Tuesday 31 December 2019

Favorite Books I Read In 2019


In no particular order, my favourite reads of 2019 were:

The Last Letter - Rebecca Yarros
This book left me freakin' traumatised. I'll never ever read it again. However, it was heart-breakingly beautiful and it definitely lest its mark on my soul.

Wild Like The Wind - Kristen Ashley
Hound broke my heart! I loved him even though he was so far from perfect.


The Guild Codex: Spellbound series - Annette Marie
Yes, I'm putting the entire series on the list. It was so much fun and I LOVED it and will spend most of 2020 anxiously awaiting the next book then the next book until it is complete!


The Guild Codex: Demonized Series - Annette Marie
Yes, these are on the list too. Annette Marie has been the author to make the biggest impact on me this year so it shouldn't be surprising.

Red Winter - Annette Marie
Yep! More Annette Marie. I'm not sorry. This book blew me away and I can't wait to finish the trilogy early in the new year.

Sapphire Flames - Ilona Andrews
I don't think there will ever be an Ilona Andrews book I don't love. I don't think it's actually possible.

The Bar Next Door - Katia Rose
Monroe and Julien were awesome characters and their relationship made me swoon! The book was a perfect blend of sexy, sweet and fun and left me wanting more therefore it definitely deserves a mention.

Unearthed by Cecy Robson
This book was a great start to a new series and considering how excited I am for the next book in the series, well, it had to be on the list, didn't it?

The Cruel Prince - Holly Black
A last minute edition as I only got around to reading it last week but I have to admit... I thoroughly enjoyed The Cruel Prince and when looking at the books I've read this year it would have been a mistake not to include it.

So, that's my list! The books that had the biggest impact this year, for me. 
What are yours?
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Saturday 21 December 2019

One Year Ago...


One year ago, on this day, I married the professor!
We had a super small ceremony, just immediate family, and followed it up with drinks and nibbles at home then ice-skating and a meal in the evening. 
It wasn't what most would think of when they think 'wedding' but it was very us and just how we wanted it.

In the weeks proceeding the wedding, people kept asking me if it felt different being Mrs Professor and I kept looking at them blankly for it didn't. We'd been together a month shy of 15 years when we got married so in our minds we were already married... Just without the legal paperwork.
Plus, if we didn't know each other after 15 years (about 13 living together) then we had bigger problems!

Now, one year on from that day, I've had time to reflect on whether my 'nothing is different' still holds true... And it does: Our relationship is no different. However, there are two huge things that have taken a lot of getting used to. Why did nobody tell me that remembering these two things would be so bloody difficult?!

Number One - My New Name

After much debating, I decided to change my surname to match that of my husband and son. 
I thought it would be straight forward - and updating it on documents/accounts has been - but remembering my name?! Not so much!

The number of times I've sat in a stakeholder meeting and introduced myself as my maiden name and then had to immediately correct myself is embarrassing.

Not to mention when someone calls me by my married name and there's that awkward time delay while my brain process and accepts the information before I move to respond.


Number Two - My new Signature

Settling on a new signature was simple. Remembering to use it? Really, not so much. 
I have to pause and think then sign very deliberately and carefully... I feel like a forger.
Every. Single. Time.
Even now... "I've signed the wrong name."
(Seriously, this happened again only a couple of days ago!)


So, anyway... The fundamentals of life haven't shifted but some of the little things are still taking a lot of getting used to.

A friend of mine pointed out that I've been using my birth name my entire life so until I've been using my married name for just as long, I have a pass. Although, it'll be a bit weird if I'm still using/signing 'the wrong name' when I'm in my 60's... I'm hopeful this will resolve in another year or two, lol.

🌻

Want to know something else I learned from getting married?
Families are bat shit crazy.
I mean, I always kind of knew that but nothing highlights the crazy like a wedding.

I legit have an aunt and uncle combo that aren't speaking to me anymore because they weren't invited to the wedding, despite the fact that the only people who were invited to our wedding were our parents & parental figures, surviving grandparents, siblings and our son. Oh! And not to mention the fact they hadn't been in regular contact for about 5 years before we got married...



Weddings just seem to make people nutso!

People will offer advice and suggestions constantly whether it's wanted or not.
People will give you their opinion on your choices whether requested or not.
People will try to influence you to do/have x, y, or z no matter how you plan on getting married.
People think they have the right to dictate what you do.
My conclusion is that you've just got to ignore everyone and get married your way.
It's your wedding, and you do what you want, what you can afford and you invite who you want.
Nod and smile and be polite and do it your way.
(This is my unsolicited wedding advice to those who it applies! lol)

Anyway...
Happy anniversary to us!


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Tuesday 17 December 2019

Winter TBR, Favourite Christmas Books and Hunting Gods.

I love participating in weekly bookish memes, answering questions and making lists, but sometimes the answers are not enough to make a decent post... On their own!
So, on those weeks, I'll be combining rather than skipping!


Winter TBR

I'm putting a bit of a twist on this and listing books I've added to my TBR in the past 3 months and calling it a Winter TBR. In reality, I have no idea when I'll get around to reading them as I'm a moody witch of a reader these days but I'll read them at some point. 
Honest!

My soul has been singing a fantasy song this past year so contemporary has taken a bit of a backseat. However, I've seen all of these around the blogs lately and I most definitely want to read each of them at some point before the end of 2020... Whether or not I do depends on whether I can get a good contemporary kick going in the coming year!

You Deserve Each Other will definitely get read though as I have an ARC of that one. 

The second part of my TBR additions is much easier to guarantee I'll read this winter, thus call a Winter TBR.

Sealed With a Curse and Dark King I both own and am looking forward to reading... Probably over the Christmas holidays.

Shatter The Earth and Druid Vices I'm impatiently awaiting the release of because I'm desperate to get my hands on them. 

The Song of Achilles I bought as an audiobook a little while ago (audible deal of the day) and I honestly don't know when I'll listen to it but seeing as I don't have too many audiobooks and like to listen to them in the car, I imagine I'll definitely get to it at some point in 2020... But let's pretend it'll be the winter!

What's the most anticipated book on your Winter TBR?


Hunt The Gods by Amy Braun

Okay, so this has been out a while but I haven't read it yet so it's my CWW pick.
Plus, the author is just wrapping up book three so I need to get caught up! 

Power always demands a price.

Two months have passed since Derek Areios—war-scion and heir of Ares—and the band of rogue scions he’s aligned with recovered both the Thunderbolt of Zeus and the Heart of the Devourer and returned them to the Gods. During the battle, Derek discovered he could control not only the element of fire, as all war scions can, but also the dark element “aether,” making him the only scion alive to wield two types of elemental magic.

Commanded by Zeus to retrieve the Trinity Weapons and the Shards of Cronus, Derek and the rogue scions are thwarted in their goal by a gang of water scions with a grudge against one of the rogues—Thea, heir of Poseidon. Both groups travel to an uninhabited island to recover one of the Shards––the Eye that belonged to Cronus, King of the Titans. But what they encounter will lead them down a path of brutal betrayals, hard truths, painful memories, and desperate actions.

With angry and impatient gods breathing down his neck, a curse that allows Ares to control him, a prophecy he’s desperate to avoid, a magic spear corrupting his thoughts, and two forms of elemental magic, Derek has a lot of baggage—and a lot of power. Will the price of using that power to satisfy the Gods be too much for him to pay?

What is revving your engine this week?



What is your favourite Christmas themed fiction or nonfiction book?

The Night Before Christmas.
I've loved it for a very long time and when I had my son I made it a tradition to read it to him every year on Christmas Eve. It doesn't matter that he's getting older, we still read it. 
Our copy has some beautiful illustrations and when we snuggle up to read it it feels like we unleash a little bit of Christmas magic. 

What about you? 
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Friday 13 December 2019

Audiobook challenge 2019 Final Update!


Anybody who has followed this blog for a while knows that going into this year I was not much of an audiobook fan. However, I really really wanted to make them work for me so I decided to give this reading challenge a go and try listening to audiobooks in the car.

The good news?
I can totally listen to audiobooks in the car without getting distracted!
I can also listen to audiobooks while cleaning, ironing and cooking which is a huge win too!

The bad news?
I don't think I have any bad news... Except that I haven't reached a level of listening skill which would allow me to listen, follow and enjoy an audiobook while doing tasks that require a high level of brain power. That's the holy grail for me and I don't think I'll ever reach it but I'll take what I can get!

My target was pretty low...
I aimed for 5 audiobooks and I'm pleased to say I'd beaten that target before we even got to the mid-year point!
So I upped it to the 10 book target and guess what?
I beat that too!

Here, as we wind up 2019, I can say that I am currently on 11 audiobooks (for the year) and I'll probably get one more finished before 31st December rolls in.

How awesome is that?!

My audiobooks this year were:

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Narrator: Joshua Swanson

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Narrator: Joshua Swanson

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My review of The Son of Neptune

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Narrator: Joshua Swanson

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My review of The Mark of Athena

Broken by S.J. West


Narrator: Brittany Pressley

⭐⭐⭐⭐

My review of Broken

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Narrator: Nick Chamian

⭐⭐⭐⭐

My review of The House of Hades

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Narrator: Nick Chamian

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My review of The Blood of Olympus

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Narrator: Joseph May & Jane Collingwood

⭐⭐⭐⭐

My review of The Red Pyramid

Red Winter by Annette Marie

Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller

⭐⭐⭐⭐

My Review of Red Winter

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

Narrator: Paul Shelley

⭐⭐⭐⭐

My Review of The Christmasuarus

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

Narrator: Joseph May & Jane Collingwood

⭐⭐⭐⭐

I've written my review for Throne of Fire but it's scheduled for January... Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Riordan writes awesome stories!

The Journals of Octavia Hollows by Stacey Rourke

Narrator:

⭐⭐⭐⭐

I haven't finished my review of this either but it'll be live next week!

🌻

Given how well this went this year, I'm signing up again for next year's challenge!
Take this as my signup. 
Next year, I'm aiming for "Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20 books".

If you want to join in next year, you can sign up at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer!

🌻

How did you do this year?

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Tuesday 10 December 2019

Favourite Christmas Movies!


Last year, I shared a list of my favourite Christmas movies that aren't actually Christmas movies so I thought that this year I'd share my list of favourite Christmas movies that are actually Christmas movies!

Home Alone & Home Alone 2

I was five when Home Alone released and I think I've watched it every year pretty much since then.
I love its brand of festive madness!
And now I get to watch them both my own son and they still haven't got old for me.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

I love the book and I genuinely enjoyed Jim Carey as the Grinch. I know many people hated this adaptation but I'm not one of them. It rocks, and Faith Hill's song for the soundtrack is absolutely beautiful!

Love, Actually

This released the year I met the Professor. We went to the movies to watch it together. It'll always be special to me for that alone but it's such a heart-warming movie, I'd have loved it anyway.

Elf

I only watched this one for the first time last year (I know! Shock and horror!) and I must admit that I loved it. It was silly, it was sweet, and it made me laugh while revving me up for the season.

Arthur Christmas

This is another movie I only watched for the first time last year but loved!
A novel take on Christmas that's perfect for all the family.

A Nightmare Before Christmas

This could also have been on my Halloween movies list as it totally works as both but I put it more in the Christmas shenanigans bucket than Halloween...
Quirky and weird and perfectly Tim Burton, it's a huge hit in this house!
We even have two Nightmare Before Christmas baubles on our Christmas tree...

A Miracle on 34th Street

My grandmother loved this one and I loved watching it with her every single Christmas. She's been gone for ten years now but I'll forever associate this movie with her and continue to watch it.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

I'm torn over this one... I mean, to me it is undeniably festive and definitely a Christmas movie but I'm aware that other people may not feel so. Never-the-less, it's going on my Christmas list!

The Snowman

I usually watch this on Christmas eve. It's a tradition.

πŸŽ„

What are your favourite Christmas movies?!

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Monday 9 December 2019

Review: The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher (Audiobook)




The Christmasaurus is a story about a boy named William Trundle, and a dinosaur, the Christmasaurus.
It's about how they meet one Christmas Eve and have a magical adventure.
It's about friendship and families, sleigh bells and Santa, singing elves and flying reindeer, music and magic. It's about discovering your heart's true desire, and learning that the impossible might just be possible.


Audiobook: Narrated by Paul Shelley
Duration: 5hrs 38 min


The Christmasaurus was a massive hit with my son a couple of years ago and with the release of the sequel - The Christmasaurus and The Winter Witch - this year, I decided it was time to take the plunge and find out what all the fuss was about.

I'm so glad I decided to listen to it for it was completely and utterly enchanting!
The narration was so plummy and animated - the story so painfully, quintessentially, British that I almost died from the pompously festive sweetness.

William Trundle is a little boy with a big heart who loves dinosaurs and is unfailingly kind even to those who make him utterly miserable.
Mr Trundle is a dotty, Christmas loving, loon of a dad who dotes on his boy and hides his sadness over losing William's mum in an accident - the same accident that put William in a wheelchair - behind over the top festive delights and fantastical stories of the North Pole.
Mr Trundle and William don't have much in the way of material possessions but they have a house full of love and laughter and it radiates out from the pages.
Throw in Santa, Elves and a real-life Dinosaur (and an evil hunter of the rarest creatures that live) and you have one timeless, glorious, fantastically adorable Christmas book that will bring joy to the entire family.

If you're looking for a heart-warming tale that is both packed full of silliness while still having true meaning then give it a try.
It's written for kids - I'd guess 8 to 12 year olds - but is enough to make anyone with a heart feel cocooned in the magic and wonder of the season.


“Belief is the most powerful magic there is. Believing is the only magic that makes the utterly impossible completely possible."
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Thursday 5 December 2019

Mini Reviews: Christmas At Frozen Falls & Coming Home to Glendale Hall


Two full-length festive novels, with gorgeously festive covers, to enjoy this holiday season!



*Review copy received via NetGalley*


Christmas magic can thaw the coldest of hearts…

Sylvie Magnusson is going to be lonely this Christmas. Instead of jetting off for her sunshine honeymoon, she’s freezing at home in Cheshire. Guess that’s what happens when your fiancΓ© dumps you a week before your wedding…

Sylvie’s best friend, Nari, plans a trip to see the Northern Lights and get Sylvie’s mojo back. But as their Lapland getaway approaches, Sylvie realises that Frozen Falls is the hometown of Stellan Virtanen, her dreamy Finnish ex-boyfriend, the one that got away. Even though he actually ran away, and Sylvie never understood why…

Luckily, when they meet, Stellan’s still gorgeous – and her heart is warmed when he shows her the romantic delights of Lapland (as well as some seriously adorable Husky puppies). But when she returns to England can she really leave Stellan behind? Or will she find that her heart belongs in the frozen North?

Christmas at Frozen Falls is a sweet Christmas read about healing, friendship, and the one who got away.


Initially, I wasn't a fan of this book. It starts off months after the infamous 'dumping before the wedding' and even though I can understand Sylvie being devastated by the loss of the future she thought she'd have, I couldn't understand how she was still so broken when the evil-dumper, Cole, was a complete jackass and his mother sounds like the mother-in-law from the deepest darkest depths of hell! Sylvie dodged a massive bullet and I didn't feel she was grieving over the loss of her fiance so much as the loss of a fantasy future, if that makes sense? She was more upset about the dog - totally understandable - and it made her melodrama tedious.

But then, she and her best friend decide to head to Finnish Lapland for Christmas and this gets Sylvie thinking about the Finnish guy she loved back in Uni - Stellen - and you feel that connection, that loss, fresh and aching even though their relationship had ended fifteen years ago! Thus the story got more interesting and Sylvie got less annoying.

When the resort they go to happens to be Stellen's resort, you know what's going to happen (and let's face it, it's in the blurb) but it doesn't detract from the sweet, wonderful, journey of falling in love again with the one who got away.

It was so easy while reading this book to get swept off to snow-covered forests under a glowing sky... To smell the crisp coldness of the snow mixed with pine sap. To imagine yourself snuggled in a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate beside a roaring fire.
It was magical, especially with the romance bubbling along beside you.

The ending had me smiling and happy but a little unsatisfied if I'm honest. Stellen and Sylvie had a happy for now ending. A nice, teasing, promise of a beautiful future if they could make it work. For some, that would be enough but I'm the type of gal who, in those circumstances, needs a flipping epilogue reassuring me that everything does indeed end happily.
Let's face it, people don't read romance for a reality check! Give us a cast-iron happy ever after, dammit!

Regardless of my minor grumbles, I recommend it if you want a mental trip to Lapland this year to play in the snow and play with some husky dogs!



*Review copy received via NetGalley*


No matter how far you go, home is where the heart is...

Beth Williams hasn’t been home for ten years. After falling pregnant at sixteen, she ran away from the imposing Scottish estate where she grew up rather than risk her family’s disapproval, working hard to build a life for herself and daughter Isabelle - but now she’s finally returning to Glendale Hall.

As Beth tries to mend her broken family ties, and fights to bring the community of Glendale back together, she realises that the story she has told herself for a decade might well be a very different one from the truth. Even though she ran from Glendale it has never left her heart. And, she soon realises, neither has Drew – Beth’s first love.

Will Beth be able to forgive her mother and grandmother (and herself) for what happened ten years ago? What will Drew say when he discovers the secret she’s been keeping from him for so long? Can a festive trail bring the village back together?

Will Christmas work its magic on Glendale - or will Beth be forced to run away from it all over again?


Coming Home to Glendale Hall was another slow starter but once it got going I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a family driven story packed full of festive goodness, healing and forgiveness.
There is a second chance romance that wasn't as straight forward as I was anticipating (bit of a love-triangle) but it felt like it was secondary to the family and community driven elements of the book.
It was a surprisingly emotional and uplifting read packed full of the magic of Christmas.

The characters were likeable and relatable, even the ones who were doing, or had done, things that weren't so nice.
The setting was beautiful... Glendale Hall felt like a character in itself, although the regularity of snow was a little bit unrealistic even for the Scottish Highlands! But it gave the story an extra sprinkling of magic so I can't complain too much.

I guess the thing that irked me about the story was the pseudo-love triangle and the constant repetition of things we already knew.
Not to mention the fact that the entire plot would have fallen apart if the parents of the 16-year-old (who ran away to London to have a baby all alone!) had just a long and honest conversation with their daughter at some point over the course of the 10 years she was gone!
But hey ho.
Minor irks do not take away from the fact that this was a lovely read that gave me all the festive feels.
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Wednesday 4 December 2019

November Reading Challenge Update


November was a mixed month.
I struggled with fatigue, my mood and keeping on top of things but also had some lovely days and evenings out with family and friends which helped to balance things out a bit.

I had fun taking part in the HoHoHo read-a-thon  - finishing two books - but failed epically at the Read a Series In A Month challenge finishing not a single book.

For December, I'm looking to finish off my remaining challenges and just enjoy the festive period.

In November, I finished 8 books. 


My favourite book of the month was The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan and I didn't have any reads that I didn't enjoy! 😊

🌻

This year, I signed up for  4 reading challenges (not including the Goodreads Challenge) and 1 blogging challenge.

Details of them can be found in my 2019 Reading Challenge sign up post.

This month I have made progress as follows...

  
The Goal was to 10-12 books this year featuring royalty.

I read 0 'Royal' themed book last month, so my total stays at 9!

I'm happy that I'll reach 10 before the year is up though.


My blog challenge... Each month a prompt is given and the goal is to write a blog post that fits it. 

I've given up!
I was going to plan posts and do stuff then November hit and it died. 
Actually, I think it was dead before then but it definitely died again in November.


My aim for this one was to read 10-15 books featuring bad boys... 
In November, I read 4 bringing the total to 8!


Two more and I complete this challenge so I'm feeling confident!


This reading challenge is aimed at reading books published before 2019 and getting them off your backlist/TBR/wishlist... This year, I'm hoping to read 60 books from the backlist.

For November, I read 6 books from the backlist.


My total for the year goes to 45.

I was aiming for 60 backlist books this year but that's not going to happen... Maybe I'll hit 50 though which would be nice. Despite knowing I won't complete this challenge, I'm still happy as 45+ is still pretty awesome.


I was originally aiming for 5 audiobooks this year. Because I was beastin' it, I raised the total to 'Weekend Warrior' which is 5-10 books.

In November, I finished 2 audiobooks so my total goes to 11!


FINISHED IT!

🌻

How are your challenges going this year?

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