Christmas Is Coming: Traditions from Around the World by Monika Utnik-Strugala (Review)

Christmas Is Coming: Traditions from Around the World by Monika Utnik-Strugala

Blurb

The perfect book for long wintery evenings—not just under the Christmas tree!

Why do we decorate Christmas trees? Do all children receive gifts on the same day?

Come find out as Monika Utnik-Strugala captures the smells, tastes, and unforgettable traditions about the most popular, exciting, contemplative, and unqiue Christmas customs and legends from around the world. Find out why celebrate Christmas on December 25th, who invented the first glass ornament, why people build nativity scenes, and more!

A truly international collection of legends and traditions are included in the volume such as –  Glögg, Kutia, Lutefisk, Jansson’s Temptation, Julskinka, Bûche de Noël, Hallaca, Kourabiedes, Christmas Pudding, Panettone, Christmas carols, talking animals, and The Nutcracker!

With the atmospheric illustrations by Ewa Poklewska-Koziello, this is an ideal companion for the Christmas season.

Review

I bought this book December 2021 but I didn’t manage to read it before the end of December so I decided to save it for this year instead. I usually start my Christmas books on the 1st December but today I couldn’t resist starting my Christmas reading list. Turns out I also couldn’t put this book down and read it in one day!

The thing that attracted me to this book was the gorgeous illustrations by Ewa Poklewska-Koziello. Every page contains beautiful illustrations which really help make the book come alive. 

The book starts at the start of Advent and ends with Epiphany on 6th January. The book explains the traditions that different countries follow on the run up to Christmas, during Christmas and after Christmas. 

I will be honest but I found that certain countries had a lot more attention than others. Considering the book is meant to be from around the world a lot of the traditions mentioned are from Poland and Russia which I suppose is because of the author’s background. 

I think this is a great book for children and adults but the occasional errors in the text did put me off and the repeated sentence was an error that really should have been picked up. In all honesty what made this book for me was the gorgeous illustrations and without the illustrations I would be giving this book a much lower rating. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Bookshop.org | 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

Monika Utnik-Strugala studied romance studies at the University of Warsaw in Poland and is a lifestyle and design journalist. She made her debut with a children’s book about Italian culture. In Italy she likes to spend her free time in her beloved country house. 

Etsy

Christmas Reading List 2022

Hello!

I have started compiling my Christmas reading list for this year. I always start reading my Christmas books on December 1st but I might start slightly earlier this year as I am struggling to resist. I love compiling and planning my Christmas reads. December is the only time I really ever plan my reading as I am a mood reader generally.

My list so far is mainly made up of books left over from my Christmas TBR 2021 but I will most likely add some more in December.

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling – I have been reading the illustrated Harry Potter books after Christmas Day but before New Year so this will be the next one.
  • Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin – This is a new author for me but the storyline looks really good.
  • One Family Christmas by Bella Osborn – Another new author for me.
  • One More for Christmas by Sarah Morgan – reading a Sarah Morgan Christmas book has become a bit of a Christmas tradition for me so I have to one one on my TBR.
  • A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley – Another Christmas tradition author for me.
  • Christmas Poems by Wendy Cope – Picked this up in Bath last month and really looking forward to reading it.
  • Christmas is Coming by Monika Utnik-Strugała – This is the book I might start before December as I would like to read about the traditions before they happen.
  • Murder on a Winter’s Night by Various authors – I love this series of books and always buy the latest ones to read over December. My dad also really enjoys them so he also borrows them as well.

So there is my Christmas reading list so far. If you would like to recommend any Christmas books to me then please do as I love finding new Christmas books.

Happy Reading

Etsy

Lyra’s Pawsome Books #4

Hello!

I have been busy with Lyra’s Pawsome Books over the last couple of weeks. I have a Christmas stall next week to get ready for and of course I am busy making sure I have plenty of stock for my Etsy site. I know I am still in the very early stages of my little business but I am really enjoying thinking up ideas for products and putting them on my Etsy site.

I have started working on developing Christmas and Birthday cards which I hope to release in the next few days and I am finding the making of the cards and wrapping of the books quite therapeutic in an evening.

Anyway, here are the latest products on my Etsy site.

Christmas Book Box

This book box was inspired by some of the things that I love at Christmas. I love curling up with a Christmas themed book and a mug of mulled wine near Christmas and perhaps some chocolate to snack on later. I also love a Christmas candle and hot chocolate in the evening.

Cat Lover’s Book Box

Each box contains:

– Brand new paperback book (genre of your choice)
– Cat themed puzzle book
– Dancing Cat pen holder
– Bookmark
– Dreamies (flavours vary)
– Hot chocolate spoon
– Tea bag
– Coffee bag
– Popcorn
– Lotus biscuit
– Border biscuits (flavours vary)
– Cat shaped post it notes (colours vary)
– Black biro

This book box was obviously inspired by Lyra. There are lots of cat themed goodies within this box including a bag of Dreamies for your feline friend. My personal favourite item is the Dancing Cat pen holder and I must admit I have had to stop my husband from pinching them for himself. A percentage of the proceeds from these box sales is also going to Lyra’s favourite charity which is Cats Protection.

Happy Reading

Lyra’s Pawsome Books #3

Hello!

Well blogging has not gone well over the last week. Basically I just haven’t had the energy to blog or even read much because of illness. I have been backwards and forwards to the doctors and even had to go to the doctors on my birthday which wasn’t brilliant, oh well, hopefully I am on the mend now.

Due to all the enforced resting I have at least been working on and doing some planning for my Etsy shop because I thought it was high time to get prepping for Christmas. I say my Etsy shop, it is meant to be Lyra’s but she is proving to be pretty useless when it comes to work.

So here is what is new on the Etsy shop:

Book Advent Calendar for ages 0-4

This Advent Calendar contains Christmas books and books to be read all year around. Each book is individually wrapped and numbered so you can count down with your little one to Christmas Day.

Children’s Christmas Book Box Ages 9-14

Christmas Book Gift

The parcel includes:

  • Brand new paperback Christmas themed book
  • Milk Chocolate Christmas themed lollipop
  • Magnetic Christmas themed bookmark
  • Lotus biscuit

More Christmas themed Book boxes will be released soon, I promise.

Sale Items

The Halloween Book boxes are currently on sale until 1st November if you want to head over for a visit follow the links below.

Halloween Book Box

Halloween Book Box with Vegan Treats

Happy Reading

A Scandinavian Christmas: Festive Tales for a Nordic Noel by Various authors (Review)

A Scandinavian Christmas: Festive Tales for a Nordic Noel by Various authors

Blurb

Have yourself a very hygge Christmas with some of the best Christmas stories from across Scandinavia – old and new 

This collection brings together the best Scandinavian Christmas stories including classics by Hans Christian Andersen of Denmark, Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlof, as well as the popular contemporary Karl Ove Knausgard. These Nordic tales convey a festive and contemplative spirit laden with lingonberries, elks, gnomes, Sami trolls, candles, church spires, gingerbread and aquavit in abundance. 

A smorgasbord of unexpected literary gifts which make up a vibrant, elegant hardcover volume sure to provide plenty of pleasure and hygge, that specifically Scandinavian blend of cosiness and contentment.

Review

As regular readers of my blog you will probably have noticed I love a Christmas book. So when I saw this book, I bought it for my Christmas 2021 reading (the review is rather late, apologies) because it looked like a good read. The book is made up of short stories which I thought would be perfect for dipping into over the Christmas period.

I will be honest this book was rather surprising to me and at times I almost gave up with it. The reason for this was because at times the stories could be quite depressing and not something I really wanted to read about over Christmas. Yes, I know it is Scandinavian and sometimes their work can be on the depressing side. I have read a lot of Hans Christian Andersen and know that he can be on the bleak side at times but I wasn’t expecting so much bleakness in this Christmas book. The other reason I almost gave up was because certain stories didn’t make much sense to me and felt incomplete or because they didn’t have anything to do with Christmas. 

My favourite stories were the ones by Hans Christian Andersen but I didn’t enjoy the more modern stories. Overall, for me the most Christmassy thing about the book is the beautiful cover. I had high hopes for this book and hoped the stories would have a bit of flare but overall I found the book rather flat and disappointing. I give this book 3 out 5 Dragons because there were a few stories I did enjoy. 

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Product Links

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.)

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

Village Christmas and Other Notes on the English Year by Laurie Lee (Review)

Village Christmas and Other Notes on the English Year by Laurie Lee

Blurb

From the author of Cider With Rosie, Village Christmas is a moving, lyrical portrait of England through the changing years and seasons.

Laurie Lee left his childhood home in the Cotswolds when he was nineteen, but it remained with him throughout his life until, many years later, he returned for good. This collection brings to life the sights, sounds, landscapes and traditions of his home – from centuries-old May Day rituals to his own patch of garden, from carol singing in crunching snow to pub conversations and songs. Here too he writes about the mysteries of love, living in wartime Chelsea, Winston Churchill’s wintry funeral and his battle, in old age, to save his beloved Slad Valley from developers.

Told with a warm sense of humour and a powerful sense of history, Village Christmas brings us a picture of a vanished world.

Review

I ordered this book in November to read in December but sadly it didn’t arrive until the beginning of January but once I saw it only had a few Christmas stories and the rest were all based on the rest of the year I decided to read it straight away. This is my first Laurie Lee book and I really enjoyed it.

The book is divided into the seasons and each season has lots of reflections from Lee’s past. The stories range from when he was a young boy growing up in his beloved village in the Cotswolds to when he was living in London. Lee also writes about some of his memories of when he returned to live in the Cotswolds and his fight to save the beauty of his village. 

I really loved Lee’s descriptions and his way with words in this book which meant that at times I could not put the book down. I particularly enjoyed his beautiful story called ‘The Shining Severn’ which describes the river Severn in all its glory. ‘Harvest Festival’ was also a favourite of mine but to be honest I loved all the stories and you could really appreciate the love Lee has for his country. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and hope to read ‘Cider with Rosie’ soon. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

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

Laurence Edward Alan “Laurie” Lee, MBE, was an English poet, novelist, and screenwriter. His most famous work was an autobiographical trilogy which consisted of Cider with Rosie (1959), As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969) and A Moment of War (1991). While the first volume famously recounts his childhood in the idyllic Slad Valley, the second deals with his leaving home for London and his first visit to Spain in 1934, and the third with his return in December 1937 to join the Republican International Brigade.

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

Murder in Midwinter by Various Authors (Review)

Murder in Midwinter: Ten Classic Crime Stories for Christmas by Various. 

Blurb

Midwinter. As snow falls softly outside and frost sparkles on tree branches, it’s time to curl up before a roaring fire, wrap your hands around a steaming mug of mulled wine, and forget your worries for now.

But as the temperature drops outside, malice is sharpening its claws … and murder walks abroad. In these classic stories of mystery and mayhem, let ten of the great crime writers in history surprise and delight you with twists and turns as shocking as an icicle in the heart.

Featuring stories by Dorothy L. Sayers, Cyril Hare, Anthony Berkeley, Ruth Rendell, Margery Allingham, Ellis Peters … and more.

Review

I love the books from the Murderous Christmas Stories series and tend to read one every December to help put me in the festive spirit. Although I was surprised to find that this book only actually had 3 stories set at Christmas and the rest were set in the Autumn or Winter months, but I suppose it is called Murder in Midwinter rather than Murder at Christmas.

I enjoyed all but one of the stories but my favourites were The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle and Rumpole and the Health Farm Murder by John Mortimer. Rumpole was a brilliant character and made me laugh a great deal, he is set in his ways and no matter how much his wife tries he will not change. Sherlock was up to his usual fantastic deductions in The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet. 

There was only one story in the book that I was not keen on which was the first one in the book The Queen’s Square by Sayers. I really did not get into it and found the relentless costume descriptions rather boring. However, thankfully I did not let the story put me off the rest of the book because the rest of the stories were excellent. 

Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons because to be honest Rumpole and the Health Farm deserves 5 Dragons all to itself because I enjoyed it so much. 

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Purchase Links

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.)

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

WWW Wednesday: 22/12/2021

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 hope everyone is having a good week and that everyone is prepared for Christmas. I still have presents to wrap and the house is still chaos but hopefully now I have finished teaching I will be able to get everything ready.

What I am Currently Reading

Just started this today. I always read The Nutcracker on the run up to Christmas and I am really looking forward to reading this edition.

What I have Recently Finished Reading

I forgot how much I love A Christmas Carol. I think 2022 I will be reading more Dickens because I really do enjoy his work.

What I Think I will Read Next

I am still on my Christmas reading list as I am really enjoying all the festive reads.

Please drop me a comment with your WWW Wednesday and I will head over for a visit.

Happy Reading

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

The Christmas Pig By J. K. Rowling (Review)

The Christmas Pig by J. K. Rowling

Blurb

Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig. DP has always been there for him, through good and bad. Until one Christmas Eve something terrible happens – DP is lost. But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life… even toys. And Jack’s newest toy – the Christmas Pig (DP’s annoying replacement) – has a daring plan: Together they’ll embark on a magical journey to seek something lost, and to save the best friend Jack has ever known…

Review

As a big Rowling fan I had this book on preorder for ages and read it pretty quickly after receiving it but I am only just starting to catch up on my book reviews. I do love Christmas books so I was really pleased to read this one. 

I was quite surprised with this book because as a children’s book I found that it had some quite adult themes. At the start of the book the effects of divorce on children is shown and how new relationships for both adults and children are explored. I found that Rowling did not hold back during this section but as usual Rowling covers it with her usual skill. The story then moves on the difficulties faced by children who find themselves with new step parents and step siblings and at this point I really felt sorry for poor Jack because he was not having things easy but thankfully he had DP to help him. 

Christmas Eve something terrible happens and DP is lost but the Christmas Pig has a plan to get DP back but it can only happen during the magic of Christmas Eve. Together Jack and the Christmas Pig go to the land of the Lost to rescue DP. 

I will be honest I found the land of the Lost a bit of a trial because it seemed to have everything in there, even the ridiculous which in my opinion are not lost. However, there were some great characters in the land of the Lost which made it worthwhile. 

The story is full of magic and the illustrations by Jim Field really add to this. However, I did find the book lacked Rowling’s usual spark for me. Ickabog was an incredible read for me and I just found The Christmas Pig lacked in comparison. Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

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.

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

Christmas for Beginners by Carole Matthews (Review)

Christmas for Beginners by Carole Matthews

Blurb

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Christmas is fast approaching at the new Hope Farm. Owner Molly Baker has been convinced to organise an open day to raise some much-needed funds ahead of the New Year, but the nativity tableau is proving challenging. With anti-social sheep, awkward alpacas and a seriously sequinned Santa Claus to assemble, Molly is feeling overwhelmed, and in desperate need of some Christmas spirit…

Despite the chaos of the farm getting in the way of her event planning, Molly is looking forward to spending the holidays with boyfriend Shelby and his son, Lucas, hopeful that a happy family Christmas is exactly what they need to draw them all together. But while she is busy making plans on the farm, Shelby, it seems, has ideas of his own.

As the nativity draws near, the team are working hard to pull off a spectacular festive fete – and make sure the animals and humans remain on their best behaviour.

Will this Christmas be merry and bright… or is there more than one surprise in store for Molly and Hope Farm?

Review

I received this book as my last book from Willoughby Book Club and I was very excited when I realised it was a Christmas book. I will be honest and say that I had completely forgotten that I had read a Christmas book by Carole Matthews last year but once I realised, I knew I was in for a treat. I haven’t read the previous book in this series but I didn’t really need to as it didn’t affect my understanding of the story.

Molly runs and lives on Hope Farm with her unruly but loveable animals and Lucas who is the teenage son of her boyfriend Shelby. Shelby spends most of his time away filming as he is an actor. The farm is there for children who have problems and Molly with her business partner Bev will do anything to make these children’s a lives a little easier.

Bev has planned a big Christmas open day for the farm with a nativity and a grand light switch on by the mayor to help raise funds for the important work the farm does. Molly however is dreading it as she struggles with people and much prefers her own company and the company of her animals. Molly also panics about everything so she spend a lot of time worrying about the open day as well as what is happening in her private life.

As the open day is being planned we see how Molly and Shelby’s relationship develops and also how Molly looks after and negotiates looking after a moody teenager and helping him through his problems. I will be honest I really did not like Shelby and kept hoping that Molly would come to her senses.

My other favourite character apart from Molly was Mark the Hot Mayor as Bev likes to call him. He seemed quite different from the Mayors I have come across in the past but he was always there to help Molly with the farm no matter what the task and was an excellent role model for the children at the farm.

The real stars of the book are the dogs and the alpacas and I must be honest I felt sorry for the dogs. The dogs had very basic names like Big Dog and Little Dog, the alpacas had amazing names like Rod Stewart and Tina Turner. The antics the alpacas got up to were also hilarious.

I loved this book and read it very quickly and I really want to read the prequel in the new year. I must read more of Carole Matthews as she is such a good author and always makes me laugh. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

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

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

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