Festive Thursday #1: Shopping, Reading, Watching, Waiting… #BloggingThroughChristmas #FestiveReads

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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’ve decided to start my festive posts early this year because I always run out of time. And yes, I have started celebrating and preparing already! 

Last year, December crept up on me and I didn’t feel like I did enough fun, Christmassy things before Christmas itself. It didn’t help that I also took hardly any time off work. Well not this year my friends. This year I am starting early for MAXIMUM CHRISTMAS FEELS. Any ‘it’s too early’ naysayers can leave now. 

The shops are alive with the sound of Christmas music…

I have made a tentative start on my Christmas shopping, mainly spurred on by finding the most beautiful wrapping paper in TK Max that I ever did see. My friends did laugh at me when I met them in the pub in early November and made them repeatedly look at my amazing Christmas paper (which cost me £4 a roll). But it’s so pretty (the photos don’t do it justice, trust me). 

I love picking out wrapping paper and deciding how to dress up my presents each year. I’m not the best wrapper, but I make up for it in effort. I’m now on the hunt for the perfect purple ribbon/bows to go with this paper…any ideas?

Curling up with a good book or a movie…

I have, of course, already started hankering for some trashy, festive reads and terrible made-for-TV movies. Let’s face it, that began in September but I managed to hold off until we hit November (see, I have my boundaries).

On the book front, things got off to a great start with Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin and a stunning children’s book called The Book of Kringle, which I now really want a physical copy of because it looked so beautiful, but I can’t find it anywhere where it isn’t extortionate. Damn you, Modern World. 

The movie front hasn’t gone quite as well but I have enjoyed it all the same. I started with Arthur Christmas which I remember enjoying at the cinema but I wasn’t as impressed the second time round. I also caught Once Upon a Holiday on TV which was much more my style (r.e Trash with a capital T). 

Christmas Pudding Vodka & Christmas Breakfast Muffins

For the past few years I’ve made a batch of Christmas Pudding Vodka to give as presents as well as to drink myself/take to parties etc. I’ve decided not to make it this year (I will be trying different things instead, do not fret), but I wrote this post last year and never got round to publishing it (I told you I always run out of time)!

As you need to soak the fruit for a while, I thought now would be a better time to post it. 

Christmas Pudding Vodka is really easy, and really yummy. The only slightly specialist bit of equipment you need is a muslin cloth/jam strainer, but you could always use a thin cotton tea towel. All you need is a pack of the traditional festive dried fruits you use for Christmas cake/pudding, sugar, cinnamon sticks, spices, oranges & lemons, a bottle of good vodka, and some time. 

After the Vodka has been soaking in the fruits and spices for about a week it’s all lovely and syrupy and tastes like the epitome of festive, yet still has a good kick.

It’s perfect for shots (even my Nan went back for a second shot last year), or with lemonade or tonic if you don’t like it too sweet.

The full recipe I follow is here.

I’ve never bothered with the vanilla, and I leave mine for at least two weeks, stirring at least once a day. Once you’ve bottled your vodka, you’re left with delicious boozy fruit that you can do lots with instead of throwing away.

Last year I just had it as a dessert, warmed up with custard. But this year, I thought – MUFFINS. Breakfast muffins, but boozy ones – WHY THE HELL NOT, IT’S CHRISTMAS!

I used a standard breakfast muffin recipe like this one, and just tweaked it. They turned out delicious, especially warm and topped with jam, as they’re not that sweet alone. 

So there you have it. As you can see, I’m easing myself in gently this year 😉

If you’re not feeling Christmassy after that lot, there is no hope for you. 

Next Week: The Christmas lights switch-on, Winter Wonderland and more festive reads!

 

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin #BookReview #Christmas

a9Title: Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky
Author: Holly Martin
Series: A Town Called Christmas #1
Format: Digital ARC, 332 pages
Publication Details: September 22nd 2016 by Bookouture
Genre(s): Romance; Christmas
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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This year spend a wonderful Christmas on Juniper Island, where love can melt even the iciest of hearts…

Piper Chesterfield lives a glamorous life travelling the world and reviewing the finest hotels. She calls nowhere home, she works alone and that’s how she likes it. For long ago Piper decided that to protect her heart she should lock it away.

So when Piper’s next assignment brings her to the newly opened Stardust Lake Hotel for the festive season, the last person she expects to face is Gabe Whitaker, the man who broke her heart so completely she could never love again.

But Piper isn’t the only one who has been frozen in time by heartbreak. Gabe hasn’t forgotten the golden-eyed girl who disappeared from his world without a trace.

Now fate has reunited them on Juniper island, can the magic of Christmas heal old wounds? And can this enchanting town be the one place Piper can finally call home?

Curl up with this gorgeously romantic tale and let the glistening snow and the roaring fires of Stardust Lake Hotel get you in the festive spirit this Christmas.

Review

I can’t tell you how happy I am that Winter and Christmas is fast approaching. It’s my favourite time of the year and I love everything about it, especially festive reads. 

I knew from the moment I saw it that Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky would be my first festive read of the year, and after a very busy Horror October it was just the light, heart-warming story I needed. 

The story centres around Piper, or Pip, a mystery guest who travels the world reviewing hotels and resorts. Her final assignment before taking a sabbatical sends her down memory lane to a remote Shetland island where she once spent a holiday with her best friend Gabe and his family. 

Pip is completely charmed by the winter resort from the off, that is until she realises that Gabe is the owner. We discover their complicated past, and why they haven’t spoken in 12 years, but a reunion in a magical place over Christmas might be just what to two of them need to put the past behind them…maybe!

I loved a lot of things about this book, but especially the setting. For a winter lover like me, Stardust Lake Hotel sounds like Heaven with its glass igloos for watching the Northern Lights, its miniature town called Christmas where the inhabitants sell homemade crafts and food, and of course, the Ice Palace. It’s literally like Holly Martin has taken all of my favourite things about Christmas and put them in this book. It was magical.

I was also intrigued by Pip’s character. She’s a bit of loner with no family or friends but a successful job and passion for photography. I found it interesting that her job was a way of life for her that made it easier to never have to make friends or put down any roots. She didn’t even have a home for ten years, choosing instead to stay in the hotels she was reviewing, even over Christmas.

I thought Gabe was sweet and you could see how the sudden break-up of their relationship and dissolution of their friendship affected them in very different ways. I was rooting for his success with the hotel and with Pip!

It certainly wasn’t a perfect book. I felt like there was a bit too much repetition of Pip and Gabe’s feelings, especially her turning over what had happened in the past again and again. It was also all a little bit too good to be true. Although I read in the author’s notes that the resort is based on a real hotel in Lapland, it didn’t quite fit with my image of Shetland. It was all a bit too perfect and glitzy -like it would have been more suited to Las Vegas than a remote Scottish Island, but that was all part of the fun I guess!

I couldn’t put this book down, and it certainly gave me that lovely warm and fuzzy feeling that I only get from reading festive books like this. The story itself wasn’t all that special, but the setting certainly was. I want to live there, even if it sounded too amazing to be true. 

I ordered the second book in the series as soon as I finished this one. Need. More. 

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Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky is available now in paperback & ebook, as is book 2, Christmas Under a Starlit Sky. 

This Month in Books: October 2016 #HorrorOctober

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Horror October came and went in a flash! I got a lot of reading done at the beginning of the month and spent the rest blogging. IRL I saw some good films, went to a gig (on a school night no less) and visited my friend’s new flat on the other side of London (read: the world). I thoroughly enjoyed the change in the weather and I’m loving the dark nights. I’m weird like that.

October 2016 Stats

Total Posts: 36 (+ 18 from previous month)

Books Read: 7 (+1) 
Self-Made Man ~ Poppy Z. Brite
The Daemoniac ~ Kat Ross
The Merciless II ~ Danielle Vega
Reckless ~ Cornelia Funke
The Travelling Bag ~ Susan Hill
Miss Peregrine’s Home… ~ Ransom Riggs
Hunter of the Dead ~ Stephen Kozeniewski

The Breakdown:
Genres: YA (4/7); Horror (5/7); Crime/Thriller (1/7); Supernatural (5/7)

Formats/Sources: Advance Copy (2/7); Digital (3/7); Hardback (2/7); Paperback (2/7) / Owned (3/7); Borrowed (1/7); For Review (3/7)

Most Surprising: Hunter of the Dead
Most Disappointing: Reckless
Most Exciting: Hunter of the Dead
Most Swoon-worthy:  Hmm…I guess The Merciless at a push. 
Most Beautifully Written: The Travelling Bag

Reviews: 6 (=)

    • Haunt Me by Liz Kessler, 3/5 (View)
    • The Daemoniac by Kat Ross, 3/5 (View)
    • The Merciless II by Danielle Vega, 3/5 (View)
    • Reckless by Cornelia Funke, 2/5 (View)
    • Self-Made Man by Poppy Z. Brite, 4/5 (View)
    • The Travelling Bag by Susan Hill, 3/5 (View)

Most Viewed Posts

  1. Flash Fiction Battle: Let the voting commence
  2. Come in Here by Stevie Kopas
  3. The Secret of the Basement by Lily Luchesi

Promos, Guest Posts and Highlights

Awards

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TBR Shelf Update

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Earlier this year I decided I HAD to do something about my physical TBR shelves. Each month I’ll be doing a quick update to see how I’ve done. See my original post here, and my updated TBR list here. 

Previous TBR Count: 72

Books Added: 2

Books Read: 2

Remaining: 72

That was my month, how was yours?

This Week in Books 02.11.16 #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. 

Greetings! Well, it’s back to business as usual after another hectic but wonderful Horror October. I still have a couple of reviews to post, but I’m taking it easy this week. I need a little resty….Here’s what I’ve been reading anyhoo…

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Now:  Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky ~ Holly Martin // The Enchanted ~ Rene Denfeld

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky is the perfect light and fluffy read I needed after all that horror. I’m enjoying it a lot, and very happy that I chose it as my first festive read. I started The Enchanted before Horror October but had to put it away for a while so I’ll start on that one again too. It’s about a guy on death row who sees his world in a very interesting way. 

Then:  Hunter of the Dead ~ Stephen Kozeniewski // Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children ~ Ransom Riggs

I really enjoyed vampire novel Hunter of the Dead and my review will be up ASAP. Miss Peregrine was just OK. I’ll probably do a ‘Lazy Saturday’ review for it, but like I said, I’m taking it easy this week. 

Next: ??? 

It’s back to regular old ARCs. I have quite a few to catch up on but i think I’ll choose either The Witches of New York by Ami McKay, or Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick.

 

Waiting on Wednesday

(Linking up with Breaking the Spine)

It was the cover that first drew me to this, but it sounds great too. I always meant to watch the TV show The Pinkertons but missed it. I’m sure this book will better anyway 😉 

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For the first female Pinkerton detective, respect is hard to come by. Danger, however, is not.

In the tumultuous years of the Civil War, the streets of Chicago offer a woman mostly danger and ruin-unless that woman is Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton detective and a desperate widow with a knack for manipulation.

Descending into undercover operations, Kate is able to infiltrate the seedy side of the city in ways her fellow detectives can’t. She’s a seductress, an exotic foreign medium, or a rich train passenger, all depending on the day and the robber, thief, or murderer she’s been assigned to nab.

Inspired by the real story of Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective’s rise during one of the nation’s greatest times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country.

Expected publication: March 1st 2017 by Sourcebooks Landmark

New on the Shelves

(Linking up with Stacking the Shelves)

Bought: I finally got round to buying Six Of Crows. I haven’t read the last book in the Grisha trilogy yet though so I’m not sure if I should wait to read that first…!?

sixofcrowsKetterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Borrowed: 

My friend Dora lent me The Rest of us Just Live Here. We  love Patrick Ness and I’m told this is another good one from him! Looking forward to finally reading it.

therestofusWhat if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

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 🙂

 

This Week in Books (07.09.16) #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. 

It’s Wednesday so you know what that means…time to share how our reading week is shaping up! Don’t forget to leave your link in the comments for everyone to see 🙂 

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Now:  Labyrinth Lost ~ Zoraida Cordova // Siege and Storm ~ Leigh Bardugo

I’m about half way through Labyrinth Lost which is a coming of age witch or ‘bruja’ tale set in Latin America. Really enjoying it so far. I also started the second book in the Grisha trilogy but that’s taking a back seat for now. 

Then:   The Thousandth Floor ~ Katharine McGee

I wasn’t blown away by this, but I enjoyed it despite the multiple narration. My review is here.

Next: ??? 

I’m not actually sure this time. Either one the new ARCs listed below or maybe something from my TBR shelf.

New on the Shelves

From Netgalley: 

Reckless I: The Petrified Flesh ~ Cornelia Funke

I was delighted to hear that Cornelia Funke has updated and revised her Mirrorworld series because I didn’t get round to reading it the first time. I loved her Inkheart trilogy and also enjoyed The Thief Lord and Ghost Knight, so I’m looking forward to this one.

reckless1Enter the magical world behind the Mirrors…

Jacob has uncovered the doorway to another world, hidden behind a mirror. It is a place of dark magic and enchanted objects, scheming dwarves and fearsome ogres, fairies born from water and men born from stone.

Here, he hunts for treasure and seeks adventure in the company of Fox – a beautiful, shape-shifting girl, who guides and guards him.

But now Jacob’s younger brother has followed him into the mirrored world, and all that was freedom has turned to fear. Because a deadly curse has been spoken; and Jacob must risk his life to reverse it, before his brother is turned to stone forever…

Expected Publication: Sept 29th by Pushkin Press

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky ~ Holly Martin

I can’t wait to make this my first festive read this year. It sounds so heart-warming! Bye Summer, you can do one. 

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This year spend a wonderful Christmas on Juniper Island, where love can melt even the iciest of hearts… 

Piper Chesterfield lives a glamorous life travelling the world and reviewing the finest hotels. She calls nowhere home, she works alone and that’s how she likes it. For long ago Piper decided that to protect her heart she should lock it away.

So when Piper’s next assignment brings her to the newly opened Stardust Lake Hotel for the festive season, the last person she expects to face is Gabe Whitaker, the man who broke her heart so completely she could never love again.

But Piper isn’t the only one who has been frozen in time by heartbreak. Gabe hasn’t forgotten the golden-eyed girl who disappeared from his world without a trace.

Now fate has reunited them on Juniper island, can the magic of Christmas heal old wounds? And can this enchanting town be the one place Piper can finally call home?

Curl up with this gorgeously romantic tale and let the glistening snow and the roaring fires of Stardust Lake Hotel get you in the festive spirit this Christmas.

Expected Publication: September 22nd by Bookouture

Waiting on Wednesday

(Linking up with Breaking the Spine)

Haunt Me ~ Liz Kessler

I’m hoping to get this for my annual Horror October.

hauntmeJoe wakes up from a deep sleep to see his family leave in a removals van. Where they’ve gone, he has no idea. Erin moves house and instantly feels at home in her new room. Even if it appears she isn’t the only one living in it. Bit by bit, Erin and Joe discover that they have somehow found a way across the ultimate divide – life and death. Bound by their backgrounds, a love of poetry and their growing feelings for each other, they are determined to find a way to be together.

Joe’s brother, Olly, never cared much for poetry. He was always too busy being king of the school – but that all changed when Joe died. And when an encounter in the school corridor brings him face to face with Erin, he realises how different things really are – including the kind of girl he falls for.

Two brothers. Two choices. Will Erin’s decision destroy her completely, or can she save herself before she is lost forever?

Expected Publication: October 6th 2016 by Orion Children’s Books

 So, that’s my week in books, now how about yours?

If you’re joining in leave the link to your answers in the comments so everyone can take a look 🙂