This and That Thursday

Hello!

I thought it was time for a check in of my non-bookish activities. A lot of my time is currently taken up with work and because the weather has been so horrid I haven’t managed much walking but we have been trying to make the most of our days off together.

Statesman Train and Whitby Abbey

We recently went on a Statesman Train to Whitby and back with my husbands family. The food was absolutely incredible and I managed quite a bit of reading on the train. It would have been nice to have had a bit more time in Whitby but we managed to see the Abbey which is somewhere I have always wanted to visit.

Christmas Shopping

I love Christmas and I love buying Christmas decorations so we have been to a couple of places to buy some new decorations. These include lights for the outside and inside, I also managed to get a few Christmas presents as well. I have yet to find a new singing toy but I have managed to find a light up Father Christmas. I buy a new Christmas singing toy every year. I’m hoping to get some more decorations when we visit the Bath Christmas Market in December.

Christmas Card Making

I have recently got into Christmas card making and I am really enjoying it and finding it a nice relief from work. In fact I am finding it a little bit addictive. Due to the sheer amount of cards I have been making and I am now putting them on my Etsy site as well just in case I get swamped with Christmas cards. I am going to have a go at making some birthday cards as well. If you would like to check out my Etsy site the link is below.

Etsy

Walking

We are trying to go on walks when we have time and the weather isn’t to horrid or it is too dark. We have been having a lot of rain recently which has been hampering our walking but we are still trying. On Tuesday we went for a lovely walk with beautiful sunshine and explored our local nature reserve.

So there are some of my latest adventures and endeavours. We have quite a few things planned for the run up to Christmas so I will keep you all posted.

Happy Reading

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

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.

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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

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

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

Christmas with the Teashop Girls by Elaine Everest (Review)

Christmas with the Teashop Girls by Elaine Everest

Blurb

It is late 1940 and the war feels closer to home than ever for Rose Neville and her staff at the Lyon’s Teashop in Margate. The worry of rationing hangs overhead as the Nippies do their best to provide a happy smile and a hot cup of tea for their customers. When a heavy bombing raid targets the Kent coastline, Lyon’s is badly hit, throwing the future of the cafe into jeopardy.

The light in Rose’s life is her dashing fiancé Capt. Ben Hargreaves and planning their Christmas Eve wedding. But she must also plan to take two new step-daughters into her life and get on the right side of her wealthy mother-in-law, Lady Diana. Is Rose ready to become a mother so soon?

When Rose’s half-sister Eileen makes contact, it seems that Rose’s dreams of having a sibling are coming true at long last. But her friends begin to suspect that something is not right between Eileen and her husband: just what are they hiding?

As the Christmas Eve wedding draws near, the bombings intensify in Kent and London, putting everything and everyone Rose loves in danger. Only one thing is for sure: it will be a Christmas she never forgets . . .

Review

I read a Christmas book by Elaine Everest last year and really enjoyed it so I thought I would read another one this year as well. 

The story centres around Rose Neville who is the manageress of the Margate Lyon’s Teashop. However, Rose is trying to manage the teashop in the middle of the Second World War, with the constant threat of bombs landing and rationing making it ever harder to keep the teashop well stocked. But she also has her wonderful mom Flora to help her keep her spirits up and all her wonderful family as well as the love and support of her fiancé Ben. 

The story opens with rather a dramatic scene that left me desperately wanting to know more and I must admit that meant I could not put the book down until I had all the answers. As the story progresses we get to meet Rose’s future mother in law and the new family she will be joining. But at the same time Eileen, Rose’s half sister makes an appearance and things start to look a bit suspicious to Rose’s friends.  

My favourite character of the book is Mildred. Mildred stands no messing whatsoever and spends her time at sea on her fishing boat. She helps Rose, Lily and Katie and treats them as if they were her own daughters. She will fight for justice and will stand up to any man. I just couldn’t help but like her. My second favourite character was Anya who is also stubborn, determined and has a fiery temper. She also comes out with some fantastic lines. 

I really enjoyed this book and definitely plan on reading more books by Everest in the New Year. 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

Elaine Everest was born and brought up in northwest Kent and has written widely – both short stories and features – for women’s magazines. When she isn’t writing, Everest runs The Write Place creative writing school in Dartford Kent, and the blog for Romantic Novelists’ Association. 

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

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.)

This and That Thursday

Hello!

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