Festive Thursday: An Easy Christmas Craft & Recipe Ideas… #FestiveThursday

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Welcome to Festive Thursday where I’m going to be sharing with you all my Christmas endeavours, including the books I’m reading, the films I’ve watched, gift ideas I’ve found, and any festive events I’ve attended. Because, well, I LOVE CHRISTMAS SO HARD.

I’m not really a crafty person and get bored easily, but there is something about Christmas which compels me to make things. Or try to, at least. Here’s what I’ve been making in the last few weeks. They are both easy, and don’t require anything too complicated so if your Christmas spirit is waning, why not give one a go!?

Glitter Tree Decorations

I’ve made these a few times now, and they always come out great – and different every time. They are very simply glitter pony beads placed in cookie cutters and melted down n the oven for around 30-45 minutes, depending on the quality of the beads and how many you use. This year I used little zinc-plated nuts so you can thread them and hang them on your tree. Or in your window. Once cooled they pop out of the moulds pretty easily.

The beads do give off some fumes, so perhaps not suitable if small children are around. Simply use an extractor fan or open the back door for a while. And once your beads are melted, keep the oven on with the door open for a short while and bob’s yer uncle.

Cinnamon Shortbread

I’d never made shortbread before and didn’t realise how easy it is! Like ridiculously. And dangerously. I followed this traditional recipe but added some ginger too. And I made a cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top (simply mix brown sugar with ground cinnamon).

They were seriously delicious and they will be the first thing a make when I get to my parents house tomorrow, too. I think this time I’ll decorate with icing instead.

 Currently Reading

I was really looking forward to Georgette Heyer’s A Christmas Party, but I couldn’t for the life on me get into it so I replaced it with this one, which I’m enjoying and almost finished.

christmasatrosieRosie Hopkins is looking forward to Christmas in the little Derbyshire village of Lipton, buried under a thick blanket of snow. Her sweetshop is festooned with striped candy canes, large tempting piles of Turkish Delight, crinkling selection boxes and happy, sticky children. She’s going to be spending it with her boyfriend, Stephen, and her family, flying in from Australia. She can’t wait.

But when a tragedy strikes at the heart of their little community, all of Rosie’s plans for the future seem to be blown apart. Can she build a life in Lipton? And is what’s best for the sweetshop also what’s best for Rosie?

 

Recently Watched

I finally gave in and watched Elf…it’s got to be one of the best. I can’t stand Will Ferrell in anything else but he’s great in this! I also watched Gremlins and Home Alone. Christmas films are the best. I’m saving A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Frozen and Santa Claus -the Movie though. They definitely need to be watched with the family. 🙂

Blog Break

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post I’ll be taking a break over Christmas and into the New Year. I’ll still be posting & hosting This Week in Books, and will probably do some yearly round-up posts because they’re always fun, but my usual schedule won’t be back in action until January sometime. Thanks for all the comments, shares on Social media and for generally being awesome. 

All that’s left to say is Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays…etc. I hope you all have a lovely time. And if that’s not possible, at least get through it unscathed 😉 

xmas

 

This Week in Books 21.12.16 #TWIB #CurrentlyReading

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Welcome to my weekly post, where I sum-up what I’ve been up to in bookland the past week. 

Hi everyone, happy Wednesday! I going to be taking some time off from the blog over Christmas and New Year. I’m still going to post this Wednesday post each week but the shorter version where I simply share what I’m reading now, then and next. I’ll also no doubt be posting some yearly round-up posts but other than that don’t worry if it gets a bit quiet around here.

Look out for my last festive post tomorrow where I’ll sign off properly. Happy Holidays!

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Now: Christmas Under a Starlit Sky ~ Holly Martin

I’ve only just started this. It’s the second in her ‘A Town Called Christmas’ series.

Then:  Christmas at Rosie Hopkin’s Sweet Shop Jenny Colgan

I enjoyed this heart-warming story. I’ll try and review it before I go off on my Christmas break.

Next: ??? 

I’m not sure again this time. It really depends on my mood. And maybe on what Santa brings me! 🙂

  

So that’s my week in books, now why don’t you tell me about yours!?

Leave your answers or the link to your post in the comments and I’ll take a look 🙂

The Ones that Got Away: Unreviewed Books read in 2016 #MiniReviews

I read 8 books this year that I failed to write reviews for, which I think is pretty good going actually. So as we come to the end of the year, in the spirit of tying things up, here are some very, very short reviews for them, or at the very least reasons for my lack of review!

A Christmas Party ~ Georgette Heyer: I only read about 50 pages of this before giving up. It’s a closed-house murder mystery that I was really looking forward to but I just couldn’t get into to it at all. There were lots of characters and none of them were remotely pleasant!

The Enchanted ~ Rene Denfield: This was a really strange book about a man on death row. I was trying to put my thoughts together for a review but I think it took so long I forgot. I’m still not sure how I felt about it. It was written in a very interesting way…

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children ~ Ransom Riggs: I didn’t finish this book. I wanted to read it before  I saw the film, but didn’t end up seeing it anyway. I think I wasn’t in the mood for it. I’ll hopefully go back to it at some point.

The Seeing Stone ~ Kevin Crossley- Holland: This was one of those books that had been on my TBR list for years. I love Arthurian stuff so thought I would love it, but I didn’t get on with it at all. I just managed to finish it but I wasn’t in the mood to write a terrible review of it.

Glass Sword ~ Victoria Aveyard: The second book in the Red Queen series was great. I enjoyed it a lot. I have no idea why I didn’t write a review for it!

Deception ~ Naomi Chase: I have actually reviewed this but for our library newsletter that we put together at work. Maybe I’ll share it one day. Deception is an ‘Urban Fiction’ book which are popular in the prison where I work. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting!

The Colour of Milk ~ Nell Leyshon: This was a simple, short-but-sweet novel about a poor farm- servant who teaches herself to read. I liked it. Not sure why I didn’t review it at the time.

Goth Girl and the Pirate Queen ~ Chris Riddell: This was a short World Book Day story. I don’t remember much about it to be honest. I gave it 3 unicorns though so I must have liked it enough.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Early 2017 Releases #TTT

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the link to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

This week the topic is… Top Ten books I’m looking forward to in the first half of 2017.

It feels a bit premature to be looking to 2017 releases (especially considering I haven’t even done my November round-up yet), but we all know that it’s actually not!

Here are ten books that I hope to read in the first half of the year. They are not all necessarily released then.

The Chalk Pit – Elly Griffiths (23/2/17)

A Mother’s Reckoning – Sue Klebold (09/02/17)

Calling Major Tom – David M. Barnett (29/06/17)

Mercy of the Tide – Keith Rosson (21/02/17)

Girl in Disguise – Greer Macallister (21/03/17)

The Wingsnatcher’s – Sarah Jean Horowitz (25/04/17)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness (35/08/2015)

Wintersong – S. Jae-Jones (07/02/17)

The Chemist – Stephenie Meyer (08/11/16)

Heartless – Marissa Meyer (08/11/16)

 

 

 

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson #BookReview #YA

silentsongbirdTitle: The Silent Songbird
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Series: Hagenheim #7
Format: Digital ARC, 304 pages
Publication Details: November 8th 2016 by Thomas Nelson
Genre(s): YA; Historical Fiction
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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Evangeline longs to be free, to live in the world outside the castle walls. But freedom comes at a cost.

Evangeline is the ward and cousin of King Richard II, and yet she dreams of a life outside of Berkhamsted Castle, where she might be free to marry for love and not politics. But the young king betroths her to his closest advisor, Lord Shiveley, a man twice as old as Evangeline. Desperate to escape a life married to a man she finds revolting, Evangeline runs away from the king and joins a small band of servants on their way back to their home village.

To keep her identity a secret, Evangeline pretends to be mute. Evangeline soon regrets the charade as she gets to know Wesley, the handsome young leader of the servants, whom she later discovers is the son of a wealthy lord. But she cannot reveal her true identity for fear she will be forced to return to King Richard and her arranged marriage.

Wesley le Wyse is intrigued by the beautiful new servant girl. When he learns that she lost her voice from a beating by a cruel former master, he is outraged. But his anger is soon redirected when he learns she has been lying to him. Not only is she not mute, but she isn’t even a servant.

Weighed down by remorse for deceiving Wesley, Evangeline fears no one will ever love her. But her future is not the only thing at stake, as she finds herself embroiled in a tangled web that threatens England’s monarchy. Should she give herself up to save the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

Review

My request-happy trigger finger strikes again and I requested this book based on the cover alone. What I didn’t realise was that it’s number 7 (SEVEN!) in a series, and that Melanie Dickerson is a popular Christian author. Oh dear.

Thankfully, the books in the  Hagenheim series can be read as stand-alones. Some characters do seem to crossover but each book follows a different protagonist. So no disasters so far.

The whole Christian thing however, was slightly more of an issue for me. I’m not religious at all, but I like to think I have an open mind so I didn’t let it put me off. And to be fair, I still enjoyed the story, but I did get a bit bored with all the praying. As the story progressed it got more and more preachy.

However, let’s go back to basics. The Silent Songbird is a gentle story about Evangeline, a sheltered princess-type who feels stifled living in the King’s castle. When the King insists she marry his conniving but trusted adviser, it’s the last straw and Evangeline runs away.

In a bid to hide her identity, she becomes Eva, and claims to be mute. She ends up working as a (pretty terrible) servant and falling in love with a handsome farm-boy.

There was definitely a lot to like in this book. I enjoyed the romance and that Evangeline could be feisty. I liked that she was willing to fight for what she wanted and that she wouldn’t settle for what most girls of her stature usually would. I thought she was a good role model.

Lord Shiveley, the man whom Evangeline has been promised to was a great villain who left a bad taste in my mouth and I was rooting for our protagonist and Westley the whole time.

I did however find the story pretty predictable, and as I said earlier, the praying and god-talk got a bit much at times. It was also supposed to be a retelling of  The Little Mermaid and other than the protagonist having red hair and a beautiful singing voice, I don’t think that came through much. There did seem to be lots of nods to The Princess Bride though, which I loved.

This was a nice introduction to Melanie Dickerson, and despite the Christian theme, I’d be interested to read more of her work; it was a very readable, enjoyable YA historical fiction romance.

unicorn rating 3

 

 

This Week in Books 07.12.16 #TWIB #CurrentlyReading

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Welcome to my weekly post, where I sum-up what I’ve been up to in bookland the past week. 

Happy Wednesday to you all! I hope you’re all enjoying the beginning of December!

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week…

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Now: The Christmas Party ~ Georgette Heyer

I’ve only just started this so not much to report yet.

Then:  The Silent Songbird ~ Melanie Dickerson

I enjoyed this quick read but it was all a bit too Christian for me! My review will be up on Monday.

Next: ??? 

I’m not entirely sure this time. It really depends on my mood.

 

Waiting on Wednesday

(Linking up with Breaking the Spine)

I really hope I get approved for a copy of this as I really loved the first book, Into the Dim. It’s a long wait until its release. 

 

Expected publication: August 1st 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers

New on the Shelves

(Linking up with Stacking the Shelves)

The only books I bought this week were presents so I won’t share those.

From Netgalley: 

The cover of this book is pure LOLS. I’m a bit obsessed with Scotland and men in kilts so I couldn’t help but click the ‘request’ button when i saw it. It’ll be good for a laugh if nothing else!

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So that’s my week in books, now why don’t you tell me about yours!?

Leave your answers or the link to your post in the comments and I’ll take a look 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: Best new-to-me authors read in 2016 #TTT

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the link to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

This week the topic is… Top Ten new-to-me authors in 2016!

I discovered so many great authors again this year, and finally got round to reading some of those that had been on my TBR for way too long.

Here are my top ten authors that I discovered or first read this year, (and the books of theirs I read). Links go to my reviews.

10. Holly Martin (Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky)

9. Liz Kessler (Haunt Me)

8. Leigh Bardugo (Shadow & Bone)

7. Natalie Haynes (The Amber Fury)

6. Nina LaCour (You Know Me Well – with David Levithan)

5. Janet B. Taylor (Into the Dim)

4. Danielle Vega (The Merciless)

3. Catherine Lowell (The Madwoman Upstairs)

2. Madeline Miller (The Song of Achilles)

1. Jason Arnopp (The Last Days of Jack Sparks)

Did you try any of these this year?

 

The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere #BookReview

thechristmastownTitle: The Christmas Town
Author: Donna VanLiere
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 240 pages
Publication Details: October 18th 2016 by St. Martin’s Press
Genre(s): General Fiction; Christmas
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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Donna VanLiere, New York Times bestselling author of the timeless The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Hope, is back with this moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places.

Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.

When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?

 

Review

I feel like I was a little bit mislead by the title of this book as I was expecting a story about a lonely woman who is taken in by a crazy town that loves Christmas or something to that effect – you know the type. The Christmas Town wasn’t really that, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Christmas Town is actually about twenty year old Lauren who has been in and out of foster homes all her life but is now living independently and working at a grocery store. The one thing Lauren wants is a family to spend Christmas with so she puts an ad on the internet.

In the mean time, she befriends a lady who was involved in a car accident which leads her to a charity-run community centre where she is thrust into the melee of a big event.

The Christmas Town is a nice, light read and I enjoyed the story. But it didn’t feel particularly festive which is what disappointed me about it. Lauren was an interesting protagonist but her character was a little bit too plain for me. I would have thought that someone who had been through everything she had would have more depth to her. She felt too simple.

The cast of characters she meets in Grandon are nicely balanced and varied but no one stuck out. I also found it quite farcical in places with all the missed meetings and misunderstandings.

I did however enjoy that the story wasn’t what I had expected from the cover, and liked the feel-good community spirit that was at the heart of it. If you’re looking for a quick, light read but not one that will throw Christmas in your face, give this one a try.

unicorn rating 3

 

Festive Thursday #2: The Christmas lights switch on & Winter Wonderland

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Welcome to Festive Thursday where I’m going to be sharing with you all my Christmas endeavours, including the books I’m reading, the films I’ve watched, gift ideas I’ve found, and any festive events I’ve attended. Because, well, I LOVE CHRISTMAS SO HARD.

The Funtimes

I missed last week’s post because, well, I was just being too festive and didn’t get time to write it. Soz. But on the plus side –  Happy 1st of December!!!

Last week the festivities really started. On Thursday I went to my old town (I moved but it’s still my town, OK) for the Christmas lights switch-on/ opening of the Christmas market. I donned my favourite Christmas jumper, had my first mulled beverage of the year and tried on silly hats – it’s tradition – and it was glorious.

The mulled wine was good, the hog roast was spectacular, but the entertainment was sorely lacking. Unless we somehow missed it all. There were too many people to even see who was turning the lights on but it was certainly someone no one has ever heard of. The giant nutcrackers were a welcome addition to the decorations this year, however.

Despite the wetness of weather, fun was had. Christmas has begun my friends.

Then on Saturday my parents came to visit and we went to Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. I LOVE WW! Sure, it can get really busy and annoying, but the atmosphere is always great. And I love that they have so many bands and artists playing for free. Most of them are so-bad-they’re-good, but that just adds to the fun.

icekingdom

This year I actually booked tickets for things for the first time. The Magical Ice Kingdom was definitely impressive and beautiful, but it was a lot smaller/quicker than I expected. The Cirque Berserk modern circus was great though. I went all out and booked us a VIP box which came with champagne and chocolates and my parents loved it. It was a welcome break from sitting in the cold too. Highly recommended.

The Books

Last week I finished two festive reads.

thegirlwhosavedxmasJOURNEY TO THE EDGE OF MAGIC

If magic has a beginning, can it also have an end?

When Amelia wants a wish to come true she knows just the man to ask – Father Christmas.

But the magic she wants to believe in is starting to fade, and Father Christmas has more than impossible wishes to worry about. Upset elves, reindeers dropping out of the sky, angry trolls and the chance that Christmas might be cancelled.

But Amelia isn’t just any ordinary girl. And – as Father Christmas is going to find out – if Christmas is going to be saved, he might not be able to do it alone . . .

And:

thechristmastownDonna VanLiere, New York Times bestselling author of the timeless The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Hope, is back with this moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places.

Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.

When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?

My review of the Matt Haig book is here, and the other one will be up on Monday.

The Films

I think it’s important to save certain Christmas films until closer to the time itself, but there are SO many that are good, but wouldn’t be too sacrilege to watch before December.

The ones well and truly off my before December list are Elf, Home Alone, Muppets Christmas Carol & Santa Claus the movie. I’m sure there are more but they are the most important.

Last week I watched Krampus: The Christmas Devil (not the recent one) which was truly terrible, and then The Santa Clause – the one with Tim Allen. I love this film and totally think it gets overlooked! Go watch it and feel the festive wash over you.

In other news, I have done about 60% of my shopping and made a start on the Christmas booze cabinet, but more on that next time. Winning all round.

How have you been preparing for Christmas this week?

Next week – more Christmas market fun, I get crafty…and my attention will turn to FOOD!