Christmas Earworms: Aussie Jingle Bells

by Juanita Kees

When I arrived in Australia way back in 1997, I was keen to embrace all the traditions of my newly adopted country. Being from Southern Africa, I was used to warm, sunny Christmases, but I wasn’t expecting to find myself in the company of Bucko and Champs.

They cheered up my first Australian Christmas with their humour and made me feel at home with their larrikinism, and so my love affair with the country began. Famous for their Aussie spin on traditional Christmas carols, I hunted high and low for a copy of their CD (yes, Gen Y, it was that long ago 😊).

Twenty years later, I still play that CD every Christmas, and — much to the embarrassment of my family — sing along with it. It would be hard to pick a favourite from all the songs on there, but if I had to choose, it would be Aussie Jingle Bells. Why? Because it has kangaroos and a rusty Holden ute, and it embraces everything we love about the spirit of this country. Merry Christmas, Australia ❤

Dashing through the bush,

in a rusty Holden Ute,

Kicking up the dust,

esky in the boot,

Kelpie by my side,

singing Christmas songs,

It’s Summer time and I am in

my singlet, shorts and thongs


31720Still waters run deep in Wongan Creek…

When spray drift ruins his crop and throws his ability to hold on to the family farm into question, Harley Baker wants to confront his neighbour and shout his rage and worry to the sky. But arguments are tricky when the woman whose herbicides killed his crop is also the woman he’s loved his whole life.

Tameka Chalmers knows that her father’s farming methods are outdated, inefficient, and even dangerous, so when Harley charges her with the loss of his livelihood, she can only accept the blame. There’s so much she would like to do differently, but her father’s rule is absolute and if she wants to keep working the farm she loves, she must do as she’s told.

But the simple action of speaking with Harley, the man she wants but can never have, starts an unexpected chain reaction of events that throw everything she’s ever known into question: her past, her family, her life. Dark secrets come to light and when Tameka is injured in a house fire, she and Harley have one small chance to seize a lifetime of happiness, if only they are able to rise from the ashes and claim it.

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Christmas Earworms: A Moment of Peace

by Elizabeth Dunk

One of my favourite moments of Christmas is when you’re in bed on Christmas Eve. Everything’s ready to go and there’s nothing to do but sleep and anticipate the day to come.

For me, Christmas has always been a wonderful time (even during the sad ones, such as last year’s – my first without my mother). I’m lucky – I always get to spend Christmas with people I love and there’s none of the awkwardness or fighting that I know make some people hate this time of the year.

So that moment of lying in bed on Christmas Eve, looking forward to the day to come – a day when the rest of the world can wash away and its just me and the ones I love celebrating life, love and laughter – that is a moment of complete peace.

There’s one carol that replicates that moment of peace of me – Silent Night. I adore the song. It’s like a moment when you stop and take a deep breath and let it out slowly and your entire body relaxes and in that moment, everything is okay. That is Silent Night for me.

And here’s a moment of that beautiful peace for you – Pentatonix singing Silent Night. I think they do a amazing job of showing the quite beauty of this song.


30774He thought it was all a game…until he grew accustomed to her face.

Henri Higgins is bored by everything – his life, his work, even the models he regularly sees socially (and privately). So when a close friend suggests a high-stakes, friendly competition, a ‘fame’ game, Ree leaps at the opportunity for a little shake-up in his daily routine. The rules are simple: the competitors are to take the first person that they meet at a certain time and make them as famous as possible within two weeks.

But Ree doesn’t expect Elizabeta.

Elizabeta Flores del Fuego has a plan. An office manager by day, she moonlights at a number of creative Canberra businesses by night to learn all she can about the fashion industry and put her in the best place possible to help launch her beloved daughter, Angelina’s design career. Cleaning the office of Higgins Publishing is just one of those jobs, but when Henri Higgins offers her a week’s worth of work and a paycheque large enough to get Angelina Designs on its feet, it’s an offer she can’t refuse.

But Elizabeta doesn’t expect Ree, and neither expect the lessons in love they’re both about to learn.

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Christmas Earworms: Mary, Did You Know?

by Cassandra Samuels

Angels We Have Heard on High was always my favourite as a kid. I loved to sing the chorus as loud as I possibly could, not sure that everyone appreciated the screeching but I am sure they at least understood the enthusiasm. Now, as an adult, I still love it. When it comes to watching the Carols at Christmas time on TV, I always feel like it is finally Christmas. It is usually the first carol played on Christmas morning unless my husband gets there first and then it’s Bing Crosby all the way.

A new to me carol that I have come to love is called Mary, Did you Know? sung by Pentatonix. Just lovely.


22585As the Black Raven, she’s cold, distant and alone…untouched by the gossip and scorn of her aristocratic peers. Until he enters her house — and her life — then suddenly her icy shell is no match for the heat of attraction…

Notorious Widow Lisbeth Carslake, Countess of Blackhurst was acquitted of her husband’s murder, but no one believes in her innocence. Known as the Black Raven, bringer of bad luck and death, she is eviscerated by the gossips and mocked in the clubs.

She’s also the subject of London’s most scandalous wager.

Oliver Whitely, Earl of Bellamy, needs money, but it takes more than a few drinks to take on The Black Raven Wager. He finds himself drunk, at her house, and—more surprisingly—agreeing to a business proposal at the end of a fire poker.

She will let him win the wager, and he will help find her husband’s killer before the killer finds her. But business agreements don’t mean trust, and Lisbeth certainly doesn’t trust Oliver, her body’s reaction to him, or her heart.

Love may be the biggest gamble of their lives, but is it a wager their hearts can afford to lose?

Christmas Earworms: Something Out of the Ordinary…

by Renee Dahlia

The Dahlia family isn’t religious, preferring to pick and choose the parts of any ceremony we want to enjoy. One of my sons decided he was pagan last year (thanks to a book he read at school while learning about other cultures winter solstice ceremonies), and we had fun researching historical foods and traditions. We tend towards the gifting of adventures, not things, to people. Last year we gave our cousins tickets to Treetops Adventures (a rope climbing, zip lining activity). We have given people theatre tickets, movie tickets, zoo entry, go-carting, restaurant bookings, there are many options that can be chosen. For our mob of four children, we tend to organise a big adventure for all of them. One year we went to Tasmania for twelve days, and this year we are driving to Melbourne to spend the day with my sister at her annual Christmas event for her friends who don’t have family, or can’t do family (for whatever reason).

It’s an eighties theme this year, which fits perfectly with our family tradition. Every year, we watch the 1989 movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Our other tradition is to spend December reading Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol aloud together.

Oh, and of course, we love to play cheesy Christmas music in the car and sing at the top of our voices! This one is everyone’s favourite belter:

A favourite from my childhood that I still love today:

For something unusual (Italian electronica featuring a grumpy Santa):

Once voted the most hated Xmas song of all time, this one is quirky and appeals to my sense of humour:

And to finish my top five – simply because she has an incredible voice:


32236

When he goes hunting a thief, he never expects to catch a bluestocking…

Marie had the perfect life plan: she would satisfy her father’s ambition by graduating as one of the first female doctors in Europe, and she would satisfy her mother’s ambition by marrying a very suitable fiancé in a grandiose society ceremony. Only weeks away from completing the former, Marie is mere days away from achieving the latter. But her whole life is thrown into chaos when her fiancé dies, mysteriously returns, and then is shot and killed, and Marie risks her own reputation to save the life of the man falsely accused of the murder.

Gordon, Lord Stanmore, finally tracks down the conman who stole from his estate, only to find himself embroiled in a murder plot. The woman he rescues offers to rescue him in return, by marrying him and providing an alibi. Gordon’s ready agreement to the scheme grows the more time he spends with his new wife. Her wit, her intelligence, her calm, her charm: Gordon finds himself more and more enchanted with this woman he met by mistake. But as the clues to the identity of the murderer start to align with the clues to the thief, they reveal a more elaborate scheme than he could have imagined, and though he might desire Marie, Gordon is unsure if he can trust her.

As their chase leads them out of Amsterdam and into the UK, both Gordon and Marie must adjust to the life that has been thrust upon them and decide if marriage came first, can love come after?

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Christmas Earworms: O Holy Night

by Leisl Leighton

Asking me what my favourite Christmas carol or song is, is like asking me which is my favourite child, or favourite pet. But, given you’ve asked, I’ve tried to narrow it down.

 I used to be in a madrigals group called the Christmas Belles (yes, I know, don’t groan at me! I didn’t name it.) We sang in shopping centres, retirement homes, hospitals, nursing homes, special functions etc and it was nothing but four female voices acapella. I loved doing this. I was a descant and the songs I loved to sing most were the ones with really tricky harmonies (like “The Virgin Slumber Song”) or the ones with soaring descants (like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come All Ye Faithful”.)

But I think the one I enjoyed singing the most was one that always brought so many smiles to the faces of the elderly at the retirement villages/nursing homes and the children in the hospitals, and that was “O Holy Night”. I love the simplicity of the verse and then the soaring build of the chorus. Great to sing, wonderful to listen to when done with parts. It has to be one of my favourites. I really love this acapella version:

 

Christmas Earworms: White Wine in the Sun

by Louise Forster

YHTIXu
Christmas at our place is focused on the youngest members of the family, ages 10, 5, 3, and 11 months. Way before the big day we make a date to string the fairy lights outside. Never as simple as it sounds, is it? Last year it called for nimble fingers and good eyesight. But we had the perfect solution. Bribe the teenagers into helping us untangle the lights. To make sure there were no distractions, we gathered their phones, put them in a zip-lock bag and hid them in the crisper bin amongst the vegetables … yeah.

P2JYPz

After a hearty breakfast we gave them the ball of lights. And they gave us, ‘What the …?’ faces. Pretty soon there was laughter, giggling, elbowing and pointing, because inevitably someone wanted to take a shortcut, which made the untangling even more exasperating; just because it was fun to frustrate those who were too serious. Ignoring urgent suggestions because they were all talking over each other … the mess only worsened.

In the end one of them threw his hands in the air and gave his younger siblings, who were messing about a dirty look, but with an added smirk, showing them they were going to cop it later. Suggestions kept flying out from those that were determined to see this through, despite the fact that by now brains were starting to curdle. ‘No, this bit goes through there, and then that end loops through this gap here, you f-wit …’

I saw my ancient aunt sneak off, a knowing wicked grin on her face as she turned up the volume on Christmas carols. Funnily enough kids started to bob around, adding their own colourful lyrics, and eventually, the untangling lights took a string of grinning, triumphant teenagers down the driveway and back. The fairy lights became a stunning display at night. More so for the adults because we saw them through a haze of great food, wine, and sheer bliss because our family had gathered together, and we were safe. And the littlies thought it was all very magical. And there’s nothing more fulfilling than that.

14EVRI
Our favourite carols:

Chevy Chase, Lampoon Christmas Vacation and Hallelujah because his lights finally work.

Perfect lyrics for Australia. Christmas photo, by John Williamson

How to make Gravy  by Paul Kelly

And the end of the day, White Wine In the Sun by Tim Minchin.

 


28381In the sequel to Home Truths, Louise Forster returns to the sleepy country town of Tumble Creek with the story of a cop, a teacher and a mystery that will bring them together—or tear them apart.

Art teacher and occasional life model Sofie Dove wants to know what’s up with Brock Stewart. Everything about the ex SAS soldier turned police officer seems to scream passion—and it’s all for her—but he just won’t express it. All she knows is that he has a past that still keeps him up some nights.

After a semi-trailer crashes through Sofie’s house and the driver disappears into thin air, Brock insists he’s the only one who can keep her safe—but can he, when they can’t seem to trust each other?

While Sofie works on figuring out why this man keeps giving her mixed messages, Brock is determined to find out who’s out to get her—as they both find out why falling in love is a bit like being hit by a truck.

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Christmas Earworms: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

by Amy Rose Bennett

I love Christmas time and aside from all the festive food, decorations, and prezzies, I love me a good Christmas carol sing-along! In fact, my whole family loves whacking on anything from Bing Crosby crooning I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas to Michael Bublé’s Christmas album, or a CD featuring renditions of traditional songs by carollers.

Maybe it’s the history buff in me, but I do love the pomp of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. I have fond memories of belting this one out in the school choir many moons ago, so perhaps there’s an element of childhood nostalgia linked to it for me too.

Anyway, because I’m a big fan of historical research, I couldn’t resist delving into the origins of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Apparently, it’s one of the oldest existing carols and harkens back to the 16th century or perhaps earlier; some accounts mention it was written and sung in Christian churches in the 15th century. The composer of the lyrics and tune is unknown. During the 16th century, bands of itinerant musicians-cum-night watchmen known as ‘waits’ may have sung it as they walked London’s streets at Christmas time. Fancy that. A singing town guard! The earliest known printed edition of the carol appeared in 1760 in a broadsheet, Three New Christmas Carols:

God rest you merry, Gentlemen,

Let nothing you dismay,

For Jesus Christ our Saviour

Was born upon this Day.

To save poor souls from Satan’s power,

Which long time had gone astray.

Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.

Charles Dickens also refers to it in A Christmas Carol, published in 1843. “… at the first sound of ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’, Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”

I love this Bing Crosby version … Enjoy and Seasons Greetings to you all!


28512A sweeping, sexy Highland romance about a wanted Jacobite with a wounded soul, and a spirited Scottish lass on the run.

Robert Grant has returned home to Lochrose Castle in the Highlands to reconcile with his long-estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. But there is a price on Robert’s head, and his avaricious younger half-brother, Simon, doesn’t want him reclaiming his birthright. And it’s not only Simon and the redcoats that threaten to destroy Robert’s plans after a flame-haired complication of the feminine kind enters the scene…

Jessie Munroe is forced to flee Lochrose Castle after the dissolute Simon Grant tries to coerce her into becoming his mistress. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious and handsome hunter, Robert, in a remote Highland glen, she throws her lot in with the stranger—even though she suspects he is a fugitive. She soon realises that this man is dangerous in an entirely different way to Simon…

Despite their searing attraction, Robert and Jessie struggle to trust each other as they both seek a place to call home. The stakes are high and only one thing is certain: Simon Grant is in pursuit of them both…

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Christmas Earworms: Good King Wenceslas

by Daniel de Lorne

My favourite Christmas carol is Good King Wenceslas. When I was about 10, my cousin and I used to play a lot of Christmas duets on the piano. They were probably simple arrangements, but for me they were filled with a fun type of stress. She played the second part and I had the melody. Good King Wenceslas was my favourite of the lot, especially the part where it goes “Brightly shone the moon that night.” There was something rousing about those notes and I learned the whole lot off by heart.

That year I’d decided we’d have carols on Christmas Day when my family and my cousin’s family would come together to open presents. I’d spent weeks (or maybe it was only days) typing out the words to the carols and arranging them in a booklet, printing seven and colouring in specially designed covers. They were a work of art.

The day arrived and we played about 12 Christmas carols for the family going through a whole lot of the classics – Silent Night, Deck the Halls, Angels We Have Heard on High and of course Good King Wenceslas. All five verses. I’m sure the adults were wondering when it would all end, but they kept that to themselves and we had fun bashing out the tunes.

Years later when I was in Prague I quietly sang Good King Wenceslas while wandering through Wenceslas Square. I don’t think I’d even considered he was a real person before then at age 22.

I was trying to find a cartoon version of Good King Wenceslas that I remember from my childhood but couldn’t find it within the billions of videos on YouTube so here’s an Irish version that’s a lot more sprightly.


24083From the author of the romantic horror debut Beckoning Blood comes the gripping sequel that mixes blood, sex, and magic.

No-one gets to choose who they spend eternity with.

Aurelia d’Arjou has vampires for brothers, but it is as a witch that she comes into her own power, keeping balance and control, using her strength to mitigate the death and pain that her brothers bring. When she is forced to take on the centuries long task of keeping the world safe from the brutal demon that wore her father’s skin, duty dominates her life. But rare happiness comes in the form of a beguiling, flame-haired oracle who makes the perfect companion…but for one thing.

Hame doesn’t want to be an oracle, but when a demon destroys the closest thing to a father he has, he has little choice but to aid Aurelia with his visions. Unable to love her as she would wish, their centuries-old friendship comes under attack when a handsome Welsh witch enters his life – and his heart.

As treachery and betrayal push Hame to choose between his closest friend and his lover, it becomes clear that when it comes to war, love doesn’t always conquer all, and happy endings are never guaranteed.

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Christmas Earworms: River

by Amanda Knight

I didn’t realise how tricky I’d find the task of narrowing down my faves Chrissy song… I’ve realised the ones that came to mind first are the more melancholy ones, and the gleeful, wide-eyed wonder tunes that remind me magic happens were later!
Fave One:
Robert Downey Jr – River – sung on Ally McBeal (original Joni Mitchell)
Why: I always find the Christmas season a mix of emotion… the year I heard this song (and this version) had been one where some of those very serious ‘life’ experiences that make their dark mark on your heart and soul had happened.  Starts with Jingle Bells and reminds me of the few years as a little person where magic truly happened, a time when things were simpler but also how life just doesn’t play out as expected, and Christmas always makes me think about that.
 Fave Two:
Gene Autry version – Here Comes Santa Claus
Why: In movies, department stores and over PA systems in schools – this song makes me smile, jiggle and wiggle and imagine myself in a perfect christmas scenario with snow, glitter, hot cocoa and the smell of cinnamon everywhere! It is my heart happy christmas song!

 


31096 (3)A taut debut novel about a wounded soldier, a courageous doctor, and a dog in desperate need of a rescue

Soldier, surgeon, traitor, dog…

When Sergeant Nate Calloway is carried into the field hospital with no memory of how he got there or where the other members of his unit are,  Australian army surgeon, Captain Beth Harper cares only about repairing his broken body. But it’s clear that something went terribly wrong on the other side of the wire, and as Nate slowly recovers, he becomes more and more anxious to return to duty, go back into the field, and rescue his friends, his unit, and the bomb detection dog that he loves.

The only way Nate can be released to active duty is if a doctor agrees to accompany him, and Beth surprises everyone by volunteering. Her role is to monitor Nate and take him right back to hospital the instant that his health deteriorates enough to put their rescue operation at risk. But as she stays close, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to his courage, his determination, and his commitment to his fellow soldiers.

Instead of a straightforward recovery, however, Nate and Beth soon realise they’ve stumbled on a tangled web of deceit and danger, and the enemy is no longer outside the wire. He is one of their own, a traitor, and he has them in his scope.

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Christmas Earworms: White Christmas

by JC Harroway

It’s pretty brutal challenge to choose only ONE Christmas song, because I am a total Christmas-o-phile…(the internet failed to provide a real, scientific term for this condition) and adore all things Christmas. My obsession generally begins in November, when I force myself to hold off decorating the house and playing the Christmas playlist (which contains everything from traditional carols to Michael Buble and Mariah Carey) until the first of December. After that, all bets are off!

So, after much consideration, I have chosen White Christmas—the 1954 movie version sung by Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye/Rosemary Clooney/Vera Ellen.

My grandmother loved this movie, and watching it with her became a favorite Christmas tradition of my childhood. We would snuggle on the sofa, crack open the tin of Christmas chocolates and have a good old sing-a-long. I love the vintage glamour of the film, even now—the costumes, the locations, the soundtrack—so magical in every way. Like my Nana before me, I own a DVD version of the movie, continuing the tradition.

Enjoy!


32235 (2)Before you can heal, you must accept that you’ve been broken…

When an accident leaves her with severe burns, Captain Eden Archer has one goal — to get back to full fitness and her duties at her United Nations job. Eden is not a joiner, but the Ruby Challenge — a four-day hike across Nevada’s Ruby Mountains — seems like a great way to boost her rehabilitation, and to prove herself ready and able to move on. She just has to get through the pre-challenge medical.

As a doctor in Accident and Emergency, Dan Barbour is used to dealing with people in pain, people in denial, and people who don’t much like doctors, but the prickly servicewoman who dismisses his medical skills awakens an interest that has long been dormant.

The Ruby Mountain hike is as much about the emotional challenge as the physical, and as Eden and Dan find themselves getting closer and closer, they both face enormous obstacles. Eden protects her heart with distance and reserve; Dan keeps everyone at bay by being wholly unavailable. But if they stay true to their old course, they will lose the one chance at a real connection, the one chance to really find someone to love.

A broken-hearted doctor and a reluctant patient should be a match made in heaven, but are Eden and Dan strong enough to find courage outside of their respective battlefields and expose their hearts?

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