The Nutcracker

It’s nearly Christmas!!!

Last night I finally started The Nutcracker. I must admit I usually start this a lot earlier in December but due to being ill for a week and catching up with work and Christmas decorating, my reading has fallen a big behind but I hope I will be back on track soon.

Yesterday I had a lovely day spent with my husband and parents. It began with my husband and I performing a recital for a Christmas Tree Festival at the church my husband plays organ at. Then we came home for a quick breather, I even managed to do a bit of reading. I finished one book and read another very short book. Then we picked my parents up and went to see the new Mary Poppins film, followed by dinner out. The film was fantastic and it was wonderful to spend time with my husband and parents and not be having to rush off somewhere. It was a chance to relax, smile and share a laugh.

I have two reviews waiting to be written but I promise they will be up soon. I decided to watch Father Ted last night instead of writing reviews. Apologies but it was the first ever episode and I had never seen it before.

I hope you all have a wonderful day and are all ready for Christmas.

Lady Book Dragon.

Review 20: The Snowman by Michael Morpurgo

The Snowman (A new story inspired by the original tale by Raymond Briggs) by Michael Morpurgo and illustarted by Robin Shaw

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About the author

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Michael Morpurgo has written over 130 books, many of them award winning. His best known work is War Horse which has also been turned into a stage play and a film. In 2003 he was made Children’s Laureate. He set up a charity with his wife called Farms for City Children and in 1999 he was awarded an MBE for his charitable work. In 2017 he was awarded a Knighthood for his charitable work and literature.

About the illustrator

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Robin Shaw is an award winning animator and illustrator, he is also a director of animated commercials. He has worked closely with Raymond Briggs in the past and was part of the directing team of The Snowman and the Snowdog. In 2017 he designed a series of animated sequences for Paddington 2.

Blurb

When James wakes to see snow falling one December morning, he rushes outside to make a snowman. With coal eyes, an old green hat and scarf, and a tangerine nose, the snowman is perfect. James can hardly bear to inside that evening and leave him. But in the middle of the night, he wakes and creeps out to see his snowman again- and to his amazement, the snowman comes to life…

Review

Firstly, I have a confession, I have never read The Snowman by Raymond Briggs but I have watched it on television many, many times. I have only seen The Snowman and the Snowdog once and it almost destroyed me emotionally so I have never seen it again. So when I saw this book sat on the supermarket shelf I immediately picked it up. I was a little worried as I always fear rewrites as most of the time they are never as good as the original, but then I saw it was done by Michael Morpurgo and realised I should have no fears because the man is a genius.

I was so pleased I trusted my instincts, as the story was wonderful, another triumph by Morpurgo. The story is based around James a little boy who suffers with a stammer and who is desperate to have a friend. James lives with his parents on a farm and for Christmas his grandma is staying with them at the farm. Grandma’s favourite story to read James at bedtime is The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.

During the night James’ wish is answered and it snows and so he builds a snowman, a giant of a snowman who towers above everyone wearing a green scarf and hat with a big tangerine nose. James loves this snowman and wants to spend all day with him, he is also really proud of his new friend and is desperate for his family to meet the snowman. Finally at nighttime he leaves the snowman but then in the night something magical happens, and James is not the only one to witness the magic of the snowman.

The story is very similar to the original but with a few subtle differences but this is what makes it a different tale to stand on its own. The story is full of magic and is very respectful of the original, this is just like a sequel to the original in fact. I also loved that when Morpurgo was approached to write this story he was worried and so approached Raymond Briggs who thankfully gave his blessing. The respect that Morpurgo has for Raymond Briggs’ story is humbling and comes through in his version of The Snowman.

I loved the character of James, I felt sorry for him, happy for him and he just made me smile and think aww. I also really liked Grandma, she is a Grandma who still believes in magic. I think this is a fantastic book for children and adults and a perfect read for around Christmas. The illustrations were also beautiful and really added to the story. I hope it gets turned into an animated film, as I think it would be perfect. I gave this book 5 stars out of 5 stars.

Plus I loved the extras at the end of the story, the Christmas traditions from other countries and the perfect method for making the best snowman.

Lady Book Dragon

Review 19: Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

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About the author

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Veronica Henry went to eight different schools due to having a parent in the army. Henry studied Classics at Bristol University and a bi-lingual secretarial course. One of her first jobs was working as a Production Secretary on The Archers at Pebble Mill in Birmingham; it used to take her two and a half hours to type up the script on a typewriter. From there Henry became a script writer for Central Television. Henry has worked on Crossroads, Boon, Heartbeat, and Holby City. In 2000 Henry got her first book published and has never looked back, she has now written 19 novels and is working on her 20th.

Blurb

Everyone loves Christmas…

Especially Lizzy Kingham. But this year, she is feeling unloved and under appreciated by her family. The present-buying, decorating and food shopping have all been left to her. So she wonders…what would happen if she ran away and left them to it?

Lizzy heads to her favourite place: a beach hut on the golden sands of Everdene. There she meets an unlikely collection of new friends, all running away from something. But the spirit of Christmas gets under Lizzy’s skin: soon the fairy lights are twinkling and the scent of mulled wine mingles with the sea air.

Back at Pepperpot Cottage, her family are desperate to find her. For Christmas isn’t Christmas without Lizzy. Can they track her down in time and convince her she means the world to them, every day of the year?

Review

This is another of my Christmas reads and so far my favourite. I recently read a short story by Henry and really enjoyed it so I was pleased to find she had written a Christmas book. I must admit it put me through a great deal of emotions, it made me smile, giggle, cry and much more. It was a wonderful read and I have bought a copy for my best friend to read over Christmas and I am lending my copy to my mom to read and I think they will both really enjoy the book.

The book is centred around Lizzy Kingham who is a wife and mother of two teenagers, she has also recently taken voluntary redundancy from her job at a hotel as wedding and events planner. Life has suddenly got overwhelming for poor Lizzy, she has no job and all the jobs she has applied for have fallen through, she is worried about her children going off to university and no longer needing her anymore. She suddenly feels like she is not needed by her family and that they do not care about her. The last straw is when none of them come home to decorate the tree with her, the one family tradition that means the world to her and so she leaves for Christmas on her own.

As the story unfolds we meet other characters who also need to escape Christmas. First we meet Harley, a teenage boy who is about the same age as Lizzy’s twins, his father is in prison and his mother is in a relationship with a bully of a man who likes to provoke and make Harley’s life a misery, so Harley leaves the house to stay at one of the beach huts he looks after as a part time job. This beach hut is also the same one Lizzy is staying at, they instantly become friends and help each other to have a good Christmas. The next characters to enter the scene are Jack, his son Nat and Clouseau the French bulldog. Jack and Nat have a very sad history and the memories of Christmas have all got a bit much for Jack so he decides to escape the memories and history and stay at a client’s beach hut over Christmas. This beach hut is right next door to Lizzy’s and Harley’s. We also eventually meet Leanne, Harley’s mother and River, Harley’s little brother.

Left at Pepperpot Cottage is Simon, Lizzy’s husband and Hattie and Luke the twins. Eventually we also meet Cynthia, Simon’s mother and also find out why Lizzy finds it so hard to be around Cynthia. I really enjoyed how they all realised suddenly what they had put Lizzy through, they had all been wrapped up in their own lives and just taking Lizzy for granted. The sudden realisation they might have lost her for good to me was justice for their lack of care and asking Lizzy if she is ok and doing what she asks. She never asks for much and does not nag, she is always there with a smile, a listening ear and whatever they need but they have not been there for her or noticed she is not coping.

There are a lot of characters in this book and I really enjoyed how Henry made all their lives entwine and made the most unlikely group of people the best of friends. I also enjoyed the little snapshots of their past, Henry did not go crazy into detail but gave just enough for the reader to understand. Jack’s memories brought me to tears, I found them really hard to read about and very moving. Lizzy’s memories of how she met Simon were very romantic but at the same time believable. I think the main thing I enjoyed about this book was how all the characters were realistic and relatable. Everything about the book feels like they are drawn from real life.

I adored the ending of this book and it really put me in a festive mood. This book is a feel good read and I could not recommend it more to people, especially if what they are looking for is an easy light hearted read to make them smile. I have rated this book 5 stars out of 5 and I can not wait to read another book by Veronica Henry.

Lady Book Dragon

New Books!

Hello my wonderful readers.

So yesterday I made a real effort and read quite a lot of my current Christmas read but then I got distracted by teaching, Christmas lights, Costa and decorating our Christmas tree. I have almost finished Christmas at the Beach Hut though and so far I adore it. I love it so much, I bought my best friend a copy to read over the Christmas period and my mom is going to borrow mine when I am finished. I really hope the ending is good now, otherwise I will be disappointed and so will the people I have recommended it to. In hindsight I should have waited till I finished the book before I went around telling people to read it but I am so excited about it that I just could not help myself. Does anybody else get this feeling about a book?

I have finally finished my Christmas present buying and have bought quite a lot of books for people. However, I also have a confession, I also bought myself some new books. I just could not stop myself. I only bought two purely because my bank balance could not cope with anymore hits. So here are my new books:-

Fire and Blood by George R. R. Martin

Firestorm is very excited about this book as you can see in the picture below. I must admit I agree with him. I have read all of the A Song of Ice and Fire series so far and I am extremely impatient for the next book The Winds of Winter. I am also slightly annoyed with this new book Fire and Blood because I can not help but think Martin, could have spent his time finishing The Winds of Winter but I will not let that put me off from reading and hopefully enjoying Fire and Blood.

I’ll Keep you Safe by Peter May

Is the second book I bought. I read The Blackhouse by Peter May this year, it was a free book with Apple Books and I read it on my phone. It was shortly after reading a whole book on my iPhone that I decided a Kindle was probably a good idea, mainly for my poor eyes. I loved his style of writing and was instantly hooked, so when I saw this book for half price on the Waterstones I put it in my basket.

So here are my new books, all ready for me to start reading in 2019. It is certainly looking like a good year for reading.

I would love to hear what you think of my new books or even if you have any book plans for 2019.

Lady Book Dragon.

Christmas Distractions

So dear readers I have a confession. Sadly my Christmas reading has slowed down and I am rather worried I will not get through my Christmas reading list!

Basically there are a few reasons for this. Firstly work has started to get hectic and has taken over somewhat. I am a professional musician and Christmas is the busiest time of year for me, days off become quite scarce and any spare time I have, I have been using for Christmas prep or sleep.

The second reason is I have got distracted by a non-Christmas book which I started reading on my Kindle in November. Now I only read my Kindle in the mornings and in any gaps I have between work but the Kindle has taken over somewhat because the book is so good. I just cannot put it down. The book is Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher. I watched the TV series they did of it quite a few years ago starring Joanna Lumley and I loved it so was thrilled to start reading the book, although I was not expecting it to be quite so long. However I do not mind as big books are always my favourite types of books to read.

Thirdly, I do a lot of my reading before bed and sadly because I am so tired I keep dozing off.

Hopefully I will get back on track with the reading, as I would be really upset not to get all my Christmas books read.

I hope everyone’s Christmas reading and prep is going well.

Lady Book Dragon.

Happy Birthday!

A Big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Jane Austen!

Born this day in 1775.

I love Jane Austen. I have read and reread all her books numerous times. She is my comfort blanket, when I feel down or stressed or just need a bit of reassurance I turn to Jane Austen. Each time I read one of her books I see it in a new light and discover new things.

The first book I read was Sense and Sensibility which I read on a 9 hour car journey to visit my sister in Scotland. I think I was about 9 or 10 years old at the time and I was hooked. I then went on to read Pride and Prejudice and her other works but I must admit I only read Mansfield Park in the last couple of years.

My favourite Jane Austen read has changed over the years it was Sense and Sensibility, then it was Pride and Prejudice for a very long time but I must admit in the last couple of years it has been Persuasion. I think it must be an age thing and how my reading and tastes have developed. Although, I openly admit my least favourite book is Emma because I struggle with the heroine but I have decided in 2019 I will give Emma another go.

I will also be paying my traditional Jane Austen pilgrimage to Bath next year as well. I know she did not particularly like Bath but I just love it and love thinking about how she used Bath for part of the backdrop of Persuasion.

Anyway Happy Birthday Jane Austen and thank you for writing such amazing books, which mean so much to me.

“If a book is well written. I always find it too short.”

Jane Austen

I could not agree more Jane Austen, as your books are way too short for my liking.

Do you have a favourite Jane Austen novel? Please drop me a comment with your favourites and why. Thank you.

Lady Book Dragon.

Review 18: Coming Home by Michael Morpurgo

Coming Home by Michael Morgurgo

Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman

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About the Author

Michael Morpurgo has written over 130 books, many of them award winning. His best known work is War Horse which has also been turned into a stage play and a film. In 2003 he was made Children’s Laureate. He set up a charity with his wife called Farms for City Children and in 1999 he was awarded an MBE for his charitable work. In 2017 he was awarded a Knighthood for his charitable work and literature.

About the Illustrator

Hyndman has a degree in fine art from Newcastle University and an MA in Illustration from Kingston University. She now works as a freelance illustrator and map maker based in London. Hyndman is also an associate lecturer in Illustration at Goldsmiths University.

Blurb

A plucky little robin sets out on an epic journey. Through dark forests, driving rain, clapping thunder and flashing lightning. Across frozen wastes, huge mountains and stormy seas he flies. And all the while he’s dreaming of home. Of her. But will he ever get there?

Review

Another book off my Christmas reading list. This is my accidental find as I was trying to find another book called Coming Home but forgot the author’s name and so just typed in the title and this came up. I am so pleased I did find it as it was a beautiful book to read.

A very quick read for me but enjoyable, and the illustrations were excellent. This book is all about a robin’s flight home, through perilous conditions but all he thinks about is getting home to his mate.

This book is very short, even for a children’s book and to be honest a little scary, I was very worried about the little robin especially when he was attacked. I am not entirely sure a child would enjoy it in some places, unless they are made of stronger stuff than I.

The story is fast paced and Morpurgo’s use of language is simple but perfectly descriptive and rolls along. It made me want to say it out loud, it was so full of drama and had a rhythm to it, which is probably why I read it so quickly. I went back through it when I had finished it to truly enjoy and look at the illustrations. My favourite illustration is below, the details of the birds are just stunning, I would happily have it framed on my wall.

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At the end of the story there is a list of facts about Scandinavian robins, this list is brilliant! I never even knew there were Scandinavian robins, let alone their migrating habits and that they are almost identical to our own English robins. 

This book I rated 4 stars out of 5, it did not get the full 5 because it was just too short for me! I wanted more about the little robin. I leave you with another of my favourite pages. A beautiful read for both children and adults.

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Lady Book Dragon.

Christmas Reading continued

Greetings readers!

How is everyone’s run up to Christmas going so far?

Well I did promise that I would probably add to the Christmas reading list and I have. I have added three new books.

1. Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

This book was half price at Waterstones and as usual I could not resist.

2. Winnie the Pooh Gloom and Doom for Pessimists by A.A Milne

3. The Snowman: a new story inspired by the original tale by Raymond Briggs by Michael Morpurgo

These last two I bought today whilst out shopping in the supermarket. To be honest we went in to look at the Christmas decorations and I spotted The Snowman and picked it up. The Winnie the Pooh book was quite simply because it had Eeyore on the front and he is and will always be, my favourite Winnie the Pooh character. One day I will show you all just how many Eeyore’s I own.

Anyway that is my updated list! Please let me know your thoughts if you have read any of them.

Oh and we decorated our new Christmas tree today as well.

Happy reading.

Lady Book Dragon.

Review 15: Dark Tracks by Philippa Gregory

Dark Tracks: Order of Darkness Volume IV by Philippa Gregory

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About the author

Philippa Gregory was born in 1954 in Nairobi, Republic of Kenya. When she was two years old her family moved back to England. She studied English literature at the University of Sussex, where she later switched to the history course. Gregory earned her doctorate in 18th century literature at the University of Edinburgh and has taught at the University of Durham, University of Teeside and the Open University and was made a Fellow of Kingston University in 1994. Gregory’s first work was published in 1987 and she has been writing ever since, one of her most famous works The Other Boleyn Girl has won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award and has been made into two separate films.

Blurb

Luca Vero is a member of the secret Order of Darkness, tasked by his master to uncover the truth behind strange happenings. Although Lady Isolde, her friend and Ishraq, Luca’s manservant Freize, and Brother Peter, Luca travels miles across medieval Europe – seeking out the signs of the end of days, judging the supernatural and testing the new science.

Trapped in a village possessed by dancing madness, the group fights to keep their own sanity. When Isolde dances away in red shoes and Ishraq takes dramatic revenge on their covert assassin, the young people discover that the greatest risk is in the men who have come to their rescue. These are the truly dangerous madmen of Europe who carry a dark hatred that will last for centuries.

Review

I waited for ages for this book to be released and just recently I finally got around to buying it. I have read all the previous books in the series and really enjoyed them, I loved them so much I bought the first two as a present for my niece to read. So as you can imagine I was quite excited to read this book. Sadly the book did not live up to my enthusiasm and I doubt I will be recommending it to my niece.

The story continues with the same five characters from the series, Luca, Brother Peter, Freize, Isolde, and Ishraq. Luca is a novice not yet a full monk who works for the Order of Darkness a secret order that is monitoring things for the signs of the end of days. Brother Peter is a full monk who is following Luca writing down everything that they see and writing the reports for the secret order. He is also the oldest member of the five and makes sure that Luca remains faithful to his training to one day be a monk. Freize is Luca’s manservant who is extremely loyal and unfailing in his service. Isolde is a noblewoman who is trying to fight for her lands and castle with her friend Ishraq who she grew up with.

Luca, Brother Peter and Freize have been sent off to follow and study the people affected by the dancing sickness or madness, people in groups have decided to go off and dance leaving everything they know behind them. As their road is the same as Isolde’s and Ishraq’s they carry on travelling together.

The dancing sickness or madness was a phenomenon that was recorded in medieval times and times after that and there have been many theories as to the cause, however it has never been confirmed as to what it is. I always enjoy Gregory’s books because of the historical references within them and I was intrigued by the dancing sickness when reading about it in the blurb, however the book did not reveal as much as I would like to have learnt about it and the final result the characters came up with regarding it was a huge disappointment, it was like Gregory just wanted the book to finish within a certain word count and so gave up.

The other issue she discussed in the book was the treatment of Jews in the medieval times and this I did find interesting and was horrified about what I learnt from it. The scene at the end of the book was also very interesting. This issue is basically why the book did not get just one star.

In this book I found the two females sadly lacking, in the previous books they had been so strong and not the typical weak female of the time. However, this time Isolde fell in love with a pair of shoes and Ishraq some earrings when they knew they were meant to be on their guard. They came across as very vain and uninteresting. Ishraq did show her fighting skills and that was good to read but Isolde just came across as a protected spoiled brat and the more I read regarding her the less I liked her.

Considering this is the fourth book in the series the characters are not growing and to be honest have grown stale. I want to see their characters develop and to see them grow intellectually and emotionally and to be honest they almost went backwards in this book. Brother Peter and Freize were the only two who made the book bearable.

Overall the book showed what we already know, nobility in medieval times were horrible, self centred and cared nothing for their people. The treatment of Jews was a surprise for me and the dancing sickness was interesting to read about. However I could read about the Jews’ history and the dancing sickness in a history book and probably find it a great deal more interesting. The characters were severely lacking and quite frankly dull. I doubt I will bother to read the next in the series which is a great shame as the previous three were excellent. My rating was a 2 stars out of 5.

Lady Book Dragon

Christmas Reading List

Happy Advent! Today is the first day of Advent and so the Christmas reading has begun.

And here it is! My Christmas reading list.

I am very excited and I can not wait for tomorrow. I will see how my reading goes as I might add to the list as December goes on. The Christmas reading list runs from 1st December to 6th January when the Christmas decorations come down.

Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

I chose this one because I read a short story by Venronica Henry recently and really enjoyed it, so I thought I would try one of her Christmas books.

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Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

My best friend bought me this book for my birthday present and I have been saving it for my Christmas read. I am really excited about this as I absolutely adore Tolkien.

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Five at the Office Christmas Party by Bruno Vincent (based on the characters created by Enid Blyton)

These books are my guilty pleasure, I think I have read them all apart from this one, as again I have been saving it for Christmas.

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Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

Not really a Christmas book I know but I could not resist. This book is so beautiful and special I just thought it was ideal for Christmas reading. Also the new Mary Poppins film Mary Poppins Returns is out soon and one of my saxophone students plays one of the children in the film, so I thought I had better read the book.

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Coming Home by Michael Morpurgo

I am a bit of a Morpurgo fan and when I saw this book I had to have it. I do love children’s books they always make me smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I found this book by complete accident as I was looking online for another book called Coming Home and this came up in the search. Hopefully it will be a lucky find.

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Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr

This was chosen quite simply because I have very fond memories of reading Mog stories to my neice and nephews. I have missed Mog so much I decided to buy this as a little treat to myself.

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The Nutcracker by E. T. A. Hoffmann

Here is the big finale! As I have mentioned in a previous post I always read a new version of The Nutchracker on the run up to Christmas and here is my new copy. Another pretty book, I do love pretty books.

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I would love to hear if anybody else has a Christmas reading list. Please feel free to post a link to your blog in the comments.

Happy Advent and Happy Reading.

Lady Book Dragon