31 December 2017

British Books Challenge 2018

If you know me, then you'll know that I have a huge and profound love of UKYA. I read a lot of British books last year but just didn't follow through with my check-in posts and keeping my reviews up to date. I did manage to win one of the giveaways last year, which was fab. This year I have a spread in my bullet journal especially, so I hope that will help me keep on track with recording which books count.

Head on over to Tales of Yesterday to sign up, because this is a super fun challenge.


The following criteria decides whether an author can count towards the challenge:
  • Authors who were born in the UK, live in the UK and are published in the UK
  • Authors who were born overseas but are CURRENTLY living in the UK and his/her books were/are being published in the UK first
  • Authors who were born in the UK are currently living overseas but his/her books are being published in the UK first

I am a mood reader, so planning out exactly what I'll read for the next year just won't work. The majority of the books I read are British

Check back each month to find review links and monthly wrap-ups below! I'll be adding them as I finish.


January



February


To come

March

To come

April


To come

May

To come

June

To come

July

To come

August


To come

September

To come

October


To come

November

To come

December

To come

Are you joining the British Books Challenge?


30 December 2017

What Happened to Blogmas and Why 2017 Sucked A Bit

This is a hard post for me, and very different from what you'll usually find here. And it's only going to be a little bit about the suckiness, because the parts that didn't suck were AMAZING.

I started 2017 with Expectations. I had such plans, such resolutions. You can see a few of them here. And I was mostly doing great before life got in the way. I feel like I've never blogged better, never been more active in the community, never been more proud of myself. I have done some things this year which I am incredibly proud of.

I explored new places, tried new things. I pushed myself harder than ever before. I stayed in a medieval gatehouse, I explored a private hunting estate, I visit locations from books I have loved. I went to London and met amazing people (and made a bit of a fool of myself but hey ho).

Hulne Abbey, Alnwick
But then... Life. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and my life was turned upside down and is now constantly changing in a million little ways. I am having to rediscover a body I thought I knew, my limitations are changing, every day I seem to find another thing I cannot do.

Which kind of brings me to Blogmas. I started treatment and then it hit me that my diagnosis is real and that I will never get better - I can only hope to stay as well as I am for as long as possible before relapsing. This treatment is an immunomodulator so it suppresses part of my immune system, lowering my white cell count. And I seem to be picking up every cough, cold and infection going. One week into Blogmas I got flu and tonsillitis at once, and I'm still recovering now. Honestly it was too much and I had to hit pause, so I just stopped the majority of my posts going out. Maybe I'll use them in future.

But it's not all doom and gloom. It's something I have to live with and get used to, and I won't let it bring me down any longer. I just have to get to know myself again, rediscover my normal, and make my limitations work for me.

And some parts of 2017 have been awesome. Some parts have been especially amazing.

Five Things That Brightened 2017

The Honeyz
Honestly, these girls have been my rock. They are amazing and they are there when I need them. They listen to me bitch and moan and feel sorry for myself, but they never tell me to shut up and put up (I probably deserve it a lot). Also they have the best bookish recommendations. Go and give Aoife, Kelly, Rachel, and Steph some love because they deserve it.

YALC
I promised myself that I'd do a full weekend at YALC and I did. I promised myself that I would talk to people, and I did. Just in doing that I've come so far from what I used to be like. I got to meet up with other bookworms and talk to authors and it was so lovely. Also I'm not going to lie, hearing "You're Cora from Twitter" ten times a day was a huge ego boost.

Following Ophelia
From the moment I picked up Follwing Ophelia by Sophia Bennett I was inspired. It led to some very silly image edits that you may have seen floating around. I don't think I've ever had so much fun sharing my love for a book, and it helped me rediscover my love for art and find a sanctuary in the Laing Art Gallery.

I Got On A Blogger List
Actually, I got on two. Until this year, constant rejections were making me feel like I'd never be good enough and what was the point and all that jazz. But Penguin and Gollancz are amazeballs, and I've been blown away by the books I've read from them. I know it's silly and selfish and needy, but I needed the validation.

The Wider Blogosphere
I really branched out this year in what I was reading when it came to blogs, and it's been so inspiring. It's helped me not be afraid to write posts like this, to vary my content, to free myself from the tiny niche I'd cornered myself in. I love when I'm out and about and I see some street art and think of Envy at Lost In Translation, or I try new tea and think of Kimberly at Tea Is A Wish Your Heart Makes.


What has your 2017 been like?



19 December 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #112

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 I Hope Santa Brings.

Yup, all of these are on my Amazon Wishlist. Some have been for a very long time, but for whatever reason I've just never got round to getting them. Is anyone else guilty of lusting after books and then leaving them on the wishlist forever?
  1. Longbow Girl by Linda Davies
  2. Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
  3. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh 
  4. Sawbones by Catherine Johnson
  5. The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward
  6. The Reader by Traci Chee
  7. Miss Mayhem by Rachel Hawkins
  8. A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang
  9. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
  10. Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

What's on your bookish list for Santa?


    13 December 2017

    Blog Tour: It Started With a Tweet by Anna Bell

    Could YOU survive a digital detox? 

    Daisy Hobson lives her whole life online. But when her social media obsession causes her to make a catastrophic mistake at work, Daisy finds her life going into free-fall . . . 

    Her sister Rosie thinks she has the answer to all of Daisy's problems - a digital detox in a remote cottage in Cumbria. Soon, too, Daisy a welcome distraction there in Jack, the rugged man-next-door.

    But can Daisy, a London girl, ever really settle into life in a tiny, isolated village? 

    And, more importantly, can she survive without her phone?


    Source: Blog Tour | Review Consideration

    5 Words: Family, attraction, addiction, humour, resilience, detox.

    It took me a few chapters to get into, but I stuck with it because Anna Bell's books make me laugh so much.

    Daisy is so full of life that she comes alive on the page. She was slightly frustrating at times, but the best characters always are, and I quickly grew to love her.

    Although there is a spark, romance is not at the heart of this book. I focuses much more on family and friendship and I absolutely loved it. It felt refreshing. And friendship is one of my favourite things to read about. Fills my heart with joy.

    It's a clever book, with the catalyst being a mistake all too easy to make. Juggling social media accounts is hard.

    Could I survive a digital detox?

    Probably, but it wouldn't be nice. My friends all live in my phone, in my pocket!

    Could you?

    12 December 2017

    Top Ten Tuesday #111

    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 Favorite Books of 2017 That You Should Totally Buy As Gifts For Everyone.

    Cause these books rock. Obviously. And they're all UKYA and they all blew me away. 2017 has honestly been an AMAZING year for books, and it was almost impossible to list just ten. I had to drop two, and I went with my mood right now, so I'm pretty gutted that it was the bandlit that didn't quite make the cut (because actually Becoming Betty and This Beats Perfect are awesome).
    • Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
    • Fir by Sharon Gosling
    • Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett
    • Margot & Me by Juno Dawson
    • Contagion by Teri Terry
    • One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton
    • Countless by Karen Gregory
    • STAGS by MA Bennett
    • The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín
    • The Fallen Children by David Owen
    What book do you think everyone should buy as a gift?


      08 December 2017

      Book Beginnings #56

      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 Land Girls At Christmas by Jenny Holmes.

      "Can you believe it? You need eighteen coupons for a decent winter coat." 
      "And seven for a pair of shoes." 
      Starting this I have Expectations, because this is a Certain Kind of Book. I expect to be full caught up in a not-too-heavy story, something with substance which still has a bit of fluff. And I want to be filled with Christmas cheer, thanks.
      "We're relying on you, Mrs Mostyn. As our rep, it's up to you to take my complaint further if you see fit."
      I'm just passing half way now and honestly, this book is everything I was hoping it would be. Gently exciting, comfortable to read, heart warming, that all important Family Love message.

      Oh man, it's perfect for my Christmas reading.


      What are you reading this week?


      07 December 2017

      My Favourite Things About Bookshops At Christmas

      I love bookshops at any time of the year, but there's something extra special about them at Christmas. They're always that little bit busier, and there is extra Stuff. And I love a shop that sells Stuff. Then you have the extra passionate staff.


      The Stuff
      I love Stuff. All of those bits and bobs that you can only usually find in special Stuff Shops, the tat and the novelty items and the tiny things you never thought you needed, but you are certainly taking to the till.

      The Christmas Book Table
      When this appears, I end up stationed next to it for around an hour, reading the synopsis of each book. And the first few pages. And then picking it up and taking it to the till.

      Staff Recommendations
      So yeah, I could talk to booksellers all day about books. Which bookworm couldn't? But there's something extra special about the quick, impassioned recommendations when you're looking for that perfect gift.

      Special Drinks in the Cafe
      I love a good season drink, they're a little bit more magical, more special than a regular flavoured coffee. They have all of these extra flourishes and are extra delicious. Mmm.

      The People
      I usually dislike crowded places, but it's different in a bookshop. It's more hushed, calmer. And busy bookshops make my heart happy. I love being able to just lean over and interrupt strangers with recommendations and push my favourites on unsuspecting browsers. And when it's busy I can do that more.


      What's your favourite thing about Bookshops at Christmas?


      06 December 2017

      Christmas Tag

      I saw Rebecca from This Booky Place post this and I couldn't resist! I do tags very rarely, but I actually love them because I am very #Nosy. This Christmas Tag one called to me and fits perfectly with Blogmas. I'm not tagging anyone, but if you've done it then hit me up with a link.



      1. What is your favourite Christmas film?
      Ooh this is such a tough question! I honestly cannot pick just one film, but is it even Christmas if you haven't watched at least one Hallmark original with Lacey Chabert? She is the Queen of Christmas and perfect for festive films. The Sweetest Christmas is this year's newest with her, and it is beyond adorable. And I have already seen it twice.

      2. Have you ever had a White Christmas?
      Yes, but not many! We live near the cost so the salty sea air tends to mean that it's a bit milder and when snow falls it doesn't lie.

      3. Where do you usually spend your holiday?
      At my mum's house.

      4. What is your favourite Christmas song?
      White Christmas! I love every version I've ever heard, and yes, I do dream of a white Christmas too. I just love how hopeful and soothing it is, the memories it evokes.

      5. Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?
      Only our new Christmas PJs! We all get a brand new set, open them early, change into them and eat our dinner in our jammies. Then we keep them on and laze around on Christmas Day until just before dinner.

      6. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
      Nope. I'm not even going to try!

      7. What holiday traditions are you looking forward to most this year?
      I've already done the Christmas Market with my mum, but I still need to visit Fenwick's Window, and I am definitely looking forward to it. It's a joy to queue up and watch the magic unfold.

      8. Is your Christmas tree real or fake?
      Fake and pre-lit, but it's also seven foot tall and adorned with extra lights. We decorate with a mish-mash of ornaments that have been collected over the past twenty years and it reflects my family so much. I love how nothing matches.

      9. What is your all-time favourite holiday food/sweet treat?
      Mince Pies and Gingerbread Lattes. Individually they are delicious, together they are divine. I always try to hold off until December for getting my first heavenly treat so I don't overdo it.

      10. Be honest: do you like giving gifts or receiving gifts better?
      Giving! I always put a huge amount of thought into gifts and I love shopping around for the perfect present. Seeing the look on someone's face when you get them something personal is priceless.

      11. What is the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
      Until about three years ago, my sister would always get me something super cheap with little thought. Like a bargain bucket CD of music I didn't like, or a headband from Primark with the reduced sticker still on. Then three years ago I unwrapped the most beautiful handbag that was 100% me. It was the first gift she'd truly put thought into.

      12. What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season?
      I'm happy at home! I honestly wouldn't rather be anywhere else. I'm a total home bird.

      13. Are you a pro-present wrapper, or do you fail miserably?
      I start off a bit scruffy, but quickly get my wrapping mojo back. I love wrapping, and decorating parcels, personalising them and adding pretty extras.

      14. Most memorable Holiday moment?
      The year I was eight I was terribly sick with tonsilitis, I couldn't even move from bed. I hadn't eaten for almost a week and could barely even drink water. My mum made Magic Christmas Soup (Northumbrian Broth), and my dad carried me downstairs, and I managed a couple spoonfuls before I couldn't do any more. But the next morning I was all better and it felt to me, at eight years old, like magic.

      15. What made you realise the truth about Santa?
      I don't think there was anything in particular, I think it was just generally growing up. Being the eldest sister, I had to keep up the pretense with my sisters a bit too.

      16. Do you make New Years resolutions? Do you stick to them?
      I usually try a few and very rarely stick to them! They usually include the common "get fitter" and "eat less crap" and I fail at those pretty quickly. In recent years I've actually been changing it up a bit, and I think I have the hang of it now.

      17. What makes the holidays special for you?
      Spending time with my family. We spend a lot of time together anyway (like, daily) but there's something extra special about Christmas.


      05 December 2017

      Top Ten Tuesday #110

      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 Bookish Settings I'd Love to Visit for Christmas

      Sometimes I read a book and all I can think of is how much I'd love to go there, especially when I'm in the throes of festive reading. Gimme that Christmas Magic!
      1. The Snow Crystal Resort from Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan
      2. The Great Hall at Hogwarts from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling
      3. Hogsmeade from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
      4. Claverham Castle from The Cosy Christmas Teashop by Caroline Roberts
      5. GUM's House from Ballet Shoes by  Noel Streatfeild
      6. Wickham Hall from Wickham Hall by Cathy Bramley
      7. Fryberg's Toy Store from Christmas with her Millionaire Boss by Barbara Wallace
      8. Cherry Pie Island from Four Weddings And A White Christmas by Jenny Oliver
      9. Article Row from London Belles by Annie Groves
      10. Puffin Island from Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan


      Where would you like to go for Christmas?



      04 December 2017

      Mills & Boon Monday #1

      The magic of Christmas…

      Abandoned by his mother on Christmas Day, James Hammond wishes he could simply erase the date. So when his company buys a new toy store devoted to Christmas, he wants to seal the deal and get home. Until he finds himself injured and under the care of employee Noelle!

      Nobody loves Christmas more than young widow Noelle Fryberg! But could she be the one to change his mind and melt the millionaire's guarded heart?

      The Men Who Make Christmas 
      Meet the Hammond brothers – will they find their own happiness under the mistletoe?


      Source: Mills & Boon Insiders

      5 Words: Christmas, family, tradition, community, change.

      When it comes to Mills & Boon I'm a strictly Modern type of girl. Or so I thought. Because now I have read my first Cherish and I can't believe I've been missing out on such sweetness.

      Christmas with her Millionaire Boss was a fantastic festive read. It had all of the feel-good, cheesy joy of a Hallmark Christmas Movie and it was a delight to read. I kind of want to read it again already! It has put me right in the mood for Christmas.

      Noelle is just adorable. She is so full of Christmas, despite a name which you'd think would lead her to hating the season. She loves the joy and the love, how families are brought together, and all she wants to do is share it with everyone. She is so resilient, and I loved how she fought her own internal battles with her emotions and feelings of guilt and obligation.

      I loved James as well. He was pretty much your typical rich Scrooge type, but he had lots of layers and his own background to battle against.

      Add in some misunderstandings and you have a cute and Chrismassy read, and I loved it.



      03 December 2017

      The 'Not-A-Book' Bookworm Gift Guide

      The perfect gifts for bookworms when you don't want to buy them an actual book but still want to let them know that you care about their passion. And make it a more lovely experience.

      You can pick up everything below from Etsy, but hurry as postal deadlines are creeping up! I have personally bought things from each of these shops for myself, and they really are exceptional.


      Bookmarks
      Let me introduce you to Ingrained Inc, who make the most beautiful custom, sustainable, wooden bookmarks (along with a host of other engraved beauties!). I particularly love this Personalised Tree Carving Bookmark where you can have custom initials on the front, and a message on the back. So sweet! And this When I Think About Books one makes me giggle.

      Candles
      My absolute favourite place for bookish candles is William and Joseph. I can't get over what fantastic candles they do, especially at such reasonable prices. My personal favourite is Steamy Romance Novel, and my mum loves A Spoonful of Sugar. Even when they aren't lit, the scent throws far. And when you do light them they last for ages.

      Tea
      Once upon a time, I tried a tea from Rosie Lea Tea. And I just fell in love with the delicate blend. All of the teas are based on books and fandoms, and real thought has gone into them. My favourite blend is this William Wordsworth inspired one, which is perfect for winding down with, perhaps as you read the Lyrical Ballads.

      Bookish Jewellery
      I admired Coryographies from afar for a long time, but finally bought myself a custom bookshelf necklace this year. Everyone who sees it admires it and it is one of my most treasured possessions. These Stack of Books Earrings are absolutely adorable, it blows my mind how much detail can go into something so small!


      Where do you buy your Not-A-Book Bookish Gifts?



      02 December 2017

      Seasonal Reading

      Every December, I put my usual TBR aside and pick up only festive books. And I love it.

      It's only something I started doing when I started specifically book blogging, but it brings me endless Christmassy joy. It builds me up for Christmas, fills my heart with joy and warmth and fun and love.


      Where I Get My Festive Books
      • From my Shelves
        I reread a lot of books anyway, but there are some books that I just have to read every year, they just make Christmas for me.
      • The Christmas Table at the Bookshop
        I love it when this table appears on the shop floor, piled high with festive books. It's a mountain of pretty blues and glitter and foil and I am drawn to it like a magpie because #Shiny.
      • Searching 'Christmas' on NetGalley
        Yup, it's as easy as that. A lot of them are 'Read Now' too! It can be a bit of a gamble as to whether they will all be Romance or filled with Sexy Time though.
      • Searching 'Christmas' on Amazon
        This is how I find festive freebies for my kindle. There tend to be a fair few novellas too which means I can pad out my Goodreads Challenge while reading what I love, because I am invariably behind by December.
      • Audible 'Deal of the Day'
        This doesn't yield much in terms of festive reads, but every so often a little gem crops up, and I love listening to something festive as I wrap presents or head out Christmas shopping.



      Do you read books to suit the season?



      01 December 2017

      Happy Blogmas!

      It's that wonderful time of year where everyone attempts to post daily on their blog with a generally festive theme. It can be a challenge to not only come up with content, but to keep up with it, and today I'm diving in and doing it for the whole of December.

      Cue mad panic about ideas.



      I'm taking it easy this year and tweaking memes I already take part in, but here's some things you can expect to see here on the blog and on Twitter and Instagram:

      • Festive reading discussions
      • Bookish gift guides
      • Festive book lists
      • Book reviews
      • Peeks at my current festive reads
      • Mills and Boon Mondays
      • Book Advent Calendar unwrappings
      • Giveaways
      • #UKYAHomeBook photo challenge
      • #CaneloChallenge photo challenge
      • Festive film recommendations
      So yeah, a wide variety and hopefully something for everyone!

      Are you taking part in Blogmas? Leave a link because I'll be trawling blogs all day every day!

      🎄 Happy Blogmas 🎄



      24 November 2017

      Review: A Pearl for My Mistress by Annabel Fielding

      England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady's maid in a small aristocratic household.

      Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.

      Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…

      A story of class, scandal and forbidden passions in the shadow of war. Perfect for fans of Iona Grey, Gill Paul and Downtown Abbey.


      Source: Review Consideration

      5 Words: Love, politics, war, privilege, fear.

      This was definitely an unconventional story, and I loved it. I loved the contrast between rich and poor, the power struggles and the fear.

      There was something very sumptuous about this book. The descriptions were rich and vivid and brought the world to life as I read.

      21 November 2017

      Top Ten Tuesday #108

      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 I'm Thankful For

      These books have just brought an extra something to my life, they're the ones I reread when I'm down and look at to remember how they make me feel.

      1. Lucas by Kevin Brooks
      2. Possessed by Kate Cann
      3. Darkmere by Helen Maslin
      4. Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick
      5. Fashionistas by Sarra Manning
      6. Pirates! by Celia Rees
      7. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
      8. Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle
      9. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
      10. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

      Which books are you thankful for?


      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.