My posts may contain affiliate links, if you buy something through these links it doesn't cost you anything, but I may make a small commission which helps to keep this site up and running. Your virtual dog could be the next champion!

18 December 2020

Book Beginnings: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow

 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.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow cover illumicrate

There's no such thing as witches, but there used to be. 

I started The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow some time after midnight when I couldn't sleep. It was possibly a mistake as I didn't want to stop reading and managed the prologue and five chapters.

It's off to a great start, and I love the writing style. It's got a fairytale feel to it, and it feels historical and contemporary all at once.

There are some excellent quotes in this book, and the first line is a perfect example. I'm in love.

Juniper looks at her - this little old woman with a powdered wig and a big office on the facncy side of town - and understands perfectly well.

This is from page 56 in my finished hardback copy.

I love the anger and resentment in this scene, the pompousness and the classism. I absolutely love it.

The cover is stunningly detailed, so many small things that take on more significance as you progress in the story.

What are you reading this week?

17 December 2020

Series Crackdown: Festive Fun Readathon Prompts and TBR (and Dartalong)

This is my third time taking part in Series Crackdown and I am yet again super excited! The Festive Fun edition runs from Friday 18th of December to Sunday 27th December. I'll be working five of those days but hope it will be quiet enough for a sneaky audiobook in the background.

I am usually a mood reader, but this time I am planning out a proper TBR. Mostly because I need some structure if I'm going to get the reading done. I will be joining Team Reindeer.

I'll also be taking part in Dartalong alongside this as it runs for some of the same dates. I absolutely love Kushiel's Dart.

Series Crackdown: Festive Fun Readathon Prompts

The Prompts

I am using one book for two prompts, because honestly I think that's the only way I'll get through them! I have been reading rather slowly this year *gestures at world* and although I'm off of work for the festive period I feel like I might need some extra motivation.

  • A Book You Think You'll Love
  • Gathering Dust on Your Shelf
  • A Book That was Gifted to You
  • Red Cover
  • Listen to an Audiobook
  • Read Snuggled Up Warm
  • Read with a Festive Drink/Snack
  • White Cover

I love the prompts, and I know exactly which books to squeeze in to them. It was surprisingly easy to pull my TBR together.


I have been slowly falling back in love with my bookstagram so I'm looking forward to joining in the photo challenge again. I like trying to post every day, as my regular Instagram posting is pretty sporadic.

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  • Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
  • Holy Island by LJ Ross
  • The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow

I am excited for all four of these books to be honest! Two of them will be rereads, but I am very much enjoying rereads at the moment.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is the team read for Team Reindeer and it's the perfect excuse to read a book that has been gathering dust on a shelf. It's also a book that I think I will love.

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey is one I will read snuggled up warm and with festive drinks and snacks - it's the kind of book that begs for a glass of red wine, and some comforting snacks.

Holy Island by LJ Ross is a book that I bought on audio years ago, but it's also a book I was gifted by the author - she very kindly sent me a paperback copy with the gorgeous new cover. I'm excited to experience the story again (again, again).

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow has both red and white on the cover so err... I'm going to count it! My Illumicrate copy also has gorgeous dark red sprayed edges. I'm being sneaky with this one and reading it with the Illumicrate group readalong, although I'll be starting a day late and playinig catch-up.

The Photo Challenge

I have been slowly falling back in love with my bookstagram so I'm looking forward to joining in the photo challenge again. I like trying to post every day, as my regular Instagram posting is pretty sporadic.

Series Crackdown: Festive Fun Readathon Instagram Photo Challenge

  • Festive TBR
  • Represent Your Team
  • Favourite Christmas Decoration
  • Books and Beverages
  • Christmas Traditions
  • Favourite Festive Film
  • Christmas Eve Traditions
  • Merry Christmas!
  • Books Santa Brought
  • Wrap-Up

I think that the only prompt I'll struggle with is Books Santa Brought, because my family never buys me books as gifts. Maybe a kind internet stranger will buy me something from my bookish wishlist.

Dartalong Schedule

I absolutely love Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey, although at over 900 pages it is a bit of a beast. It's an astonishingly epic fantasy, although it comes with a massive list of content warnings and is absolutely not for everyone.

Date Chapters
19/12 1 - 12
20/12 13 - 24
21/12 25 - 36
22/12 37 - 48
23/12 49 - 60
24/12 61 - 72
25/12 Day Off!
26/12 73 - 84
27/12 85 - 96

So there we have it!

Wish me luck, because I will need it.

Will you be taking part in either of these?
What are your festive reading plans?


14 December 2020

Book Review: Christmas at Court by Blythe Gifford

I bought myself a three book bind up of historical Christmas stories called Tudor Christmas Tidings, and first up is Christmas at Court by Blythe Gifford. I haven't read much historical fiction set in the Tudor period, so I'm excited to see how I like it!

Tudor Christmas Tidings cover Mills & Boon Historical Tudor Romance

Make Merry at Court

…with three Tudor Christmas stories!

In Christmas at Court by Blythe Gifford Sir John Talbot and Lady Alice’s secret betrothal must wait until Henry Tudor claims the throne.

Next in Secrets of the Queen's Lady by Jenni Fletcher the lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves is unexpectedly reunited with a handsome - younger - diplomat at the palace’s festivities!

And in His Mistletoe Lady by Amanda McCabe, Catherine seeks help from a mysterious Spaniard to free her father in time for Christmas!

Add to Goodreads button
Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Family, power, responsibility, love, court. 

This is the first up in the Tudor Christmas Tidings collection, and it is a pretty cute court romance, full of intrigue and plotting.

Christmas at Court by Blythe Gifford covers several tumultuous years at a court in the midst of a power struggle, as the first Tudor king is brought to power.

This is a slow burn romance as it happens over years, but because story is only really told at Christmas in those years it's a surprisingly quick read. The timeline is choppy, but it means that we only get the really good bits - the spark between them when they are together, the slow build of trust, the fast burn of lust, the danger of intrigue.

Alice and John's story is a story to fly through, and the ending is so so lovely.

I'd recommended getting this bind up for this story alone, it was so so good. It did make me want to re-watch The White Princess though.

Every time she closed her eyes, she felt his kiss again, not just on her lips, but on her skin, in her blood. Even - dared she think it? - in her soul.


11 December 2020

Book Beginnings: Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan

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.

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan cover
Kayla Green cranked up the volume on her favourite playlist and blocked out the sound of festive music and laughter wafting under her closed office door. 

It's no secret that Sleigh Bells in the Snow is one of my all time favourite festive books. I first read it about seven years ago, and I come back to it often.

This is such a familiar story that I love so dearly, and I totally understand where Kayla is coming from. I used to be the same when I first read this book, but now I love Christmas.

The landscape was dotted with red barns and white-steepled country churches and the late-afternoon sun sent a wash of light over breathtakingly beautiful forests turned white by snow.

This is from page 56 in my finished paperback copy.

This is where we start to properly see the magic of Snow Crystal, and I love it. I want to go there so badly, even if it is fictional.

What are you reading this week?

07 December 2020

Book Review: A New York Christmas Fairy Tale by Sarah Morgan

I've had my eye on A New York Christmas Fairy Tale by Sarah Morgan for a while now, ever since I spotted it as a free read on the Mills & Boon website back in April. I knew it was perfect for the festive period and I've been eagerly awaiting the longer evenings for the excuse to pick it up.

A New York Christmas Fairy Tale by Sarah Morgan cover Mills & Boon free reads

Roxy has learned the hard way not to believe in fairy tales, but this Christmas she wants her little daughter, Mia, to have everything she's ever dreamed of.

As the snowflakes start to fall over Manhattan, Roxy can no longer deny her own secret dreams - that her gorgeous colleague, James, will kiss her under the mistletoe!

James knows he needs to take things slowly with Roxy - she's been hurt before, and it's not just her heart she's protecting, it's adorable Mia's, too. But as December nights get colder, and the chemistry simmering between them gets hotter, James decides it's time to act!

If Roxy will let him, maybe this Christmas he can make all her dreams come true…

 Read for Free 

Source: Free

5 Word Review: Family, friendship, attraction, work, love.

A New York Christmas Fairytale is a fairly quick read. It's fun and festive and full of the feels. The only bad thing is that the links between chapter 17, 18, and 19 are bit broken, but they work if clicked from the main page in the link above.

This is the perfect story to put a smile on your face in the run up to Christmas.

Roxy is fantastically snarky and sarcastic, and she knows her own mind. She's not afraid to stand up for herself and especially Mia, and she'd do anything for her little girl. Roxy has had such a terribly hard life, and yet she is so full of love. Mia is absolutely adorable and a couple of scenes with her gave me a giggle. Such a sweet little girl.

The romance between Roxy and James is so lovely. It's caring and generous and they're both so aware of each other and cautious that they don't cause harm. Just let me have a little swoon thinking back on it...

There are some wickedly funny parts to this story, and I laughed out loud and snorted tea out of my nose. It's so heart-warming, and perfect for when it's barely above freezing outside. A quick read for a quick cheer up.

He had a way of looking at her, as if he saw the whole way through, to all of her.

05 December 2020

Book Review: The Winter Promise by Rosie Goodwin *AD - Gifted

Zaffre sent me a free finished copy of The Winter Promise by Rosie Goodwin.

This is the second Memory Lane Club books that I've read, and I think I've found a new go-to author for when I need a saga that will break my heart and then mend it.

The Winter Promise by Rosie Goodwin memory lane cover


When Opal Sharp finds herself and her younger siblings suddenly orphaned and destitute, she thinks things can get no worse.

But soon three of them - including Opal - are struck down with the illness that took their father from them, and her brother Charlie is forced to make an impossible decision. Unable to afford a doctor, he knows the younger children will not survive. So, unbeknownst to Opal, Charlie takes their younger siblings to the workhouse, where he knows they will at least be fed and have a roof over their heads.

Opal is heartbroken and struggles to forgive him. Charlie, in turn, takes bigger and bigger risks to try to support what's left of the Sharp family and earn Opal's forgiveness - but he takes it too far and finds himself in trouble with the law. Soon, he is sent on a convict ship to Australia.

As poor Opal is forced to say goodbye to the final member of her family, she makes a promise to reunite them all one day.

Add to Goodreads button
Source: Review Copy

Content Warning: Sexual assault, corporal punishment, child abuse, infant death (off page).

5 Word Review: Family, desperation, betrayal, love, lies.

Have you ever sat on a Sunday afternoon and put on the Drama channel and spent the whole afternoon caught up in a Catherine Cookson drama, drinking endless cups of tea? It's a fantastic act of self-care ,but sometimes you've seen The Rag Nymph a few too many times and you need something different. That's where The Winter Promise comes in.

It was raining outside when I first picked up this book.

I had a fresh cup of tea, a virtual fireplace crackling away in the background, a blanket across my lap. The big light was off, the lamps were lit, and I turned the first page.

I was glad of the hot drink and the blanket because I got chills from the vivid descriptions. I could feel the snow, the unforgiving wind, the chill of a draught. I almost sighed when I read about Opal making that first pot of tea, taking a sip myself. And I was hooked. So much happens in just the first fifty pages that I was pretty breathless reading them.

The story evolves slowly, and yet the pace is incredible. So much happens to every character, and their story arcs seem so different. As a family, Opal, Charlie, and Susie are so similar, and yet as the story dips in and out of their lives they have very distinct voices and personalities.

Opal is absolutely the main character, and my heart broke for her over and over again. She's so lovely and nice and she cares so much, and what she goes through would break most. She's resilient and determined and I loved her for it. She is the perfect main character for a saga, and I could happily read about her forever. All she wants is her family back together, and she does what she thinks is best. She is manipulated at her lowest point and my heart aches for her.

Charlie is... Well, he tries his best. But he's a bit flighty and he's not the type to stop and think properly before he acts. Despite all he's been through he's still a bit of a dreamer. And it was frustrating.

Susie kind of falls on her feet, and it's difficult not to like her. She's warm and fed for the most part, and her hardships are generally glossed over. She doesn't truly understand the horror of what surrounds her at times, and she's always focused on finding her way back to Opal.

There are times that the story had me gorgeously frustrated: when they were so close and yet so far, when I wanted to shake Charlie, when I wanted to wrap Opal up and keep her safe.

This book spans sixteen fraught years, and it is a Journey. I was hooked, I couldn't stop turning the pages. It's almost 500 pages long and yet I read it in a single day, switching from tea to red wine as the story progressed. I felt a little bit broken in the best of ways when it ended.

The Winter Promise felt a bit like the very best of Catherine Cookson, like the best bits of The Dwelling Place crossed with The Glass Virgin. It was outstanding, and you can easily see why Rosie Goodwin was the first author to be allowed to follow on from some Catherine Cookson stories. I couldn't recommend this book, and this author, more.