Saturday, 27 December 2014

Christmas Tag

Happy belated Christmas everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful day! I've been a bit absent lately, and so as the lull between Christmas and New Year begins it's time to finally have a catch up!

I came across this tag over on Jillian's Books and thought it might be fun to have a go!

How much do you love snow?
Easy question, A LOT. Waking up and opening your curtains to find the world covered with snow is one of the most magical feelings in the world. And I actually had that feeling this morning! It was only a light dusting but it made my day!

How do you eat your gingerbread men? Head first or feet first?
I have to eat the head first and get it out of the way. I'm one of those people who feels bad eating things shaped like people/animals. Jelly babies, chocolate rabbits, you name it and I have to eat the head first. Silly but true.

Do you like seasonal reading? Do you specifically seek out books set around winter during winter?
I do but I hardly ever get them all read haha! I always trawl Amazon for free Christmas themed kindle books and short stories. This year I must have found at least ten and only had time to read one! I guess they'll have to wait until next year now!

Have you ever been caroling? Would you go?
Yes and yes. A few of us from our local church used to go around our village carol singing, lanterns and all, but this was years ago. I'd love to revive the tradition one day.

Favourite Christmas Song
I'm a traditionalist at heart, and so my favourite song is Sussex Carol (or On Christmas Night All Christians Sing), but I love O Holy Night too.

Favourite Christmas Tradition?
It's got to be the food surely? We always go all out; turkey with all the trimmings (especially pigs in blankets) and enough desserts to see us right up until New Years Day! We also name our Christmas tree, if that counts as a tradition? We get a real one and they have a different name every year.

Do you eat Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve?

Christmas Day, always. Usually mid afternoon by the time everything is ready!

And when do you open your presents?
Christmas morning. We live on a farm so we get up early to make sure all the animals are fed, before changing into our Christmas jumpers, gathering around the roaring log fire and opening our presents together. Old fashioned perhaps but I wouldn't have it any other way.

What book boyfriend/girlfriend would you want under your tree?
My answer to this changes with literally every book I read. My current favourite is Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series of books. Must be the kilt.

I'm tagging anyone and everyone who reads this! Hope you're all enjoying the festive season!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I've Read this Year!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This past year has flown by - I've just realised that I actually missed my first blogiversary two days ago! I've read many great books this year, but I actually found this list relatively easy to compile, you know a good book when you read one! So without further ado, here are my top picks that I've read this year:

There are two books I read this year that went straight onto the all-time favourites list, and interestingly they are very similar in theme, Full of 'magic', mystery and illusion, thy transport you completely into another world. The Illusionists has a plot that will grip you from the very first page, whilst the feats of imagination described in The Night Circus are just stunning. I can't recommend them enough.

I won The Secret Place in a Goodreads giveaway, and admittedly it isn't to my usual taste, but I found myself  hooked! Gripping, tense, and brilliantly written. 

Season of Light was a complete surprise for me; think Jane Austen meets the French Revolution. I couldn't put it down!

These next two choices are also successful films in their own right, but on both occasions I prefer the original book. Water for Elephants is a tense roller-coaster of a novel and The Time Traveler's Wife is a moving modern fairytale.

I've cut-down on chick-lit a bit this year, but these two really were stand out for me. The Vintage Girl takes place in a crumbly stately home in Scotland, whilst The Oyster Catcher is set on the windswept coast of Ireland. It is these settings that make them special.

As far as Austen re-tellings go Val McDermid's Northanger Abbey is the best I've come across. Moving the action to Edinburgh, my favourite city, was a genius move and the story just translates perfectly to today.

This is my final choice, and I'll admit I'm slightly biased as the male protagonist of this story hails from my home-town, but Spare Brides is a wonderful story of love, loss, and changing times in the aftermath of war.

So there we have it, my top ten books that I've read this year! I've enjoyed making this list - reading back over my reviews and notes to pick out my favourites - and I'm really interested to see what you've picked!

***I'll be away in Edinburgh when this post goes live (going up to see Wicked with my little sister - SO excited!) so any visits/comments will be duly returned when I get back. Please do leave links to your lists, I'd love to see your choices!***

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Blog Tour / Giveaway: The Twelfth Night Wager by Regan Walker

Now that December is here I can finally break out the Christmas themed books. I've had to restrain myself until now and have quite a list to get through this month, so watch this space!
Today I'm excited to be hosting the blog tour for The Twelfth Night Wager by Regan 
Walker. I really loved this book, and now can't wait to read the rest of Regan's work!
Read on for a synopsis, review and a giveaway to win a Twelve 
Days of Christmas Bracelet. I know I'll be entering!

01_The Twelfth Night Wager CoverSynopsis
It was a dull day at White’s, the day he agreed to the wager: seduce bed and walk away from the lovely Lady Leisterfield, all by Twelfth Night. This holiday season, Christopher St. Ives, Viscount Eustace, planned to give himself a gift.

She was too proper by half—or so was the accusation of her friends, which was why her father had to find her a husband. But Lord Leisterfield was now gone a year, and Grace was at last shedding the drab colors of mourning. The house felt empty, more so during the coming Christmastide, and so tonight her coming out would begin with a scandalous piece of theater. The play would attract rogues, or so promised her friend the dowager countess. It would indeed. The night would bring about the greatest danger—and the greatest happiness—that Grace had ever known.

Add to GR ButtonBuy the eBook  Amazon

First of all I have to say that I really love the cover! It fits the story and its seasonal setting perfectly.

The central couple, Christopher and Grace are a perfect match, and you can't help but will them to get together. Grace, like me, is an observer, and I really wanted her to let herself go a bit more and have fun after what she'd been through. I also want a Christopher of my own! He is a reformed rake, but a perfect gentleman - and a gorgeous one at that!

All of the secondary characters each have their own interesting personalities. I particularly liked Lord and Lady Ormond, and so was very happy to discover that they have a novel of their own! However my favourite supporting character has to be Lady Claremont; the matchmaking dowager who doesn't miss a thing. She is shrewd yet surprisingly modern in her thinking and her matchmaking methods, and well respected by all who know her.

One of the things that I love the most about historical romances is the setting, and this one doesn't disappoint. A world of balls, operas, lavish costumes and country estates is exactly the kind of escapism that I love. The plot of this novel is nothing new, give or take a twist or two, but this is by no means a criticism. You know exactly what you're going to get, so sit back and enjoy. There were also subtle hints in the plot to the exciting life of Grace's friend Lady Mary Ormond, prior to her marriage - dressing like a boy and riding astride. Scandalous! These hints were just enough to entice you into wanting to read the other books in the series - and they worked! I can't wait to find out more!

5/5 stars: With a wonderful cast of characters and a couple that you will really root for, The Twelfth Night Wager is a tale told with humour and heart; the perfect read for a cold winter's night.

About the Author
03_Regan WalkerBestselling author Regan Walker loved to write stories as a child, particularly those about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.” And in each of her novels, there is always real history and real historic figures. Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses. For more information please visit Regan Walker’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

To enter to win a Twelve Days of Christmas Charm Bracelet, please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below.

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on December 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents of the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 1 December 2014

Review: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Meet Johanna Morrigan, an embarrassment unto herself and her family. It's time for Johanna to die. Not literally of course. She must die so a that new girl can be built, rising from the ashes of her former self.

Meet Dolly Wilde, a wild child music critic renowned for her devil-may-care attitude, her scathing reviews, and her trademark top hat. At sixteen years old she is a smoking, drinking 'Lady Sex Adventurer', determined to save her family from financial ruin and make a name for herself in the process. But as her exploits gets wilder and her reputation gets worse, Dolly starts to doubt herself. Is this really the kind of girl that she wants to be? Or is it time to tear herself down and start again?

I was lucky enough to see Caitlin Moran at Cheltenham Literature Festival this year (free front row tickets - being a volunteer certainly has its perks!) and she was just hilarious. Since then I have been desperate to get my hands on her debut novel, and I wasn't disappointed.

I'll start  by saying that this isn't a book for the faint hearted. There's lots of swearing, explicit yet hilarious descriptions of sex, and a scene of self harm. But please don't let that put you off - I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

Moran is a brilliant writer. For a first novel I was very impressed, and I just loved her writing style - it's almost poetic in places - and this is what sold the story to me.

Johanna/Dolly is a fantastic character, and I would love one day to find out what happens in the next chapter of her life. I could relate to her - I, too, learnt almost everything I know from books - and although my goth phase was never quite that extreme I still saw parallels between her story and my own teenage years. Aside from Johanna, her elder brother Krissi was my favourite character, and I like to think that he stayed in London permanently with Johanna after the story ended and that they took on the world together.

Caitlin demonstrates an incredibly well observed insight into the teenage mindset - with all the turbulence, uncertainly and raging hormones. The point is stressed that the novel is entirely fictional, but given the parallels with Moran's own background I can't help but wonder if there is an element of autobiography to it - it's easy to write about what you know well. It's an easy read, and I raced through it in a couple of days.

4/5 stars: Described as 'The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease,How to Build a Girl is rude, daring, and laugh out loud funny. Highly recommended.