The Nutcracker by E. T. A Hoffmann, illustrated by Sanna Annukka Ltd (Review)

The Nutcracker by E. T. A Hoffmann, illustrated by Sanna Annukka Ltd

Blurb

Hoffmann’s classic Christmas fairy tale, immortalised by Tchaikovsky’s ballet, is brought to life by the gorgeous contemporary artwork of Finnish illustrator, Sanna Annuka.

On Christmas Eve, Fritz and Marie excitedly await the arrival of Godfather Drosselmeier and the marvellous gifts he brings for them every year. When Marie discovers a curious nutcracker doll among the presents, she suddenly finds herself caught up in an age-old battle before being transported to a magical world of sugar-frosted castles, chocolate kings, and true love.

Sanna Annukka is familiar to many from her collaborations with Marimekko. The Nutcracker is her third book project.

This cloth-bound edition combines the charm of Hoffmann’s original nineteenth-century tale with the freshness of Sanna Annuka’s gorgeous illustrations. A beautiful gift to give and receive.

Review

As most of you know by now I love the story of The Nutcracker and I read a new edition of it every year. The story for me will always have 5 out of 5 Dragons and thankfully this edition was not abridged so I could enjoy the story in full.

Over the past few years I have read some beautifully illustrated copies of this story and last year’s was a pop up book version, which although abridged really made me smile as the detail of the book was stunning. The illustrations in this year’s edition for me was rather a shock and not what I had expected but this year due to the pandemic I had had to order my copy rather than explore an actual book shop.

The illustrations in this book are bold and only use a limited range of colours but they work so well together and you can really see how Annukka is influenced by her love of printing and Finnish design. The only issues I had was that the illustration of the mouse king sadly did not have seven heads but just the one. You could clearly see it was the mouse king because it was a mouse with a crown but I did miss the seven heads. The other issue I had was that there was an awful lot of black used that made certain illustrations appear rather gloomy.

I really enjoyed reading this edition and I am glad I chose it because in a bookshop I might have overlooked it as the illustrations are not something I would usually choose. However, I really liked how different the illustrations were and how they expertly added to the story. As usual 5 out of 5 Dragons from me.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

Midwinter Murder by Agatha Christie (Review)

Midwinter Murder by Agatha Christie

Blurb

There’s a chill in the air and the days are growing shorter… It’s the perfect time to curl up in front of a crackling fireplace with this winter-themed collection from legendary mystery writer Agatha Christie. But beware of deadly snowdrifts and dangerous gifts, poisoned meals and mysterious guests. This compendium of short stories, some featuring beloved detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, is an essential omnibus for Christie fans and the perfect gift for mystery lovers.

INCLUDES THE STORIES:

– The Chocolate Box

– A Christmas Tragedy

– The Coming of Mr Quin

– The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest

– The Clergyman’s Daughter

– The Plymouth Express

– Problem at Pollensa Bay

– Sanctuary

– The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge

– The World’s End

– The Manhood of Edward Robinson

– Christmas Adventure

Review

I chose this book as one of my Christmas reads and I was so pleased I did because I thoroughly enjoyed this book. 

I absolutely love Poirot and Miss Marple so it was wonderful to read some short stories that include them. Poirot always makes me laugh as he really is such a big head but never seems to see it. Miss Marple on the other hand always comes across as an interfering old woman but of course she is also a genius who can work out any mystery. 

My favourite stories from the book were Sanctuary, Christmas Adventure and The Clergyman’s Daughter. These stories were wonderful reads and really shone out for me from the other stories.

I loved this series of short stories and they really put me in the mood for Christmas and went particularly well with a nice mug of hot chocolate. I highly recommend this book to either dip into or read in one go and give the book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Book Depository

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was an English writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. She also wrote the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap. She also wrote 6 novels under the name Mary Westmacott.

WWW Wednesday: 23/12/2020

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The rules are answer the questions below and share a link to your blog in the comments section of Sam’s blog.

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you will read next?

Happy Wednesday!

I can’t believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve! I have slowed down a little on my reading this week and have only finished the one book, but it was a good book and I have got a load of housework done instead.

What I am Currently Reading

This is my Christmas tradition and I have just started it today. Every year I buy a new edition of The Nutcracker then read it on the last few days of the run up to Christmas. I just love the story and I always enjoy reading a different translator’s take on the story and of course beautiful illustrations.

What I have Recently Finished Reading

Literally finished this, this morning so review will follow shortly. I did really enjoy it though.

What I will Read Next

This will definitely be read on Christmas Eve as it is another Christmas tradition of mine. I had this book for Christmas when I was little and now I read it every Christmas Eve. It doesn’t take long to read but it always makes me think of that magical Christmas morning when I opened this amazing book.

So there is my WWW Wednesday for this week. Please drop me a link with your WWW Wednesday and I will head over for a visit. Also please drop me a comment if you have any Christmas reading traditions.

Christmas at Highclere by The Countess of Carnarvon (Review)

Christmas at Highclere by The Countess of Carnavon

Blurb

Highclere Castle, known as ‘the real Downton Abbey’, bustles with activity at the best of times, but it is never more alive than at Christmas. Christmas at Highclere is a look behind the scenes at the routines and rituals that make the castle the most magical place to be throughout the festive season.

Lady Carnarvon will guide you through Advent, Christmas preparations and Christmas Eve all the way through to the day itself, and beyond. Learn how the castle and grounds are transformed by decorations, including the raising of a twenty-foot tree in the saloon, the gathering of holly and mistletoe from the grounds. All the intricacies of the perfect traditional Christmas are here: from crackers and carol singers. The festive feeling is carried through to Highclere’s Boxing Day traditions, the restorative middle days and the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

This book also tells the story of historic Christmases at Highclere – of distinguished guests warming themselves by the fire after a long journeys home through the snow, unexpected knocks on the door, and, always, the joy of bringing family – and staff – together after a busy year.

As well as telling the stories of Highclere Christmases past and present, Lady Carnarvon provides recipes, tips and inspiration from her kitchen so that readers can bring a quintessentially British festive spirit to their own home. Lady Carnarvon divulges the secret to perfectly flakey mince pies, the proper way to wrap presents so that you and your guests are guaranteed a Christmas to remember.

Lavish, celebratory and utterly enchanting, Christmas at Highclere is celebration of one of the UK’s most beloved historic houses and is the perfect gift for any Downton Abbey fan.

Review

My husband and myself are massive fans of Downton Abbey and so I bought this last year for my husband’s Christmas present and it has been on the recipe book shelf waiting for Christmas to arrive. 

I picked this book up to look up some Christmas recipes as I wanted some new challenges for the Christmas season and quickly decided that I would be making the Yule log for Christmas. However, I then decided to start reading the book from the beginning and all of a sudden I was hooked and could not put it down.

I love the Countess’ writing style, she is very skilled and brings everything to life beautifully. The Countess starts with the season of Advent and how the castle prepares for the Christmas period by decorating for opening and also what preparations they make for family and friends who will be visiting over the period. The Countess then continues through the festive season until Epiphany.

This book has family history and traditions, personal anecdotes about the family’s past Christmases and then recipes peppered throughout the book all linked to the different stages of the festive period. The accompanying pictures are absolutely stunning and they really show how stunning the castle is, although my favourite pictures are of the family’s many dogs.

I absolutely loved this book and I have several recipes that I will be trying out on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I highly recommend this book and definitely give it 5 out of 5 Dragons. I have also added the other books the Countess of Carnarvon has written to my wish list as I really want to read more of her work.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

A former auditor for Coopers & Lybrand, Lady Carnarvon is the wife of George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon. Today, she manages affairs at Highclere Castle, home of the worldwide television drama Downton Abbey, including overseeing its grounds and gardens and many special events such as the Egyptian Exhibition in the cellars of the Castle.

Fascinated by Highclere’s history, Lady Carnarvon has written four books. The first two are about the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb with Howard Carter in 1922. Her latest are New York Times Bestseller Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere, and Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey.

Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights by Carole Matthews (Review)

Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights by Carole Matthews

Blurb

Fay and Danny are madly in love and it’s all Fay’s ever dreamed of. But she left everything – including the delightful cake shop she used to run – to be with Danny on his cosy canal boat The Dreamcatcher. And as she soon finds out, making delicious cakes on the water isn’t always smooth sailing!

Then Fay gets a call from her friends, a call that sends her back to her friends and the Cake Shop in the Garden. It will be hard being away from Danny but their relationship is strong enough to survive . . . isn’t it?

Fay soon falls happily back in love with her passion for baking – especially now she’s on dry land again! – and starts to wonder if she ever should have left. With Christmas around the corner, Fay is determined that her friends will have a very merry time, but does that mean even more time away from Danny? Can Fay really get everything she ever wanted in Christmas Cakes & Mistletoe Nights.

Review

I actually bought this book last year but I didn’t get around to reading it so I dug it out for my Christmas reading list this year and I am so pleased I did.

This is the first book I have read by Matthews and it won’t be my last, I also didn’t realise that this book is a sequel so I will be buying the first book in the New Year as I really want to read about how these characters came together.

Fay and Danny are a lovely couple and I will be honest Danny has the patience and kindness of a saint and will do anything to please Fay, which includes looking after her friends and putting up with her sister. Fay is a very caring character who almost feels too much for everyone and at times I do wish she would perhaps say no.

My absolute favourite character is Lija. Lija is grumpy and prickly but she really does have a heart of gold and her swearing is very funny at times. Rainbow is also a lovely character but she can be extremely annoying at times.

Then there is Stan and Stan is a character that you can’t help but adore. He really is a perfect gentleman.

Fay rushes back to her friends Lija and Stan when Stan becomes ill and Danny follows shortly afterwards with their canalboat and there is where the story begins. Fay now helps Lija run the cake shop and helps Stan to get better all with Danny helping and supporting where he can.

I truly loved this story but I will be honest I was expecting a bit more baking involved as most of the story is set in the kitchen of the cake shop. I can’t wait to read more about Fay and Danny and give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Book Depository | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Carole Matthews born 1960 is a British author. Matthews has published 34 novels and currently lives in Milton Keynes with her husband.

The Weekly Brief

Happy Sunday!

Apologies for the lateness in this post, I will be honest I got distracted making a disastrous carrot cake. Really not one of my best bakes.

Anyway, here is what I have been up to on the blog this week.

Posts this Week

Currently Reading

Thoroughly enjoying this so far.

No books acquired this week as I am waiting to see what books I might get for Christmas.

I hope everyone has had a good week reading and blogging and I hope everyone has a good run up to Christmas.

Happy Reading

Christmas Reading List 2020 Update

Hello!

I thought it was time for a Christmas reading list update. I am really racing through my Christmas books and I am thoroughly enjoying them and I have also added some extra ones into the mix as well.

I am currently reading Midwinter Murders by Agatha Christie and Christmas at Highclere by The Countess of Carnarvon.

Here are the books I have read so far…

Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

The Lion Book of Christmas Poems by Sophie Piper

A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan

A Perfect Cornish Christmas by Phillipa Ashley

A Midwinter Promise by Lulu Taylor

Christmas at Woolworths by Elaine Everest

Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights by Carole Matthews

So the Christmas books I have left over are…

The Christmas reading is going really well and I can’t quite believe how quickly I am finishing books at the moment. Christmas at Highclere wasn’t originally on the reading list but I started browsing through it yesterday and I just got hooked.

Please drop me a comment with your Christmas reads as I would love to see what everyone is reading or planning to read over the festive period.

WWW Wednesday: 16/12/2020

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The rules are answer the questions below and share a link to your blog in the comments section of Sam’s blog.

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you will read next?

Hello!

I can’t believe we are back to Wednesday again, time seem to be flying by at the moment. I hope this post finds you all well and not to stressed as the festive season approaches.

So here is what I have been up to with my reading.

What I am Currently Reading

Literally just started it so not much to say so far.

What I have Recently Finished Reading

Just finished Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights yesterday and couldn’t put it down, review will follow shortly.

Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid review here.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling review here.

What I think I will Read Next

The Christmas reading list is going down and I am really surprised just how quickly I am getting through my Christmas books.

Please drop me a comment for a bookish chat and of course please leave your WWW Wednesday link and I will head over for a visit.

Happy Reading.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay (Review)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Blurb

When a letter arrives for unhappy but ordinary Harry Potter, a decade-old secret is revealed to him that apparently he’s the last to know. His parents were wizards, killed by a Dark Lord’s curse when Harry was just a baby, and which he somehow survived. Leaving his unsympathetic aunt and uncle for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry stumbles upon a sinister mystery when he finds a three-headed dog guarding a room on the third floor. Then he hears of a missing stone with astonishing powers, which could be valuable, dangerous — or both. An incredible adventure is about to begin!

Review

I love the Harry Potter books and I have read them many times over but what I have always wanted to own and read is the illustrated editions by Jim Kay and finally I own the first one after my best friend bought it me for my birthday. I saved it for my December reading as I always associate the Philosopher’s Stone with Christmas for some reason.

It has been a few years since I read the first books in the series but I will be honest that it was wonderful to be back in the wizarding world again with some of my favourite literary characters that I have grown up with. It was so good to meet Dumbledore again as he is by far superior in the book to the films and he is such a funny and eccentric character in the book.

So, as you can tell I love the book and I bet most people are familiar with the Harry Potter books so I will just say reading it with the illustrations is fantastic and the only way I want to read the Harry Potter books from now on. The illustrations are stunning in this book and so well-chosen for the story, they really add to the story. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and highly recommend it to all Potter fans.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Joanne Rowling born 31 July 1965, is a British writer and philanthropist. She is best known for writing the Harry Potter series. Rowling also writes crime fiction under the pen name Robert Galbraith.

Christmas Murder: A Chilling Short Story Collection by Val McDermid (Review)

Christmas is Murder: A Chilling Short Story Collection by Val McDermid

Blurb

The Queen of Crime Val McDermid is a master of the dark and sinister story, and these powers are demonstrated in full force in Christmas is Murder, a festive collection of chilling tales.

From an irresponsible baron whose body is discovered beneath a silver birch tree, to an author who is haunted by the spiteful presence of a jealous writing partner, the characters McDermid conjures are enigmatic and dangerous, never above suspicion.

Follow Tony Hill and Carol Jordan as they track a deadly killer who is preparing to strike on Christmas Day, and lose yourself in a festive exclusive – a recently unearthed case for a classic detective duo, set as the lights are going out across Europe.

These evocative, atmospheric tales will shock and delight. This is the perfect book to curl up with as the frosty winter draws in and each night gets darker than the last, written by one of our greatest living crime writers.

Review

I was so excited to see this book and immediately ordered it off Waterstones. I love a good Christmas murder mystery but sadly I was rather disappointed with this book.

The first thing I really disliked was the fact that a lot of these short stories seemed like they should have been longer but that McDermid had just removed chunks of the story to make it shorter. They jumped around too much and there was no development which even in a short story should be present.

The second thing that got on my nerves was the fact that some of the stories basically had nothing to do with Christmas and even if they did the link was tenuous at best. For a Christmas murder mystery book this was a disappointment for me.

I did however like some of the stories, my favourite was The Girl who Killed Santa Claus. This story was wonderful and a really good short story and was a welcome change from the rest of the short stories.

I am afraid I have only given 2 out of 5 Dragons to this book and I will be honest and say that I will not be reading another Val McDermid book as I just did not enjoy her writing.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Val McDermid is a No. 1 bestseller whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over eleven million copies. 

She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009 and was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for 2010. In 2011 she received the Lambda Literary Foundation Pioneer Award. 

She writes full time and divides her time between Cheshire and Edinburgh.