Wednesday, 23 December 2015

2015 End of Year Book Survey



Hello everyone! Can you believe that it's that time of year again? Christmas will soon be here and 2015 is nearly over so before I take my blogging break until the new year I wanted to take part in Jamie's annual end of year book survey to break down my year in reading and blogging for you guys. I hope you enjoy reading about my bookish highs and lows of 2015!


Number Of Books You Read: So far I’m at 115 and have met my Goodreads goal of reading 100 books but I’m still hoping to squeeze in more over Christmas when I have lots of reading time!

Number of Re-Reads: 0 – with so many review books I don’t really have time for re-reads these days sadly.

Genre You Read The Most From: Looking at Goodreads, 2015 seems to be the year of Fantasy and Thrillers for me.


1. Best Book You Read In 2015?
So my unofficial best book of 2015 (because there’s still time for another book to come along don’t you know) is Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Admittedly, it’s going to take something pretty special to knock it off the top spot over the remaining days of December.

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
It’s no secret that my most anticipated book for 2015 was A Court of Thorns and Roses but I actually ended up not finishing it for personal reasons which you can read more about here.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read? 
When I started listening to audiobooks this year I was looking for recommendations on what I should check out and my friend Sophie recommended The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller to me which is not something I’d ever normally pick up but I fell for it hard and it’s now become a new all-time favourite of mine.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)? 
I think the book that I pushed on to people the hardest this year is Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne. It’s such an important book to me and I’m so happy with how many people I got to read it that fell in love with it too.

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015? 
Okay, so for best series I have two that I’ve been sitting trying to decide between and I can’t so I’m just going to say both and they are the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson and the Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens they could not be more different but are equally fantastic.

For best sequel I’m going to go with The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon which just blew me away even more than The Bone Season did.

Best series ender has to go to Winter by Marissa Meyer. Hats off to that lady for wrapping up four stories in one book and making an 800 page book totally engrossing and un-put-down-able.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?
This is too hard. I’ve discovered so many amazing new-to-me authors this year whose books I will be auto-buying forever more. The shortlist would have to be Brandon Sanderson and Susan Dennard  whose writing makes my toes curl it’s so good.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone? 
2015 was the year where I really branched out of my comfort zone and discovered some fantastic new books for it. I think for this one I’ll go with The Song of Achilles (again) because it was probably the book that was the furthest out of my comfort zone that I loved.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? 
Oh, most definitely Six of Crows. Hands down.

9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year? 
I’m going to go with Truthwitch by Susan Dennard because I read an ARC of this in 2015 and would love to read the finished version when it’s released next year.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?
It has to be Queen of Shadows. Those covers just get more and more beautiful with each book.

11. Most memorable character of 2015? 
I’ve got to say that all six characters from Six of Crows really stuck with me this year. I love how diverse they are showing that you don’t have to be able-bodied, skinny, white, straight etc to be the hero of the story and be an absolute badass.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?
Lorali by Laura Dockrill is the first book that comes to mind. Laura’s writing is so unique and like nothing else I’ve ever read. It is individual and beautiful.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?
This was definitely Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne. I had such a deep and personal connection with it that it felt like it was written especially for me.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?
I’m so grateful for the Mistborn readalong this year. I’ve wanted to read the Mistborn series for years but have always been intimidated by the size of each book. I’m so happy that I signed up and finally got to read The Final Empire and the rest of the books because they’re now one of my all-time favourites and I’m desperate to read more by Brandon Sanderson.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?
I’m one of those people who has a notebook full of quotes that I love from books and so it’s hard to pick just one but if I were to choose one that feels very personal to me it would be this one from All the Bright places about mental health.

“It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.” ― Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places 

16.Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2015? 
According to Goodreads my longest book was Winter at 827 pages and my shortest is Rat Queens at 128 pages. I loved both of these books so it just goes to show that size really doesn’t matter!

17. Book That Shocked You The Most? 
I’ve read so many good thrillers this year that have completely surprised me! The plot twists in How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst, The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas and The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson were particularly shocking!

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!) 
This is so hard! I have so many! Okay, I’ve whittled it down from eight to my top three that YOU CAN NOT make me choose between. In no particular order…

Simon and Blue from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Simon and Baz from Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Patroclus and Achilles from The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

They are all my babies!

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
I’m big on female friendships and so my favourite non-romantic relationship of the year has to go to Threadsisters Safiya and Iseult from Truthwitch by Susan Dennard.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously 
Six of Crows, Six of Crows, Six of Crows! If you’re a reader of this blog then you’ll know that I love the Grisha trilogy dearly and so I was totally blown away when Leigh managed to surpass that with Six of Crows. In my review I described it as “Like the hotter, maturer, dangerous older brother of the Grisha trilogy” and I still stand by that.

21. Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure: 
I’m starting to sound like a broken record but The Song of Achilles which I’d never have tried if Sophie hadn’t recommended it to me.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?
The first one that comes to mind is Jack from Night Owls by Jenn Bennett who I think is my latest but I have developed so many over 2015!

23. Best 2015 debut you read?
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, I can’t wait to see what she writes next! 

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
I think this has to go to the Mistborn series. Brandon Sanderson’s worldbuilding and magic systems are so developed that it feels like you’re really there.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read? 
Oh my God! Definitely the first volume of Rat Queens the graphic novel. That book is HILARIOUS! I swear that the rat queens are my spirit animals.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?
I’m such a crier and it doesn’t take much to start me off but the books that made me sob my heart out ugly cry this year are as follows:

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
One by Sarah Crossan
The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
After You by Jojo Moyes

Read them with a box of tissues at hand!

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
 I think that my best hidden gem this year would have to be The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas which I received unsolicited for review. I knew nothing about it but was intrigued by the synopsis so I decided to give it a go and I absolutely loved it! Don’t you love when that happens?

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
The whole Mistborn series really made me re-evaluate my levels of masochism.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015? 
I think that The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle brought something very unique and different to the YA table this year.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)? 
All the Rage by Courtney Summers as the title suggests this book really does make you angry but in a good “what can we do about this?” sort of way.


1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015? 
I discovered my lovely friend Chelle’s blog early in January when I won a giveaway from her. I’m so glad that I discovered her blog because it was through winning this giveaway that we found out that we lived really close to each other. Chelle has been an amazing friend to me this year and I can’t wait to have more Chinese takeaway nights at hers in the New Year!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?
There are three that I’m really proud of and they were for Six of Crows, One and Am I Normal Yet? Which are all some of my favourite books of this year. It’s true what they say that the more you love a book the harder the review is to write but at the same time, as a blogger, it really pushes you to deliver a review worthy of the book and so they end up being some of your best.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
I love that 2015 has been the year where I’ve hosted more discussions on the blog and I’ve really enjoyed writing them. As for best, I think that’s up to the readers but my personal favourites have to be What Kind of Book Buyer Are You? And Is it book bloggers' job to sell books?

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
I think that as long as I am able to go each year the answer to this question will always be YALC!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?
 A moment that has been really special for me this year is when I helped my friend Kate receive book donations for her pupils. We ended up with over 300 books and Kate hosted such a special event to gift them to her students. The event made it into local papers and it’s something that I feel so proud and happy to have been a part of this year. You can read more about the event here.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year? 
 I think that it was trying to balance blogging with real life responsibilities. It's hard to do both sometimes!

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
My YALC Anxiety post. I had so many messages from people who were going who felt the same way and said that this helped them which made me so happy to feel like I’d helped people.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love? 
It’d always be nice to get more comments on reviews. They seem to be the one style of blog post that although gets the views doesn’t get the same interaction from readers in the comments.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? 
A few months ago I discovered the Etsy store Happy Hello. I’ve since been collecting their bookmarks which I’m just obsessed with!

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? 
The only goal I set myself this year was to read 100 books which I surpassed. I’m not really one for setting myself reading goals or challenges. I like to try and keep reading as pressure free and fun as possible and goals just stress me out.


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?
I really wanted to read Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy this year but just didn’t get around to it! Luckily it’s being released in the UK in 2016 so I will be getting around to it then!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?
With Six of Crows being my best book of 2015 Crooked Kingdom is naturally my most anticipated book of 2016!

3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
I’m really looking forward to Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton all of my blogger friends who have read it have loved it so far!

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016? 
I can’t think of a series ending that I’m anticipating in 2016 but a sequel that I am desperate for is Throne of Glass book 5!

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2016? 
My goal is to post more reviews next year. With trying to vary my blog content and post more discussions I fell behind with my book reviews this year so I would really like to post at least one a week in 2016.

6. A 2016 Release You’ve Already Read and Recommend To Everyone 
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard! It’s out in January and I’m so excited for the rest of the world to discover it!

 That's all from me for another year! Thank you so much for all of your continued support it means the world to me and I hope you have a very happy Christmas if you celebrate it. See you all for more bookish adventures in 2016!

Monday, 21 December 2015

Review for A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig 
Publisher: Canongate
Release: 16th November 2015
Genre: Christmas, Children’s
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review



Synopsis:
"You are about to read the true story of Father Christmas.
 It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible.

 A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and a boy called Nikolas, who isn't afraid to believe in magic."

Review 
Have you ever wondered how Father Christmas became Father Christmas? I mean, how did a human come to live with Elves anyway? And how did the idea of delivering presents to children all across the world on Christmas Eve come about? Matt Haig takes us on a magical journey through the snowy landscape of Finland to find out how a boy called Christmas became the big man in the red suit that we all know and love as we discover the story behind the magic.

Nikolas lives in a small one-roomed cottage, exists on mushroom soup and has a doll carved out of a turnip for a best friend. Despite living a hard life he’s an optimistic, happy child who keeps magic alive in his heart. When Nikolas’s father goes on a quest to find a real-life Elf for the King, Nikolas is left with his horrible Aunt who takes what little joy is left in his life and crushes it. When his father doesn’t return home Nikolas sets off to find him and so begins his journey in becoming the person he was always meant to be.

What struck me about A Boy Called Christmas is how much thought and imagination Matt Haig has put into this book. Throughout a 265 page story he has created a magical new origin on how so many of the things we know and love about Christmas came to be.

Matt Haig’s writing is utterly enchanting and made me feel like a child on Christmas Eve again. What I loved about this book is that, magic aside, at the heart of this story is a message about the importance of goodness and passing that goodness on to others be it in a present or something as simple as a kind word. The moral of passing happiness on was so wonderful to read about.

In my opinion every household should have a copy of A Boy Called Christmas to read, not just for this Christmas, but for ones to come. A Boy Called Christmas has the potential to become a new Christmas classic and part of a new tradition for a new generation in the way that books such as ‘The Night Before Christmas’ and ‘The Snowman’ were for me growing up. Pick up this book and discover the next big thing in Christmas.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Review for Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin

Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin 
Publisher: Bookouture
Release: 29th October 2015
Genre: Christmas, Romance
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review



Synopsis:
"Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself…

Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance.

As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George.

But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas?"

Review 
After really enjoying the first book in this series set in White Cliff Bay ‘Christmas at Lilac Cottage’ I was really excited to pick up this next book. What I like about this series is that the two books can be read in any order as they’re told at the same time and other than a few cameos the stories aren’t really connected.

Snowflakes on Silver Cove follows Libby who’s been living in White Cliff Bay whilst she researches and writes her next novel. There’s only one problem: she’s struggling with writing the romance that she’s famous for.

Meanwhile Libby’s best friend George is struggling to pluck up the courage to ask his dream girl out on a date after a knock to his confidence after his last relationship.

Determined to help each other out, the two friends decide to go on a series of romantic practice dates over Christmas. But with George harbouring secret feelings for Libby can these fake dates turn into a romance straight out of Libby’s books in time for Christmas?

Libby and George have the kind of relationship that I love to read. Libby writes about your typical romantic heroes but George is the boy next door type that never gets to play the love interest in these sorts of romances. He’s not your stereotypical dream boat but he has a big heart and his love for Libby shines off the pages. I loved George and was rooting for him with the hope that Libby would see what a lovely guy she has in front of her.

I was surprised to find that as well as Libby and George the book also follows another couple in White Cliff Bay, Amy and Seb. Although I enjoyed their story I felt like Libby and George really outshined them. Their story didn’t connect with Libby and George’s at all and so I don’t really know why it was included in this book. I think it would have been far better if Amy and Seb’s story was released as their own separate book.

Despite being set at the same time as ‘Christmas at Lilac Cottage’ this book didn’t leave me feeling quite as cosy and Christmassy as the first book but there’s just enough festivity here to satisfy people going into this for a Christmas read. Overall I have loved spending Christmas in White Cliff Bay and would love to read more books from Holly Martin set in this gorgeous seaside town.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Colour Me Mindful

 

Colour Me Mindful by Anastasia Catris 

Over the past year I’ve really gotten into the adult colouring book craze. With my anxiety there’s not much that allows me to escape from my thoughts and relax, if my anxiety is really bad I find that even reading a book doesn’t help because I can’t concentrate on it, but colouring is a great hobby that helps me unwind, be creative and do something that is just for me.

Recently I’ve been loving three books in the Colour Me Mindful series by Anastasia Catris and those are the Butterflies, Enchanted Creatures and Seasons editions. There are so many brilliant colouring books out there at the moment but what I like about this particular series is how small they are, they’re perfect for popping in your handbag and are a comfortable size to colour on your lap if, like me, you like to do a bit of colouring in front of the television. I find that I can colour one of these pictures in an evening which is lovely because I do get a bit bored if I’m colouring the same thing in for weeks at a time.
My colouring from Enchanted Creatures

What I love most about this series is that it offers something for everyone. There are six books out in total so far with each of them having a different theme. My personal favourite is Enchanted Creatures which is full of fairies, unicorns, dragons and other wondrous things that I loved to colour when I was a little girl. I find that this one really opens my imagination and is perfect for anyone who loves fantasy.

At the moment I’ve found myself reaching more for the Seasons edition which has lots of beautiful Christmas themed pictures to colour in. I think that what makes Seasons so brilliant is that unlike the other Christmas and Winter themed colouring books I’ve seen around it won’t be made redundant once Christmas is over. This little book is packed full of gorgeous artwork capturing all four seasons and special occasions throughout the year such as New Year, Halloween and Easter. I haven’t seen another colouring book like this one and think it’s perfect for all year round.

My colouring from Seasons

For only £4.99 each I think that these colouring books are excellent value for money and would make brilliant stocking fillers if you have somebody who loves colouring to buy for this Christmas. Or if like me you’d love to do some Christmas and Winter themed colouring this season. I’ve found that putting on some Christmas songs and colouring a festive piece has quickly become one of my favourite ways to unwind from the stress of Christmas.

When the colouring craze first started I didn’t really think it would be for me but I’ve quickly become addicted. If you’re someone who finds it hard to relax I’d really recommend giving them a go. I’ve seen a few people knock colouring as a “pointless hobby” but I think that’s what’s great about it. It’s so nice to do something that is just for you and purely for fun that’s both creative and relaxing and I’ve loved getting lost in the imagination of Anastasia Catris.

My colouring from Butterflies

 The Colour Me Mindful series is available to buy now 
Copies received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
 Check out my colouring in on Instagram
Follow Anastasia Catris on Twitter @acatris

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Christmas With Keris Stainton

Today on the blog lovely UKYA author Keris Stainton is taking part in my festive feature Christmas With so grab a hot chocolate, turn on your Christmas playlist and get ready to spend a magical Christmas with Keris...

Christmas With Keris Stainton


1.) What made you decide to write a Christmas book for children?
It didn't actually start out as a Christmas book, but my editor thought it had Christmassy potential and asked me to Christmas it up. As soon as she said that, I knew she was absolutely right, not least because I had the original idea - and made the first notes - at Disneyland Paris at Christmas. So it was always a Christmas book, even if I didn't realise it until it was pointed out to me.

2.) How did you get into the festive spirit to write?
I have a Christmas playlist on Spotify. I also have a Disney Christmas playlist. There's a song they play at Disneyland Paris called Chante C'est Noel and that gets me in the spirit straight away. (It's also good for kitchen-dancing.)

3.) If you could wish for anything this Christmas what would it be?
Health and happiness for family and friends, of course. And I'd quite like to bump into Harry Styles while 1D are on their hiatus. I want to give him a copy of Counting Stars, cos he's in the acknowledgements.

4.) What’s your favourite thing about Christmas?
Bailey's. I can only have it at Christmas because otherwise I'd honestly put it in my coffee in the morning. Also fairy lights. I have some up all year round, but at Christmas I hang them everywhere. 

5.) Do you have any Christmas traditions? 
We try to make new Christmas traditions all the time. We go to a Victorian Christmas fair every year (and I usually have my first mulled wine of the year) and we also like to go the a local garden centre that has lovely gifts and amazing lights and decorations. And we usually have a mince pie there too.

6.) Favourite Christmas food and drink?
Argh. ALL the food and ALL the drink. I absolutely loved mulled wine. And mince pies. I've never really got on with Christmas cake or Christmas pudding though, which is odd for me since I pretty much eat everything.

7.) Favourite Christmas movie?
Elf. I love watching it with my boys. And Nativity. The bit when he reads the children's letters to Santa breaks my heart every single time.

8.) What does Christmas mean to you?
Family. We used to have huge family Christmas parties as a child and we don't do that anymore - and I miss it - but we try to make Christmas as fun and memorable as possible for our two boys. Some of my best memories are of childhood Christmases and I hope the same for them.

 Lily and the Christmas Wish is available to buy now from all good bookshops 
 Add Lily and the Christmas Wish on Goodreads here 
Follow the author on Twitter @Keris

Friday, 4 December 2015

Review for The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas

The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas 
Publisher: Black Swan
Release: 19th November 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction, Ghost Story
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review



Synopsis:
"A FAMILY TRAGEDY 
Amy’s always felt like something’s been missing in her life. When a tragedy forces the family she works for as a nanny to retreat to a small lakeside cottage, she realises she cannot leave them now.

A SISTER’S SECRET 
But Amy finds something unsettling about the cottage by the lake. This is where the children’s mother spent her childhood – and the place where her sister disappeared mysteriously at just seventeen.

A WEB OF LIES
Soon Amy becomes tangled in the missing sister’s story as dark truths begin rising to the surface. But can Amy unlock the secrets of the past before they repeat themselves?"

Review 
When I’m in the mood for a creepy read I find that nothing beats a good historical ghost story, so when I was after just that on a cold winter’s day I picked up The Secret by the Lake and it delivered the moody mystery I wanted and so much more!

The book is set in the 1960’s and follows Amy who works as a nanny to Alain and Julia Laurent’s little girl Viviane. The family lead a comfortable life in France until Alain dies, forcing Amy, Julia and Viviane to sell their belongings and move to the lakeside cottage in England that Julia grew up in. But the lake and cottage aren’t as idyllic as they seem – they each carry horrific memories of Caroline – Julia’s sister – a troubled girl who died in her teens. As a dark and hard winter draws in, the long buried secret by the lake begins to surface as history intertwines with the present.

Being new to Louise Douglas’s work, The Secret by the Lake took me completely by surprise. It’s impossible to not be swept away by the ominous atmosphere and compelling storyline. Both the cottage and the lake were so vividly described that I physically felt like I was alongside Amy as she uncovered the secrets of the past which made the ghostly parts even more frightening to read.

Louise Douglas is a masterful storyteller. I thought that I knew where this book was going but the last fifty or so pages took me completely by surprise! I think that what Louise Douglas does so brilliantly here is leaves breadcrumbs, which seem like nothing at the time, right before your eyes. Her hints are so subtle yet so plain to see by the end of the book.

The Secret by the Lake is a book that’s impossible to discuss too deeply without giving up its secrets but if you’re looking for accomplished writing, a complex plot and compelling characters all wrapped up in a haunting setting, The Secret by the Lake has it all. On the strength of this book alone Louise Douglas has become an auto buy author for me. This is essential reading for anyone who wants a book that they can lose themselves in from first to last word.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

November Round Up and Book of the Month


November's Book of the Month is Winter by Marissa Meyer



I don't want to say too much about why Winter is my book of the month, with it being the last book in a series I don't want to spoil anything, but if you haven't read this series yet please do! It's one of the few series where I feel like every book is as strong as the last. I originally wasn't sure about picking up this sci-fi fairytale series but I'm so glad that I gave it a go because it's become one of my all-time favourite series featuring some of my favourite characters. Despite four books and a 823 page finale I never want this fairy tale to end and am so sad that it's all over!


*** The End *** 

Read in November
98.) Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard (4*)
99.) The House On Cold Hill by Peter James (3*)
100.) Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin (4*)
101.) Lily and the Christmas Wish by Keris Stainton (4*)
102.) A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard (4*)
103.) I Call Myself a Feminist edited by Victoria Pepe, Rachel Holmes, Amy Annette, Alice Stride and Martha Mosse (4*)
104.) The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson (3*)
105.) The Marble Collector by Cecelia Ahern (4*)
106.) The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas (4.5*)
107.) Winter by Marissa Meyer (5*)
108.) Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson (3*)

Monthly Book Awards
Best Plot: Winter by Marissa Meyer
Best Writing: The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas
Best Cover: Lily and the Christmas Wish by Keris Stainton
Best Characters: Winter by Marissa Meyer
Best Ending: The Marble Collector by Cecelia Ahern
Best Romance: Winter by Marissa Meyer
Most un-put-down-able: The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas
Most Memorable: Winter by Marissa Meyer
Best Moral: I Call Myself a Feminist edited by Victoria Pepe, Rachel Holmes, Amy Annette, Alice Stride and Martha Mosse

Top 3 Most Recommended Books: Winter, The Secret by the Lake and The Marble Collector 

Books I’m Looking Forward to Being Released in December 
A Merry Mistletoe Wedding by Judy Astley
That's it! I'm going to be mainly catching up with older 2015 releases this month.

 What did you read and love in November? 
And what books are you planning to read to wrap up the year with?

Monday, 30 November 2015

Snowed in for Christmas Blog Tour: Christmas With Claire Sandy

For my stop on the Snowed in for Christmas blog tour author Claire Sandy is taking part in my Christmas blog feature 'Christmas With...' answering some questions about all things festive! So grab a hot chocolate, turn on your Christmas playlist and spend a White Christmas with Claire Sandy...

Christmas with Claire Sandy


1.) What made you want to write a Christmas book?
I was born wanting to write a Christmas book. I am pro-Christmas; violently so. I would march on Downing Street if my right to obliterate my house with tinsel was taken away. I've always savoured Christmassy scenes in books, loving how the stories glow on the page. When I had the opportunity to bring out my own, I knew there must be turkey and snow and flirting; pinning down that special hyper-happiness of Christmas Day on the page was a thrill and I can only hope readers agree with me.

2.) How did you get into the festive spirit to write? 
Hmm. Well, this is where the glow dims a bit. It would be wonderful if I'd written the book over Christmas, mince pie in one hand, wonky paper crown on my head, but books take months to write and this one came to life in late spring and early summer. I stuck a list of festive words above my laptop - random ones like tingle and snowballs and enchantment. Plus of course Baileys and indigestion. When in the thick of writing a scene, I was lost in a wintry wonderland, snow all around, the tip of my nose a Rudolph red and my soul serene. Then I'd look up and realise the sun was shining into my study, and flowers were brazenly growing in my window box. Usually I welcome these signs of renewal but right then all I could do was mourn the vanished whiff of sprouts.

3.) If you could get snowed in anywhere where would it be? 
I'd get snowed in in a log cabin. I have no desire to go skiing - obviously I'd break both my legs and at least one of my husband's - but I do have a yen to snooze in front of an open fire as the snow banks up against the windows of a timber house. Being snowed in is as much a state of mind as anything else; I'd relish the opportunity to switch off. If it was impossible to go anywhere I'd have to be satisfied with what was on hand. It goes without saying that there's a full fridge in my snowed-in fantasies.

4.) How would you spend a day snowed in with your loved ones? 
Hmm. Do all of my loved ones have to be there? I mean, I love them (hence their title) but that doesn't mean I want to be snowed in with them. I'd probably spend the day avoiding them... 

5.) What’s your favourite thing about Christmas?
EVERYTHING. How can you make me choose? It's like asking if somebody has a favourite child. In no particular order my favourite Christmas things are: drinking champagne for breakfast; stockpiling talc; turkey sandwiches; cracker jokes being funny due to champagne for breakfast; chocolate as far as the eye can see; old films on the TV; gravy; Yule Log; a good row and a good making up.

6.) Do you have any Christmas traditions?
I have many, thank you for asking. Christmas Eve = smoked salmon for me and Him, after we put our daughter to bed. Even though He (and I don't mean God by the way, I mean my other half) doesn't like smoked salmon. Another must is my father-in-law coming round at midnight to dress up as Santa and bumble into my little girl's room with a sack of presents. Christmas isn't Christmas unless we eat stuffing made to my mum's recipe, and lay out clementines studded with cloves, and have at least one bout of fisticuffs over the remote control.

7.) Favourite Christmas food and drink?
From the twentieth December I move into a Quality Street tin and don't emerge until New Year's Day. As for a tipple, I'm all about fizz.

8.) Favourite Christmas movie?
If I'm wearing my Intelligent hat (it doesn't fit too well) I'll say, with a pious expression, "It's a Wonderful Life". If I'm wearing my far more comfortable Big Kid hat, I'll answer honestly with "Elf".

9.) Favourite Christmas song? 
That's easy. I have no choice; I have to say Mistletoe and Wine. Yes, I know, Cliff sings it like a nun in a jock strap, but my father in law wrote it, so...

10.) What does Christmas mean to you? 
Christmas means to me what it means to you. It's a bright beacon in the midst of winter's gloom, a celebration. It's permission to be sentimental, to cry over the people you've lost, to feed the ones you have. It's the best and silliest time of the year.

 Snowed in for Christmas is available to buy now from all good bookshops 
 Add Snowed in for Christmas on Goodreads here 
Follow the author on Twitter @berniestrachan 

 Follow the rest of the blog tour!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper Blog Tour: Christmas With Debbie Johnson

For my stop on the blog tour for Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper author Debbie Johnson is taking part in my new Christmas feature 'Christmas With...' answering some questions about all things festive! So grab a hot chocolate, turn on your Christmas playlist and spend Christmas with Debbie Johnson...
Christmas with Debbie Johnson


1.) What made you want to write Christmas books?
I have always loved writing stories – and I have always loved Christmas, so it was a good fit! When I had the idea for my first HarperImpulse book – Cold Feet at Christmas, which came out last year – I was walking my dogs across a field in a huge snow-blizzard, and it all felt so mysterious and full of potential – like anything could happen! Plus Christmas is such an emotional time of year – sometimes good, sometimes bad – that it seems the perfect occasion for some wish fulfillment! My Christmas is focused around my kids now, but I do remember when I was single, how I’d always hope for a bit of Christmas romance – a kiss under the mistletoe, meeting someone at a party, a special encounter on a night out! I do write books that aren’t set at Christmas, but I love the romance opportunities that the festive period brings – heightened feelings, a focus on hopes and dreams, plus of course the very dodgy Christmas jumpers!

2.) How do you get into the festive spirit to write? 
That can be tough – Christmas Jumper was written in the summer, and during an especially hot part of the summer! I was wearing sandals and T-shirts and Maggie and Marco were wrapping up warm in boots and gloves! Music helps – listening to Christmas albums is an excellent way to put yourself in the mood!

3.) What are your favourite Christmas stories?
I think THE Christmas story is actually a fantastic one – we’ve all seen nativity plays a million times, but really, if you sit down and really think about that tale, it’s amazing. I’ve had three babies, and I really can’t imagine riding around on a donkey at the end of my pregnancy, and then not being able to find a place to rest. It’s the original and the best, I suppose! But I also love some of the wonderful children’s Christmas stories that are out there like The Snowman and the Little Matchgirl. For myself, I always love a bit of Bridget Jones at Christmas!

4.) Which fictional character would you like to kiss underneath the mistletoe?
Hmmm...purely fictional, maybe Han Solo, before he met Princess Leah (as I wouldn’t want to tread on her toes!)? Or James Bond, Daniel Craig era.

5.) What’s the worst Christmas jumper you’ve ever seen?
It was one I saw at a party that was a 3D turkey – all the turkey’s legs and bits and bobs were dangling down the front of the man’s chest; to be honest, it looked absolutely obscene!

6.) What’s your favourite thing about Christmas? 
Spending time with my family, when everyone is switched off from work/school/real life – and focused on being at home, enjoying each other’s company! Christmas is like a very welcome break from reality.

7.) Do you have any Christmas traditions?
We have a few. We go and choose our Christmas tree from the same place – a garden centre in the suburbs of Liverpool – on or around December 1. I usually go into a zen-like state of trance as I wander around, looking at almost identical pine trees until one ‘speaks’ to me – although not literally. I’d get really worried if that happens. We also let all three of the kids choose a new decoration – which means that our tree, like Maggie’s, looks like a drunken elf has vomited all over it! We’ve been going there since the kids were tiny, and the staff always remember us. We also go to a service at our local church called Christingle on Christmas Eve, which involves carols and sweets on sticks stuck into oranges, and that is always lovely – sometimes Christmas Eve is actually nicer, because of the sense of anticipation. It’s the calm before the storm, and doesn’t involve batteries, Phillips head screwdrivers or cooking!

8.) What does Christmas mean to you? 
For me, at this stage in my life, a perfect Christmas is all about family – seeing the excitement on my children’s faces in the morning; sharing a meal with loved ones; celebrating all that is good in our lives. It’s a time to count our blessings and be thankful – which is very easy to forget in the insanity that lead up to it! If the cooker broke or the dogs ate the turkey (both very feasible scenarios in my house), I’d still be happy if we were all healthy and together. In Never Kiss A Man in A Christmas Jumper, Maggie is facing up to her first Christmas alone – and although she tries to stay strong about it, that is also one of my worst nightmares. Having a young family is chaotic – but does make for the best Christmasses ever!

9.) Do you treat yourself to a reward once you finished writing/published a book?
I usually just sit back, take a big sigh of relief, and put something fab on the telly! I know that sounds boring, but I have to try and avoid the TV when I’m on deadline – working from home is fraught with perils, and the goggle box is one of the main distractions! I once got lost in a Netflix boxed set of an American sports drama called Friday Night Lights for weeks on end...so being able to grab a coffee, sit on my own and watch something entertaining is brilliant – it’s a chance to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s imagination, rather than just using my own!

 Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper is available to buy now 
Add Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper on Goodreads here 
Follow Debbie on Twitter @DebbieMJohnson 

 Follow the rest of the blog tour!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Christmas With Cressida McLaughlin Author of A Christmas Tail

If you follow my blog then you'll probably know by now that I love Christmas in a big way and one of my favourite things to do during the countdown to Christmas is to snuggle up with a festive read. This year I decided to take it a step further and do a festive feature between now and Christmas getting some lovely authors who have Christmas books out this year to come on the blog and have a little chat with us about all things Christmassy and festive!

To debut this feature I have Cressida McLaughlin on the blog today talking about her book, what puppy she'd like to find underneath the Christmas tree and how she celebrates Christmas. So grab a hot chocolate, turn on your Christmas playlist and spend Christmas with Cressida McLaughlin.

 Christmas with Cressida McLaughlin


1.) A Christmas Tail was first released as four novellas. Did you know when starting this series that the final story would end at Christmas? What made you decide to conclude the series at this time of year?
Yes, when I started the Primrose Terrace series, I knew it would end at Christmas. Each story roughly covered a season, starting with spring, and Christmas seemed the perfect time to tie all the storylines together and for Cat to have her happy ending. There’s nothing more magical than a Christmas romance.

2.) How did you get into the festive spirit to write? 
I was writing the last part of the book in the hot, sultry August weather, so it was particularly hard to feel wintry! I put all my fairy lights on, and found a Christmas radio station so I could listen to Wham, Mariah Carey and Slade while I was writing. Once I got immersed in the story it was much easier, and I was quite surprised (and a bit disappointed) when I stopped writing for the day and discovered that I wasn’t in my woolly penguin socks, hibernating from a snowstorm.

3.) Which fictional character would you like to kiss underneath the mistletoe?
Oooh, my favourite kind of question! But also the hardest to answer, because how can I pick just one? It would either be John Thornton from North and South, or Ross Poldark. They’re both a bit brooding, but I’m sure they’d be excellent kissers, and would look lovely with snowflakes in their dark hair. What a lovely daydream.

4.) What would your dream puppy be to find underneath the tree this Christmas?
A cockapoo! I love them. I keep looking at photos, and “cockapoo puppies to buy” pages on the internet. They are the most adorable breed of dog.

5.) Favourite Christmas food and drink? 
Pigs in blankets are so delicious, and I love a traditional turkey dinner. Drink would be mulled wine or champagne. There is never a bad time for champagne, but it’s extra delicious drinking it next to a twinkling Christmas tree with your loved ones around you.

6.) Favourite Christmas movie?
Elf. It’s hilarious and romantic and magical and it leaves you with the warmest glow. You know you can really get into the festive spirit when Channel 4 shows Elf.

7.) Do you have any Christmas traditions?
My family always have boiled eggs with soldiers on Christmas morning. It’s a tradition handed down on my dad’s side of the family, and now I can’t imagine having anything else.

8.) What’s your favourite thing about Christmas?
Do I have to narrow it down? I love snuggling up inside with my family, I love the colour and twinkle of Christmas lights. I love that everything sparkles, and I love London at Christmas. I love walking in the cold, with a woolly hat and scarf, and seeing the decorations and glow in windows, imagining everyone safe and warm and celebrating inside. Sigh. Is it December yet?

Thank you so much for sharing your Christmas with us Cressida! As a proud cockapoo owner I very much approve of your choice of puppy!

A Christmas Tail is available to buy from all good bookshops now. 
 Add A Christmas Tail on Goodreads here 
 Follow Cressida on Twitter @CressMcLaughlin

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Review for Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin

Christmas at Lilac Cottage 
by Holly Martin 
Publisher: Bookouture
Release: 23rd September 2015
Genre: Christmas, Romance
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review



Synopsis:
"Penny Meadows loves her home – a cosy cottage decorated with pretty twinkling fairy lights and stunning views over the town of White Cliff Bay. She also loves her job as an ice-carver, creating breathtaking sculptures. Yet her personal life seems frozen.

When Henry and daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage to rent the annex, Penny is determined to make them feel welcome. But while Daisy is friendly, Henry seems guarded.

As Penny gets to know Henry, she realises there is more to him than meets the eye. And the connection between them is too strong to ignore…

While the spirit of the season sprinkles its magic over the seaside town and preparations for the ice sculpting competition and Christmas eve ball are in full swing, can Penny melt the ice and allow love in her heart? And will this finally be the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of?"

Review 
Christmas at Lilac Cottage was my first Christmas read of 2015 and was a great way to kick off my festive reading giving me everything I could want in a cute, cosy, Christmas story. This book made me laugh out loud and gave me the warm fuzzies when I was only a few chapters in which is always a good sign!

The book follows Penny, a lovely woman with a tragic past who is facing another Christmas alone in her lilac cottage in the seaside town of White Cliff Bay. Penny is lonely and looking for a bit of companionship and so she rents out her annex to Henry and his teenage daughter Daisy for Christmas in the hope of making friends. But Christmas is a magical time of year, and if Penny and Henry can let go of the ghosts of their past, love might be in the air.

I absolutely loved Penny, Henry and Daisy - they were each such warm, lovable characters that you wanted the best for especially after the heartache of their pasts. They really delivered a wonderful message about family which is especially important at Christmas time.

I also loved how this book was festive from beginning to end. The book radiated Christmas from the small things like Penny’s cosy little cottage to bigger things such as the ice carving contest. You truly get in the festive mood whilst reading this book.

The romance between Penny and Henry was the perfect balance of sweet and sexy. My only complaint is that I felt things moved very quickly between them. Using the L word after only knowing each other for a week was a bit too much for me and I’d have preferred a slower burning romance over time.

Christmas at Lilac Cottage was my first book by Holly Martin and it certainly won’t be my last. I’m happy that I have a second White Cliff Bay novel ‘Snowflakes on Silver Cover’ ready waiting for me. If it’s anything like this one it’ll be the perfect feel good Christmas read!

Friday, 6 November 2015

The Twelve Books of Christmas

November 6th may be early to start thinking about Christmas for some people, but as a book blogger I've been receiving lots of Christmas books for review over the last few weeks and I find that if I don't start reading and reviewing them as soon as November 1st hits I'd never get through them all before Christmas!

I think that more Christmas books have been released this year than ever before and so for today's post I decided to share with you the twelve books on my TBR that I'm the most excited to read this Christmas for anybody looking for some festive reads to add to their reading piles.


Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin 
So, I'm cheating a little bit by including this one because I'm currently reading it but I'm thoroughly enjoying it so far and I'm looking forward to reading the rest, so it counts! This book made me laugh out loud and gave me the warm fuzzies when I was only 10% in on my Kindle. The characters are so warm and likeable and I love the town of White Cliff Bay. This is a feel-good Christmas romance about a woman called Penny who rents her annex out to a man and his daughter over the Christmas period, and of course with a dash of Chirstmas magic love is in the air! I think this'll be perfect for anyone looking for a festive romance. There's also a second book set in the same town that's out now 'Snowflakes on Silver Cove' that you can jump into after!


One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot 
This one has been getting some wonderful reviews from my blogger friends already so I'm very excited to read it! This festive treat is set in New York as Hayley takes her daughter to try and find her dad. I've always wanted to visit New York at Christmas and sadly it hasn't happened for me yet so I'm looking forward to going on horse-drawn carriage rides through central park with Hayley and her daughter this Christmas instead!


Make A Christmas Wish by Julia Williams 
If the cute, festive romances mentioned above aren't for you and you'd like something a little more sentimental then Make a Christmas Wish could be perfect for you. This reminds me of a book I read and loved called 'The Dead Wife's Handbook' which makes it very appealing to me. This story follows Livvy who died last Christmas, in the months since her death she's floated on the edge of the afterlife because she's not ready to leave her son and husband behind just yet. This Christmas she's been given one last magical chance to put things right for her family before leaving them for good. This sounds like the kind of book that will make me cry and hold on to my loved ones a little bit tighter this Christmas.


Every Time a Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington 
Don't put the tissues away just yet! I have another Christmas weepy here! Every Time a Bell Rings is inspired by the Christmas movie classic 'It's a Wonderful Life' and follows a similar theme. Belle and her partner Jim are foster parents and although they're not supposed to they've grown particularly attached to little Lauren who's now ready to go back to her mother. Unable to cope Belle finds herself standing on The Ha’Penny Bridge and wishes she'd never been born. But little does she know an angel is listening whose ready to show her that life is for the living. This is a must read for anyone who loves 'It's a Wonderful Life' and is looking for a little magic this Christmas!


Lily and the Christmas Wish by Keris Stainton 
I love Keris' YA books and was really excited when I heard that she had written a Christmas book for children. The book itself sounds very sweet - the little town of Pinewood are celebrating Christmas this year by putting up a Christmas tree and asking all of the town's people to hang a Christmas wish on the branches. But after a storm blows in the wishes get granted but mixed up! Lily, her brother and her pug must sort out the wishes or else nobody in her little town will get what they want for Christmas this year. I'm planning on getting this for my seven year old cousin for Christmas and it sounds so sweet that I'm going to have to get a copy for myself too!


A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig 
So when Stephen Fry blurbs a book saying "Matt Haig has written the most evergreen, immortal Christmas story to be published for decades" you better believe that I'm going to want to read it! This is another children's book although this is aimed for the middle grade market. I really don't know much about it other than it's beautifully illustrated by Chris Mould and is about a boy who isn't afraid to believe in magic. I think this will be a brilliant book for anyone, of any age and did I mention it is blurbed by Stephen Fry? BECAUSE IT IS!


All Wrapped Up by Holly Smale 
Moving on up to YA books, this Christmas we have a Geek Girl special from Holly Smale. This is a Geek Girl short Christmas story that takes place between books one and two. I love Harriet Manners and can't wait to spend Christmas with her and her friends and family. This is one of the only YA releases I could find that is out this year which I think is a real shame. I'd love to see more Christmas YA on the shelves but in the meantime I will be cherishing this one!


A Wedding at Christmas by Chrissie Manby 
Another family that I can't wait to spend Christmas with this year is the Benson's! This is the fourth book in the 'Proper Family' series and I can't wait to catch up with this lovable family that after four books I've grown very attached to! I won't say too much about this one as it's part of a series, other than to say that I'm very much looking forward to attending a certain couples wedding!


The Winter Wedding by Abby Clements 
If you're in the mood to attend a white wedding this Christmas but haven't read the 'Proper Family' series then look no further than standalone The Winter Wedding! I love Abby's books and her debut 'Meet Me Under the Mistletoe' is one of my all-time favourite Christmas reads so I'm very excited for another winter book from her. This is about a wedding planner who dreams of finding her own happy ending this winter all whilst juggling the stress of planning two very different weddings!


A Christmas Tail by Cressida McLaughlin 
This sounds like such a me book as it's about two of my favourite things dogs and Christmas! This is a bind up of the four Primrose Terrace novellas. This series follows Cat - Primrose Terrace's dog walker and ends with the final story taking place at Christmas. If you love dogs this sounds like the perfect read for curling up on the couch with your dog at your side this Christmas.


The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson 
This is another bind-up of books that was first released as short novellas. It's one of the first Christmas books I heard about and got excited for this year. After breaking up from her long-term boyfriend Claudia suddenly finds herself spending Christmas alone and so she decides to embark on a new adventure and have twelve dates before Christmas to discover who she is and what she wants in life and love.


The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin 
I've wanted to read Rebecca Raisin's books for a while and when I first heard about The Little Bookshop on the Seine - the first book in her new trilogy - I knew this was where I had to start! This book features books, Paris and Christmas. Seriously, what more could you want from a book? The story is about bookshop owner Sarah who decides to exchange bookshops with her Parisian friend for six months. Needless to say I'm very excited to follow Sarah's bookish adventures in Paris over Christmastime! 

 So those are the twelve books that I'm the most excited to read during the build up to Christmas this year. Hopefully I've added a little something for everyone and there is something here that you like the look of. 

Keep your eye on the blog for plenty of festive reviews and posts in the upcoming weeks!
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