Tag Archives: Exclusive

**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 Simone Buchholz @OrendaBooks @Ohneklippo #Giveaway #BookBundle


Another day closer to Christmas, are you super organised like me or do you leave everything to the last minute? if I left everything to the last minute I would be having palpitations right now. Anyway it’s time to grab a coffee or something stronger, (depending on your day) open the mince pies  put your feet up for five minutes and learn more about ‘A Simone Buchholz christmas’ 

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

Reading a book in the early morning of December 25th, when everyone else in the house is sleeping, I am the only one who is already up, but I am still in my pyjama on the couch infront of the fire place next to the lit candles and the christmas tree … 

I must have been nine or ten years old that day, it was the time when I started reading heavily, and when I discovered the peace a book can give.


Where will you be spending Christmas?

At my parents house in the countryside near the Baltic Coast. There’s a forest and a lake and a little town near by and the sea half an hour away.

The perfect place for a few days off with the whole family.

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

Yes, and I love that one: In Germany the main Christmas event is on Christmas eve – that’s when the candles on the tree are lit, the Christmas presents are lying under the tree, the big dinner is taking place, just everything has to be ready in the evening. So my dad, my husband and our son have to leave the house around four in the afternoon on December 24th, because someone also has to check if Santa Claus is already around, is stuck somewhere, needs help, whatever. My mum started the tradition with my dad and me when I was a little kid, because she wanted some time alone at home to prepare the Christmas tree and stuff. I loved it, I still forced my dad to hang around outside with me when I was a teenager and already secretly smoking.

It’s so beautiful to stroll along the streets and see all the lights and Christmas trees blinking in the other houses, the people in the steamy kitchens preparing food, all these things. And then come home where it’s warm and everything’s ready. My dad and my husband started to go out in the afternoon with our son when he was one and a half year old. I still remember him coming back to his granny’s and grandad’s house after his first pre-Christmas-walk. Never forget the little red cheeks and the glowing eyes. He is eleven now and listens to Gangsta Rap all day, but if Santa Claus needs help in the late afternoon of Christmas eve, he will surely find him.


What was your best ever Christmas present?

Our dog. My mum rescued her from an animal shelter when I was eight years old. As I have no silblings, she was very important for my teenage years. And whenever I see that kind of dog in the streets, not too small, not too big, black, long, fuzzy hair and all in all a bit weird and wild, comes a very special smile to my face, something between sad and happy and thankful.

What was your worst ever Christmas present?

A few years ago, I told my husband that I’d love to have a pasta machine for Christmas. ‘Oh, that’s horrible’, he said, ‘so much work to make your own pasta, so much cleaning afterwards, and honestly: I really like these Spaghetti bronzanti from our Italian supermarket.’

‘But Tortellini!’, I said. ‘Ravioli! Tagliatelle! I can do all that for us every weekend!’

‘Ok’, he said and sighed, and when Christmas eve came, there was a pasta machine for me under the tree.

It was a monster. Heavy. Big. Incredible to clean after the hours of work it took to get two plates of fucking Tortellini. We used it once and never talked about it again.


Favourite Christmas tipple?

Cremant d’Alsace. My mum and me are drinking it while cooking the Christmas menues for two days, and well, we usually start cooking in the afternoon of December 23rd. It’s my dad’s job to pour the Cremant into the kitchen chefs, while the chefs are pouring things into pans and pots.

What are you hoping for this Christmas?

I know it’s naive but: peace. That all the weapons around the world are silent. And that everyone in my family is doing well, especially the elderly ones.

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

Be kind and eat more vegetables.

About Simone Buchholz


Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award, and second place in the German Crime Fiction Prize, for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months.

The next in the Chastity Riley series, Beton Rouge, won the Radio Bremen Crime Fiction Award and Best Economic Crime Novel 2017. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son. Follow Simone on Twitter @ohneKlippo and visit her website: simonebuchholz.com.

Books available from Orenda

My thanks to Simone Buchholz for finding time to write this post and sharing her Christmas with me.



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 📚🎁🎄

**Christmas With Orenda Books** featuring SJI Holliday @OrendaBooks @SJIHolliday

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way to Christmas, well it’s another day closer anyway I  hope your Christmas shopping is going well, or have you finished?
Why don’t you take a break and put your feet up, grab yourself a drink and read all about a ‘SJI Holliday’ kind of Christmas……

What is your favourite Christmas memory? 

Waking up to find a fully erected Sindy House (and finding out years later that my dad had been forced to build it up after getting back from the pub late on Christmas Eve)

Where will you be spending Christmas?

Probably at home with Mr H – we’re having a very quiet one this year where we’ll mostly be working… as we’re going to be in Chile for a couple of weeks earlier in December. 

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

Not really, but I get a bit annoyed if I don’t receive at least one Chocolate Orange 🙂 Oh, and me and Mr H always go to the panto! (Oh yes we do!)

What was your best ever Christmas present?

Probably that Sindy House…

What was your worst ever Christmas present?

I can’t remember. I think I must’ve blocked it out!

Favourite Christmas tipple?

Hmm… it’s a toss up between Baileys on ice, or a nice glass of sherry (the only time of year that the latter is a socially acceptable beverage).

What are you hoping for this Christmas?

A chocolate orange

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

Whatever you’re doing, and whoever you’re with, I hope you have a relaxing and peaceful time. With lots of books… and a chocolate orange. 

About SJI Holliday


S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a scientist, writing coach and the bestselling author of five crime novels, including the Banktoun Trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly), the festive chiller The Deaths of December and her creepy Gothic psychological thriller The Lingering. Her short story Home From Home was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery And  shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize.

Encapsulating her love of travel and claustrophobic settings, her latest novel, Violet, explores toxic friendships and the perils of talking to strangers. All of her novels have been UK ebook number-one bestsellers. Susi was born and raised in Scotland and now divides her time between Edinburgh, London and as many other exciting places that she can fit in. 

You can follow Susi on Twitter @SJIHolliday or visit her website: sjiholliday.com.

Books published by Orenda Books

My thanks to SJI Holliday for writing this post.

**Christmas with Orenda Books** featuring Roxanne Bouchard @OrendaBooks @RBouchard72 #Giveaway #BookBundle

Another day closer to Christmas, and personally I can’t wait, I’m one of those people who just love to give presents. If you are still frantically running around looking for gifts, sorry I can’t help you there! but I can encourage you to put your feet up, grab a mince pie and a glass of sherry and see what author Roxanne Bouchard had to say when I put my Christmassy questions to her.

What is your favourite Christmas memory? 

In December 2011, I was crew on a sailboat near Bequay, which is a little island South of St-Vincent in the Carribean. My skipper and I were invited, by a sailor’s group in a little cottage for Chrismas Eve. When I arrived, a new friend came to me with a box.
—Do you mind wearing the red suit and playing Santa Claus for my two kids? They know all our friends and I’m afraid they will recognize them. So, if you don’t mind…
In the night, near the lamppost, he gave me the box.
—Here’s the kit.
He showed me a little house on the other side of the gravel road.
—Maybe you can ask there to put the suit on. Thank you!
He left.
crossed the gravel road and walked to the little house. There were two old women a little drunk on the patio. 
— Merry Chrismas, ladies, may I put a Santa’s outfit on in the house, please?
—Yes, yes…
—Go to the bedroom!
They showed me the room and I went there alone. I took a pillow in the bed and I dressed myself. When I came back in the kitchen and then, in the patio, I found the place empty. The old women had strangely left me alone in the house.
I walked to the party, knocked on the cottage’s door and did Santa’ s job with the kids. Then, I left the place to the little house to take off the suit.
But when I arrived on the gravel road, I understood why the old women had left the house: there were a lot of neighbors with kids along the road! They were all there… to see the real Santa Claus walking on the island!

88B5AC87-716C-41B9-B8C9-962FFC002C8FWhat was your best ever Christmas present?

Each year, my mother and father bless me. Still, at 47, I kneel to receive this precious gift.


What was your worst ever Christmas (story about a) present?

When I was young, my parents gave me a small oven for kids in which, I cooked my first chocolate cake. But just after my first recipe, my older brother came to me and said:
— I’m curious about your oven… 
He took it in his hands. That same brother had, a week earlier, sawed in half his GI Joe figure to know how it was made.
— You know what? I have an idea! We’ll unscrew the back panel, just to see how it works, O.K.?
He went in the workshop and came back with a screwdriver and pliers.
I have never been able to cook another cake in that oven, but my older brother became a really great engineer. 


Favourite Christmas tipple?

In Quebec, we have Caribou. There is a legend that this alcohol is originally made with caribou’s blood. Don’t worry: today, we make it with wine or port. This is an aromatic alcohol that we can drink cold or hot. 
• 30 ml (2 c. à soupe) de brandy
• 30 ml (2 c. à soupe) de vodka
• 75 ml (1/3 tasse) de porto
• 75 ml (1/3 tasse) de xérès
Put the ingredients in a pot, heat a little and enjoy.


Do you have any Christmas traditions?

For the past few years, on Chrismas Eve, my husband make a fire outside and the whole family goes out to drink a glass of warm caribou in the winter night.


Where will you be spending Christmas?

In Joliette, Quebec, with my family.


What are you hoping for this Christmas?

I hope all the family will be together and healthy.


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

May I suggest something?
I suggest that everyone send a Christmas card to someone who is alone to offer solidarity and a little warmth in this peaceful night.

About Roxanne Bouchard


French-Canadian Roxanne Bouchard is a multi-award-winning author and playwright from Quebec, Canada, and We Were the Salt of the Sea is her first novel to be published in English. She is currently writing an essay on literary creativity, and plotting the next Detective Sergeant Joaquin Moralès investigation, which will be published in English in 2020. Follow Roxanne on Twitter @RBouchard72 and on her website:

Books published by Orenda Books


My thanks to Roxanne Bouchard for writing this post and 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 Vanda Symon @OrendaBooks @vandasymon #Giveaway #BookBundle


Eeek another day closer to Christmas, and I’m thrilled to have Vanda Symon pop by the book review café to discuss all things Christmassy. So why not put your feet up and grab a mulled wine and take a moment to read all about a “Vanda Symon” Christmas.

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

My favourite Christmas memories involve the excitement and fun of decorating the house. The hours spent cutting and folding crepe-paper to make streamers and stapling loops of paper together to make paper chains. When I was little my Dad used to suspend a hula hoop around the central light in our lounge, then we’d attach the multi-coloured streamers to the hoop and then run them twisting out to the walls creating the effect of being in a vibrant and shimmering marquee. Add the Christmas tree in the corner with its wonderful pine scent, and tinsel by the mile… magic!


Where will you be spending Christmas?

We’re celebrating Christmas at home this year (and don’t tell anyone, but that’s the way I like it!) It will be a low key affair with family – but I can promise you the house will be decorated within an inch of its life – and I’m already buying more sparkly lights. Christmas in New Zealand is in the heart of summer, so think hot sunny days, Christmas lunch cooked on the BBQ, chilling out having eaten too much pavlova, reading a good book in the shade. If we feel overly energetic we’ll head down to the beach…

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

My Mum had the most wonderful tradition where every year she would buy all her grandchildren a Christmas decoration each, so over the course of their lives they built up an eclectic and special collection. They are even more poignant now she has passed away, and when we decorate the tree and my boys pull out their special Gran boxes of decorations we have a wonderful reminisce about how special she was, and a little cry.

What was your best ever Christmas present?

This probably sounds corney, but the presents I have cherished the most have been the wee home made ones my boys have made over the years. There has been some lovely home-made jewellery that I happily and proudly wear. And one year my youngest (then 13) did such a spectacular job of decorating the gift wrapping, that I have kept the origami flowers he painstakingly folded.


What was your worst ever Christmas present?

It wasn’t my worst ever Christmas present, but more my most unfortunate. I was 10 and really hoping to get a swingball set for Christmas and couldn’t believe my luck when I went looking under the tree and there was a suspiciously long and rectangular box. I ripped off the paper and hello, there it was – sooo excited. So we went outside and went to push the base into the ground, but it being summer and all the ground was baked pretty hard, one of the adults went and got a hammer to help bang it into the ground. And bang away they did – but it didn’t occur to them to pop a block of wood on top of the tube and hit that with the hammer, noooo, they hit the top of the metal tube, and munted it completely, closing it up so you couldn’t slot the top half of the swing ball in. Wrecked it, totally wrecked it. I was devastated.

Favourite Christmas tipple?

Bubbles. Got to have the bubbles. We never have Champagne any other time of year, and certainly never drink in the middle of the day, so it makes Christmas feel extra special when we bust out the bubbly at lunchtime!


What are you hoping for this Christmas?

It’s funny how your priorities change as you get a bit older, and Christmas becomes less about the stuff and more about the people. We are at a stage in life where we are beginning to lose loved ones, and others are of fragile health. And next year we will have had both our boys fly the nest, so the dynamics and practicalities of us all gathering at Christmas time in the future cannot be taken for granted. So other than a new book (always hopeful) what I’m really hoping for this Christmas is a relaxed and happily memorable time with family. 

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

I adore Christmas and see it as a special fun time with family. But for some it can be a very sad time and a very stressful time. I am concerned when I see people become overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations, spending more than they can afford, and running around trying to please everyone – particularly the mums out there. My message would be step back from the hullabaloo, keep it simple, look after yourself and look out for each other. Reach out to those who are lonely. Christmas is a time to celebrate people, and cherish those you love. 

About Vanda Symon



Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

Books published by Orenda books

My thanks to Vanda Symon 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 Kjell Ola Dahl @ko_dahl @OrendaBooks #Giveaway


I’m hoping you’ve got five minutes to sit down with a caramel nut latte (my very favourite drink) make sure it’s got plenty of cream on though, heaven in a mug! and a mince pie of course,  because today I’m thrilled to have Kjell Ola Dahl drop by the book review café to tell us all about his Christmas 🎄 So without further ado sit back and relax and enjoy……

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

In Norway, Father Christmas usually comes to visit on Christmas Eve. In my childhood he visited my family only once. I was four years old and we were celebrating Christmas dinner in my grandmother’s house and suddenly there was a knock on the door. In came the man with the white beard himself. He was wearing a long grey frock and big black boots. On his back he was carrying a big sack filled with gifts. I was a natural sceptic, like I always have been. I doubted he was the real thing. But I could not spot any sign of a mask, and I couldn’t see any person missing from the table. Father Christmas gave me a teddy bear, a soft toy that became one of my best friends of all time. I never did work out who had dressed up as Father Christmas. Nobody ever told me. I ended up believing it was the real one that came that night – and in the years to come I waited for him to revisit. He never did.


Where will you be spending Christmas?

I will be at home with my family. I live with my wife on a small farm by Lake Mjosa in Norway. On Christmas Eve our three children will come to visit and stay with us for a few days. My sister-in-law will come for the holidays, and my mother too. If the children will bring partners we will be thirteen at the dinner table, which has never happened (up to now). And late in the evening one of us will sneak out and dress up as Father Christmas. Lots of fun.

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

My wife and I do all the clichés, walk in the farm’s forest to find a Christmas tree. We erect it in the living room and decorate it. We love traditions like that. Some of our guests go to church on Christmas Eve, to attend religious service. I seldom do that, but I always go to light candles on the family grave. We have the same dish for dinner every Christmas: lamb rib (which I have salted, and smoked and cured myself … if you live on a farm, you have to do it right!). The meat is served with potatoes and a puree made of vegetables. And we drink beer and Aquavit – my son brings the beer. His hobby is brewing beer. The local Aquavit is called Gammel Oppland. The dinner lasts a long time, so do all the other traditions. I’ll be in bed early in the morning on Christmas day. 


What was your best ever Christmas present?

When I was twelve, my father gave me a typewriter. That one is hard to match.

What was your worst ever Christmas present?

There is no worst present, but some boring presents, given just to give something – which is the problem in a culture of giving presents no matter what. I appreciate gifts that mean something to the giver.

Favourite Christmas tipple?

The one that comes with the coffee. Single malt whisky. Islay. 


What are you hoping for this Christmas?

There are lots of things to hope for – for example, that Trump is not re-elected. In a longer perspective I believe the most important issue today is the climate crisis. I hope more politicians will realise this and take action. 

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

May your fire be warm, may your glass be filled up, may you clear enough space for books and may you have time to read them all. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

About Kjell Ola Dahl


One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers (Oslo Detectives series) featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo. Follow Kjell Ola on Twitter @ko_

Books published by Orenda Books

My thanks to Kjell Ola Dahl for taking time out of his busy schedule 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 📚🎁🎄