Happy Christmas 2021!

Happy Christmas!

This is just a little post wishing all my fellow bloggers a wonderful Christmas.

I hope everyone has a lovely day and I hope you get to spend it with friends and family.

Lyra wishes everyone an extra special Happy Christmas from her favourite spot from under the tree.

Happy Christmas and Happy Reading

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you


Happy Easter Weekend!

Happy Easter Weekend Everyone!

I hope everyone has some good weekend plans. This Easter we can see friends and family outside so today we visited my parents which was nice. Last Easter we could not meet at all, so being able to visit each other outside is a move forward. Tomorrow I am also playing for two Easter services which is another improvement on last year where the churches were also closed. Small steps to normality are happening.

I must admit I am little nervous about playing the organ tomorrow, I am rather out of practice playing in front of people but hopefully it goes well. After church tomorrow it will hopefully be a nice home cooked meal and then relaxing with a few Easter chocolates and a nice drink or two.

Monday, for us will be another day of relaxation before it is back to normality on Tuesday. Hopefully, I will get some reading in over the weekend as well because my current read Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom is excellent and I can’t put it down, my husband is also desperate to read it as well so I need to finish it fast.

So that is my Easter weekend. I hope everyone has a good Easter weekend with good books, chocolate and company.

What is everyone reading over this weekend?

Happy Easter

2020 in Review

Well 2020 has gone so it is time to look back and see how it went.

Firstly, I would like to say a massive thank you to all my followers for supporting my blog and encouraging me. I would also like to say a massive thank you to all my fellow bloggers for writing such fantastic posts that have kept me entertained through 2020 and have also made me buy and read some books that I would have never thought of reading.

I read 71 books in 2020 and was really pleased with that result as I had a reading slump in January and February that made a dent in my reading time so I was concerned I would not reach my reading goal. Lockdown 1 and 2 helped because it gave me more time to read – about the only bonus of the lockdowns.

I also discovered that I think my favourite genre is now historical fiction, it was always fantasy and sci-fi but I think historical fiction has taken over. I still love fantasy and sci-fi though and the first two books I am reading in 2021 are from the genres historical fiction and sci-fi so I am having a nice balance.

I read 18,043 pages in 2020 so I obviously read longer books than 2019 as I only read 15,902.

The longest book I read was Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir at 624 pages.

The shortest book I read was Letters from Fairyland by Charles Van Sandwyk at 24 pages.

My average book length was 254 pages.

I haven’t actually got a favourite book of 2020 but I have a favourite series instead and that is the Six Tudor Queens series by Alison Weir. I love this series and I can’t wait for the last book in the series and will definitely be reading more books by Alison Weir.

Sadly, my Waterstones Challenge has had to be put on hold because I am shielding as much as possible due to Covid and underlying health issues.

So I think that is about a wrap of my 2020. I have some great plans for the blog in 2021 and can’t wait to get reading and blogging.

Happy Reading!

2021 Reading Goals

Happy New Year!

I hope 2021 is a better year but to be honest I can’t see that it will dramatically change straight away. However, I still plan on having a good reading and blogging year.

My reading goals for 2021 are as follows…

  1. My Goodreads reading challenge will be 70 books again as I only just managed 70 in 2020. I have to do a lot of reading for studying so need to factor that in.
  2. I plan to do a few buddy reads in 2021. We are starting with Dissolution by C. J Sansom, hopefully if we enjoy the book we will carry on with the series.
  3. The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey. I plan to read the series this year as I love the TV series and have just started reading the first book in the series and absolutely love it.
  4. Agatha Christie. I have only ever read short stories by Agatha Christie so 2021 is my year to read more of Agatha Christie’s full novels. I won’t set a goal of how many but I plan on reading the books in order of publication.
  5. Shakespeare Challenge. This challenge I started in 2020 so I hope to get a few more ticked off the list in 2021.

So there are my Reading Goals for 2021. Hopefully, I will get to tick them off as I don’t think they are too strict, after all I am a mood reader and reading should always be fun and not restrictive.

Please drop me a comment with your 2021 reading goals.

Happy Reading!

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


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.


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.


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.)

Happy Christmas 2020!

Happy Christmas!

I know 2020 has not been the best of years but I hope everyone is managing some sort of celebration for Christmas. This Christmas falls on a Friday and as you know on this blog I always do a Friday poetry post so I have chosen a Christmas poem to mark the special day.

The First Christmas

It never snows at Christmas in that dry and dusty land.
Instead of freezing blizzards, there are palms and drifting sands,
and years ago a stable and a most unusual star
and three wise men who followed it, by camel, not by car,
while, sleepy on the quiet hills, a shepherd gave a cry.
He'd seen a crowd of angels in the silent starlit sky.
In the stable, ox and ass stood very still and calm
and gazed upon the baby, safe and snug in Mary's arms.
And Joseph, lost in shadows, face lit by an oil lamp's glow
stood wondering, that first Christmas Day, two thousand years ago

Marian Swinger

Merry Christmas everyone and I hope you all have a wonderful day.


This and That Thursday


I hope everyone is ready for Christmas and has had a magical Christmas Eve so far.

I have been following Father Christmas’ journey on NORAD as I do every year and it always amazes me how many presents he delivers.

So what have I been up to this week?

Well, this week I have had no teaching, which has been a nice break to get the final things ready for Christmas. I have also had a little break from studying as well so hopefully I will be refreshed to restart in the New Year.

I have been busy wrapping presents and doing the final preparations for Christmas so hopefully tomorrow will be a nice relaxed day.

Today, I have spent a big portion of the day making my first ever Yule Log with the recipe from Highclere at Christmas and thankfully it does look good so hopefully it will taste good when we try it tomorrow.

So there is my week. I hope everyone has had a good week so far.

Happy Christmas Eve

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.

Mid Week Quote: Tom Baker


I can’t believe it is Christmas on Friday. I am sticking with my Christmas theme for my mid week quotes and this week’s is by Tom Baker. I love this quote because so many of the ornaments on our Christmas tree have special memories attached.

Some Christmas tree ornaments do more than glitter and glow, they represent a gift of love given a long time ago.

Tom Baker

Christmas at Highclere by The Countess of Carnarvon (Review)

Christmas at Highclere by The Countess of Carnavon


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.


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.


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.