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31 December 2019

Best of Books 2019

I saw this fabulous post from Steph at A Little But A Lot and I couldn't resist doing the Best of Books bit myself. It's nice to reflect and look back at what has been an incredible reading year.

2019 Reading Stats 

Number of books you read: 155
Number of rereads: 41
Genre you read most: Fantasy

Best of Books 2019

Best book you read in 2019?

The Year After You by Nina de Pass. This book absolutely blew me away, left me lost for words. It is outstanding and I have so much love for it.

Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

Circe by Madeline Miller. I don't know what it was but I just didn't get on with it, which is a shame as it's gorgeous and recommended by everyone and should have been right up my street.

Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender. This was actually a reread for me but WOW have I developed a lot as a person since I first read it. It was a bit of a revelation.

Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did)?

I'd like to hope it was The Year After You by Nina de Pass but I suspect it was actually A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer.

Best series you started in 2019?

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie. It was such a joy to read that I read it about four times and I can't wait to see where it goes.

Best sequel of 2019?

The Girl The Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young. I was so excited for the companion to Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young and I wasn't disappointed!

Best series ender of 2019?

Perfect by Cecelia Ahern. I have no idea why I waited as long as I did to read Perfect but holy shit it was amazing.

Favorite new author you discovered in 2019?

I don't think there was anyone in particular that I discovered this year! I mostly read debuts or author's I have already read, and didn't seek out any back catalogues.

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay. This book is, well. Well. It's not my usual cup of tea but I couldn't put it down and I've been recommending it everywhere.

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. It's a fantastic story that I loved with all of my heart.

Book you read in 2019 that you would be most likely to re-read next year?

The Year After You by Nina de Pass. I already have it lined up and I can't wait to read it again. Again. Again. It's truly wonderful.

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2019?

The Beholder by Anna Bright. I got a Fairyloot exclusive edition and it is STUNNING with pink sprayed edges and a shiny cover. So much pretty rose pink.

Most memorable character of 2019?

Mena from Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young. The book itself is pretty memorable, but Mena really is a standout.

Most beautifully written book read in 2019?

The Beholder by Anna Bright. It's not a super fast paced book, but I was so in love with the imagery.

Most thought-provoking/ life-changing book of 2019?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. It's a book that made me take a long, hard look at my life and what I value.

Book you can’t believe you waited until 2019 to finally read? 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It's an absolutely stunning book and I can't believe I'd waited so long to read it.

Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2019?

She holds a hand up to stop me. "You're privileged, Cara. Don't confuse luck with circumstance - they are not the same thing.” - The Year After You by Nina de Pass.

Shortest & longest book you read in 2019?

Theatre of Cruelty by Terry Pratchett at 4 pages.
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon at 963 pages.

Book that shocked you the most?

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey. This book is Something Else. It's what Game of Thrones could only dream of being in terms of political intrigue, and I loved the way religion and beliefs were used and explored.

OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship!)?

Francis and Mary from Reign. Shhhh. I'm trash. And I'm counting this tie-in.

Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year?

Irina and Dean from Fashionistas: Irina by Sarra Manning. Yes, it's a reread. Yes, they do try it. But it doesn't work and they're excellent friends.

Favorite book you read in 2019 from an author you’ve read previously?

Meat Market by Juno Dawson. I think I have read every one of Juno's books, and I will continue to do so. She is an incredible writer.

Best book you read in 2019 that you read based solely on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure/bookstagram, etc.?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This year I read my first classic that I enjoyed. It's now one of my favourite books ever, and if I hadn't seen it everywhere I wouldn't have picked it up.

Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2019?

I don't really do fictional crushes! 

Best 2019 debut you read?

I have read so many amazing debuts this year that it seems a shame to do this but... The Year After You by Nina de Pass. You must be sick of me mentioning this book!

Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey. The world is incredible, there is such scope!

Book that put a smile on your face/was the most fun to read?

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman. It's so pure and joyful, 

Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2019?

I cry so easily, so there are many that do this to me! But the most recent was Love, Secret Santa by SA Domingo.

Hidden gem of the year?

Oh no, here it comes again. It is The Year After You by Nina de Pass, mostly because it's small press so doesn't get the same coverage. I am In Love with this book. Absolute hidden gem.

Book that crushed your soul?

Suddenly Single by Carol Wyer. This book crushed my soul in a good way, and I came out better for it.

Most unique book you read in 2019?

Jane Eyre: A Retelling by Tanya Landman. It's incredible how well such a beloved classic has been retold for reluctant readers. It's perfect for a Jane Eyre fix when you haven't got time for a full reread, and retains the soul of the story.

Book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Liars by Jennifer Mathieu. This book made me so frustrated, but in the best ways! It's excellent, as are the author's other books.

So there we have it! My Best Books of 2019!

What was your favourite read of 2019?

11 December 2019

Blog Tour: Love, Secret Santa by SA Domingo *AD Gifted

Hodder Children's Books sent me a review copy of Love, Secret Santa by SA Domingo ahead of the blog tour.

What Inspired Me to Write the Book

Winter – and Christmas especially – is a time of year that is almost inherently romantic. It’s perfect for snuggling up together, for confessing true feelings and it’s also a time of year for giving. So, it seemed like the ideal setting for a romantic story! I was very interested in showcasing a young black girl as the main character, and Angel’s academic side is something I could relate to. I was really keen to write about someone like her. It was also important to me to show a romantic relationship between two black kids in general, and I love the idea of former friends having drifted apart and then finding that actually they’re meant to be together. So all of these ingredients combined to make Love, Secret Santa a story that I was really glad to have the chance to bring to life!

Love, Secret Santa by SA Domingo coverAdd to Goodreads button
It's nearly Christmas, but Angel Green isn't celebrating - she's too busy studying for a scholarship exam. On top of that, she's organising her school's charity fundraising campaign to help a local hospice. Unfortunately, her fundraising partner is Caspar Johnson: handsome, creative and fun, but TOTALLY unreliable.

Thank goodness for her Secret Santa who keeps leaving her amazing presents, including an intriguing hand-made advent calendar! Angel is dying to find out who her secret admirer is...

As they spend time together planning festive events, Angel realises that Caspar has hidden depths - and a secret that he's hiding behind his easy-going facade. Her advent calendar encourages Angel to take risks and open her heart - but has she left it too late to tell Caspar how she really feels?

Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Words: Friendship, family, hard-work, Christmas, respect.

You could probably tell from my Book Beginnings last week that I very much enjoyed this book from the first page. I even love the cover, it's perfectly festive and I love the fonts and the fairylights. 

Love, Secret Santa was a fantastic quick read that put me right in the mood for Christmas and had me reaching for a hot drink. It's a cosy slow-burn that warms your heart, with characters that you can't help but care about. I love the little dramas and the insecurities and Angel's amazing freaking Hufflepuff heart.

The story itself is sweet, exploring themes of grief and friendship and respect and taking care of yourself. It examines boundaries and challenging yourself to step outside your comfort zone and putting your trust in someone else. I loved the way it all came together, even if there were points where I wanted to cry.

I do have to say that I had a whole lot of second hand embarrassment for Angel. I physically cringed at times like yikes girl take a step back. But I absolutely loved her as a character, and I cared about her and I wanted to see what was going to happen next.

Love, Secret Santa is the perfect antidote to the stresses of the festive season. I really want to see it as a Netflix film, because it's so full of cheese and cheer.

10 December 2019

Ten Quick Reads to Smash Your Goodreads Challenge

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

Top Ten Tuesday
This week is Top Ten 
Quick Reads to Smash Your Goodreads Challenge
It's that time of year where you look at your Goodreads challenge total and do a little Eek. Because time is almost up. But not to fear! Check out these quick reads and smash your challenge target.

It's a mix of graphic novels, comic bind ups, short stories, poetry collections, and books that were so amazing I couldn't help but race through them. And I loved every one.
  • Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman
  • Not Hungry by Kate Karyus Quinn
  • Letting Go by Cat Clarke
  • Blackbird, Vol. 1 by Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, Triona Farrell
  • The Sharp Edge of a Snowflake by Sif Sigmarsdóttir
  • The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie
  • The Mermaid's Voice Returns in This One by Amanda Lovelace
  • Stay A Little Longer by Bali Rai
  • The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge
  • Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
What are you reading to finish up your challenge?

09 December 2019

The 2019 UKYA Quiz

I wanted to do something to celebrate the amazing books I've read this year, and I wanted it to be fun. So here's a wee informal UKYA quiz featuring some of my favourite 2019 releases, there are no prizes (sorry, I'm skint!). I'd been debating whether to post this now or leave it for the post-Christmas lull, but I have no patience and Twitter decided for me so here it is.

The 2019 UKYA Quiz

If you leave your Twitter handle then I'll let you know your scores, and I'll post the full answers in the New Year,

Huge thanks to Charlotte at Charlotte, Somewhere and Nicola at Fantastic Book Dragon for volunteering to test this quiz and give me some feedback.

How do you think you did?

08 December 2019

Blog Tour: Book Review: A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan *AD Gifted

HQ sent me a free review copy of A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan ahead of the blog tour.

A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan coverAdd to Goodreads button
In the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie's whirlwind Christmas wedding.

First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but they are hiding a huge secret about their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland.

Rosie’s older sister Katie is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself. If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans...

Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiance but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived – how can she tell them she's not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget.

Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Words: Christmas, family, expectations, love, change.

Sarah Morgan can do no wrong, especially when it comes to Christmas. This is a perfect cosy family drama and charming romance, and I loved it.

I think my favourite thing about A Wedding in December was the setting. It was so real and I felt like I was there. And it was COLD. But even though we've barely had ice, I could almost see snow every time I looked up from this book and out of the window.

I felt so sorry for Maggie at times. Her life is falling apart and she feels like she's missing out on Rosie's life a bit, and everything is slipping from her and she feels so uninvolved. It tugged at my heartstrings so much.

I loved the relationship between Rosie and Katie. There was something so real about it, the small ways in which they thought they knew each other better than themselves, and thought that they each knew best. Rosie is the "impulsive one" but I think Katie is too at heart, and I loved how fiercely protective she was of her sister.

Actually, A Wedding in December explores a lot of relationships. It really delves down in to them, picks them apart with surprising consequences, and I loved the way it all played out.

Now I can't wait for Christmas!

07 December 2019

Fantasy Dorothy Perkins Haul

I'm bored, I'm skint, I'm going window shopping!

Today I'm scouring the Dorothy Perkins website and putting together an outfit that I would love for present shopping, mooching around markets, and walking under the Christmas light displays. I'm looking for comfort and practicality, and things that can easily be integrated into other outfits.

So yeah, here's my imaginary Dorothy Perkins haul!

Dorothy Perkins - Petite Cobalt Ribbed Stitch Jumper
First up this gorgeous jumper. I'm a sucker for cobalt blue, it brings out the green in my eyes and the red in my hair, and it's probably the only really bright colour I'll wear year round. The knit is really pretty and I love the shape of the collar. I think this also looks pretty smart so it'll join my work wardrobe.

Dorothy Perkins Petite Black Corduroy Frankie Jeans
I think I was about ten the last time I wore corduroy, but I'm feeling a bit nostalgic and I remember it being quite warm. And it's winter so I need warm. Especially when I'm outside braving the elements between shops and sitting on unheated buses and metros. Being corduroy I don't think I'd wear them for anything other than generally nipping around the shops, but they're really pretty.

Dorothy Perkins - Black 'Millie' Fur Hiker Boots
I love a pair of boots, and the more like walking boots they look the better. I actually already have about five pairs of boots that look really similar to these, but they're in various shades of brown and stages of wear because I have a problem and if I like something I won't stop buying it. I feel like these would work well on a dog walk too, they have a good tread.

Dorothy Perkins - Multi Colour Check Print Scarf
So far I feel like my outfit is pretty tame in terms of shades, so I thought I'd add some colour and personality. I love this checked scarf and how it has So Many Colours. I've started wearing my hair in a knot on the back of my head, so I no longer benefit from my own hair knitting around my neck like a scarf and keeping me warm. Actual scarf to the rescue!

Dorothy Perkins - Petite Grey Unlined Coat
Basically I really bloody badly need a new coat and have done since I put my last one away in the spring. This probably wouldn't be the warmest, but paired with the outfit I think it'd be really stylish and if I swapped the corduroys for leather look trousers and the boots for a pair of stilettos I think it'd make this a perfect Christmas Drinks ensemble.

So there we have it, my attempts to put together something that isn't cotton tees and skinny jeans! I think I might be getting there when it come style. Ha.

OK so I accidentally actually bought that jumper oops. I guess I better actually wear it while I'm Christmas shopping! 

06 December 2019

Book Beginnings: Love, Secret Santa by SA Domingo

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 Love, Secret Santa by S.A. Domingo.
Love, Secret Santa by S.A. Domingo cover
Fat, soft flakes of snow swirled down towards the concourse below as Angel Green gazed out of the café window. Finally. It was really starting to feel like Christmas was around the corner, even if she had so much to cram in between now and the end of term.
I love these first lines, they're getting me right in the mood for Christmas! I love the cover, it's perfectly festive and I love the fonts and the fairylights

I'm on the blog tour for Love, Secret Santa by S.A. Domingo next week so I'm getting started on it this weekend.
"But... But nobody actually chooses the liver and onions..."
Angel chewed, swallowed, then grimaced, watching Ola and Izzy's horrified faces across the canteen table at lunchtime.
This book is perfect for cheering you up and making you smile. Angel is a little bit cringe and the second hand embarrassment is Real, but wow it's a tonic for stress. I can't wait to see how the rest of the story pans out because I am loving it so far.

What are you reading this week?

05 December 2019

What I'm Looking Forward To This Month

2019 started out as an honestly terrible year. Everything pretty much fell apart and I was at one of the lowest points of my life, but things have turned right around and I am seeing the year out on a high.

I am so grateful to all of my friends who have let me rant and moan and bitch and be utterly selfish (because lets face it I've been a pretty self involved person this year) because now I'm not only back to being Me, but I think I'm a slightly better me.

What I'm Looking Forward To This Month

Today I'm going to be sharing some of the things I'm looking forward to before the year is out
  • Cuddles with my Baby Nephew
  • Reading Festive Books (and rereading some favourites)
  • Oldest Pubs Pub-Crawl
  • Watching Cheesy Christmas Films (like these)
  • Edinburgh Weekend Break
  • Christmas at the Botanics
  • Christmas Markets
  • Finishing a Readathon
  • Feeding the Deer at Whitworth Hall (again)
  • Enchanted Belsay
  • Wrapping Presents
  • Christmas Dinner
  • Playing with my Nephew's Doll House
What are you looking forward to?

04 December 2019

Feed the Deer at Whitworth Hall Deer Park

Saturday morning was bright and clear and cold, and we were going on an adventure.

Our end goal was a walk up Slitt Wood in Westgate because there are waterfalls all up the trail to the ruins of Low Slitt Mine, and I love waterfalls. But we wanted to stop off somewhere a bit different on the way, because we had seen someone in a local walking group post pictures and it looked amazing. Our first destination? Whitworth Hall near Spennymoor. I wanted to see the deer.

Feeding the Deer at Whitworth Hall Deer Park

It was really easy to get there by car, Google Maps led us straight to the car park. But even if we hadn't had our technological companion to lead the way, Whitworth Hall was well signposted. The drive once you turn in to the property is long and sweeping and really pretty, not quite a single track but close.

We arrived at about ten in the morning, and it was easy to get parked opposite the deer park - there are not a lot of spaces so I would recommend getting there early. We made our way around the corner to the hotel reception, and warmed ourselves by the log fire as we waited to buy some feed. It was £3 for two bags of feed, and they were pretty big - considering parking and is free and there is no entry cost, this was a real bargain. We were told that we wouldn't be able to go into the park itself, but could feed the deer through the fence, and we're assuming this is because it is the tail end of rutting season here in the UK. Safety first!

The deer knew what was coming and we had a crowd of easily thirty deer waiting for us by the time we reached the fence, with more coming over as we fed them. We managed to space it out quite a bit, throwing a few handfuls to the deer at the back and hand feeding those closest to us. I did feel a little bit sorry for the smaller ones at the back so we split us and I sneakily fed them further up the fence while my boyfriend fed the antler boys.

Avoiding antlers turned into a skill for us, as those boys were hungry and pushed straight to the front. But they were gentle as we fed them and we even managed to stroke them through the fence while they ate from our hands. They're so trusting and friendly and curious, and it made for some excellent photograph opportunities, especially with the low sun shining through the trees.

It was a pretty messy experience! The deer had surprisingly muddy noses given that the ground was frozen solid, and I'm so glad we have provisions in the car for cleaning ourselves up after. There was a wedding setting up so we didn't want to get in the way by asking to wash our hands in the toilets.

It was great fun, the park is stunning and dramatic and picturesque, and the deer were adorable. I can't wait to go back again, and I feel like this will be a semi-regular treat for us.

03 December 2019

Ten Holiday Reads for the Festive Season

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

Top Ten Tuesday
This week is Top Ten 
Ten Holiday Reads
I absolutely adore festive reading in December. I generally prepare my TBR of festive books in November and then I have to keep myself from picking them up until then. Today I've lined up a selection of my favourites, including a YA thriller wildcard.

The links below are affiliate links, if you purchase the books through the links I'll make a couple of pennies to help pay for my domain renewal (eek).
What are your favourite festive reads?

01 December 2019

Should I Do Blogmas?

When it comes to Blogmas, I don't have the best track record. Things (life) seems to get in the way and I inevitably fail. But every year I try again, because it's actually quite fun and I get to be a bit creative.

Should I Do Blogmas?

I'm still not decided as to how many days I'll do this year. 12 days? 24? 25? The whole month of December? I guess we'll see.

What I do know is that I'm going to give it another bash. I won't just set myself any concrete targets this year, because I do not need to put that pressure on myself.

Some Tips for Blogmas

  • Prepare
    It's difficult to write a new post every day, so jot down every tiny idea and keep it ready.
  • Be Flexible
    Life will get in the way - it's the end of the year and there's a lot happening. Just chill and let it flow and don't stress if you miss a day or post retrospectively with a back date.
  • Get Creative
    This is the perfect time to venture outside of your niche and try something different. If you usually post book reviews why not try some self care or a recipe or a review of a restaurant?
  • Treat Yourself
    Sit yourself down with a hot chocolate and make some Me Time. Read blog posts, scroll insta, pick up a book, just don't forget yourself.
  • Have Fun
    Honestly there's no point doing it if it's not fun. Don't make it a slog for yourself and don't be afraid to stop if it's just not you.

Are you doing Blogmas?