much more, it’s an emotive, deeply moving, and tragic tale of those who live amid abuse and poverty. 

Hope, Laura and Annie first meet in The Home, three damaged girls who find themselves bound together by their shared horrifying and imaginable pasts. The story begins with the shocking death of pregnant fifteen-year-old Hope, but Hope’s death is only the beginning of the story, what lies beneath is the heart-breaking story of three girls failed by a flawed system, failed by budget cuts and staff shortages.  Although this is a fictional story, for me it’s felt like the heartbreaking story of thousands of children who have been placed in care through no fault of their own. They have grown up where love and nurturing have been replaced with violence and abuse, their young life’s shaped by abusive parents, family and friends. 

The authors almost lyrical prose could seem at odds with this harrowing tale, but the two fit perfectly together creating one of the most emotive stories I have ever read. Sarah Stovell has created three living, breathing characters, you feel their every emotion, anger, despair, fear and frustration. A small part of me kept wishing for that ‘happy ever after ending’, but is there such a thing for children who have been so badly damaged? It’s a story that’s brutal, disquieting, and uncomfortable and yet there are tender moments filled with ‘hope’, love and friendships.  

There’s no getting away from it Sarah Stovall has written a multi layered story that left me broken, as I reached the final pages I openly cried for Hope, Annie and Laura, and that’s a testament to the author’s superb writing. The author has bravely tackled some uncomfortable subjects, but in doing so she has created a beautiful, compelling read that will haunt me for a long time to come. If you are looking for a ‘warm fuzzy’ read then this book definitely isn’t one for you, but if you are looking for a book that has depth, with unforgettable characters, a book that will cause you to feel a spectrum of emotions then you should make The Home your next read. Highly recommended.  

It will come as no surprise but I’m giving The Home my first shiny Book hangover award of 2020, It’s given to a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a read, an original  plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reach the very last page.


Buying links:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧    Amazon USA 🇺🇸

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Orenda Books (22 Jan. 2020) kindle copy out now 



**Christmas with Orenda Books** featuring Johana Gustawsson @OrendaBooks @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks #Giveaway


Todays Christmas post is going to melt your heart, it features  Johana Gustawsson and her beautiful family. It’s hard to imagine this author writes such gory, gritty crime thrillers 😂.

This is my last post for Christmas With Orenda books, I’m feeling a bit sad, I loved reading theses posts and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them too.

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

It was the first Christmas I spent with my husband in France, back in 2011. He finally joined my family celebration in Aubagne, south of France. It was a very simple Christmas, just my parents, my sister, her soon-to-husband and their puppy, but it was a Christmas full of love, celebrating new beginnings.


Where will you be spending Christmas?

In Vikingland, Stockholm, at my sister-in-law’s place. My eldest and his cousin still believe in Santa so we will make it magical for them. I’m not sure the twins will grasp the concept at only two years old, but I think we will be in for a good laugh!


Do you have any Christmas traditions?

It depends on where we celebrate Christmas: if it’s Sweden, we follow the Swedish tradition where the big event is on Christmas’ eve lunch, with the famous smörgåsbord, a buffet with Swedish delicacies like herring, pork sausages and beetroot and cream salad, followed by the opening of the gifts which Santa delivers right when the boys are going to look for him in the neighbourhood!

If we are celebrating it in France, the big celebration takes place on Christmas’ eve dinner with foie gras, oysters, turkey and bûche de Noël, the traditional French Christmas cake. Santa then comes during the night and we open gifts on the 25th the morning. And if we are in London, we are doing a mix of it all!


What was your best ever Christmas present?

It was not a present made to me, but it was the arrival of the first dog in the family: in 2011, my sister and her future husband got a miniature pinscher, Honey. She was just 2 months old at the time and she was such a cute puppy! She is the only one who appears on the Christmas movies and photos!

What was your worst ever Christmas present?

I cannot think of anything! I can tell you though that we have a silly tradition in my husband’s family: my husband’s cousin and his wife got some very ugly wedding presents back in 2005, and one of those is a small flower pot in the shape of a very weird dragon/squirrel that they try to offer back to us every Christmas and that we of course give back the next Christmas. So you have to be very inventive in wrapping it, so that the person opening has no clue about the content of the box. We have had so many laughs with it! They are the ones having it now, so let’s see what they come up with this year!


Favourite Christmas tipple?

Glögg, the Swedish version of mulled wine, sweeter and with almonds flakes and raisins. Perfect with some gingerbread biscuits topped with blue cheese (stilton is the perfect match!).


What are you hoping for this Christmas?

To have my first holidays where the twins sleep! 

Have you got a Christmas message you would like to share with readers and bloggers?

Thank you all for your unconditional support which makes my writing experience and path all so emotional and joyful. Wishing you all a wonderful celebration with your family and your friends, the family we choose. 

About Johana Gustawsson


Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, including Block 46, Keeper and, soon to be published, Blood Song, has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

Books published by Orenda Books

My thanks to Johana Gustawsson for writing this post and for allowing me to share photos from her personal collection. A huge thank you to Karen Sullivan for all her help with the feature, for the fab giveaway and to all the authors who took part.


I’m signing off now to the new year so I would just like to wish all my fellow bloggers, followers, publishers and authors ‘a very merry Christmas, and best wishes for the new year, and let’s hope it’s a good one for us all’

**Christmas with Orenda Books** featuring Michael J Malone #ExclusiveShortStory @OrendaBooks @michaeljmalone1


Today is the last day of Christmas with Orenda Books, and I have two special posts to end the series. Check back for the second one in a couple of hours, but first of all, I’m so excited I have been wanting to share this extra special post for ages. Are you ready? The one and only, super talented, (and one of my favourite authors) Michael J Malone has only gone a wrote an exclusive short story for this feature, how amazing is that? 

So Snuggle up in front of a roaring fire with a hot chocolate, and forget your stresses and read this exclusive Christmas story.



The Xmas Tree and the Queen of Chaos

It’s that time of year, when, with a sigh, I think about having to drag down my Xmas tree from the attic. And while I consider what a struggle that’s going to be, I think about the evening I “acquired” the bloody thing. 

The phone rang one late November evening. It was my twin sister, aka the Queen of Chaos (QC). She’s a lovely lady; four feet eleven inches, a size six, and thinks tact is something you stick your posters on the wall with.

‘I’ve been offered a Xmas tree for nothing,’ she said breathlessly. ‘Second hand. It’s quite tall and cost £190 new just 2 years ago. It’s bound to be a cracker. Only thing is I don’t have a car …’ like this is news. ‘How am I going to get the tree home to my flat? In Troon?’ Like I’ve forgotten where she stays.

My son is with me that night so I bundle him in the car and drive over to hers. She has a piece of paper in her hand with directions to the home of the tree which is fairly near where I live. The directions to the home of said tree were lousy – we got lost in a housing estate with one road in and one road out. 

Several phone calls later, with instructions from my backseat sister, me snapping at her and the wee fella giving me a row for being “bossy with my twin”, we make it.

We finally arrive to see an old lady standing by the door of her flat on the third floor wearing a look of relief. The look of someone who has just been told; yes it piles but we have a cream for that. She directed us to a cupboard in the communal hall and opened a large door. The only thing I saw was a huge white box. You know those containers you see on the back of ships? Roughly the size of one of those.

‘That’s your tree,’ says nice lady and runs back indoors before we can say anything else.

I couldn’t lift the box off the ground, never mind lifting it out to the car, but with the wee fella pushing and me dragging and QC carrying a free box of 30,000 lights the tree owner no longer needed, we made it. By which time my shirt was sticking to my back, my jacket was torn in three places, and I was wishing I only had brothers.

Outside, in the dimly lit car-park I looked at the box. I looked at the boot. Not going to happen. I open up the boot. Look at the box. Not a chance. 

Taking a breather from the tree struggle I noticed QC was standing to the side wearing an expression of mild panic. ‘It’s going to be too big,’ she says. ‘I don’t have big enough corners in my wee flat,’ she says. ‘You have it and I’ll take yours. It’ll be lovely for you and the wee man to have a nice big tree,’ She squeezes out a smile trying to sell me the idea.

‘Can we get it in the feckin’ car first,’ says I.

‘Dad!’ the wee fella gives me a look.

Eventually I worked out that if I moved the front seats forward and declined the backseats that there might be enough room. With more sweat, more pushing and some muttered curses, we made it. And we even managed to close the car doors.

Of course, we now didn’t have enough room for three people. So the wee fella (who’s nearly as tall as his aunt) sits on her lap and I drive to my house – but I have to go the long way as the short way goes past the police station. 

We get home safely – no blue flashing lights – and I realise that I can’t possibly drive to QC’s like this. I can’t leave the wee man at home on his own while I take the tree to hers. Besides, I can’t face the thought of lifting this humongous box up another three flights of stairs to QC’s flat. I face the realisation that I’m going to have to accept this bloody tree.

The next trick is to get the box out of my car. We all adopt the same activities as before – the wee fella pushes, I pull and QC stands wearing an expression of alarm. Eventually – presumably in the same time it takes a crane to lift a container from the ship on to the wharf, something gives – the car door handle- and the box is out of the car and with more pushing, pulling, and sweat, is in my front room.

While my son and I catch our breath, QC tears the industrial tape from the box – you know the silver duct tape kind that serial killers use in all the movies – just to see how big this tree is.

Think Norway’s annual gift to the British nation.

‘It’ll be lovely with lights on it,’ says QC with more than a hint of desperation, prompted by the fact that the room is so dark because the tree is blocking out all the light from the window. The expression of alarm on her face has deepened. 

She paused, ‘Where are the lights? Did you leave the lights behind,’ she asks me?

‘I was kinda busy with a big feckin’ box, sis,’ says I.

‘Dad!’ says the wee man.

QC’s last memory of the lights was while standing watching me wrestle the tree container into the car. She must have put them down somewhere, she surmises. On the pavement? So we all jump back in the car and go back to the tree lady’s building …and there in a dark corner of the car park was our box of 30,000 lights. Hurrah. Nobody had stolen them. No doubt any prospective thief had been put off by the thought of the increase to their electricity bill once they were switched on.

An old guy was walking his dog past the scene as we screeched to a halt. QC jumped out of the car before I could pull on the handbrake.

‘Forgot my lights,’ she explained to the man as if it made perfect sense, as she swooped for the box. 

By this time we had all worked up an appetite so we decided to go to Pizza Hut. Relieved the worst of it was over, we had a wee laugh about our adventures on the way to the restaurant. But, dear reader, it was to be an illusory moment of calm, for when we eventually got a seat, and put in an order QC realised she didn’t have her handbag. I reasoned that it must be in my house and besides I was NOT driving another inch without throwing something down my throat. 

But of course, by the time our food arrived, QC had worked herself into a frenzy of worry. Her house keys. Her mobile phone. Her purse.

‘Oh my fucking god,’ she screeched so loud a waiter walking past at that moment got such a fright he dropped the tray of drinks he was carrying. ‘My handbag can’t be in the house,’ QC asserted, face white. ‘It was on the backseat of the car while I was pushing the tree-box in. It must have got pushed out the other end? Either its in the same car park as the box of lights. Or maybe …’ her mouth fell open. ‘…the tree lady found it on her landing and maybe she’s emptied my purse, gone shopping on-line with MY credit cards and is now phoning a porn phone line in Chile using MY phone.’

While QC borrowed my mobile and phoned all of her friends to try and find out the tree lady’s number, the wee fella gave me another row.

‘You’re different with your sister,’ he said. ‘Way more bossy.’

Nobody had tree lady’s number. Cue more worry and more doomsday scenarios.

‘My house keys were in my handbag. You’ll have to kick in my front door. No, don’t. My neighbours are mental and while I’m sleeping tonight they’ll ransack the flat. And, I’ll have to stay awake all night. I’m a monster if I don’t get my sleep. Can you even get a locksmith on a Saturday night? Shame I fell out with my other neighbour – the witch – cos she used to keep a spare key for me.’

‘Let’s check my house first,’ I said. ‘Bet it’s there.’ If it wasn’t I’d need to change into my boots to help out in the door-kicking-in moment.

The food arrived and was eaten in Guinness Book of Records time, and there was a collective holding of breath all the way from Pizza Hut to my house. The wee fella worried that QC was going to have a rubbish Xmas. I worried that I was going to have a mad woman on my couch for the rest of the weekend and QC just worried. I pulled up in front of my house and we all took a deep breath and paused in prayer before we get out of the car.

I unlocked the front door to my house and QC almost knocked me into next door’s garden in her rush to get past. The wee man and I looked at each other and waited at the door, afraid to look.

We heard a squeal. 

She’d found it. Care to guess where?

Under the tree.

About Michael Malone


Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

Books published by Orenda Books

My thanks to Michael J Malone for writing this fabulous story for the book review café.

**Christmas with Orenda books** Featuring Will Carver @Will_Carver @OrendaBooks


Here we are another day closer to Christmas and I have a fantastic post for you today from author Will Carver. I must admit I thought I had got my posts muddled when I put this one together, I even went back to the original email to check 😂.  I’m not sure what I expected, probably something grim and dark, but I’m pleased to report he sounds like a real softie at heart. I hope you enjoy reading this post…..

What is your favourite Christmas memory? 

I was eight (I think). It was Christmas Eve. I was as excited as any kid is, thinking that Father Christmas was going to magically appear in my house while I was asleep and fill my stocking with goodies. I’d left a mince pie on a plate with a glass of whisky and I climbed up to the top of my cabin bed and shut my eyes, hoping that the next time I opened them, he would have been. 

At that age, I was on the cusp of no longer believing in that aspect of the festive period. I fell asleep but woke up a few hours later to hear somebody in my room, putting things into my stocking and eating the food I had left out. 

It was a strangely magical moment for me. I wanted to open my eyes so much. I wanted to sit up and take a look. But something stopped me. Maybe I was trying to hold on to it for another year, maybe some part of me knew what I would see if I decided to look. It was a really defining Christmas experience. Neither joyful or sad. Nor was it bittersweet. I remember it fondly now as a time somewhere between being a child and growing up. 


Where will you be spending Christmas?

Things are a little up in the air on this. When you’re separated and have kids, and you’re with someone new, who is separated and has kids, the logistics can be a little challenging. All I can say at this time is that I will be spending some of Christmas with whisky, watching Die Hard, and some with the people I love, assembling Lego and playing novelty board games while eating my body weight in food drenched in MSG. Pretty much the same as everyone else.

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

Loads. It’s the best time of the year. The tree always goes up on 1st December. I make a picnic for the kids and boil up some mulled wine for myself. We watch The Polar Express while we decorate the tree. When we’re finished I have to pick both kids up – one in each arm – so they can put the star on top at the same time. 

I started a thing last year where I put together a box of things for the kids to have on Christmas Eve. Nothing extravagant, just some Christmas pyjamas and socks and sweets and a teddy and some bedding and a game and a light… Christmas Eve is the best. All that anticipation. I thought it would be something fun but they loved it, so that will be a new tradition. 

Also, the Michael Bublé Christmas CD goes into the car for the school run. I’m not ashamed. 


What was your best ever Christmas present?

I can’t think of a better present I have received at Christmas than my daughter, Phoebe. She squeezed her way into my life the day before that big, bearded man was supposed to shuffle himself down the chimney and it changed everything – especially Christmases. I don’t, actually remember much about her first Christmas as I’d been awake for about three days and was in some hallucinatory haze but it was a better gift than even my noise-cancelling headphones. 

This isn’t to say that she is any more special than my son, of course. He is the best New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had. 

It’s a very expensive time of year. 

What was your worst ever Christmas present?

It was either ’89 or ’90. The Gameboy came out. And I got one. Now, I know that sounds like it should be on my list of best ever presents, and it is, but what happened that Christmas sullied Nintendo’s wonderful innovation. 

I have a younger brother. When he was very little, he would cry. About everything. He’s 31 now and much better. He received lots of toys and games that year and I opted to have a smaller pile of presents and invest the money into something more significant. In this case, the Gameboy. 

I loved the beep it made when you switched it on and the Tetris music kicked in. Amazing. 

I had a few goes. It was brilliant. I was hooked on that tiny green screen. But my little brother wanted a go. So he cried. And my parents made me give it to him. 

Then, when I wanted it back, he cried again. And he didn’t stop. So he got to sit with my Gameboy all Christmas. It sucked. Still, I had some new pyjamas and a book and some Lego…

The next day, my parents went out and bought my brother a Gameboy, so that I could have mine back. They said it would have to be his birthday present – obviously it wasn’t because he couldn’t get nothing on his birthday. 

Look, the Gameboy was great, but it made that Christmas shit. 

On the plus side, I get to remind my mother and brother about it every year, so it’s not all bad. 


Favourite Christmas tipple?

I used to like a Snowball but had to stop that a few years back when I went vegan. My favourite is mulled wine/Gluwein. I used to live in Germany as a child and the Christmas markets over there are better than anywhere else. The smell of Gluwein is the scent of Christmas, to me. It brings back those wonderful childhood memories of living in a different country where we always had snow in December and ate mushrooms dipped in garlic mayo while we walked around the stalls and rides at the market. 


What are you hoping for this Christmas?

I’m hoping that my latest book, Nothing Important Happened Today, will be at number one on the Sunday Times Bestseller list. I’m hoping that it will snow at some point. 

When it comes to gifts, I like getting books (obviously) and clothes that I can work out in. I’m a real gadget fan, I’m sure there will be something new that I don’t really need but would be fun to have. I tend not to want things, though. It’s great when somebody really puts thought into a gift, you know? It doesn’t have to be huge, just thoughtful. 

Have you got a Christmas message you would like to share with readers and bloggers?

Be nice. Reach out. Give something back. Take more pleasure in giving. And buy my book.

About Will Carver


Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company.

He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraphand Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts

Books published by Orenda Books

My thanks to Will Carver for writing this post and taking part in this feature.

**Christmas with Orenda Books** featuring Louise Beech @Orendabooks @LouiseWriter #Giveaway #BookBundle


Oh my the days are beginning to run out before we reach the BIG day! I still have plenty to do between then but hopefully it will all be alright on the day! Today I’m thrilled to welcome Louise Beech to the book review café, and to learn more about ‘a Beech Christmas’.

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

The one where I was almost nine months pregnant with my son. I was only twenty, and on my own, but so excited about becoming a mum for the first time. I wondered if we would end up with a Christmas Day baby because I kept getting backache – but he made me wait another two weeks!


Where will you be spending Christmas?

I’m excited to be going to my son Conor’s for Christmas. It will be my first time spending Christmas Day at one of my own children’s homes! They have both left home now, my daughter Katy for university in Lincoln, and my son to live with his girlfriend in Mansfield. It will be just the five of us; me, husband Joe, Katy, Conor and his girlfriend Ieva. Perfect. They will cook, and we are taking drinks, crackers and dessert.


Do you have any Christmas traditions?

I had some when the kids were little. Leaving the carrot out for Rudolph and some chocolate and whisky for Santa. Leaving one small gift at the foot of their beds to amuse them until a semi-human hour. All going downstairs together and ‘seeing if Santa had been’. Enjoying watching the kids open all their gifts before we even looked at ours.

What was your best ever Christmas present?

It was the first one my husband Joe ever bought me. We had only been dating about six weeks. It was back in 1996 before mobile phones. I only had one telephone in my house, downstairs in the kitchen. And we liked to talk late at night when I was in bed. So he got me twelve red roses and a telephone to plug in upstairs. So simple and so thoughtful.


What was your worst ever Christmas present?

I actually love gifts so much that I appreciate them all – even the ‘bad’ ones. So I couldn’t possibly say.

Favourite Christmas tipple?

You can’t beat the very 80s and naff Snowball. I don’t often drink red wine, but I do like a nice glass with the festive lunch.


What are you hoping for this Christmas?

That my family are happy, safe, and well. I’m also excited to see advance copies of my next novel, I Am Dust, as there is a good chance I will have one in my hand by Christmas. It might be book number six, but the excitement is just as clap-hands-jump-around-the-room as it was for my first.

Have you got a Christmas message you would like to share with readers and bloggers?

I take the time to thank every single reviewer on my blog tours in the acknowledgments of the next novel. I am eternally grateful for readers who put reviews online or message me with their kind words. And endlessly appreciative of bloggers who read and share my books, simply out of love. They don’t have to do it. I hope they all have the most wonderful 2020, and that it’s a year of great books for us all.

About Louise Beech


Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a GuardianReaders’ Choice for 2015. The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Books published by Orenda Books

My thanks to Louise Beech for taking the time to write this post.



The giveaway includes all the books featured in the above photo, 18 fabulous books in total. The competition is open to UK residents only. Competition will close on midnight on the 19th December and please note the prize will be sent directly from the publishers (hopefully in time for Christmas) and you must be following my blog.

To enter click on the link and good luck Orenda Books Christmas bundle 📚🎁🎄

**Christmas with Orenda Books** featuring West Camel @OrendaBooks @West_Camel #Giveaway #BookBundle


Today I’m thrilled to welcome West Camel and to learn more about his Christmases past and present. I really have enjoyed reading these posts as I put them together, I hope you have too.

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

I once introduced a Swiss/French boyfriend to an English Christmas. For him, back home, all the excitement would be over once he’d gone to bed on Christmas Eve. It was so great to show him how the pleasure extends for days here.      


Where will you be spending Christmas?

Here in London with friends, who host me most years. I live in the Stockwell area of South London, so I do the half-hour walk to their place in Pimlico through the deserted streets and across the river. It’s eerie and strange – but at the other end there’s a feast. 

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

The tree only goes up once I’ve finished work for the year. So that can be as late as Christmas Eve. Computer goes off and I dash out to get a tree – must be real, must be big. I nearly always haggle down the greengrocer (‘they’re selling them off at half-price outside the tube station’, etc, etc) and get a cheap one. 

What was your best ever Christmas present?

When I was 10 my parents bought a piano. I was told my actual present was the lessons, but no one else played, so the instrument was all mine! I’d longed for one for years and years. In the week leading up to Christmas I really believed the big object in the hall, draped with a blanket, was a cocktail cabinet for the neighbour. But on Christmas morning it was unveiled. 

508 Decorator Satin Mahogany

What was your worst ever Christmas present?

I do remember going to my grandparents to exchange presents one year, when I was around 18, and a committed goth. I was chatting and had their present, unopened, in my hands – it was soft, thick, a fair size. My brother said something, and I looked up to see him wearing the most hideous, garishly coloured body-warmer I’d ever seen. I froze – knowing that now I had to unwrap the body warmer that was in my hands, put it on and say it was lovely, just as my brother was doing. I pulled apart the paper and found a simple black sweater – which perfectly suited my goth attire! So not my worst-ever present, but it was a close shave… 

Favourite Christmas tipple?

I’m a big fan of mulled wine. I love making it, drinking it outside, drinking it inside… 

What are you hoping for this Christmas?

Mainly two weeks of holiday – reading, friends, family, lots of good meals, cinema trips maybe. Maybe even the ballet. And late nights and late mornings.  


Have you got a Christmas message you would like to share with readers and bloggers?

December marks the first anniversary of the publication of my debut novel, Attend. Bloggers and readers have loved it – and I’m hugely gratefully for the messages of appreciation and for all the great reviews, interviews and features. The blogging community is hugely important to helping get odd, genre-bending books like mine to a wider public. More power to your reading elbows! Have a wonderful festive period all of you and keep up the wonderful work in 2020. 

About West Camel


Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch.

He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

Books published by Orenda Books


My thanks to West Camel for taking part in this feature.



The giveaway includes all the books featured in the above photo, 18 fabulous books in total. The competition is open to UK residents only. Competition will close on midnight on the 19th December and please note the prize will be sent directly from the publishers (hopefully in time for Christmas) and you must be following my blog.

To enter click on the link and good luck Orenda Books Christmas bundle 📚🎁🎄


**Christmas with Orenda Books** featuring Paul Burston @OrendaBooks @PaulBurston #Giveaway #BookBundle

Another day closer to Christmas, Eeek it’s coming around so quickly and I have a pile of Christmas presents that need wrapping, but I’m digressing here! Today I’m thrilled to have the awesome Tom Bale pop by the book review café to talk about all things Christmassy, so pull up a pew, grab a mince pie and a coffee and escape for a few minutes whilst you learn more about a “Paul Burston Christmas”

What is your favourite Christmas memory? 

Waking up in the middle of the night, aged 5 or 6, and unwrapping my main Christmas present, which was an Evel Knievel action figure on a motorbike. You wound up the bike and Evel would perform stunts – jumping over rows of toy cars or lorries or, in my case, the inanimate bodies of my marionette puppets. I was a strange kid.


Where will you be spending Christmas?

In Tenerife. I’m a sun worshipper who suffers from SAD. So I try to fly south for a few weeks during the winter whenever possible. 

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

Not really. My partner is from Brazil so we used to spend Christmas in Rio until his mother passed away a few years ago. But I’m not big on family Christmases. Christmas with my family can be quite fraught so I tend to see them before or afterwards, when everyone is less stressed.

What was your best ever Christmas present?

A few years ago my partner bought me a silver dinner jacket which I often wear on stage at my literary salon Polari. It’s a toss up between that and the aforementioned Evel Knievel!  

What was your worst ever Christmas present?

Someone once gave me a mulled wine set. I hate mulled wine. The person who gave it to me knows I hate mulled wine. I suspect it was an unwanted gift from someone else that was being passed on. 

Favourite Christmas tipple?

Bailey’s. It’s the only time of year I drink it. So to me it always tastes of Christmas. 


What are you hoping for this Christmas?

Warm sunshine, a chilled beer on the beach and a swim in the sea. For pretend, we’ll probably buy each other clothes in the Boxing Day sales. And book tokens are always welcome. 


Have you got a Christmas message you would like to share with readers and bloggers?

Try to avoid spending too much time with people who drain you. Take time off for yourself. Go for a walk. Read a book. Don’t feel obliged to sit on the sofa all day, arguing over the TV guide. There’s a reason so many people fall out at Christmas. The pressure to spend so much time together can create tension. So try to be kind to yourself and others. 

About Paul Burston


Paul Burston is the author of five novels and the editor of two short story collections. His most recent novel ‘The Black Path’, was longlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2016 and was a bestseller at WH Smith. His first novel, ‘Shameless’, was shortlisted for the State of Britain Award. His third novel, ‘Lovers & Losers’ was shortlisted for a Stonewall Award. His fourth, ‘The Gay Divorcee’, was optioned for television.

He was a founding editor of Attitude magazine and has written for many publications including The Guardian, The Independent, Time Out, The Times and The Sunday Times. In March 2016, he was featured in the British Council’s #FiveFilms4Freedom Global List 2016, celebrating “33 visionary people who are promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights around the world”. He is the founder and host of London’s award-winning LGBT+ literary salon Polari and founder and chair of The Polari First Book Prize for new writing.

Books published with Orenda Books


My thanks to Paul Burston for taking the time to write this post.



The giveaway includes all the books featured in the above photo, 18 fabulous books in total. The competition is open to UK residents only. Competition will close on midnight on the 19th December and please note the prize will be sent directly from the publishers (hopefully in time for Christmas) and you must be following my blog.

To enter click on the link and good luck Orenda Books Christmas bundle 📚🎁🎄