Tuesday 29 December 2020

Favourite Reads of 2020!


I thought creating my "favourite reads of 2020" list would have been super difficult but when flicking through my Goodreads list for 2020, I found it surprisingly easy... I don't know why, for I had loads of 4 and 5 star reads this year, but this bunch just jumped out at me immediately!

(It's probably worth noting that this list is my favourite reads of 2020 but some of them were published before 2020; I just hadn't read them before.)

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Druid Vices & A Vodka by Annette Marie

The Little Bookshop of Love Stories by Jaimie Admans

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Millar

The Switch by Beth O'Leary

Damned Souls and A Sangria by Annette Marie

Rhythm, Chord & Malykin by Mariana Zapata

The 12 Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss

Grave War by Kalayna Price

You Had Me At Hockey by Kelly Jamieson


What's on your "best of 2020" list?
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Saturday 26 December 2020

The Christmas Pact, The Little Christmas Shop on Nutcracker Lane & Duffy The Christmassy Dragon!


Three festive reads for the festive season!


Heat up the holidays with this sizzling new novella from New York Times best-selling authors Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward!

Riley Kennedy’s emails keep getting crossed with her colleague, Kennedy Riley.
The infuriating man forwards them along with his annoying commentary and unsolicited advice. At least she never has to see him in person since they work in different locations…until they come face to face at the office holiday party. As luck would have it, Kennedy turns out to be gorgeous…though still a jerk. Yet somehow he’s able to charm her out on the dance floor—and convince her to participate in his crazy scheme: He’ll go home with Riley for a Christmas party and pretend to be her boyfriend if Riley agrees to be his date to a wedding.
It sounds easy enough. But little by little, the act they’re putting on starts to feel like so much more than a Christmas pact—and Riley’s about to learn there’s more to Kennedy than she ever imagined.


This was a quick-to-read festive novella with a fun concept. It made me laugh and cringe and I enjoyed it but I could take or leave Riley and Kennedy as a couple. I'm unsure what caused the disconnect between me and the characters but I just wasn't invested in their story... This made the drama towards the end tediously annoying rather than something that added a little bit of spicy tension. Honestly, I expected more from these authors... Their full-length co-written books are very well done but maybe novellas just aren't their forte? That said, it was definitely better than most novellas and it was a fun way to pass a couple of hours so I'm not complaining too much.


It’s the most magical time of year, and anything can happen…
Nia Maddison has always believed that wishes come true on Nutcracker Lane. So, when she gets the opportunity to run her own Christmas gift shop on the most magical street in town, it feels like her wishes have been finally granted.
But working late one night, Nia discovers yet another boyfriend has cheated on her. As she trudges home – alone, again – she passes the (supposedly) magical nutcracker and half-joking thinks a wish can’t hurt. Cracking a nut in its mouth, she wishes to find Prince Charming.
The next day Nia gets to work to find another decoration shop has opened directly across the lane from her own, and she can’t resist having a nose around.
Whilst there, she accidentally backs into a human-sized Nutcracker, knocking it over and breaking it. Mortified, she flees from the store but when she gathers her resolve to go back and apologise, she stumbles across the gorgeous shop owner James, who looks exactly like Prince Charming…
Could her Christmas wish from the night before really be coming true?


I'm so conflicted over this book! On the one hand, it's delightfully festive, has a couple that I adored and a supporting cast of random characters that made me giggle. I enjoyed the slow burn of the romance, the hope and magic of Christmas that the author captured perfectly, and the simple joy it brought. However, it was so long-winded that it felt like a slog to get through it... I feel that it could have been shortened by a good amount and been a better, punchier, story.
I'd still recommend it though. Admans knows how to write Christmas. Her love for the holiday season bleeds through on every single page and I'm convinced that she could make the ultimate bah-humbugger feel festive.


Duffy The Dragon helps Santa one icy Christmas Eve.


First off, I loved the illustrations for this book! There is something so incredibly old-worldy and timeless about them... They just make you feel all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic.
Secondly, the story is utterly charming! It flows lyrically and tells the story of how Duffy the Dragon helps Santa on Christmas. It gave me Night Before Christmas vibes in how it flowed from one verse to the next... It's a perfect story to read to the little ones on Christmas Eve!


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Wednesday 23 December 2020

A Netflix Christmas (Take Two!)


A couple of years ago, I went on a binge of Netflix Christmas movies
Last year, I only watched a couple (too busy running around like a nut) but what with England in a second Covid-related lockdown throughout November - and things being far from normal throughout December - I had time, once again, to get a Netflix Christmas binge on!
Thus, this post: A Netflix Christmas - Take Two!

Holidate


Not looking for love? Sick of never-ending dating? Been hurt in the past?
 What you need is a holidate! A date only for the holidays - all holidays. 
But beware... You may develop a pesky attraction. You may become infected by feelings. 
You may even... Fall in love.

I laughed so hard throughout this one I swear I almost died! 
I actually couldn't breathe from laughing so hard at one point. It was amazing. Ridiculous, cute, sexy, sweet... I recommend it very muchly!

A Christmas Made To Order


Oh, what a delightfully wonderful and festive cheese-fest!!
I adored this one! An overworked architect hires a holiday decorator/designer when he becomes the last-minute host for his family for the holidays.
I loved how the overworked architect (Steve) wasn't an asshole, he was just a workaholic, and with proper motivation (his family and the pretty designer!) he learns what's important in life... And finds love. Obviously!

Christmas Inheritance


This one wasn't bad... It just wasn't all that great. 
Honestly, the people were judgemental and frustrating and it ruined the holiday buzz.
. Interestingly, Ellie was likeable even though she was a Manhattanite princess completely out of her depth in a small town but Ellie's fiance was frustrating, angry and a bit of a tool. The "small town" love interest (yep, there's a bit of a triangle situation) was judgemental af and, I dunno... It just didn't have that irresistible festive sparkle that festive movies tend to have. 
That said, it ended pretty strong so... Yeah. Mixed bag. 

Operation Christmas Drop


This one was a nice example of Christmas in tropical locations and of non-traditional Christmases.
I really enjoyed it. 
It was full of banter and had a touching story but I found the romantic element sorely lacking. I turned to my husband after it finished and said, "that's a relationship that's going to fizzle out and die the minute it comes into contact with reality" and I stand by it... But since it's a holiday movie the credits roll at the kiss so I guess we'll never know! 
(Unless they make a sequel.)
 What I liked most was that it highlighted a real-life thing that the US, Aus and Japanese militaries do to support isolated communities in Micronesia. Oh, and that it had Bjorn from Vikings in it. Bonnie from The Vampire Diaries was also awesome. 
 
Nativity


This is an old one now that has spawned a West End musical and three sequels but I'd never seen the original until three days ago. 
It was sweet, funny, cringey and had a surprising amount of bah-humbug for a festive movie.
I enjoyed it but I have no idea quite why it's so wildly popular... 

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The thing I love about Netflix Christmas movies is that some are Netflix originals, others are from places like Hallmark and others were cinematic releases but all of them are delightfully festive.

I'll probably squeeze more in - along with the traditional re-watches - before the season is out but those are the notable "new" ones for me. 

What about you? Have you seen any of these? Any other recommendations?
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Monday 21 December 2020

The 12 Dates of Christmas & Christmas Every Day


Festive lovelies for it's the season to be jolly!!

When it comes to relationships, thirty-four-year-old Kate Turner is ready to say "Bah, humbug." The sleepy town of Blexford, England, isn't exactly brimming with prospects, and anyway, Kate's found fulfillment in her career as a designer, and in her delicious side job baking for her old friend Matt's neighborhood café. But then her best friend signs her up for a dating agency that promises to help singles find love before the holidays. Twenty-three days until Christmas. Twelve dates with twelve different men. The odds must finally be in her favor . . . right?

Yet with each new date more disastrous than the one before--and the whole town keeping tabs on her misadventures--Kate must remind herself that sometimes love, like mistletoe, shows up where it's least expected. And maybe, just maybe, it's been right under her nose all along. . . .


This book was absolutely delightful! From start to finish I was completely enchanted. Kate is an artist and I enjoyed how it was woven throughout the book. I adored the small tight-knit community she lives in, her relationship with her father, her whacky mother, her best friends and the entire concept of a dating agency that organises 12 dates over December for the participants of the "12 Dates of Christmas". Each date was different, each man was different, and I was in stitches of laughter as Kate wove her way through the various shenanigans. I wasn't remotely surprised with who Kate was with at the end (it's obvious) but for a good chunk of the book, I could not see the path to getting there and that journey - along with the dating antics - kept me engrossed. It's a warm, cozy, and funny read that is packed full of Christmas magic. I definitely want to re-read this next Christmas... Or maybe whenever I need a little pick-me-up.


When Jenny inherits her estranged grandmother’s cottage in Sherwood Forest, she has nothing to lose - no money, no job, no friends, no family to speak of, and zero self-respect. Things can only get better...
Her grumpy, but decidedly handsome new neighbour, Mack, has a habit of bestowing unsolicited good deeds on her. And when Jenny is welcomed into a rather unusual book club, life seems to finally be getting more interesting.
Instead of reading, the members pledge to complete individual challenges before Christmas: from finding new love, learning to bake, to completing a daredevil bucket list. Jenny can’t resist joining in, and soon a year of friendship and laughter, tears and regrets unfolds in the most unexpected ways.
Warm, wise, funny and utterly uplifting, what one thing would you change in your life before Christmas comes around?


This was a weird one. I enjoyed it but I wouldn't really call it a Christmas book. It begins in December, it ends in December, and it has references to Christmas (including a 'Christmas in July' moment) but it is not a festive read. Not really. It's a book that works its way through the seasons and takes you on a journey with Jenny as she rebuilds her life and, for the first time in her life, finds out the meaning of friendship and a "found" family. There is a dilapidated house, a rowdy book club and a host of random, interesting and wonderful characters whose stories you get caught up in alongside Jenny's. The romance element was present but honestly? That was the weakest element of the book! I mean, I loved Mack as a character, I adored his grumpy kindness and how he looked out for Jenny but their romance was anything but plain sailing and I didn't enjoy the complications of his (not quite) ex-wife. It didn't stop me rooting for them to get together, I guess it just came too late for me to bask in the happiness of it? I don't know but it was honestly irrelevant as the friendships and community of the characters is what made this story so engaging. It was a book that had me laughing and almost crying with the way it all unfolded and I wouldn't change anything about it. It was touching, heart-warming, frustrating and felt so very real... I'm definitely on board for more from this author and if you haven't read Christmas Every Day I suggest you check it out! Just don't expect a "festive" read!


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Friday 18 December 2020

A Tale of Christmas Ornaments!


Today's Book Blogger Hop question is about whether you have any bookish Christmas ornaments on the tree and my very simple answer is yes... But I don't want to give a simple answer!
My Christmas tree ornaments are a source of absolute joy and there is a story attached to each of them.

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My husband and I have been together since we were 18/19 years old. The first Christmas we celebrated together was a year later. 
We bought an artificial Christmas tree that the professor hated (he wanted a real tree) and we bought some "special" individual ornaments to go along with bulk bought, plain, baubles and made the "fake tree" our own.



A reindeer, a Christmas tree and two different snowmen were the ornaments we bought. 
They weren't expensive - £3-6 each - and we bought them in a garden centre/hardware store but we still have them and we love them. 
(The bulk-bought baubles are LONG gone!)

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After we left University, we moved from our flat in Edinburgh down to the Southwest of England and the professor finally got to have his real tree! (Every. Single. Year.)
His dad had been storing some of his childhood tree ornaments for him and gave them to us. 



There's a little book with a story about a bear (and you can actually read it), a tiny little sock, a stuffed stocking, and a metal train. 

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Each and every year, we've added to our collection. 
Some are from Christmas shops and Christmas markets. Some are from craft fairs, some from garden centres. Some are from department stores. 



 Some are from museum gift shops, some from holidays (Disney World, Kennedy Space Center etc.). 



Some are from Harrods... And cost way too freaking much for an ornament.



Some are traditional, some are quirky. Some are beautiful and elegant, some are butt-ugly (and garish). 

There's a long-standing tradition of my father-in-law taking the little dude into London to buy an ornament and he bought the little dude whatever caught his eye... Thus the ugly cheetah, weird gingerbread house, ball of fluff, freaky owl... I could go on, but he has chosen some awesome ones too.

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Some, we've made ourselves.



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Some the little dude made in the early school years. 



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As we accumulated more, the professor tried to impose a "one a year" rule but that's more of a one each a year rule... And sometimes we still break it. 

This year, I bought myself a stack of books ornament



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This isn't all our ornaments but it's a good sampling. 
Basically, our Christmas tree is the story of us in some ways. 
I don't think we have two ornaments that match, but our tree matches us.
Our only complaint is that we're running out of tree to put them all on!
(I keep saying we just need to buy bigger trees, but does he listen? Nope.)

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Do you have a thing for individual Christmas ornaments?
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Friday 11 December 2020

You Had Me At Hockey by Kelly Jamieson

 

*eARC granted in exchange of an honest review.*


Can a spirited, down-to-earth influencer get an uptight hockey player out of his shell?

Josh
I am a warrior. That’s been my motto since I recovered from a near-death accident when I was younger. Now I enjoy my nice, settled life in Dallas playing pro hockey—a boring life is better than being dead. I’m not a party guy or an adventurer; I like my routine and peace and quiet. So being traded to New York is the worst possible change that could happen. And meeting unfiltered and fascinating Sara Carrington throws my life into even more chaos.

Sara
I’ve been considered weird my whole life, which is why I’m still a virgin, but I’ve turned it into a career with my YouTube videos. Who knew people would love watching me talk about my zits, taste test meatless burgers, and try to learn TikTok dances! Now I’m launching a podcast. Getting hockey star Josh Heller as a guest will help gain listeners for sure. I expect a bearded jock with no teeth and nothing to say, but I get a hot as H-E-double-hockey-sticks grouch with a surprisingly dirty mind. My mission to make him laugh is successful, but I want to know why he’s so uptight underneath that panty-dropping smile. Maybe I can teach Josh to have some fun . . . and maybe he can teach me a thing or two along the way. . . .


This is my first novel by Jamieson and it won't be my last! I've already started adding her backlist to my TBR and I'm so excited to read them... You Had Me At Hockey was wonderful! It had me hooked from the first chapter. I couldn't put it down to the point I started and finished it on the same day. The characters - both Josh and Sara - were so relatable and likeable and the chemistry between them was smoking hot and effortless! I adored them together and as individuals. They made me laugh, they tugged on my heartstrings, the sex scenes were fire and placed against the backdrop of hockey?! Yep, this book was a massive hit for me. The book was character-driven perfection especially because neither character was perfect but they both grew and evolved throughout the story.
I actually felt sad when it was over and really hope they crop up again in future books...

If you love a good sports romance with a couple you can believe in then do not miss out on this!

PS - This is the second book in a series but you don't need to have read book one to read this one. Characters from book one do appear in You Had Me At Hockey but the spoilers only go so far as they get a HEA which is a requirement of romance so... Not really a spoiler!



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Tuesday 8 December 2020

Holiday Things That Make Me Get My Grinch On


It is the most wonderful time of the year and all that jazz but that doesn't mean that it's all twinkly lights and candy canes... The holidays can be annoying. 
Today, for Top Ten Tuesday, I'm listing things that make me get my grinch on... But don't worry, I've tried not to make it too depressing. 

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Christmas cards, decorations and other Christmas paraphernalia in the shops from August. 
I love Christmas but not before October! Halloween comes first.
If you're in doubt, pop on the Nightmare Before Christmas and see what happens when the natural order is interfered with.
(FYI - I love that movie.)

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The crowds! 
Everywhere, all the time... And people are rabid and super grumpy!
It affects parking, eating, browsing, buying... Everything. I leave the house full of festive cheer and return ready to burn down the Christmas tree.
But not to worry! I'll pop on some well worn festive jingles and eat some mince pies (no I won't, I don't like mince pies) and I'll be happy again.

(Although, this year, Covid has made this some only semi-applicable so I suppose that's one good thing...)

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The prices. 
A body wash and a loofah in a festive bag. £10. Two days after Christmas, £4.
Talk about festive price gouging!

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Elf on The Shelf
I hate it. He's creepy and it just puts unnecessary pressure on parents at an already busy and pressured time of year!
(And I'm grumpy about this despite the fact that monstrous little monster has never been "a thing" in my house!)

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People getting bent over the phrase Merry Christmas.
I don't even want to start on this one honestly... But I guess I'm going to?
Yes, not everyone is Christian and, Christian or not, not everyone celebrates Christmas. Many people of no faith or other faith celebrate Christmas as a family day. (At least here in the UK.)
No matter where you sit on this topic, is it REALLY a reason to lose it on a shop assistant being polite? It is REALLY a reason to rant at people?
Is it?! I don't think so.
(She says while ranting.)
It comes down to basic humanity and not being an asshole and taking something in the spirit it is intended. Not everybody is out to insult people.

Swallow some festive spirit (maybe some mulled wine or eggnog?) and chill out!

PS - Don't get me started on those who try to weaponise Merry Christmas... Oh, do I have words for that bunch.

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It hardly ever snows here.
It rarely snows where I am at any point in the year so snow at Christmas?! Super super rare.
But in all the books, all the movies, on all the cards and in all the songs - snow! Snow everywhere. 
I think I'm so bitter about it because I love snow and I'd love a snowy Christmas... I haven't seen one since I was a kid. 

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People criticising how people choose to do gifts.
For some reason, this topic erupts on social media every single year and it drives me bug-fucking crazy.
It always starts with an innocent post about what someone is buying their kid(s) or a picture of a pile of presents, and then suddenly everyone thinks they're allowed to pile on with their opinion. 
It's usually focussed around accusations of "making other parents feel bad they can't do that for their kid(s)" and affordability/debt but sometimes it veers in the direction of new vrs second-hand or sustainability and it never fails to irritate me because it's nobody's business! 
Seriously, stop harshing people's happy! 
Everyone's circumstances are different. Circumstances vary year-by-year for most people. Everyone has different attitudes and beliefs. You do you and let others do what they do and, generally, just live and let live! It's Christmas! Be kind. 

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People when they complain about socks or books as presents.
I live in fluffy socks. I live and breathe books. Do I really have to explain why this one irritates me?
And seriously, even if you're not a bookworm, why are you complaining about getting a book someone put thought into buying you? Why complain when someone spends any of their hard-earned cash on you, regardless of what they've purchased? Talk about ungrateful. 

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The pressure to be happy, jolly and festive.
I'm not going to lie, I'm one of those people who has two modes at Christmas: Elf or Grinch. I often swing between the two (probably because of some of what I've listed) but one thing I dislike more than just about anything is when people say things like, "Cheer up, it's Christmas." Or just expect you to be happy because... It's Christmas. 
There are a lot of things to be happy and excited about at Christmas but Christmas can also be a tough time for people. Some people have to work all the way through it. Some people have no one to celebrate with. Some are gutted with pain over those who are no longer with us. Some feel sadness and guilt because they can't afford to "do" Christmas. Some don't have their kids with them because they're separated and the kids are with the other parent. Some have to spend the holidays with people they don't like because their loved ones like/love them. People are allowed to feel sad at Christmas. People are allowed to feel a big confusing mess of all the things! 
Accept people are nuanced and they don't have to feel how you think they should feel.
And be nice!

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So... What makes you grumpy this time of year?
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Wednesday 2 December 2020

Miracle Creek Christmas and Snowflakes At The Little Christmas Tree Farm


One made for Hallmark, the other a quirkily festive British delight!


When Riley Madigan moves to the sleepy mountain town of Miracle Creek, she hopes her new job as a high school art teacher will help her mend her recently broken heart. A little peace and quiet would be a gift this Christmas season. The last thing on her mind is love.
Former firefighter Mark Rivers has spent the last year recovering from burns sustained during a rescue operation. He’s been trying to piece his life back together but still struggles both emotionally and psychologically. When he meets Riley, he finally sees something that might bring some light back into his life.
When Mark asks Riley to work on a special nativity project, he finds himself falling for her quirky, unaffected ways. Riley doesn’t seem bothered by his scars, but is her affection for him real, or is this just another act of charity? One thing’s for certain, in a small town that views Mark as a fragile hero, it’s hard to pursue a relationship without everyone in his business. And although Riley has sincere feelings for Mark, is she ready to risk her heart?
Broken hearts and lives are mended as the town of Miracle Creek comes together to celebrate a Christmas to remember.


Miracle Creek Christmas is pretty much a Hallmark movie in a book. It's got a story that tugs on the heartstrings, all the festive trimmings, good people, a smarmy pseudo-villain, and a happy ending. It's a "clean read" and it makes you feel toasty and contented inside.
I absolutely adored Mark! He was that solid, dependable and kind book boyfriend that would make anyone a wonderful partner. He'd been through absolute hell but he still had hope and a desire to help others while fighting his own recovery battles. I admired him and wanted him to be happy from the beginning. I can't say the same for Riley... It's not that I disliked her - I didn't - it's just that she was much harder to like. She had her own stuff to deal with but her constant need to hold people at a distance - and run - got old quickly. However, I was happy watching the change and healing Mark inspired in her.
If you're looking for a wonderful, warm, festive read then give it a try!


All she wants for Christmas…
Leah Griffiths has woken up after a few too many glasses of Prosecco with a hangover – and discovers she’s accidentally bought a little Christmas tree farm in Scotland!
At first she’s horrified, but perhaps it’s the perfect way to forget all about her cheating ex.
And when she meets grumpy (but ridiculously gorgeous) pumpkin farmer Noel underneath the mistletoe, Leah begins to believe that at Christmas time, anything can happen…


This book was almost the perfect festive read for me!
It had a woman of relatable age drunkenly buying a Christmas tree farm and completely changing her life - for the better.
There was a delicious, unbelievably lovely, but slightly grumpy hero to help her find her feet in her new life, whacky and wonderful secondary characters - who didn't take up too much page time - and lots and lots of festive goodness!

This is very much a Christmas book but Noel - Mr lovely grumpy pants - is predominantly a pumpkin farmer so you could read this any time from September onwards and just feel happy inside... Actually, you could read it anytime and feel happy inside but you get what I mean. It would give you happy autumn/winter vibes at point of the year, and since Sept-Dec are my favourite times of year, it's not surprising that I adored this book really.
Add to that Adman's usual warmth and laughter and you have a marvellous book.

So, why four stars instead of five? Well, there was a revelation towards the end of the book - that was fairly obvious from the beginning of the book - that was blown massively out of proportion by the main character (Leah) and I seriously wanted to jump in the book and slap her for her stupidity and ridiculousness. Like, she's spent weeks... Months... with Noel by the point she finds out the 'grand reveal' and she knows him so how she could react the way she did?! It was mystifying. Nothing but drama for the sake of drama. It annoyed me so badly that I seriously wanted to scream. Not all books need something pulling the couple apart just so they can come back together again. You can have a drama free romance without it being boring, you know? But whatever. I got over it because the rest of the book is so flippin' delightful.
I loved this book, with this one exception, and I'll definitely be reading it again at some point.


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Friday 20 November 2020

Thoughts of A Dog by Matt Nelson and Peter Pan by JM Barrie


A grown up picture book and an audiobook of a children's classic have been on my reading agenda lately!


Based on the beloved Twitter sensation, Thoughts of Dog contains never-before-seen, sweet and funny reflections on life from the pup-spective of a gooooob dog, who, above all else, loves their human.
Join a dog and their stuffed “fren” sebastian as they navigate life’s adventures through the most wholesome lens imaginable.

The mastermind behind WeRateDogs, Matt Nelson, expands the Thoughts of Dog universe born on social media with his new book for anyone looking for a smile.


I was expecting a light-hearted book of little sketches featuring a human's interpretation on, well, the thoughts of a dog... And that is in a nutshell what this book is.
The only problem is that I was expecting them to be funny and they weren't all that funny. I was expecting them to be super sweet but they were a bit blah (except the one about the Mail Man. That almost had me in tears.) However, they were super relatable if you've lived with dogs even if the representation of all the doggy-isms was pretty basic.
The entire book read like a series of sketches that wouldn't be out of place in a kid's picture book only they occasionally use vocabulary that would be a little advanced for 3-5 year olds, like benevolently.
I guess you could call this a book for all ages of dog lovers... It just falls short in that the stories aren't all that entertaining for adults. *shrug*


Journey to Neverland in a new Audible Originals drama of J.M. Barrie’s magical masterpiece.
This enchanting adaptation of the enduring story of the boy who never grows up, produced in association with Great Ormond Street Hospital, stars Rupert Everett as the villainous Captain Hook and Adeel Akhtar as his right-hand man Smee. Beloved by both children and adults alike, the entire family will be transported to a world made of faith, trust, and pixie dust.

This Audible Original Drama of Peter Pan takes listeners on a magical adventure with Peter, Wendy, Michael and John as they arrive in Neverland and take on Captain Hook with the help of Tiger Lilly and Tinker Bell.
The story begins at home in London during The Blitz and Mary Darling is planning to evacuate her children to the countryside. However, her plans take an unexpected turn when a familiar face from her childhood returns...the one and only Peter Pan, the mysterious boy from Kensington Gardens. Intrigued by their mother’s friend, Wendy, Michael and John seek Peter Pan out, resulting in them being whisked off to Neverland and setting up home with Peter, Tinker Bell and The Lost Boys.
As Peter and his gang come up against the wickedly evil Captain Hook their friendships and relationships are put to the test - can Wendy be honest with Peter about how she really feels, and will Michael and John return home without their sister?


Audiobook Performed By: 
Adeel Akhtar, Mariska Ariya, Catherine Bailey, Rupert Everett, Neil Frost, William Harper, Gerran Howell, Simon Kane, Mack Keith Roach, Rocco Padden, Richard Reed, Maya Shepelev, Louis Suc, Harry Tuffin and Eleanor Worthington-Cox.

This was the first audiobook I've ever listened to that has a full cast and presents like a full stage production for the ears - music, sound effects, the works.
I wasn't sure I liked it but once I adjusted, I loved it!
It was delightfully charming and packed full of humour and wit. The voice actors did a marvellous job of bringing Peter Pan to life but Rupert Everett absolutely stole the show as Hook! He was definitely the bad guy who you can't help but love... He was my favourite character which is unsurprising really as I've always found Wendy and Peter to be insipid characters.

Now, for a confession... I've never read Peter Pan before but I've seen it many times on stage during Panto season, and in various movies, and the story doesn't vary much. Therefore, I had a vague expectation of what would be in the audiobook but I was thrown for a loop when this version was set during the Blitz rather than Victorian London! (The bits outside of Neverland, I mean.) I thought it was Victorian (maybe Edwardian) but apparently not... After listening, I dug into Peter Pan and it turns out that it was written for stage (Edwardian era!) and JM Barrie kept tweaking it over a great number of years so good luck finding a definitive version! And if you've seen it on stage, or in a movie, then I'm pretty sure that you'll have the full story of Peter Pan for that all there is to it... Although, I found the audiobook a little more sad, sinister and, well, mean, than the versions I'd seen elsewhere.
Regardless, the audiobook was fun and it'll be a story that will continue to entertain children (and adults) for many years yet to come.
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Tuesday 17 November 2020

Ancient Magic, Mirror Mage and Stolen Magic by Linsey Hall (Dragon's Gift: The Huntress Books 1-3)

 

I listened to these on audiobook.
The narrator would be passible if she could actually do an English accent, Irish accent or a Scottish accent... OMG, her Scottish accent is the worst.
Thankfully, the story is told from the pov of Cass and Cass has an American accent so I didn't have to deal with too much blood leaking from my ears...
The stories are engaging and after a while, I become semi-deaf to the horrors being inflicted upon the accents of my home nations so I was free to enjoy the tales.


I’m good at two things: finding treasure and killing demons. Lying low is a close third—but not because I want to be good at hiding. I have to be. I’m a FireSoul, one of the unlucky few to inherit a piece of the dragon’s soul. Being born with the dragon’s covetousness should be a sweet gig - I have the power to find and steal any type of treasure, including the powers of other supernaturals.
But it doesn’t come without a price - stealing powers requires that I kill, and others would destroy me if they discover what I am. In a world full of magic, hiding my species is the only way to survive. Finding magical artifacts is the only way to pay the bills. It’s a dangerous job when you can barely use your magic, but that’s one of the things I like about it.

When Aidan Merrick, the most powerful shifter in the city, hired me to find an ancient scroll, I didn’t want to take the job. His immense amount of power reminds me of too much of murky memories from a past I can’t remember. But I don’t have a choice. The scroll reveals what I am. And if anyone finds out, I’m dead.


When Aidan Merrick, the most powerful shifter in the city, hired me to find an ancient scroll, I didn’t want to take the job. His immense amount of power reminds me of too much of murky memories from a past I can’t remember. But I don’t have a choice. The scroll reveals what I am. And if anyone finds out, I’m dead.

The first book in the series gave me Tomb Raider vibes... Probably because the first time we meet adult Cass she is fighting off bad guys in an ancient monument in order to obtain a magical artefact.
That's her job - retrieving magical artefacts that have magic that is destabilising and bringing them back to the shop she runs/owns with her sisters (of heart, not blood) where they move the magic into a new vessel and return the artefacts to where they found them. Simples. Except, nothing is ever simple in UF or it would be boring. Cass - and her sisters - are firesouls and firesouls are reviled amongst the magical community and hunted...

The book is pretty fast-paced, the world-building is easy enough to follow along with and doesn't overwhelm you and the story is interesting. There's a mysterious big bad linked to Cass and her sister's past, intrigue to untangle, an adventure to be had and a sexy, powerful, dude to catch feelings for... Basically, what's not to like?

I'm super curious to see how Cass's relationship with Aiden plays out - it's a slow burner - and to find out more about where Cass and her sisters came from and who the big bad is that stalks them.

Ancient Magic is a solid beginning to the series.

Duration: 7hrs


Cass Clereaux likes her job. It’s simple—steal the magic, don’t get killed. FireSouls like her are perfect for magic treasure hunting. Their dragon soul helps them find treasure, their wicked powers help them steal it. But there’s a big freaking downside—FireSouls are hunted. If either of the magical governments figures out what she is, she can kiss her life goodbye.
When the Alpha Council comes to her with a special job, it’s a no-brainer to turn it down, no matter how much money they’re offering. Shifters who can sniff out her weird magic are the last supernaturals she needs to be around. Worse? They have a history of hunting FireSouls. But when Cass learns that a little girl’s life is at stake and Cass is her last hope, she doesn’t have a choice.
With her sisters and Aidan Merrick at her back, she’s got a chance at saving the girl and keeping her deadly secret—until she learns there’s far more to this kidnapping than meets the eye. It’s far too similar to what happened to her as a child, and everything new that she learns scares her even more.


Book two picks up a couple of weeks after the events of Ancient Magic, so you definitely have to read this series in order, and if book one was a gentle introduction to the world and the society the magical types inhabit, book two is a crash course in shifter society as Cass takes on a mission at the behest of the Alpha Council and is thrust into their domain. She's not alone though... Aiden is with her and I loved that, for I love Aiden - he's interesting, protective and sweet - and Aiden and Cass together make one heck of a team.
We learn a lot about Aiden's past in this book, more about Cass's past returns to her and we have our first encounter with "the monster"... I.e the evil dude who abducts firesoul children for his evil ends.
The series still has Tomb Raider vibes for me due to ancient monuments and historical sites featuring predominantly in the settings, but Cass felt less like Lara Croft and more like "scared little girl" in this one than in the first.

Mirror Magic moves the series plotline on a little but not enough to stop me getting a wee bit frustrated at times with all the mysteries... There's only so much I can take before I want answers! But I didn't really get answers, just more questions.

Again, the book was a solid read. Enjoyable but not unputdownable.

Duration: 6hrs 53min
Book Three: Stolen Magic


Being a FireSoul has its perks. Cass Clereaux can find any type of magical treasure or steal any magical power. She’ll pick hunting treasure any day because she doesn’t have to kill for it, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t stolen powers before. She needs them to stay alive. A fight to the death is the least of what she can expect if other supernaturals find out what she is, so Cass has become an expert at lying low..
When her friend is sucked into a magical portal, she’s the only one with the power to help him. But what Cass uncovers is a danger greater than she’d ever imagined—and linked to her past in a way she’d never expect. Even worse, the portal puts her whole town at risk. As the threat grows, she must confront her fear of losing control over her new powers or lose any hope of saving hundreds of lives.
Sure, being a FireSoul has its perks. But a fight to the death isn't one of them.


Ah, now, this is more like it! Stolen Magic delivers every bit as much action and adventure as the first two books in the series but the stakes are higher, the entire gang is in play in order to save their city, and "the monster" now has a name! Not to mention, we now have much more info about Cass and her sister's background. Don't get me wrong, there are many questions remaining here but we have some answers and that's fantastic. I enjoyed the pace of the story, the twists and turns it took and the growth Cass underwent... Plus, Cass's relationship with Aiden takes a big step forward. *happy squeals*
Oh, and there are dragons! Little elemental dragons that I adored and want to keep for myself... But I'm getting off topic. (If I was ever on one...)
The series is teetering at the top of a rollercoaster and I highly anticipate that the downward whoosh is going to be terrifying and exhilarating! It's been a slow climb to reach this point but I'm super excited to find out what happens next! So much is on the line now... Good stuff.

Duration: 6hrs 55min

Series narrated by Laurel Schroeder.
Listening speed 1.25x

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Monday 2 November 2020

Touch of Evil, Thrill of The Chase and Micaela's Big Bad


Some paranormal romance and urban fantasy for ya! After all... We're just coming out of the spooky season! 


The award-winning Weird Girls urban fantasy romance series continues to blow away modern fantasy and adventure fans with heart-stopping action and romance. Centered around four unique and powerful sisters, it’s time for Emme Wird, the youngest sister, to step into the supernatural spotlight.

Emme Wird, the healer and powerful telekinetic in the Wird family, hasn’t had the best of luck with males. While her sisters have found their mates and forever loves, Emme has found males that are better left as lost. Is a decent meal with polite conversation too much to ask for? Yes, it is.
When a pack member that Emme has dinner with is discovered dead and dismembered, it is up to Emme and her werewolf friend, Bren, to solve the murder. But spine-tingling danger and touches with evil have ways of bringing close friends closer.
Could the male that Emme searches for be right in front of her? Or will evil snatch him away from her, just as it did once before?


Touch of Evil is my second book by Cecy Robson, and my first book reading about the Wird sisters, and I enjoyed it immensely!
Coming into an existing series at book 10 is cray-cray but it wasn't so bad in this particular case... Touch of Evil is book one in Emme's series which just so happens to be part of the larger series so don't be put off! Everything you need to know about the world to understand the world, and characters, and what's going on is in this book. The only thing is you inevitably get spoilers for the earlier books in the Weird Girls series from reading this one... This doesn't bother me personally but I know it will others.

I found Emme to be likeable and a bit of a contradiction. She comes across as so quiet and sweet, like someone in need of protecting, but she's really quite formidable and fierce. I adored her relationship with Bren and found myself wanting to know much more about him - he's funny - as well as her relationship with her sisters. I enjoyed hearing about Emme's sisters and their mates but I'm guessing that I'll need to read the earlier books in the overarching series to get a lot of the info I want when it comes to them all... It's a minor niggle though. I knew what I was getting into when picking the book up.

Touch of Evil is easy to devour in one sitting. The story flows smoothly, has a nice mystery to solve, some action, some romance and some laughs but it very much felt like an introduction to something bigger. It was a book that was setting the scene for the next big battle in the world of the Wird sisters as well as paving the way for Emme and Bren to have a happy ever after.

With its mix of paranormal romance and urban fantasy, Touch of Evil was a hit for me and I'm excited to see what happens next!


Up-and-coming chef Natalia Spencer has enough on her plate dealing with a struggling restaurant and a corrupt manager selling her out of pantry and kitchen. She doesn't have time for arrogant customers, even a gorgeous corporate raider in a bespoke suit with muscles that just don't stop. Until, of course, he buys her restaurant and saves her life.
Logan Chase, alpha of his lion shifter pride, is intrigued when the feisty chef kicks him out of her restaurant. He's enraged when someone attacks her. And he's intoxicated when he finally gets close enough to kiss her. But when he shifts in front of her and his lion comes out to play, he risks losing Natalia forever.
Natalia just wants to cook and snuggle with a nice guy. Shacking up with a man who's also a lion means inviting a new level of crazy into her life, along with his unruly brothers, and even her werewolf best friends warn her away. Can she and Logan create a steamy relationship from scratch, or are they a recipe for disaster?


It's been a while since I read a good old fashioned paranormal romance of the shapeshifter variety and I enjoyed it well enough but I made the mistake of choosing to read a novella and, well, we all know how they go... Not enough words to truly undertake any world building or develop any depth in the characters. It also leads to a serious case of instalust followed by fast love so, yeah. Thrill of The Chase was a perfectly acceptable shifter romance but I wanted so much more than it gave me.
There's not much more to say other than that. There was a bit of a story, there was a little bit of danger, there was chemistry between Logan and Natalia, there was an instance of shapechanging and then there was some romantic drama before romantic declarations of love. It was that simple and it was fine... It passed an hour or so pleasantly reading but I won't remember it before too long.


I found my boyfriend mid-thrust in a vampire.
Gross. WTH, right? Also, a fork might've been thrown.
I expected to spend the night commiserating with my best friend.
That didn't happen. I found myself on a mission to save her.
And somehow, I woke up in the back of a vehicle, across from a guy who could be described as literal sex on a stick.

Then I found out a few things:
He's seriously and overwhelmingly powerful.
He's hot, like holy cannoli hot.
He's the Big Bad that I've been sensing, but no one knew what kind of a Big Bad he was.

Oh, and apparently, he's kidnapped me.


This was my first experience of Tijan's writing and I enjoyed it. As novella's go, Micaela's big bad was a good one. It had an interesting premise and a satisfying romance. I enjoyed Micaela's snark and banter and I liked the mystery that was Kieran. However, so much wasn't explained! Unsurprisingly, the "threat" was one dimensional, the characters - particularly the secondary characters - needed fleshing out a lot more and the story really would have worked better as a full-length novel... But, as I said, I enjoyed it and if the author was to write more in this world, I'd be ready and waiting to dive straight in! Novellas are just tricky beasts... Especially fantasy/paranormal novellas unless they're set in pre-existing worlds.


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