15 November 2017

Blog Tour: Christmas at the Candied Apple Café by Katherine Garbera

There’s nothing so magical as Christmas in New York…
Santa is coming to New York!

Snow is falling, excitement is high and the delicious scent of chocolate drifts along Fifth Avenue – the Candied Apple Café is ready for Christmas! And no one is busier than publicist Iona Summerlin. With so much to do, she doesn’t have time to think about men, dating, or the fact her last boyfriend ditched her for her brother… Relationships are off the menu!

Hotel boss Mads Eriksson is not looking forward to the first Christmas since losing his wife. His six-year-old daughter Sofia has lost her belief in Christmas magic along with her mother, and he has no idea what to do. But an unusually festive business meeting at the Candied Apple – and meeting the beautiful Iona – starts to defrost Mads’ frozen heart, and suddenly life seems full of light and sparkle again.

If only they dare to believe, maybe all their Christmas dreams will come true!

Katherine’s Christmas Playlist

For me one of the best parts of Christmas is signing my favorite holiday songs. Some of them are classics and others are new renditions by my favorite artists. Here is my top ten Christmas playlist.
  1. Must be Santa by Bob Dylan
  2. Soul Cake by Sting
  3. Christmastime is Here by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
  4. The Coventry Carol by Alison Moyet
  5. Winter Wonderland by Eurythmics
  6. Do You Hear What I Hear by Whitney Houston
  7. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Rascal Flats
  8. Angels We Have Heard on High by Aretha Franklin
  9. Mary, Did You Know? By Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd
  10. Christmas In Hollis by Run-DMC
But we really love the songs that my kids have grown up singing in the car, like Lou Monte’s Domenick the Donkey, is a very silly song and my kids love it. Lou Monte has a special place in my family’s musical collection. An Italian American singer we listened to his albums when I was growing up and would go to my maternal grandmother’s house on Sunday for a lunch that lasted all day long. So when my kids were little I made a tape with his music on it to share with them.

We also really love Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer to sing in the car, with all kinds of answer-back made up lyrics and echos. It’s so much fun.



14 November 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #107

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Ten Books I read as I was growing up

This list Top Ten Books I Want My Future Children to Read, but I don't want kids. So instead I'm taking a trip down memory lane and listing the top ten books that I grew up reading, and a little bit about how they shaped me. They are books I come back to again and again, so many years after I first read them.
  • Lucas by Kevin Brooks
    The injustice, the prejudice, the people who would stand against it all and try to stop it. The hopelessness. This book makes my cry and it makes me think and it makes me rage.
  • The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan
    Good and evil isn't always so black and white, and I loved how this series explored that. The fantasy world comes alive on the pages and I could smell the streets of Imardin. As angry as the under-estimating of Sonea made me, it also made me grin like a loon when she proved them all wrong.
  • Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick
    I have learnt so much about early medieval history from Elizabeth Chadwick. It was a period that was barely glanced at when I was in school, so everything I know I have researched myself. Often prompted by this author's books.
  • Junk by Melvin Burgess
    This book is truly a look at a different side of life for most people. It's dark and gritty and challenges your preconceptions. I love the way Gemma leads Tar, how toxic their relationship is, how everything goes to shit and it's everyone's fault in one way or another.
  • Possessed by Kate Cann
    This was probably the first book I read where the main character was not only working class, but a person of colour. I loved the story, how Rayne's past shaped her and how she rallied against what people thought her future would be. I loved the tensions and how rich vs poor played out against a haunted castle and dark magic.
  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
    I was pretty late coming to this book. Despite it being a children's book and one I would have loved as a child, it wasn't until my early teens that I picked it up. And I still loved it and read it every Christmas and whenever I'm ill. There's something so soothing about these girl-power orphans.
  • Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
    I think there is a lot of universal love for this series. For me it was the power and strength of friendship that I loved, how those strong bonds of friendship created unbreakable loyalty. Yup, I'm a  Hufflepuff through and through.
  • Pirates! by Celia Rees
    There was something about this  piratical tale of loyalty and power that had me hooked. I fell in love with Nancy and Minerva, and learnt a lot in the process about the family you are born with and the family you create with friends.
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
    I absolutely adore this book. When it was first put into my hands by my high school librarian I didn't think I would enjoy it, but I've now read it so many times I can quote passages from memory.
  • The Water Horse by Dick King-SmithWhen I was in primary school, I would read this book again and again. I had it out of the school library so much that I doubt anyone else had a chance to read it. Me hiding it behind a shelf when it wasn't on my ticket probably helped with that too.

Which books shaped you?


12 November 2017

Blog Tour: The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop by Caroline Roberts

Emma is the proud owner of The Chocolate Shop by the Sea, nestled in the heart of the cosy seaside village that’s become her home. With Christmas right around the corner, she and her assistant Holly are busy cooking up the locals’ festive favourites.

From cinnamon hot chocolates to reindeer lollipops, Christmas wouldn’t taste the same without a little cocoa magic. And for Emma it’s the perfect distraction from her romantic pains of the past. So when the shop’s miserly landlord threatens to hike up the rent, Emma’s Christmas and New Year suddenly look a lot less cheerful.

With the whole village rallying behind her – and loyal spaniel Alfie by her side – Emma’s determined to hold onto her chocolate-box dream.

The chocolate calendar countdown is on. Can Emma rescue her business and her broken heart?



We all know I love books, but there is a special place in my heart for local authors. So when I found out that Caroline Roberts had another book out I squeaked with excitement and jumped at the chance to get in there with a mini-Q&A. I have previously had the lovely author on to talk about castles, something we have in abundance in Northumberland, and you can read that post here.

But here are three wee questions to get to know the author, and her new book The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop, a little better.

Q&A with Caroline Roberts

We know Alfie is inspired by your own lovely dog! Could you tell us a little bit about him?

It’s a she, called Meg. She’s a brown cocker spaniel and has been a best friend for years. She has walked a lot of Northumberland with me, even doing the training for my marathon Moonwalk, through the landscapes that inspire my books. We’ve often gone out on research missions together to get more details on locations such as Bamburgh Beach for My Summer and we did the coastal walk to Craster for The Cosy Christmas Chocolate Shop. She can’t walk so far now though, bless her, as she’s getting rather old at 15 and is a bit blind and deaf.

Without giving too much away, the novel is also about grief and loss. Could you tell us a bit about why that’s something which is important to you?

I think the love stories in my novels need roots in real issues, and real-life relationships can be complex. I wanted Emma to have had a difficult past and to explore how that might impact on her relationships in the future. I think it also defines a lot of her characteristics. I did some research on this type of grief, and it was so interesting and heart-wrenching to learn about.

Why do you think gorgeous seaside towns like your fictional Warkton-by-the-Sea appeal to readers so much? What is it about them that allows us to escape?

There are such beautiful locations in Northumberland. You can imagine escaping to the settings in my books as they are quite idyllic. Warkton-by-the-Sea is a mash-up of Craster harbour with the main street of Warkworth with its pretty stone cottages. The harbours, sandy bays, dunes, castles, and the colours of sea and sky come across vividly as I know and love the area so much. I think another factor is that they are also small villages with close communities that feel warm and supportive, somewhere you’d like to go and stay or to live.



31 October 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #106

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is a Halloween Freebie! 

It would be wrong of my to just list every Red Eye, wouldn't it? Besides, there's only eight out at the moment.

I read seasonally twice a year - at Halloween and at Christmas. So here's a list of my favourite books to read. They're not all horror, they're not all creepy, they're not all magical, but they definitely fit the spirit of Halloween.
  • Possessed by Kate Cann
  • Lockwood and Co by Jonathan Stroud
  • Fir by Sharon Gosling
  • Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell
  • Darkmere by Helen Maslin (I also read this one during Summer)
  • Say Her Name by Juno Dawson
  • Monster by CJ Skuse (I also love this one for Christmas)
  • The Vanished by Celia Rees
  • Basic Witches by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman
  • A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M Harris
What's your favourite book to read at Halloween?


30 October 2017

Review: Wild Embers by Nikita Gill

You cannot burn away
What has always been aflame

WILD EMBERS explores the fire that lies within every soul, weaving words around ideas of feeling at home in your own skin, allowing yourself to heal and learning to embrace your uniqueness with love from the universe.

Featuring rewritten fairytale heroines, goddess wisdom and poetry that burns with revolution, this collection is an explosion of femininity, empowerment and personal growth.

Nikita Gill's poetry has captured hearts and minds all over the world; her inspirational words have been shared hundreds of thousands of times online, been plastered across placards on international women's marches and even transformed into tattoos. This collection will showcase mostly unseen poetry and prose, delving into ideas about passion, identity, empowerment and femininity.

Poems of rebellion, fire, and beauty.


Source: NetGalley Request

5 Words: Being, power, understanding, strength, femininity.

5 More Words: Beauty, art, control, feminism, fairytales.

This was absolutely incredible. Breathtaking. Captivating. Haunting.

I don't often read poetry. When I do it tends to be Romantic classics like The Lyrical Ballads. But there was something about Wild Embers that piqued my interest.

And I am glad I gave something so different a chance.

I loved the ideas explored, from the universe to fairytales, domestic abuse to survival. There was so much passion in the writing. I was almost breathless just from reading. I was physically shaking at times, I had goosebumps up my arms. I got so easily lost in the writing, caught up in the narrative, the way the themes led into one another.

The style is pretty open, not rigidly structured. The way the words flow reminds me of my own way of thinking. It was like Nikita Gill was inside my head.

Every time I thought I had found my favourite poem from the collection, I'd go to the next page and find another that touched my heart and soul, blew my mind. 

Each piece hit home, each piece inspired.

She will ascend,
like a battle cry
from a war you thought you had won.

This is such an empowering collection. It made my heart sing. It was both comforting and confronting to read.

27 October 2017

Book Beginnings #55

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

For Friday 56, Freda's Voice asks you to turn to Page 56 in your book or 56% on your e-reader and pick a sentence.

I am currently reading A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris.
The year it turns, and turns, and turns. Winter to summer, darkness to light, turning the world like wood on a lathe, shaping the months and the seasons.
Quite poetic, yes? I love the writing, it drew me straight in to the story. I loved the questions I had at the end of the first chapter, and I desperately needed to read on to find out the Who and the What and the Why.
It has been a week since I left, without a word from William. Of course, he does not know where I am, or how to find me in the woods. But I know he will, soon.
This book though, it's excellent. I am fully immersed in the world and captivated by the characters.

My ARC does not have the illustrations, but I have picked this up in Waterstones and had a flick through. The illustrations are beautiful, breath-taking. You can view and buy some of them here on the illustrator's website.

25 October 2017

Blog Tour: Guestpost: Scarecrow by Danny Weston

Jack and his dad are runaways.

Jack’s father recently turned whistleblower, revealing the truth about the illicit dealings of some powerful people. Realising that he and Jack might be in danger, Dad drives them to a remote shooting lodge in the Scottish Highlands, where they intend to lay low.

In the cornfield beside the lodge stands a scarecrow.

When Jack witnesses something incredible, he begins to realise that it is no ordinary scarecrow – it is alive, hungry and fuelled by rage. And when Dad’s enemies begin to converge on the lodge, the scarecrow might just turn out to be Jack’s best hope of survival.


Source: Review Consideration | Blog Tour

5 Words: Family, honour, friendship, protection, tradition.

Right from the start, the very tone of the writing sets the scene and starts building the spooky atmosphere. I loved the sense of foreboding.

Coming to the characters, I loved Philbert, the scarecrow. I loved his humour, how he accepted his lot and got on with it. And he was creepy. They're something about scarecrows and dolls and mannequins that creep me right out, and Philbert was no exception. But he was strangely loveable, and with his gruff accent reminding me a lot of my dad, I loved reading about him. Even though he was so dark. And rather murderous.
"Philbert, this could be awkward."
While the story was a little spooky, mostly due to the atmosphere (but also Philbert because scarecrow), it was also action-filled. The lack of technology gives the story a timeless feel, but is explained in such a way as to make it not only believable, but natural. I loved how Jack hated not having any of his gadgets and lamented the loss of his mobile phone. It starts slowly, and then builds and builds, and I could not put it down.

This was a great read, fast paced and gripping. I enjoyed it myself immensely.

Read on for five reasons Danny Weston set Scarecrow in Scotland...
5 Reasons Why Scarecrow is Set in Scotland
  1. It’s my new home. I moved here a year ago and I’m gradually exploring more and more of it. I’m slowly discovering some amazing parts of this incredible country and getting inspiration for more books!
  2. Scotland has some of the creepiest myths and legends. Did you ever hear of the Nuckelavee? A creature supposed to live far below the ground, rising to the surface from time to time to prey upon the unwary… You can bet I’m going to use that in a story!
  3. Did you know that hundreds of years ago, newly planted crops in Scotland would be consecrated with bull’s blood in order to bring a good harvest? That was one of my starting points for Scarecrow.
  4. And did you know that back then, a scarecrow had more to do than just scare the birds? It was also set to guard the farmer’s family and friends from harm. How can I not write about things like that?
  5. The Scottish Book Trust are incredibly supportive to writers like me. In 2016, my novel The Piper won the Scottish Children’s Book Award – an The Haunting of Jessop Rise has been shortlisted for the Scottish Teen Book prize. Neither book is set in Scotland, so I thought it was time I did something about it!
If you were going to write a book, where would you set it?


24 October 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #105

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Favourite Book Titles. 

OK this was supposed to be Top Ten Unique Book Titles, but... Yeah, this was easier. These are my top ten favourite book titles, the titles that grabbed me straight away. And yes, they're all excellent.
  • The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
  • Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett
  • Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
  • One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton
  • Crimson & Bone by Marina Fiorato
  • The Fallen Children by David Owen
  • Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
  • The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
  • Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott
  • In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Which book titles attracted your attention?


23 October 2017

Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara.

But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird.

She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts. Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person.

But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him--and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.


Source: Purchase

5 Words: Power, responsibility, secrets, kick-ass, oracle.

This was not at all what I expected, but I loved it.

After seeing the author's #SexyHistory posts on Twitter, I knew I needed to read her books. Rebel Belle has actually been on my TBR for years because of that beautiful cover, but it's a wee bit difficult to get hold of over here because it's not a UK publisher. But, spurned on by her amazing tweets, I bugged my local bookshop into ordering a copy for me.

I opened this book in a hospital waiting room and it was the perfect tonic for my nerves. I quickly got lost in the story.

I found Rebel Belle a very quick read. It's fast paced and gripping, and I was loath to put it down. I loved the little dramas that are oh so important to someone individually, but on a larger scale seem petty. I loved the humanity these brought to the characters. There was a balance between action and planning, drama and humour.

Harper is excellent. She stays herself at heart despite the great responsibility thrust upon her. I loved how she could now kick ass, but was still an actual teenage girl. She worried about her friends and boyfriend and family. She struggled with her feelings and her loyalties. And damn, she wanted to look good while she tried to figure everything out.

I would absolutely recommend this book to everyone. I loved the blend of contemporary drama and mythology, of teenage struggles and fantastical magic. I will definitely be reading on in this series and picking up the Hex Hall series too.

Have you read Rebel Belle or any of the author's other books?

19 October 2017

Blog Tour: Review: The Girl From The Sugar Plantation by Sharon Maas

1934, Georgetown. 

All her life, Mary Grace has wanted to know the truth about who her parents really are. As the mixed-race daughter of two white plantation owners, her childhood has been clouded by whispered rumours, and the circumstances of her birth have been kept a closely guarded secret...

Aunt Winnie is the only person Mary Grace can confide in. Feeling lost and lonely, her place in society uncertain, Mary Grace decides to forge her own path in the world. And she finds herself unexpectedly falling for charming and affluent Jock Campbell, a planter with revolutionary ideas. 

But, with the onset of the Second World War, their lives will be changed forever. And Mary Grace and Jock will be faced with the hardest decision of all – to fight for freedom or to follow their hearts… 


Source: Blog Tour | Review Consideration

5 Words: Prejudice, music, family, secrets, historical.

From the first page, I was in love with the beautiful writing. Something about the tone reminded me of Pirates by Celia Rees, and when I had to put the book down because life got in my way, I couldn't wait to dive back in.

I really loved Grace's story, how she thought she had everything worked out and then it was turned on its head. I loved her passion for music, and I got as lost in the writing as she got in playing.

This is part of a series, but I have not read any of the previous books and I read this no problem. It was definitely easy to read as a standalone, I don't feel like it impacted my enjoyment of the story. I am interested in reading the other books in the series though.

Have you read this book?

17 October 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #104

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Yummy Foods and Drinks Mentioned In Books. 

Oh man, this is killer for me. I'm so easily led. I get so hungry when I'm reading. Whether it's sweetmeats in a historical novel, watery stew in high fantasy, grand feasts at the merest mention of royalty, I AM THERE FOR IT. I may have had the worst relationship with food in the past, but now I bloomin' love food.

  • Hot Chocolate and Fresh Bread
    You know in The Hunger Games when they're on the train to the Capitol and it's what Katniss eats for breakfast? Yum.
  • Spag Bol
    Specifically the dried stuff in a packet that you add water too. I'd actually gross but Uglies made me crave it.
  • Chocolate Ices
    Maeve in Glass Mountain pretty much always has chocolate ices (little cups of chocolatey goodness that are SO DIFFICULT to find now) and some colouring pencils with her. Relatable.
  • Hazelnut Lattes
    I had never had one of these before reading A Girl Called Malice but now they're my go to. And they're delicious.
  • Jam Donuts
    Thank you Lockwood and Co, for making me drink countless cups of tea and eating a disgusting amount of jam donuts.
  • A Box of Chocolates
    OK, so it's actually the dog, but The Unexpected Everything made me want to indulge in a box of chocolates.
  • Choffee Cake
    This is the signature cake for Ellie in The Cosy Tea Shop In The Castle and in the back of the book there's even the recipe. Mmmmm.
  • McChicken Sandwich
    Thank you, Sarah Millican. As well as making me cry with laughter, you had me making a run to Maccy D's for a McChicken Sandwich.
  • Bacon Sandwiches
    The Canal Boat Cafe sells bacon sandwiches and cup of tea and coffee from the narrow boat, and I wanted so badly to be there next to the canal. Eating a bacon sandwich.
  • All of the Food. Ever.
    Twylla is not a Sin Eater, for she is The Sin Eater's Daughter. So her mother eats all of the food symbolically eating the sins of those who have passed. I want to eat all of the food.

14 October 2017

Blog Tour: The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness - and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend - a slave boy from her betrothed’s household - Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. 


Source: NetGalley Request | Blog Tour | Review Consideration

5 Words: Dragons, stories, power, obligation, family.

Going in to this I know only one thing about it: Dragons. I knew that there would be dragons. And I love dragons.

Before starting, I was in love with the cover. The gold foil, the intricate details, even the font. Such a beautiful cover immediately sets my expectations high.

And I was not disappointed.

I loved Asha's character, how she changed within the pages. As much as I experienced the story through Asha's eyes, I also felt it in how she changed as a person as the story progressed. Asha is the Iskari and she is bad ass. She is physically strong, mentally strong, yet still authentically vulnerable. I loathed the villainous Jarek. I was so-so about Torwin, but I am generally so-so about any romantic interests.

Throughout the story itself, are small stories. The old stories. I thought that these were a fantastic touch, and I loved the parallels between the old stories of the past and what was happening in Asha's present. The stories within the story held power.

I did feel like pace faltered a little in the middle. It wasn't that it was slow - there is no way that you can call this story slow paced - it's just that it was a little slower than the majority of the story. But right after, it ramps right up again.

Overall this was a fantastic debut, and I cannot wait to read more.



Have you read The Last Namsara?


12 October 2017

Four Steps to Saving For YALC

I'm not going to lie, YALC is expensive. And with a little over 9 months to go, I thought it was time to release this saving guide into the wild.


Step One - Start Now
No, really. Start now. The sooner you start the easier it is. Start putting money aside now. The sooner you start, the less you have to put away each week/month to reach your goal.

I set up a second, instant access bank account and any money I'm saving is automatically transferred on pay day so I can't spend it.

Step Two - Write a List
Write down a list of what you will need to save for. This means you can start researching prices.

Typically my YALC list looks like this:
  • Accommodation
  • YALC tickets
  • Train tickets
  • Bus/Tube fare
  • Food and drink
  • Spending money
  • Emergency extras
If you intend to stay, shop around. Look at prices and decide what type of accommodation you want. I like the freedom of self-catering, and this can often bring the price down. Look at different areas too, even within a few tube stops the price can drastically drop.

The average price for a Newcastle to London train ticket is a whopping £140 (eek!) so I always save more than I need in case I can't find a decent deal on early release tickets. I've been lucky in that I've never paid more than £50 including a first class upgrade. But I also look into maybe getting the coach - although I absolutely love travelling by train so it's a last resort.

I find travel in London super cheap. I don't know what crazy subsidies they get down South, but a day of unlimited travel with TFL is cheaper than a return ticket to town for me up North. I know I won't need more than £30 for a long weekend in London, where up here I'd need more than double.
 

Step Three - Set Goals
OK, so you have some pennies put back now. But how much do you need? Set yourself a final figure. 

My figure last year was £500 for YALC, because I was doing an extra long weekend and travelling from Geet Up North. This paid for a four night AirBnB stay, my YALC tickets, my train tickets (including an upgrade to first class!), travel to and from venues and stations, takeaways and wine each night, and spending money while I was there.

Based on my final figure I set aside £10 per week for a year, and added in a little extra when I could. I actually ended up with more like £600 saved be the time YALC came around, and the little extra helped when my card stopped working. And I still had change, which went right back into the savings pot.

Don't think you have to pay so much though! My first year was £100 including YALC ticket, last minute train tickets, travel in and around London, food and drink, and spending money for YALC. And I had change, despite coming back with many new books.
 

Step Four - Book Early
This applies mostly to tickets. The general rule is, the further in advance you book, the less you pay.

YALC tickets are on sale now. Eeek!

Some travel companies have an alert system, so you can enter your dates and get an email alert as soon as tickets are released. I also found it cheaper to go direct to the travel operator for my train tickets, and as a bonus I got free wi-fi for my journey and a first class upgrade. It's also a good idea to check out split ticketing, as that can often get you cheaper fares.

Also, once a particular part of your expenditure is out of the way you can relax a little. Once my accommodation and travel were booked I was chill, because it was out of the way and paid off. With those big tasks ticked off the rest was plain sailing.
 

Money Saving Ideas

Start a Book Buying Ban
This is very difficult but very rewarding. Not only do you spend less, but you get to actually tackle that TBR of books you've already acquired. And if you really need new reading material, why not join your local library? 

Set Up A Coin Jar
After seeing Aoife at Pretty Purple Polka Dots post about this, I decided to do it too. And it's a huge success. All I do is put £1 in my coin jar every time I finish a book. I already have over £100 saved this year and have had to swap out £1 coins for notes so I have space to keep adding.

Drop a Bad Habit
I'm not saying that my chocolate addiction is a Bad Habit (it is, I know it is, shh) but if you're not spending £1 a day on a chocolate bar then you can save an extra £1 a day. I'm on a super-saving kick at the moment so I've stopped buying chocolate, wine, books, and takeaways. And boy, does it add up.

10 October 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #103

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Books With Autumn Covers. 

This was difficult, I didn't really feel the theme. I love Autumn. So while these books themselves may not be particularly autumnal (most of them are) the covers and how they remind me of autumn prompted me to pick them.

Reign: The Prophecy by Lily Blake
I'm Reign trash and re-watch it pretty much on loop all autumn. And the rich colours on this cover scream out for the season.


STAGS by MA Bennett
There's something about stags as an animal that makes me think of autumn. Probably because it's rutting season so... Anyhow, these magnificent antlers are all up autumn for me.


High Force by LJ Ross
Out of all of the covers in the series, this is the most autumnal. And I can still feel the icy chill of the water.


Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
Just look at the reds and the flowing lines. It reminds me of falling leaves and high winds.


Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davis
Oh look, another stag. Surprise. I loved reading this in autumn as a child, I have vivid memories of being 10/11 and curled up in bed reading this as the wind howled outside.


The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
It just makes me think of the start of autumn, where it's still mostly green but the first yellows and reds are appearing.


Witch Hunt by Tabitha Morrow
This just makes me think of those days between Halloween and Guy Fawkes night, where everything is slightly chaotic and exciting.


Banished by Liz de Jager
I know that's it's crows on the cover (and they're autumnal enough) but I always thing for murmurations of starlings when I see this cover.


Hunger by Melvin Burgess
This is a super creepy cover, and the book itself is intense. I love it, and 100% recommend the audiobook, it has my now favourite narrator.


The Falconer by Elizabeth May
Maybe it's the fire and the smoke, maybe it's the grey colour scheme reminding me of the grey sky outside, but this cover reminds me of autumn.


What is your favourite autumnal cover?


09 October 2017

Guestpost: Holly Webb on writing The Princess and the Suffragette

It is 1913, nine years after the end of A Little Princess saw Sara Crewe escape Miss Minchin's orphanage.

Lottie, the smallest girl from the original story, learns about the Suffragette movement from Sara, who returns to visit from time to time. Soon Lottie finds herself sneaking out of the orphanage to attend a demonstration, in defiance of her cold, distant father. A father who has a secret to hide about her own missing mother...

It's a story about lost mothers turning up in unexpected situations, the power of friendship and female empowerment.

“They’re Suffragettes,” Louisa gasped. “They must be. They were in Miss Minchin’s paper. And my mamma said something about them, when I last went home. But – there are hundreds and hundreds of them. I thought there were only a few – Mamma said that no good woman would ever think of being a Suffragette, they were shameful and unwomanly.”
….Lottie watched the line of women marching past. They were almost all wearing white dresses, with coloured sashes and ribbons, and pretty hats – not quite as big and feathery as the hat Lavinia had been wearing a few days before, but along the same sort of lines. They looked extremely ladylike to her. In fact, they looked very like all the mothers and elder sisters that came to visit the Seminary. She glanced at Louisa. “Are you sure?”

Holly Webb on writing The Princess and the Suffragette


I have always loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book, A Little Princess. I can still picture the exact copy I had as a child. It had illustrations by Margery Gill (she illustrated lots of my other favourite books too, like Noel Streatfeild’s Apple Bough) and Sara had dark bobbed hair with a fringe, just like mine. I wanted to be like Sara so much – she was clever, she loved books, she had the most amazing clothes and a doll who had her own complete wardrobe. Most of all, she was so confident! I was very shy as a child and I found it really difficult to talk to strangers, or to answer back when anyone said something mean at school. I wanted to be clever and quick-thinking (but always with perfect princess manners) just like Sara. 
In the original book, Lottie is a spoiled motherless baby who throws herself on the floor and screams when she’s asked to wash before lunch – but at the start of the story, she’s only four. I remember being amazed that a four year old was at a boarding school. When I first thought of writing a sequel to A Little Princess it was Lottie that I found myself thinking about. Why had she been abandoned at Miss Minchin’s so young? 
Two years ago, I wrote a sequel to The Secret Garden, and the real inspiration for the story was thinking about the time that the book was written, and realising that Mary, Colin and Dickon would have grown up as the First World War broke out. A Little Princess was written slightly earlier, just as the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union aka the Suffragettes) were starting to be talked about in drawing rooms across the country. Schoolmistresses like Miss Minchin would have been protecting their charges against these unwomanly women. I really wanted spoiled, unloved Lottie to find a way to make her voice heard, and I was fascinated by the Suffragettes – I’m so glad I had the chance to write this book!
***

I'm so glad that Holly agreed to a guestpost on my blog, because A Little Princess is one of my favourite children's books (along with The Secret Garden, Holly Webb wrote Return To The Secret Garden inspired by it!) and I love seeing what authors inspirations are.

What was your favourite book growing up?


06 October 2017

Book Beginnings #54

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

For Friday 56, Freda's Voice asks you to turn to Page 56 in your book or 56% on your e-reader and pick a sentence.

I am currently reading The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli.

Asha lured the dragon with a story. 
It was an ancient story, older than the mountains at her back, and Asha had to dredge it up from where it lay deep and dormant inside her. 
Firstly, the cover is beautiful. It has the most gorgeous gold foil, I can't stop staring at the details on the blade, and I am in love with the font for the title, so my very first impressions are good. Very good. I love pretty books.

This is hailed as a crossover fantasy, bridging between Young Adult and Adult fantasy, and add dragons to that I am sold. From the off I am in love with the writing style.
Asha followed the smoke and ash. The deeper into this cavern she went, the more familiar her surroundings became. It wasn't that she'd been here before. It was more like she'd been dreaming of this place all her life
Yep, I still love the writing style! This isn't what I had expected, but it is excellent. I can't wait to share my review with you next week!

What are you reading this weekend?

05 October 2017

Blog Tour: The Woolly Hat Knitting Club by Poppy Dolan

Finding happiness one stitch at a time

When Dee Blackthorn’s brother, JP, breaks both wrists not only is he in need of a helping hand – or two – but the knitting shop he owns can’t function. Sisterly duties take Dee away from her demanding job and she is unceremoniously fired amidst scandalous office rumours. Dee is certain that her hot-shot nemesis, Ben, is behind it all.

Back in the village of Fenwild where JP's shop resides, Dee bumps into Becky, an old friend who is new mum to a premature baby. Desperate to help Becky, Dee convinces JP to enlist his knitting pals to make tiny woolly hats to keep the little one warm. Seeing how grateful her friend is, Dee makes it her mission to help lots of other premature babies. When Ben turns up denying involvement in Dee’s sacking she is initially furious, but hears him out before roping him into helping the knitting cause.

But before long Dee’s good intentions backfire and she risks losing her friends, her family and Ben, who’s turned out to be not so bad after all...


Source: Blog Tour | NetGalley Request | Review Consideration

5 Words: Betrayal, knitting, family, friendship, ambition.

This book was absolutely delightful. It was heartfelt and inspiring.

Before reading this book I had never knitted in my life. Now I'm a knitting machine (kind of) and halfway through the super-long, super-soft scarf of my dreams. I'm nowhere near knitting woolly hats for premature babies, but that's my goal.

Read on to find out Poppy Dolan's shopping addiction.

Guestpost
Born to Knit by Poppy Dolan
In my twenties, I couldn’t stop buying shoes. It was silly, frivolous and I loved it. Then I got older and realised the pile of shoes and thick credit card statement were closely linked. So I got sensible about shoes. About a month later, I started spending all my money on wool instead. But this is a shopping addiction I'm yet to crack. I think because I justify if with an altruistic spin: I'm making things for other people! They're gifts! I'm being generous! So to try and get some perspective, I'm going to list all the bonkers things I've made for you all to see (with some pics) and hope I can shame myself from making any more crafty purchases this year. Month. Week. HELP.
  • (A million hats and scarves, I hope it goes without saying)
  • A draught excluder
  • Knitted toys including: a zebra, a lion, a rhino, an elephant, a mouse, a fox, a ballerina, a teddy, a rabbit
  • Bunting with a baby’s name knitted onto it in a different colour. So fiddly.
  • A log basket, which was then felted as part of the design. A LOG BASKET? What was I thinking?!
  • A baby hat that looks like a Christmas pudding.
  • A baby hat that looks like a dinosaur.
  • A baby hat that looks like a Minion.
  • An all-in-one fluffy bear onesie for my daughter.
  • A baby mobile where it was supposed to look like rocket ships but instead it looked like a certain part of the male anatomy.
  • A cardigan for myself that, five years later, I still haven’t sew the buttons on.
  • Flowers which I then sewed onto a cushion, alongside ladybird buttons. For an adult friend.
  • A jumper for my daughter that makes her look like an 80s weatherman.
  • An intricate Peruvian-inspired hat for my husband. Which he then shrunk in the wash.
  • A multi-coloured, super-fun loopy cared for my daughter. Which she instantly rejected and I had to give away.
Perhaps my most shameful thing of all: I buy my own hats from the high street. I have a weird problem here, guys.

04 October 2017

Blog Tour: The Body in the Marsh by Nick Louth

When a woman goes missing, it gets personal for DCI Craig Gillard. But he could never imagine what happens next.

Criminologist Martin Knight lives a gilded life and is a thorn in the side of the police. But then his wife Liz goes missing. There is no good explanation and no sign of Martin…

To make things worse, Liz is the ex-girlfriend of DCI Craig Gillard who is drawn into the investigation. Is it just a missing person or something worse? And what relevance do the events around the shocking Girl F case, so taken up by Knight, have to do with the present?

The truth is darker than you could ever have imagined.


Source: Blog Tour | NetGalley Request | Review Consideration

5 Words: Family, mystery, sentimentality, police, murder.

I love how much the story twisted. It lead you first one way, then another and another and another... And I just didn't know what to believe. There were so many suspects, so many mysteries.

Although not incredibly fast paced, the story is certainly gripping. I loved the interweaving story-lines and how seemingly unrelated events were actually an integral part of what was going on. It is an excellent police procedural and I loved the little details dropped in, from mishearing names to battles with the media.

The settings serve to further build the atmosphere in the story, driving the tensions between the characters. From a mountainside to a marsh to a drab station, and even a villa in Spain, everything has a purpose.

By a little under half way through I had guessed the ultimate outcome, but it wasn't easy and I did doubt myself several times. It was thoroughly a enjoyable read.

The very ending was... Interesting. I actually kind of wish that it hadn't shown what was happening in the future as I so badly want more! I want a sequel, to see where Gilard and Sam go next in their investigations.

03 October 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #102

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Book Boyfriends/Girlfriends

I don't often feel so strongly about characters, but there are a few that have worked their way into my heart. Often completely irrationally.
  • Professor Lyall from The Parasol Protectorate (series) by Gail Carriger
    I don't think I know anyone who has read the Parasol Protectorate series and left without a fictional crush. To be honest, I almost listed Maccon and Lefoux too.
  • Akkarin from The Black Magician Trilogy (series) by Trudi Canavan
    From brooding handsome evil guy to brooding handsome goodish guy with questionable morals. I don't care, he's irresistible.
  • Minerva from Pirates by Celia Rees
    Can you be infatuated by a fictional character? I swear I have been since I first read her over fifteen years ago.
  • Nina from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
    This book pretty much turned my brain to mush, and Nina is probably partly to blame for that. As is Kaz. And Inej. But someone had to win.
  • Hideo from Warcross by Marie Lu
    I think it's too soon for me to post exactly why, but this man is super charismatic and mysterious. And I forgive him (ish).
  • Hadley from Fashionista (series) by Sarra Manning
    So Hadley would probably be squeaking "Ewww!" if she knew, but she's so freaking adorable. I love her, and her story is my second favourite in the series.
  • Kit from The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh by Marina Fiorato
    Kit is pretty incredible. Not only is she fiercely loyal, but she is brave and hard-working and can really push herself.
  • Maxwell from DCI Ryan Mysteries (series)by LJ Ross
    Excuse me, have you read any of the DCI Ryan series? *swoon* He's devastatingly handsome and smart and sexy and accomplished and *swoon*
  • Samir from International School (series) by Chanel Cleeton
    Not going to lie, I was reading these books for Samir. He's a player and totally not my type, but just like Maggie, I kept coming back for more.
  • Lucas from Lucas by Kevin Brooks
    A moment of silence please, for what can never be. Heart-broken. Oh, Lucas.

Do you have a fictional crush?


28 September 2017

Blog Tour: Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

Following the death of her mother in a terrible fire, Jemima flees to the remote Isle of Skye, to take up a job at a school for girls.

There she finds herself tormented by the mystery of what really happened that night.

Then Jemima receives a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls from a mystery sender and she begins to remember – a séance with the dolls, a violent argument with her step-father and the inferno that destroyed their home.

And when it seems that the dolls are triggering a series of accidents at the school, Jemima realizes she must stop the demonic spirits possessing the dolls – whatever it takes. 



The Scariest Places to Read Charlotte Says by Alex Bell
Alex Bell is a masterful horror writer, and her first Red Eye book Frozen Charlotte gave me actual nightmares. Her stories are creepy and chilling and they stay with you. Charlotte Says expands the creepy and all-too-real feeling world she has woven.

But where are the scariest places to read Charlotte Says?

In short: Everywhere. It's creepy AF.

But here are some Completely 100% Real Pictures as proof.

Katherine and Elizabeth thought that a buddy read of Charlotte Says at their monthly Spiritualist Seance was a good idea. They were wrong.

When Amelia stopped on her canal-side walk to read walk to read some of Charlotte Says, she thought she was being healthy what with the walking and the fresh air. Ha.

When Beatrice decided to take a break from the the cabbage harvest to read a few pages, she thought she was safe. She really shouldn't have put that knife down. 

Emma thinks that cosy autumn evenings, when it's dark and drizzling outside, are made for reading. Now she is regretting the lack of light.

Minnie sneaked downstairs to read Charlotte Says in the middle of the night by candlelight. Fool.

When Clara was babysitting she thought it would be HILARIOUS to read Charlotte Says to Lillian. Spoiler Alert: It was not.

Alice likes to think she's brave, and that reading Charlotte Says in broad daylight in the middle of the living room would be fine.
"Just sit still, and I'll paint your portrait."
"Can I read?"
"Sure."
#Regrets

Poor Myrtle is too ill to move from her bed, so her sister Mildred is reading out loud to her. Myrtle cannot run, nor hide. Mildred is a bitch.