Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Guest Review: Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

Everyone adores Christmas . . .
Especially Lizzy Kingham. But this year, she is feeling unloved and underappreciated 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?
The brand new novel from the Sunday Times top-ten bestselling author of A Family Recipe and The Beach Hut. Bursting with love, hope, forgiveness - and plenty of Christmas cheer!

Review: How lovely to be transported back to the little seaside town of Everdene with its line of beach huts along the top of the sand. Fans of Veronica Henry will undoubtedly, like me, be familiar with the setting after reading her earlier novels, The Beach Hut and The Beach Hut Next Door. Being an ardent reader of Veronica's books and a lover of Christmas stories, this one was always a must read for me. Even so, I was not prepared with the way in which this festive tale pulled me in and had me lost to the real world from start to finish, a journey of just a few hours, with a few tears along the way. 

The story centres on Lizzy Kingham, a busy mother of twin teenagers who loves the hustle and bustle of Christmas and making it perfect for everyone every year. This year is different though, she seems weighed down by a series of events and suddenly feels fed up with being what she sees as taken for granted and put upon by her family. Very much out of character, she leaves them all to it and heads off to Everdene and the beach hut owned by her friend where they spent a glorious summer in their late teens. However, the peaceful and restful solitary Christmas she expects there turns out to be a little different from her imaginings as she meets up with some others also escaping from their lives for various reasons. 

I have already read quite a few festive stories this year, but I think this has to be my favourite so far. I found this a really compelling story that was at once heartwarming and heart-rending. Many busy mums will identify with Lizzy and her feelings of being under appreciated. As Lizzy and her family found in the story, many women could understand the desire to run away from the situation. The other people she meets at the beach are also in situations that readers can recognise. That's what makes this such a good read - all the characters and their situations are believable. Of course, the beach huts sound absolutely gorgeous, equipped as they are with all mod cons; definitely not a bad place to spend Christmas, or any other time of the year come to that. Needless to say, I would recommend this 5 star read to all. It would certainly make a great addition to a Christmas stocking. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Items/Merch I Would Like to Own 13/1//18

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Now putting this list together, and very much before that too, I know that I am very lucky to have been able to buy and have sent lots of lovely bookish items and bookish merch, just look at my latest book haul!

But there are of course always more bookish goodies to be had! I will leave links to as many of these as possible... (basically I just went to my favourites section on Etsy!)

Monday, 12 November 2018

Movie Reviews: October 28th-November 10th

Sorry today's post is a little late but I just couldn't fit it in this weekend so movie reviews on a Monday-yey! This fortnight, yes its been another 2 weeks of films, I saw four new releases, one older film and one special event-a good mix! I saw them at three different cinemas, nearly four but one was evacuated so... In case you want more detailed thoughts on these films, go and check out my video which was also uploaded today and I will leave at the bottom of this post. 

Yes another Disney classic that I haven't seen. I thought this one was alright and I realised that I had heard the music from it before. I saw it right before Halloween and I felt like it got me ready for Christmas. I was glad that I watched it but probably wouldn't watch it again. 

Oh my goodness I loved everything about this film and wanted to watch it again as soon as I came out the cinema, if only I didn't have to go to work. I saw it in a Dolby screen so the sound and the picture were super HD but I would consider seeing it again in 3D just to see the difference and report back to you what it was like so let me know if you want me to do that. Jack Whitehall and Omid Djalili were so funny in it, I know other people who have seen it here have noticed them. I loved the mix of music and ballet throughout. It felt very Disney but also had lots of unexpected surprises!

I knew when I saw the trailer for this one that I definitely wanted to see it and it is basically just these four dames talking about heir lives and careers. There are some laugh out loud moments, the whole theatre was laughing at several points throughout the film. I was a little disappointed in the way it was shot, I felt like some of the clips and the cutaways that they had edited in had nothing to do with the next segment of talking, like they had just put in in there because they had to have something different every ten minutes or something. If you are interested in the lives of these British actresses then you will definitely enjoy this very candid chat and interview style film but there were definitely some things about the editing and shots that I questioned. 

Of course I loved this one. Again I saw in Dolby so it felt like being at a rock concert. I've also done that thing where I watch interviews with the actors and making of snippets I've found online since watching the film so you can tell how much I enjoyed it. If you get the chance go and see this and if you can do it as a double bill with A Star is Born then lucky luck you, go for it!

This was one I knew from the trailers that I definitely wanted to go and see. It is based on David Sheff's book so it is a true story. Nick Sheff also has a book out that recounts his side of the story but the film is from David's point of view. This film is heartbreaking, very slow and quiet but really shows just how far a parent's love with stretch. I was amazed by this story, I did cry, but I generally just felt every moment of this one. If you're feeling a little fragile, I would wait until you're a little stronger to go and see this one, that's your care warning from me!

I got to see a screening of this awesome musical in the cinema-how cool is that? And better still, I was the only one in the cinema, and I had to get someone to actually start the film since it got to 8 minutes after the start time and it wasn't playing yet! But nevertheless it was awesome to get to see this again and in a completely different setting. I wish that the movie theatre had publicised this because I only stumbled across it by accident and they were playing it for 2 days, 2 screenings each day and I fear those other screenings were as empty as mine. I saw this in London in May and this one was screened from one of the Sheffield performances so it was the same cast with a couple of differences. I was a geek and took my programme so that I had something to read during the 20 minute interval. If this comes up again in a cinema near you, go and watch it because its such a great musical. 

I also had that thing where I'd spent nearly 3 hours watching people who all sound like me and then came out of the movie theatre and was shocked to find no one who sounded like me anymore, odd!

Let me know, as always, if there is a new release you would like to hear my thoughts on, I am always happy to go and see something I hadn't planned on seeing and tell me in the comments if you have seen anything awesome at the movies this week!

Friday, 9 November 2018

Review: I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

For so many people, reading isn't just a hobby or a way to pass the time--it's a lifestyle. Our books shape us, define us, enchant us, and even sometimes infuriate us. Our books are a part of who we are as people, and we can't imagine life without them.

I'd Rather Be Reading is the perfect literary companion for everyone who feels that way. In this collection of charming and relatable reflections on the reading life, beloved blogger and author Anne Bogel leads readers to remember the book that first hooked them, the place where they first fell in love with reading, and all of the moments afterward that helped make them the reader they are today. Known as a reading tastemaker through her popular podcastWhat Should I Read Next?, Bogel invites book lovers into a community of like-minded people to discover new ways to approach literature, learn fascinating new things about books and publishing, and reflect on the role reading plays in their lives.

The perfect gift for the bibliophile in everyone's life, I'd Rather Be Reading will command an honored place on the overstuffed bookshelves of any book lover.

Review: This was such a great collection of essays and before I say anything else, I'm putting it out there, it is a must for any book lover. I found myself nodding along with this book at every turn, saying 'yes! That's so me' all of the time. Laughing and really feeling like Anne Bogel was an old friend and we were just chatting about something that we totally have in common!

I listened to this one on audiobook but I now have a signed mini hardback because the book is just so cute and I have already re-read one or two of the essays in this book because I just identified with them so much. The audio book is read by the author. She has a podcast and so you can tell she was a natural at talking about books, I enjoyed having her in the car with me chatting about how to organise your bookshelves, what happens when all your holds come in at once at the library and what you do when you find your book twin. Those were some of my favourites. 

Genuinely if you have ever struggled to finish a book or felt guilty for not doing that, there is advice for you in this book. If you have ever wailed to the librarian that all of your holds came in and there is no way you will ever be able to read them all  before they're due back, this is for you. And if you're telling people everyone who asks how you read so much that the key is to always have a book with you and that is a mantra to live by, then this book is for you. With the holiday season coming up this is definitely a book to give as a gift so you can share it with other book lovers in your life. I loved it and am glad to have it in pride of place on my bookshelves!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Review: The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson

Eve Glace - co-owner of the theme park Winterworld - is having a baby and her due date is a perfectly timed 25th December. And she’s decided that she and her husband Jacques should renew their wedding vows with all the pomp that was missing the first time.  But growing problems at Winterworld keep distracting them … 

Annie Pandoro and her husband Joe own a small Christmas cracker factory, are well set up and happy together despite life never blessing them with a much-wanted child.  But when Annie finds that the changes happening to her body aren’t typical of the menopause but pregnancy, her joy is uncontainable. 

Palma Collins has agreed to act as a surrogate, hoping the money will get her out of the gutter in which she finds herself.  But when the couple she is helping split up, is she going to be left carrying a baby she never intended to keep?

Annie, Palma and Eve all meet at the ‘Christmas Pudding Club’, a new directive started by a forward-thinking young doctor to help mums-to-be mingle and share their pregnancy journeys. Will this group help each other to find love, contentment and peace as Christmas approaches?

Review: Oh this brought back such wonderful memories of reading the Yorkshire pudding club for the same time. Women supporting each other, various story lines to get your teeth into and of course that wonderful Yorkshire setting! I cannot stress enough what a salve it is to have Yorkshire dialect and Yorkshire settings mentioned in Milly's books every time. They make me feel like I am visiting home every time I read them and I swear my accent is stronger after I finish each book!

I loved catching up with some old faces as well! It was great to find out how Eve was getting on after the opening of Winterworld and dive back into her world as well. I was so pleased when I found out that she was expecting as well, I enjoyed seeing her journey over the course of the novel. Annie was great to read about as well. I love the fact that she is so in denial about even thinking she could be pregnant initially. I was telling her off a little initially. I love how passionate she is about her business as well!

I think Palma was my favourite character to read about and her thread of the novel definitely had the most drama and had me gasping,. I wanted to mother her and just tell her everything was going to be OK and I am glad that she found some women in her life to befriend and also to give her some of the support that she needed!

There were so many moments that made me laugh throughout this novel. I mean the fact that we have a cracker company in the book means that we have some great cracker jokes but also all of the more embarrassing features of pregnancy and relationships. There are also some very real moments and I think I cried a total of four times. It really was a wonderful read and I really do hope we might possibly get a glimpse of the summer pudding club at some point in the future! If you're a Milly fan then you won't be disappointed and if this is going to be your first then I would definitely recommend ordering her entire back catalogue now-you're going to need it!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Guest Review: An Island Christmas by Jenny Colgan

Christmas on the remote Scottish island of Mure is bleak, stark - and incredibly beautiful.

It's a time for hunkering down, getting cosy in front of whisky barrel wood fires, and enjoying a dram with the people you love - unless, of course, you're accidentally pregnant to your ex-boss, and don't know how to tell him. In what should be the season of peace and goodwill on earth, will Joel think Flora is a bearer of glad tidings?

Meanwhile Saif, the doctor and refugee from war-torn Syria is trying to enjoy his first western Christmas with his sons - but without his missing wife. Can the little family possibly find comfort and joy?
Travel to the beautiful northern edge of the world and join the welcoming community of Mure for an unforgettable Christmas.


Review: This is the 4th book in a series set on Mure, an island situated far to the north of Scotland. I have read all the other books in the series and was really looking forward to getting into this one and reacquainting myself with the characters from the previous stories. I was certainly not disappointed; as soon as I started to read, I was transported once more to this lovely but desolate island and immersed in the lives of its inhabitants. Although part of a series, this book could be read as a standalone. 

As with the other books in the series, the story centres mainly on Flora MacKenzie, who has returned to the island after a short spell working as a legal assistant in London. She has settled back into Island life, running a successful cafe/bakery as well as looking after her father and grown up brothers. However, she suddenly finds herself expecting a baby and not at all sure how the father, her ex-boss Joel, an American attorney, is going to react to the news. She is not the only person facing a dilemma in the run-up to Christmas. Saif, the island's doctor and Syrian refugee, is no longer sure that this is the best place to bring up his sons. American millionaire Colton, who has invested in the island and now lives there, is gravely ill and considering the future for his family. On top of everything else, a huge storm is brewing, adding to the overall drama as the story builds to a crescendo. 

I found this a really compelling story. Once started, I just had to keep on reading right to the end. It is a tale that has every emotion condensed within its pages. There is drama, romance and heartbreak, and all so well written; I found myself in turn smiling and laughing and crying, as well as sitting on the edge of my seat. Jenny Colgan has completed this book with a few recipes for Scottish treats which Flora might be serving in her cafe. I really hope that this is not the end of the series about Mure; I would love to know how things pan out for some of my favourite characters.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Monday, 5 November 2018

Review: Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships that Changed History by Sam Maggs

A fun and feisty tour of famous girl BFFs from history who stuck together and changed the world.

Spanning art, science, politics, activism, and even sports, these girl squads show just how essential female friendship has been throughout history and throughout the world. In this hilarious and heartfelt book, geek girl Sam Maggs takes you on a tour of some of history's most famous female BFFs, including:

   • Anne Bonny and Mary Read, the infamous lady pirates who sailed the seven seas and plundered with the best of the men 
   • Jeanne Manon Roland and Sophie Grandchamp, Parisian socialites who landed front-row seats (from prison) to the French Revolution 
   • Sharon and Shirley Firth, the First Nations twin sisters who would go on to become Olympic skiiers and break barriers in the sport 
   • The Edinburgh Seven, the band of pals who fought to become the first women admitted to medical school in the United Kingdom 
   • The Zohra Orchestra, the ensemble from Afghanistan who defied laws, danger, and threats to become the nation's first all-female musical group 

Fun, feisty, and delightful to read—with empowering illustrations by artist Jenn Woodall—it's the perfect gift for your bestfriend.

Review: Well this was a wonderful non-fiction read. I actually bought the audiobook so I could listen whilst I was out and about but I was glad I had the physical book to be able to see the illustrations and the contents to reference back to sections I enjoyed. As a side note, the naked book is absolutely beautiful and really is a reason to buy this book aside from anything else-trust me!

I really really loved the way this book was structured. It is divided into athlete squads; political & activist squads; warrior squads; scientist squads and artist squads. This meant that you were able to find a section you were interested in and start there or easily reference back to a specific group of women when looking for your favourites. I also liked that fact that is was highlighted the different areas women could team up in and it actually brought quite a few names to the forefront that I hadn't heard mentioned before. 

Surprisingly, my favourite section was the Scientists squads. Aside from the women covered in the book and movie Hidden Figures, I hadn't heard of any of these groundbreaking women and I enjoyed hearing about women dominating in a world usually controlled by men. It was great to read about women taking and stand and not just in recent history. One of the other key ting that needs to be noted about this book is that women from all through time and from all over the world are highlighted. I had no idea about the Japanese women's volleyball team or the Dahomey Amazons, for example and I am glad that I know them now. 

Some other books similar to this one have been criticised recently for only including single women and so I definitely think that this book is timely and relevant. It highlights what power women can have at any time and anywhere when they stand united rather than dividing and trying to do everything alone. I really enjoyed the format and the language used and definitely recommend this one, perhaps as a holiday gift for a female in your life!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US