Festive Recommendations Needed!

I am still in my book funk. I’m finding it really hard to concentrate on anything at all. I am still reading The Wolves of Midwinter and don’t want to give up on it but I’ve never read a book so slowly in my life!!!!

It is however getting me in the mood for Christmas (I know, I know, it’s too early) and I spent all of yesterday watching awful (but good!) made-for-TV Christmas films.

I need motivation to get through the ARCs I have lined up to review, so I figured I could enlist your help. Surely having some books that are the perfect Christmastime reads will spur me on to get through the next 4 books or so in time for the festive period, yes!?

So what are your favourite festive reads? Are you excited about any new Christmassey books this year?

Here is one that I’ve read the last two years in a row:

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Christmas has always been a sad time for young widow Holly Brown, so when she’s asked to look after a remote house on the Lancashire moors, the opportunity to hide herself away is irresistible – the perfect excuse to forget about the festivities.

Sculptor, Jude Martland, is determined that this year there will be no Christmas after his brother runs off with his fiancée and he is keen to avoid the family home. However, he will have to return by Twelfth Night, when the hamlet of Little Mumming hold their historic festivities and all of his family are required to attend.

Meanwhile, Holly is finding that if she wants to avoid Christmas, she has come to the wrong place. When Jude unexpectedly returns on Christmas Eve he is far from delighted to discover that Holly seems to be holding the very family party he had hoped to avoid.

Suddenly, the blizzards come out of nowhere and the whole village is snowed in. With no escape, Holly and Jude get much more than they bargained for – it looks like the twelve days of Christmas are going to be very interesting indeed!

Winter is Here: The Polaris Whisper by Kenneth Gregory

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It is a dark time. For decades Hakon the Black, the most feared Norse Lord of the ninth century, has conducted bloody and gruesome raids throughout Europe, and laid his claim upon the seas. But it is also a time of hope.

In the frozen wastelands of the north, Vidar searches for the Vestibule of Light. Alone, freezing and exhausted, he pushes on through the endless winter in the belief that once his quest is complete, he may return to the life he has left behind, and to Niclaus, the son he was forced to abandon. For Niclaus has a greater destiny – one foretold by Cado, the enigmatic Small Walker – and Vidar is but one player in the boy’s life. Cado has enlisted the help of protectors from all corners of the Earth to shield Niclaus: men whose worlds are connected by only the loosest of threads.

But as Niclaus becomes older, and the various worlds begin to converge, will Vidar and Cado have to make sacrifices beyond imagining to protect those they love.

I struggled with this book in the very beginning. I didn’t know it was going have a shifting timeline (one of my book turn-offs on this week’s TTT!) and it took me a lot to focus on it and figure out what it was actually going to be about. But how glad am I that I stuck it out? VERY, that’s how glad.

The Polaris Whisper spans from around 800 to 840 AD, so it’s not a huge shift between time per chapter, but it still took me a while to get used to it. It is also a book with many characters and story strands, but once they all started coming together I had to keep reading to find out how it was going to pan out.

There’s the two monks of Ceanannus Mór in 802 AD who start off as BFFs but a strain is put on their relationship when Tomás meets mysterious ‘Small Walker’ Cado and begins working with him on a secret project. And then around 830 there’s Vidar who gave up his son Niclaus to fulfill a quest to find the Cave of Light not knowing whether he will return. And in 840 AD Niclaus and his friends prepare for ‘The Trial’, an almighty 3 day race over perilous snow and frozen lakes in which the winner will be named as Ugter – the new village leader.

It doesn’t really sound all that exciting does it? But it is! With gory Ice Bear and Wolf attacks, the mounting unease between the small walkers and tall walkers, a cute little romance, viking raids and the imposing Norse Lord Hakon – once I got into The Polaris Whisper I was hooked.

The setting didn’t hurt either. Descriptions of the Fjords and the frozen wastelands were both harsh and beautiful and I found the writing throughout pretty much perfect.

I was particularly interested to know more about Vidar and his quest and couldn’t wait to get back to him every time it wasn’t his chapter. The Vestibule he was looking for was drenched in mystery and magic and I was urging him on to find it each time.

I also loved Cado, the Small Walker. He was definitely the glue in this story, eventually tying all of the characters together. He was also the main source of intrigue and excitement as we learn more about him and the secret magical powers he yields.

In the end, this book was a lot different to what I was expecting. I expected more of the Norse mythology in there for sure, but the direction it actually went in was welcome too.

And, I can’t talk about it because this is a spoiler-free zone but THE ENDING. There is a proper twist/revelation at the end which is amazing. I’m not sure how I didn’t see it coming, but I didn’t…I literally had my mouth open for quite some time, actually it still is a little bit. Not attractive. Please tell me there’s more???

I think this will be a favourite Winter Read of mine for some time. Wolves, Racing Sleighs, Reindeer…what’s not to like!?

Disclosure: I received a copy from the author/publisher for an HONEST review via NetGalley. Many thanks!
Details: Paperback, 457 pages, published September 25th 2013 by Blackstaff Press Ltd
Unicorn Rating: 4/5
Is it a keeper? YES! I will be buying a physical copy ASAP!
If you like this try: Game of Thrones!?

September Finds

This is a monthly post where I share some of the books that I’ve found through fellow bloggers that I just HAD to add to my wishlist immediately. I’m hoping I’ll look back on these posts and remember to buy/request the books.

Here are my Finds from September and where I spotted them.

Click on the images to go to the original posts

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Found on: The Talking Bookworm
Why: I’m intrigued by the cover and I really want to start reading more series.

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Found on: Penny Dreadful Books
Why: I love the idea of a story based around the Pandora’s Box myth and the folktale of Bluebeard which I had to look up after reading Andrea’s great post.

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Found on: Bookshelf Fantasies
Why: I LOVED McKinley’s Sunshine and I wasn’t aware she’d returned to that world until I saw this TTT post.

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Found on: Bitches n’ Prose
Why: Err…Christmas. Obvs.

Thanks Guys!

August Finds

I wanted to start sharing some of the books that I’ve found through fellow bloggers that I just HAD to add to my wishlist immediately.

In my short time as a book blogger I’ve been introduced to so many new books that would have passed me by and my book wishlist and to-be-read pile is getting a bit ridiculous now, so thanks for that everyone 😛 If nothing else, I’m hoping that this monthly post will remind me what books I got really excited about and why.

So better late than never, here are my favourite Finds from August and where I spotted them.

Click on the images to go to the original posts

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Found on: Chrissi Reads
Why: I loved Into the Darkest Corner by Haynes so I’m looking forward to this.

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Found on: Lost Inside the Covers
Why: Alice in Wonderland with Zombies. Nuff said. Plus look at that cover!!

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Found on: Book Nerds Anonymous
Why: Vampires & another cover swoon!

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Found on: Wrapped Up in Books
Why: The cover looks magical, like Christmas.

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Found on: Daisy Chain Book Reviews
Why: It sounds like YA royalty!

Thanks Guys!

The Verdict: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares

Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York?Excerpt & Image from GoodReads7741325

I was a little, tiny bit disappointed about Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, I did, but it just didn’t live up to the standards of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Once again Rachel Cohn & David Levithan collaborated on this with Rachel writing Lily’s chapters and David writing Dash’s. I wonder if they’ve ever thought about doing it the other way round??

Dash’s is 100% Levithan – Cute, geeky and sensitive in a hot way, and pretty metrosexual. I haven’t read any other Rachel Cohn so I can only compare Lily to Norah…I was expecting a similar character- quirky, insecure and feisty- but she was just a bit of a let down. I’m glad she was different, don’t get me wrong, she’s not supposed to be Norah but I think the main reason I didn’t LOVE this book is because me and Lily just wouldn’t get on. She wears her school uniform in the Christmas Holidays (who does that?). She is just SO nice it’s sickening. She doesn’t even approve of swearing. I don’t think we could be friends. And I don’t think she’s a good match for Dash.

Lily does love Christmas though, as do I, so you’d think that would endear me to her. But no.

I love Christmas. I love everything about it: the lights, the cheer the big family gatherings, the cookies, the presents piled high around the tree. The goodwill to all. I know it’s technically goodwill to all men, but in my mind I drop the men because that seems segregationist/elitist/sexist generally bad ist. Goodwill shouldn’t be just for men. It should also apply to women and children, and all animals, even the yucky ones like subway rats. I’d even extend the goodwill not just to living creatures but to the dearly departed, and if we include them we might as well include the undead, those supposedly mythic beings like vampires, and if they’re in, then so are elves, fairies and gnomes.

She is so different to Norah that I couldn’t even picture her as Kat Dennings whom I’m a bit obsessed with so that was disappointing too. She just didn’t fit.

There are definitely flashes of brilliance though. One of the first things I didn’t like about the story is that Lily is basically a fraud. Dash has found the notebook and is traipsing all over New York during the holidays to fulfill these dares, and here he is thinking he’s met this quirky, clever, slightly insane, out-spoken girl (he’s clearly picturing Kat Dennings too) when really the whole thing was her brother’s idea and she’s just sort of going along with it. But then, I guess that’s what it’s like when when you’re just getting to know someone. You find out one thing about them and it defines who they are to you. If you ask me, first impressions are worthless.

I mean like most guys, you carry around this girl in your head, who is exactly how you want her to be. The person you think you will love the most. And every girl you are with gets measured against this girl in your head. So this girl with the red notebook- it makes sense. If you never meet her, she never has to get measured. She can be the girl in your head.

I think Dash would agree with me.

I wanted to write it down. I wanted to share it with Lily, even if Lily was really just the idea I’d created of Lily, the concept of Lily. . . I sat back and let my thoughts flow out. Not directed at her this time. Not directed at all. It would be just like water, or blood. It would go wherever it was meant to go.

Overall Dash & Lily is a really enjoyable read, just don’t expect it to be as poignant (I really hate that word but there’s no better in this case) or as beautiful as Nick & Norah.

I give Dash & Lily's Book of Dares 3 unicorns (out of 5 unicorns). It would be 3.5 unicorns but I can't cut a unicorn in half, that would be devastating.

This edition was published by Mira Ink, Oct 2012 and belongs to Dora. Thanks Dora 🙂