Dec 18, 2017

Stefanie Londons Best Books of 2017

It's the time of year where I share with you the best things I read in the last twelve months! I've read 37 books so far this year, but I'm hoping to get that to 40 before New Years. Not my best reading year, but I've had more book contracts than ever before so it's all a balancing act, right?

Okay, here are my top books for 2017...

Ruin & Rising by Leigh Bardugo
When I looked back to last year's list, the first book of this trilogy was on it. The Grisha Trilogy started strong and ended strong. I LOVED it! Fabulous high-fantasy YA trilogy with a Russian bent. These books kept me turning the pages like crazy.

The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre
This won't be for everyone. It's a thriller about a Cam Girl who won't ever leave her apartment because she has the desire to commit murder. However, she's forced to leave the sanctity of her home when the life of a young girl is at risk, and she's the only person who can save her. Another page-turner. Highly recommend!

Wicked Sexy by J.T. Geissinger
Romantic suspense novel with a kick-ass Hello Kitty-wearing hacker heroine. I might be in the minority here in Romance Land, but I read as much for the heroine as the hero. If the heroine doesn't grab me, I'm out. This book is the perfect blend of great writing, snappy banter, and awesome tech suspense.

Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren
Super fun. This is another quite heroine-centric story which involves a drunken Vegas wedding and a subsequent whirlwind romance in Paris. There's sexy costumes and role play, great writing and and a totally sweet HEA.

The Shattered Court by MJ. Scott
Wonderful high-fantasy romance that sucked me in and wouldn't let go. I'm not at all surprised it was a RITA finalist in 2016. Beautiful writing, great world building and an interesting magic system all compliment an interesting, unique romance.

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
Another fantasy romance. I know, it must be turning into a favourite subgenre of mine! This one is glorious. Interesting magic system, gruff by swoon-worthy hero and a spitfire heroine. Even if you're not normally into fantasy, I still recommend giving this a shot. Impeccable character development make this worth the read!

My TBR for 2018 is already crazy overflowing, but here are a few books sitting high up on the list:

  • Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
  • The Forbidden Heir by M.J. Scott
  • The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  • Pretty much anything and everything by Lauren Layne and Sarah Morgan (I'm trying to get up to date with both their backlists)
  • All the books coming out with Harlequin's new Dare line!! So excited for this launch.


Dec 15, 2017

My Favourite Christmas movies!

It's not secret that I like romance...I mean, I write home and heart romances for Harlequin Special Edition and absolutely adore what I do. And I like to read romances. But mostly, I like to watch romances. I especially like to watch romantic Christmas movies.

I have a few long time favorites -

When Harry Met Sally....


Okay, so this movie gets played out over the course of ten years, but there are loads of Christmas elements in this film. The end scene, around New Years, is an absolute treat.

Love Actually.....



 
 
So, there wouldn't be a list of favorite Christmas movies without this one on it. Rickman, Thompson, Grant, Nigh, Lincoln, Neeson, Firth...even a cameo by Claudia Schieffer.....it's an all round, feel good (and sometimes achingly sad) film that is a 'must' around the holidays.

While You Were Sleeping.....



I love, love, love this movie. I have complete adoration for Bill Pullman's perfectly lovable beta hero Jack Callaghan...the scene at the hospital where lonely railway worker Lucy (AKA Sandra Bullock) tells the hero's parents that she loves their son and then points to Jack, and not the brother she was planning on marrying...priceless.

And of course, what would Christmas movie watching be without Hallmark film....Like this one....

Christmas Wedding Planner....

Which is based on a book by a fabulous Harlequin Special Edition author, Stacy Connelly.



So, if you have any favorites, let me know....I'd love to find a new little gem to watch this holiday season.

Merry Merry Merry Christmas!!!!! Have a safe and happy holiday season xx

Dec 13, 2017

The Romance of Christmas

I have a confession to make. I haven’t read a single Christmas story so far this year. Not one!

Christmas romances are close to my heart. In the ten years I’ve been writing, I’ve written four of them. And each one has been significant for different reasons.



  His Christmas Angel was my debut book. Rachel Bailey tells me that book is sprinkled with fairy dust. And it truly felt that way when I received the call from my editor in London. It signalled the start of my publishing journey with Harlequin Mills & Boon. It’s a book that will always hold a special place in my heart.





 Speaking of firsts, Christmas Wishes New Year Kisses was my very first self-published title. Some of you might remember that it was part of the LoveCats DownUnder Hot Summer Nights box set. It was a joy to work in collaboration with the other Cats who took part in the project, and to dip my toes into Indie waters. It taught me a lot! Also, it’s set on a tropical beach. What’s not to love about that? ;-)


As for learning experiences! No book I’ve ever written has taught me more than Christmas at Candlebark Farm. When I received the third set of revisions for that book (yes, you heard that right – the 3rd!), I realised the book had to be completely rewritten. So I rewrote it…in a month. It was the book that forced me to look closely at character motivation, to streamline conflict, and to focus it all on the hero and heroine. I hope that no book I ever write is that hard again. Still, I’m awfully proud of the book.




 Last but not least is The Nanny Who Saved Christmas. This one won The Booksellers Best Award (announced and awarded at the Romance Writers of America’s conference and collected by the wonderful Susan Meier on my behalf). I still get tingles whenever I recall her email telling me I won. Awards and kudos aren’t necessary, of course. But I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t enjoy it. :)


 You can probably figure out by now, after all of this talk of Christmas romances, that it's pretty unusual for me to not have drowned myself neck deep in Christmas titles. And, of course, all of this reminiscing has me dying to write another Christmas story.

First, though, I should be reading oodles and oodles of them for inspiration, right? So, have you read any brilliant Christmas romances so far this November and December? What would you recommend I pick up?

Dec 11, 2017

The Christmas Carol Debate

So, where do you stand on the issue of the Christmas Carol?

In our house, there is a diverse range of opinions. My husband loves the traditional carol. He loves The Little Drummer Boy. My daughter likes a Michael Bublé carol. My son couldn’t care less and I worked in enough retail outlets when I was at school and uni during Christmas time to develop a mild loathing for the Christmas ditties.

But yesterday (after being encouraged by Clare’s post about getting ready for Christmas), we put up the Christmas tree (we didn’t even have one, I had to buy one!). So, as my daughter and I had the task, we play Michael’s carols.

I have to say, it was really lovely. My daughter loves to belt out a tune and hearing her enthusiastically singing along was really cute and heart warming.

So, I’ve come around a little to the Christmas carol. And it is starting to feel a bit like Christmas.


How about you? Carol lover or otherwise?

Dec 6, 2017

Satisfying Endings


When I was a teenager, I had a part-time job as a kitchen-hand to the most incredible Chef. She'd worked at The White House and an Executive Head Chef for chains of international hotels and I learned so much under her tutelage. She always used to stress the importance of Dessert - People always remember the dessert, she'd say in her thick German accent. It's the last chance you have to impress them! 

There is wisdom in this, and not just with regards to culinary creations. We do place a disproportionate value on the last of anything. I do, anyway, and particularly my entertainment. The last chapter or the epilogue, are all-important. It doesn't matter how much I've loved a book, if the ending falls flat, I won't read it again. Same goes with shows. 

There are a few shows that so completely nailed the Last Episode that no sooner have the credits started to roll than I go back to the first episode and start all over again. And so here I present a little listicle of my favourite ever last-shows/scenes. 

1. FRIENDS. 

The poignancy of the final season is an incredible achievement for a show that was delightfully funny throughout. Chandler and Monica's fertility issues, their adoption (hoorah! twins!), Ross and Rachel's reunion, Phoebe's wedding to Mike - finally, a man worthy of that kooky, unique character, and ultimately, Chandler and Monica's decision to move out of the city to start their family life in West Chester. I cry in most episodes of the last season, and all the way through the finale; it is such a fitting end-note to a show that rarely misses its mark.

2. SEX AND THE CITY. 

Carrie and Big's relationship was the undercurrent for the whole show - I'm sure I felt every bit as conflicted as Carrie did when she was engaged to Aidan but knowing, deep down, in her heart of hearts, that he wasn't right for her. Seeing Carrie grapple with being in a relationship with Petrovsky, a man who didn't want children, forces her to confront her own maternal urgings. Speaking of which, there's Charlotte and Harry and their quest to adopt a baby, and that beautiful moment when they learn that they have a little one, finally, is so perfectly handled. Samantha, accepting she's in love with Smith, that she can still be strong and fierce and in love, all at once, and Miranda making peace with the fact that sometimes, a slow pace of life is okay. Oh, I love this show so very much, and the last episode is just perfect - and we viewers are, of course, given the relationship reunion we've all been waiting for!

3. THE WEST WING. 

The more romance readers and writers I connect with online, the more I realise we almost all love THE WEST WING. It's not a romantic show, but it's a show about people and ideals, power and politics, and it is so full of authenticity and integrity that you can't help but love it. I must have watched it, in its entirety, at least fifteen times. I have an episode going almost every night.  And the last episode is perfection. We are filled with hope and optimism, and a weariness and nostalgia for the outgoing president, pride in what he's achieved. There's relationships tied up in big red bows, fitting farewells to lost loved ones, a return from Sam Seabourne (seriously, can I just say, Sam Seabourne is... yum...) though we still don't learn what the heck happened to Mandy!

4. ER

I don't even know where to start with ER. It is one of those shows that I just love - every episode had such an emotional impact on me. The writing was so brilliant, never more so than in those early seasons with Ross & Green at the helm, though the writers did a great job of sustaining the impetus through a lot of changes. Dr Carter remained an enduring favourite of mine, I felt he was such a complex and endearing character, and I was really saddened that his life was in a pretty dark place in the final episode. With that being said, there was a mix of hope and realism that made everything about the episode poignant - and there's a steady stream of old-favourites, which is such a sign of respect to the viewers who invested so completely over the show over the years. I can't watch an ER ep without a box of tissues, and the last episode damned near breaks my heart (in a good way.)

5. STAR TREK: VOYAGER. 

I'm a sucker for all the Trek franchises (except for the abomination that is Discovery - Gene would be rolling over in his grave) and particularly for Voyager - ironic given that I initially hated it on the first viewing. By season three, Janeway had worked her way into my heart. I'm hooked now, and enjoying re-watching it with my nephews. I can't wait to share it with my kids when they're a bit older. If you're not familiar with the Trek world, the show starts with a ship being flung to the other side of the galaxy, so far that at maximum warp (the fastest speed a starship can travel at) it would take them 75 years to get home. They're not equipped for this kind of journey and they face potential anarchy and mutiny, so Janeway runs a tight ship, literally. The series follows the crew's exploits in the Delta quadrant. There are lots of incredible moments along the way, but all the while, we're wondering if they'll make it home. I'm not going to give it away, but suffice it to say, the final episodes have you on the edge of your seat before delivering a very satisfying wrap up. 


Now, shows can shoot themselves in the foot, too, with bad endings, and there's one example that comes to mind immediately to demonstrate this: HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. I binge watched this show with my husband, and we caught up just in time for the finale. Which was a disaster. An absolute disaster. And despite the fact the show had been one of my favourite viewing experiences, I haven't been game to go back and watch any of it again, just because the last episode was so disappointing. 

Hit me with your favourite or most-hated last episode. Did you watch any of the above shows? Love them like I did? What have I missed?

Dec 1, 2017

a love letter to my daughter

My baby girl, my first born, recently turned ten.

10!

I know we've said or heard it a zillion times before but seriously, you blink and suddenly they go from a curly-haired moppet to an astute, droll, four foot eight, cello-playing, archery-loving, drama-loving kid who can't sit without grabbing a pencil and sketching a funny comic.

This sweet pea who used to hide behind my skirt when strangers tried to gush over her Shirley Temple curls now shines in solos in the school choir, joins every club available, and has her teachers talking up her good sense, her ability to stand up to those not doing the right thing, and her leadership qualities.

To say I'm super proud of this kid of mine is an understatement.

So of course this special milestone, this flipping of the book of her life from single digits to double, from little girl to pre-teen, called for a celebration.  More than a celebration.  As many as we could pack into her birthday week.

Starting with a mother daughter painting class at Cork and Chroma the day before - for those living in or visiting Brisbane who have a creative streak, it's a serious treat!

After school we surprised her with a birthday 'dinner' at Cowch - a dessert bar in the city.  Heaps of  family turned up to join us and she was in utter bliss.

We followed by our first ever trip on the Brisbane Wheel (one of those big ferris wheels that popped up all over the place around the year 2000).  It's a first as I get vertigo so have always managed to avoid their desperate pleas.  I spent the entire trip grinning like a maniac and trying not to let my kids see me sweat, so I see this as my most generous gift :).

And then there was The Party.  Ten friends for the ten-year-old with a unicorn theme.  Think sparkles, glitter, and rainbow food galore. Pin the horn on the unicorn.  A selfie wall and a pool filled with crazy floaty toys.  An Invent Your Own Dance Move game.  And - one of my favourite moments - a spontaneous drawing contest. Finishing off with Princess Diaries 2 on the projector and her three besties sleeping over.  The birthday girl's verdict?  "Epic!"

Safe to say we ten-year-olded the heck out of that week.  And since she's one of those magical creatures who never ever forgets a single thing, she'll remember every detail for a long long time.

As will I.  For she's not my little moppet anymore. She's my ten-year-old moppet. And I won't let her forget that either.

Ally
xXx


Nov 27, 2017

New Site for Romance readers!

Have you heard about the new kid on the block?

It's a great place where romance readers can go and follow their favourite authors and read snippets from books, deleted scenes, teasers, scenes from works in progress. These outtakes are called Bites and, I gotta say, the way they're presented reminds me very much of Tumblr. Oh and it's very very pretty :-)

It's called Book + Main Bites. No....I have no idea why its called such an uninspiring name... but if you're a reader it's free and what better way to check out an author's work?

My profile is HERE and here's one of my bites as an example - (if you click on the images they'll come up larger)


See, what I mean by pretty? And at the end of each snippet there's even links to where you can find the book should browsing turn to buying.


Here's a list of all my bites and I'm adding to it daily -



I'm absolutely in love with the site both as a reader and an author - I've already one-clicked 3 books from reading Bites so I'm keeping my device well fed! But it comes with a warning - you can fall down a rabbit hole where you lose a few hours!

This is the main page where you can go to sign up and I urge you all to check it out.

And I'd love for you to come back here and let me know what you think!