Related to: 'The Gift Giving: Favourite Stories'

AN EXTRACT

THE JULIETTE SOCIETY

In her debut novel, Sasha Grey takes us inside a private, high-profile, sex society where anything and everything can happen. Read the prologue.

Virago

The Kingdom and the Cave

Joan Aiken, Peter Bailey
Contributors:
Joan Aiken, Peter Bailey
Virago

The Serial Garden

Joan Aiken, Peter Bailey
Contributors:
Joan Aiken, Peter Bailey

'I wish we'll have two children called Mark and Harriet. And I hope lots of interesting and unusual things will happen to them. It would be nice if they had a fairy godmother, for instance. And a phoenix or something out of the ordinary for a pet. We could have a special day for interesting and unusual things to happen - say, Mondays. But not always Mondays, and not only Mondays, or that would get a bit dull'As a result of their mother's honeymoon wish, Mark and Harriet Armitage have a fairy godmother, a pet unicorn, and are prepared for anything life can throw at them (especially, but not always, on a Monday): hatching griffins in the airing cupboard, Latin lessons with a ghost, furious Furies on the doorstep, and an enchanted garden locked inside a cereal packet. Life with the Armitages can be magical, funny, terrifying - but never, ever dull.

A.J. Butcher

A. J. Butcher works as an English teacher at a girls school by day. By night he concocts the latest cunning episode in the thrilling Spy High saga.

Carole Matthews

Carole Matthews is the Sunday Times bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the top ten bestsellers The Cake Shop in the Garden, A Cottage by the Sea, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses, The Chocolate Lovers' Christmas and Calling Mrs Christmas. In 2015, Carole was awarded the RNA Outstanding Achievement Award. Her novels dazzle and delight readers all over the world and she is published in more than thirty countries.For all the latest news from Carole, visit www.carolematthews.com, follow Carole on Twitter (@carolematthews) and Instagram (matthews.carole) or join the thousands of readers who have become Carole's friend on Facebook (carolematthewsbooks).

Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over two dozen works of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan's Tales series, Deathless and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with a small but growing menagerie of beasts, some of which are human.

Charles M. Schulz

Charles Monroe Schulz (1922 -2000) was a 20th-century American cartoonist best known for his Peanuts comic strip. He was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Dena and Carl Schulz. His nickname "Sparky" was given by his uncle, after the horse Spark Plug in the Barney Google comic strip. He attended St. Paul's Richard Gordon Elementary School, where he skipped two half-grades. As a result, he was the youngest in his class when he attended St. Paul Central High years later, which may have been the reason why he was so shy and isolated as a young teenager. After his mother died in February, 1943, he was drafted into the army and sent to Camp Campbell in Kentucky. He was then shipped to Europe two years later to fight in World War II. After leaving the United States Army in 1945, he took a job as an art teacher at Art Instruction Inc., which he attended before he was drafted. First published by Robert Ripley in his Ripley's Believe It or Not!, then in a series of chronicles, The Saturday Evening Post, his first regular comic strip, Li'l Folks was published in 1947 by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. (It was in this strip that Charlie Brown first appeared, as well as a dog that looked much like Snoopy). In 1950 he approached the United Features Syndicate with his best strips from Li'l Folks, and Peanuts made its first appearance on October 2, 1950. This strip became one of the most popular comic strips of all time. He also had a short-lived sports-oriented comic strip called It's Only a Game (1957-1959), but abandoned that strip due to the demands of the success of Peanuts.

Charlotte Betts

Charlotte Betts began her working life as a fashion designer in London. A career followed in interior design, property management and lettings.Always a bookworm, Charlotte discovered her passion for writing after her three children and two step-children had grown up. The Apothecary's Daughter is her debut novel and won the YouWriteOn Book of the Year in 2010, the Romantic Novelists' Association Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers in 2011 and the RoNA's Historical Category award for 2013. The sequel, The Painter's Apprentice was published in 2012 and shortlisted for the Festival of Romance's Best Historical Read Award in 2012. The Spice Merchant's Wife was published in 2013 and won the Festival of Romance's Best Historical Read Award in 2013.

Chris Brookmyre

Chris Brookmyre was a journalist before becoming a full-time novelist with the publication of his award-winning debut Quite Ugly One Morning, which established him as one of Britain's leading crime authors. His Jack Parlabane novels have sold more than one million copies in the UK alone, and Black Widow won both the McIlvanney Prize and the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award.

David Browne

David Browne is the former music critic for Entertainment Weekly, where he worked for over 15 years. A former reporter and columnist for the New York Daily News, he has also contributed to The New York Times, New York magazine, Rolling Stone, MOJO, Spin and other publications.

David Dalglish

David Dalglish currently lives in Myrtle Beach with his wife Samantha, and daughters Morgan, Katherine, and Alyssa. He graduated from Missouri Southern State University in 2006 with a degree in Mathematics and currently spends his free time dying for the umpteenth time in Dark Souls.

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor (1912-1975) is increasingly recognised as one of the best British writers of the twentieth century. She wrote her first book, At Mrs Lippincote's, during the war while her husband was in the Royal Air Force, and this was followed by eleven further novels and a children's book, Mossy Trotter. Her acclaimed short stories appeared in publications including Vogue, the New Yorker and Harper's Bazaar.

Elizabeth Waite

Elizabeth Waite was born in Tooting, South London and lived there until she was 34. During the war she worked as a bus conductress at Merton Garage. In 1956 she and her husband moved to Devon and bought their first guesthouse. Now retired, Elizabeth lives in East Sussex. An East End Christmas is her eighteenth novel.

Ivy Pembroke

Ivy Pembroke is a law professor who specialises in copyright and trademark law, with a focus on fanfiction. An enthusiastic writer all her life, she loves the backspace button, overuses italics in emails with friends, and thinks there is little better than a story that makes you smile. She splits her time between Mississippi and her home state of Rhode Island.

Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is the author of numerous bestselling novels, including The Little Shop of Happy Ever After and Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery, which are also published by Sphere. Meet Me at the Cupcake Café won the 2012 Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance and was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller, as was Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams, which won the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2013. For more about Jenny, visit her website and her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter: @jennycolgan.

Katrina Charman

Katrina Charman lives in a small village in the middle of South East England with her husband and three daughters. Katrina has wanted to be a children's writer ever since she was eleven, when her school teacher set her class the task of writing an epilogue to Roald Dahl's Matilda. Her teacher thought her writing was good enough to send to Roald Dahl himself. Sadly, she never got a reply, but the experience ignited her love of reading and writing. She is the author of a number of forthcoming picture books and leveled readers.

Lisa Dickenson

Lisa Dickenson is the pseudonym for Beyoncé. OK, FINE, THAT'S NOT TRUE. Lisa lives by the Devon seaside, stuffing cream teas in the gobs of anyone who comes to visit, and writing stuff down that she hopes is funny. Her first novel was the copyright-infringing Sweet Valley Twins: The Twins Holiday Horror, which she wrote in primary school and gave up on after five pages. Twenty-ish years later Lisa went on to be a *real author* and wrote the Novelicious Debut of the Year, The Twelve Dates of Christmas, and never looked back.Follow Lisa online for all her book news and Beyoncé-obsessing:www.lisadickenson.comTwitter @LisaWritesStuffFacebook /LisaWritesStuffInstagram lisawritesstuff

Liz Climo

Liz Climo grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to Los Angeles after college to work as a character artist on The Simpsons. She started a comic blog, LizClimo.tumblr.com, where Rory and his dad first appeared in 2012. Liz currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Colin, and their daughter, Marlow.

Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott was born in Pennsylvania in 1832. Like the character of Jo March in Little Women, young Louisa didn't conform to the restrictions placed on girls of the period: 'No boy could be my friend till I had beaten him in a race,' she claimed, 'and no girl if she refused to climb trees, leap fences.' And, also like Jo, she was highly imaginative and writing was an early passion.As her family was often in financial difficulty, Louisa worked from a young age to support her family, taking any position available: a governess, domestic servant, seamstress and teacher were among her jobs. She also wrote poetry and short stories for popular magazines, and melodramatic novels under a pseudonym. When the American Civil War began, Louisa, who fervently opposed slavery, lamented that women weren't able to fight, and volunteered as a nurse at the Union Hospital in Georgetown, Washington. Her nursing career was brief as she contracted typhoid, but she wrote Hospital Sketches, a truthful and poignant account based on letters she wrote home to her family in Concord, and it was published to great acclaim.In 1868 Louisa was asked by her publisher to write 'a girls' story'. This resulted in Little Women, which is largely based on the experiences of the author and her three sisters. It was a phenomenal success. In a time when children's books were morality tales featuring idealised, two-dimensional protagonists, Little Women was revolutionary, peopled as it was by relatable, flawed, fully realised characters. Its success guaranteed financial stability for Louisa, who continued the March family's story in Good Wives, Little Men and Jo's Boys. Louisa never married, concluding that 'liberty is a better husband than love.' She died in 1888 and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord.

M.C. Beaton

M.C. Beaton is the author of both the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series, as well as numerous Regency romances. Her Agatha Raisin books are currently being turned into a TV series on Sky. She lives in Paris and in a Cotswold village that is very much like Agatha's beloved Carsely.

Noel Streatfeild

Noel Streatfeild was born in Sussex in 1895 and was one of three sisters. After working in munitions factories and canteens for the armed forces when the First World War broke out, Noel followed her dream of being on stage and went to RADA where she became a professional actress.She began writing children's books in 1931 and Ballet Shoes was published in 1936. She quickly became one of the most popular authors of her day. She was one of the first winners of the Carnegie Medal and was awarded an OBE in 1983.