Blogmas: My Reading Habits Tag

I saw this tag over on Rachel Ann Writes’ Blog and thought I’d give it a go too…

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

Nowhere specific, just as long as it’s somewhere warm and comfortable – usually the sofa, or propped up in bed with my bedside lamp on. In winter I love reading by the fire with cosy socks and a cup of tea.

Bookmark or a random piece of trash?

Ideally always a bookmark, never a dog-eared page. If I don’t have a bookmark to hand I’ll use a ticket or a receipt from my purse, but then will change it over when I get home.

Can you stop reading anytime you want or do you have to stop at a certain page, chapter, part, etc.?

As long as it’s at the end of a page, I can stop – I’ve got no qualms about finishing in the middle of a chapter or halfway through a section. Usually I’ll stop because I’m tired, or have to start doing something else, which means I end up putting my book down straight away.

Do you eat or drink while reading?

Yep, I particularly enjoy reading with a mug of coffee – I’m not so good with juggling snacking and reading though. I think my brain can only handle one or two things at once.

Can you read while listening to music/watching TV?

Not really, which is odd because I can happily read when commuting or on a train/plane etc. with background noise around me. I can read with classical music in the background (or any music with no lyrics), but definitely not TV – I would get too distracted and lose my place.

One book at a time or several at once?

Ideally one book at a time, the only time I veer from this is if I’m reading one fiction and one non-fiction. My brain can’t handle multiple fiction books at one time, particularly if they’re the same genre too (e.g. crime – the stories just get muddled in my brain…)

Reading at home or everywhere?

Everywhere, always! Without fail, I always have a book in my handbag and an audiobook downloaded on Audible on my phone. I get nervous when I don’t have a book with me – particularly if I’m travelling somewhere or know that I’ll be waiting somewhere. Every spare five minutes can be valuable reading time.

Reading out loud or silently in your head?

Always in my head, I find reading out loud a bit creepy… it reminds me of teenage poetry recitals.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

Nope, unless it’s a non-fiction book with separate stand-alone chapters on specific things, I don’t understand why you’d want to do this. The author has written it in the way in which it is intended to be read – skipping ahead just ruins the storytelling IMO.

Breaking the spine or keeping it new?

I try and keep the spine looking new, but sometimes you just can’t read a book without breaking the spine (you know, the type of book which is bound super tight and you can’t quite read all the way to the far edge!). I look my books to look nice, but also well-loved and read, on my bookshelves, so either way is fine.

Do you write in books?

No, unless it is a special present and I’m writing the recipient a message. I never make notes or annotate my books – I’d rather write thoughts down on post it notes.

If you’d like to take part in this book tag, consider yourselves tagged! 

Blogmas: Ultimate Cosy Checklist

The cold weather has hit us hard this week – frost on the ground, ice on the road and even a flurry of snow in the sky, so today I thought I’d share today my ultimate cosy checklist for a warm, wintery evening to help ease stress in the run up to Christmas.

Knitted Blanket and slipper socks and fluffy PJs

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There’s nothing cosier than snuggling on the sofa under a thick knitted blanket, sat by a roaring fire in your fluffiest pyjamas and slipper socks. At the end of the day I love changing out of my work clothes, into lovely loungewear – as I’ve got older this is definitely something I’ve invested in as you can’t put a price on being comfortable!

A Big Mug (full of Tea!)
I always treat myself to a big mug full of tea in the evening (usually decaf, or I’ll be up all night…). I love the ritual of making a cup of tea before sitting down – there’s something soothing and calming about it, and it forces you to take a couple of minutes out of your day.

Candles burning 

Candles
I like to turn my home into a hygge haven with burning candles – whether they’re scented or unscented, there’s something about a flickering candle that makes you want to snuggle up, escaping the winter chill.

A good book
And lastly, but most importantly, a good book. The best part of a cosy evening is getting all warm, knowing you have a full evening ahead to hanker down and read a book. Absolute bliss.

What do you do at home to make it super cosy during the winter months?

Blogmas: Young Adult Gift Guide

Struggling with what to get the teen in your life? Here’s a couple of small ideas…

Le Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One by Philip Pullman – £14.99

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Seventeen years after Philip Pullman’s third volume of His Dark Materials trilogy sealed the door on Dust, daemons, witches and armoured bears, a tantalising new beginning now lies open.  A brand new chapter, as enthralling for fledgling Pullman readers as for ardent fans.

Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit – £11.99 on Amazon (I’ve seen it cheaper, but just can’t find a link at the moment)

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Perfect for fans of the magical world of Harry Potter – this edition of Trivial Pursuit features questions based on both the books and movies. The quiz has 600 questions that will entertain and educate even the biggest of fans. This is a bite-size game, so doesn’t feature the full board usually found with Trivial Pursuit, and it comes with coloured dice, cards and easy-to-carry wedge case.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green – £12.34

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In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Stranger Things Monopoly – £26.99

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Now, I know this isn’t a ‘bookish’ gift, but I couldn’t resist including it – such a great present for anyone out there who is a fan of Stranger Things (let’s face it, who isn’t…). In this Monopoly game inspired by the Netflix Original Series, Stranger Things, Will Byers has gone missing. Players choose an 80s-inspired token or one “ripped from the Upside Down” to move around the board trying to find him. Pretend to search the town of Hawkins and buy, sell, and trade…

Pride and Prejudice Zipped Pouch – The Literary Gift Company, £8.99

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This fantastic pencil case Features the Penguin design for Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice – it’s fully lined, and would make a brilliant makeup bag as well!

 

Blogmas: Gift Guide for Kids

And now for some gift ideas for the little people in your life…

A Guinea Pig Nativity – £5.24

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A Guinea Pig Nativity is the classic Christmas story as you’ve never seen it before: with (you guessed it) guinea pigs photographed in the starring roles. This is such a cute and quirky little stocking filler.

Roald Dahl Top Trumps – £5.99

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From Roald Dahl’s beloved books, his goodies and baddies come face-to-face in this fun Top Trumps game. Featuring characters from The BFG, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, play along and see who is the greediest and brainiest, the mischievous and the most cunning! This game is a great way to introduce younger children to the exciting world of Roald Dahl characters, and the perfect portable game to take away with you.

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher – £9.09

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The magical, moving and bestselling first children’s novel from Tom Fletcher. Forget everything you thought you knew about the North Pole, and set off on a Christmas Eve adventure with boy named William Trundle, an elf named Snozzletrump, Santa Claus, a nasty piece of work called the Hunter, and a most unusual dinosaur…

The Pocket Moomin Colouring Book – £5.00

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The Pocket Moomin Colouring Bookfeatures original artwork from the coveted archive of Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins; one of the most cherished children’s book series ever written.

The Folio Society Edition of Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White – £24.95

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This is a beautiful clothbound, illustrated edition of the children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web. One of the most beloved children’s classics of all time tells the story of how a little girl named Fern, with the help of a kind spider, saved one special pig. A must have for any mini book lover, as a keepsake for years to come.

Blogmas: Festive Reads

It’s time to snuggle down in front of the fire, with a cup of hot chocolate (or red wine…), cosy slipper socks and a good book, but you’re stuck for inspiration. Here’s a couple of festive reads, which I think are the perfect tonic for the colder months.

The Christmas Chronicles: Notes, stories and 100 essential recipes for midwinter by Nigel Slater

Nigel Slater

The Christmas Chronicles is the story of Nigel Slater’s love for winter, the scent of fir and spruce, ghost stories read with a glass of sloe gin, and beeswax candles with shadows dancing on the ceiling. With recipes, decorations, fables and quick fireside suppers, Nigel guides you through the essential preparations for Christmas and the New Year, with everything you need to enjoy the winter months.

Taking you from 1 November all the way to the end of January, The Christmas Chronicles covers everything from Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year to Epiphany. Throughout the season, Nigel offers over 100 recipes to see you through the build-up, the celebrations and the aftermath.

The Robin: A biography by Stephen Moss

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In twelve, exquisite chapters, natural history expert Stephen Moss transports us across the robin’s brief but glorious life. This is Britain’s favourite bird played out in full. It is an animal of contrasts; the born survivor, so pretty in feather and song, but fiercely territorial. This is a bird given to courage, its modest stature belying its ability to defend its turf. 

Beautifully presented with illustrations lifted from over a century of our shared culture, The Robin: A Biography is both a monthly chronicle of the bird’s life and also an investigation into why it symbolises so much. From being the gardener’s friend to its position in our folklore, Moss reveals this creature to be less a creature of the field as a mirror to ourselves.

Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson 

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This is a collection of stories to take you into Christmas Day full of the magic of the season. There are ghosts here and jovial spirits. Chances at love and tricks with time. There is frost and icicles, mistletoe and sledges. There’s a cat and a dog and a solid silver frog. There’s a Christmas cracker with a surprising gift inside. There’s a haunted house and a SnowMama. There are Yuletides and holly wreaths. Three Kings. And a merry little Christmas time.

For the icing on the Christmas cake, there are twelve festive recipes from Yuletides past and present. There’s Ruth Rendell’s red cabbage (a taste of the queen of crime’s own festive traditions), gravlax, turkey biryani, sherry trifle, Mrs Winterson’s mince pies and more.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie 

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It was only three days before Christmas. Stephen Farr looked distastefully at the crowded carriages. People! Incessant, innumerable people! And all so – so – what was the word – so drab looking! So alike, so horribly alike! It is Christmas Eve and not everyone is feeling full of the spirit of the season.

At the house of Simeon Lee the family gathers, estranged and embittered they hover around the cold-hearted, ailing patriarch awaiting the reason they have all been summoned. Then the family reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture, followed by a high-pitched wailing scream. Upstairs, the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed.

But when Hercule Poirot, who is staying in the village with a friend for Christmas, offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man…

Christmas Stories by Diana Secker Tesdell

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Christmas has inspired everything from intimate domestic dramas, to fanciful flights of the imagination, and the full range of its expression is represented in this collection of short stories. Each of the stories is imbued with Christmas spirit of one kind or another, and all are richly and indelibly entertaining.

Christmas with the Savages by Mary Clive

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Based on real events and people, this story of a small girl’s Christmas holiday in a large Edwardian country house is effortlessly funny. At Tamerlane Hall, Evelyn finds a horde of children: the gentle Glens, the plaintive Howliboos, and above all, the uninhibited Savages. They are controlled – or not – by a host of parents, supernumerary Uncles and Aunts, Nannies and nurserymaids. Evelyn survives the Christmas festivities – just – returning home none too soon! Seen through the eyes of a prim little eight-year-old, this is an amusing and touching account of a childhood a hundred years ago.

 

Blogmas: Bookish Stocking Fillers

If you’re looking for a unique gift this year for a book lover in your life but don’t want to splurge the cash, or are unsure about what books your bookish friend has/ hasn’t read, here are some stocking filler ideas – all for less than a tenner!

Reading Journal – Literary Emporium, £4.50

Journal

A stylish A5 reading journal to record your thoughts on your recent reads. A perfect gift for book lovers and avid readers – even if they prefer to use Good Reads, this is a really cute little pad for them to jot down thoughts and ideas about each book their reading.

Penguin Books Tea Towel – Penguin, £8.99

Teatowel

This tea towel would make a lovely gift for a book lover who is also a keen cook. Also, I’ve got friends who don’t have much storage space for books as they live in small flats so this makes a great space saving, book-themed gift. They have a few different designs on the Penguin shop, including some vintage alphabet icons.

The Book Was Better Pin – Punkypins, Etsy, £7.00

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Now, how often do you hear book lovers utter these words. As soon as I saw this little enamel pin it made me smile. This teeny pin would lovely on a backpack or jacket and proudly shows that you’re a book lover, without being too in your face. Even better, it is from a small business and was hand designed in the UK.

Book Lover’s Cup of Tea Infuser, The Book Depository – £5.99

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Most book lovers I know love curling up with a good book, in cosy clothes and a cup of tea in hand. This gift marries tea and reading – The Book Lover’s Cup of Tea is a book-shaped tea infuser (titled A Tale of Two Ci-Teas) that offers two ways to brew: Dunk the entire book into your cup, or let the cover rest on the rim of your tea cup and hang the tea-filled pages into your hot water to steep. A gift which gives the perfect cosy reading experience.

Map of Fictional London – The Literary Gift Company, £5.99

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I absolutely love this one – it is a navigable map of London featuring streets, parks, gardens, prisons, hospitals, rivers etc. as mentioned in over 600 novels, plays and poems. It features places from over 400 different authors’ work, including including Angela Carter, Agatha Christie, Neil Gaiman, Shirley Conran, Douglas Adams, Charles Dickens, Lee Child, Iris Murdoch, Geoff Ryman and many many more. This gift is also available as a poster – if you know the recipient well, you could always frame it for their house, or plan a special walking trip around London visiting places from their favourite reads.

Reading This, Bookmark Pad – Waterstones, £3.95

Bookmark

This is similar to the journal, but in a bookmark form – this is a pad of bookmarks, which you can keep notes on. I think this is a perfect gift for someone who has a blog, or regularly attends bookclub as there is a little section for ideas to discuss and conversations to strike up. You can’t write loads on it, but it’s good to jot down small notes as you’re reading.

I’ll be posting a few other gift guides during Blogmas including the best bookish gifts under £25 and special books to buy.

Blogmas: London Indie Bookshops

I love visiting bookshops – large and small – inevitably splurging whenever I’m in one. Near me, there’s only one independent bookshop, the wonderful Chicken and Frog – sadly it only stocks children’s books, which means I tend to end up in my local Waterstones more often than not. If I’m visiting London I try to (browse) and shop a little more consciously by supporting and visiting independent bookshops where possible.

Today, here are my top five to visit when you’re in the capital.

Persephone Books
59 Lamb’s Conduit St, London WC1N 3NB

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I love the premise behind Persephone Books; it is both a publisher and a bookshop. Persephone reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers. All of its 125 books are intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written and are chosen to appeal to busy people wanting titles that are neither too literary nor too commercial. The books are beautifully published, which is also reflected in how the shop is laid out – the majority of the books have simple grey front covers, with decorative, colourful end papers. Each book has a bookmark that matches the inside front/ back cover of the book.

Daunt Books
84 Marylebone High St, Marylebone, London W1U 4QW

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Daunt Books is a chain of independent bookstores in London. The one I’m giving a shout out to today is the Marylebone shop,  which specialises in travel literature and is split by country, which I find fascinating – from stunning travel memoirs about expeditions to exotic fiction based in far away places. The premises is beautiful, as you can see in the picture above – it was originally built for antiquarian booksellers Francis Edwards in 1910. Daunt Books in Marylebone is such a treat to visit, particularly if you’re a keen and inquisitive traveller who is curious about the world we live in.

Word on the Water
Regents Canal – just around the corner from the British Library

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Photo: Andrew Testa for The New York Times

One of the most unique book shops I’ve ever visited, Word on the Water is a floating bookshop; a bookshop on a boat. The store is a 50ft, 1920s Dutch barge, which has been lovingly transformed to house shelves of books to buy. The guys that own Word on the Water are so friendly and are always more than happy to engage in a good bookish conversation.

Goldsboro Books
23-27 Cecil Ct, London WC2N 4EZ

Goldsboro

Goldsboro Books is the place to go if you’re looking for special book – Goldsboro specialises in signed first edition books. As with all of the bookshops on the list, the booksellers are so knowledgable and happy to answer questions and recommend a read, or two. The guys behind Goldsboro Books have created the UK’s largest first edition Book of the Month Club which enables book lovers to start collecting books which they believe will be a joy to read and also books which are worth collecting for the future.

Skoob Books
66 The Brunswick, off Marchmont Street, London WC1N 1AE

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Skoob Books is literally packed to the rafters with over 55,000 different second-hand / pre-owned books, 5,000 of these are replaced every month so there’s always something new to discover. There is something special about Skoob, it feels almost magical as the shelves are crammed tightly, almost toppling over, with different volumes of much loved books. This is always a great place to go if you’re looking for a special edition, or specific cover – you might just be lucky enough to find it!

#Blogmas #Christmas

Blogmas: December TBR

December is going to be a busy month for me, we’re finishing off our house and hoping to be in by Christmas (bit of a long shot…) so it’ll be full of work, DIY and decorating. I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for reading, apart from over the break between Christmas and New Year, so my December reading list is pretty short, sweet, light-hearted and Christmas themed.

Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva  

MrDickens

Charles Dickens should be looking forward to Christmas. But when his latest book, Martin Chuzzlewit, is a flop, his publishers give him an ultimatum. Either he writes a Christmas book in a month or they will call in his debts and he could lose everything. Dickens has no choice but to grudgingly accept…

Christmas With You by Sheila O’Flanagan 

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Tucked away in the Irish countryside, the Sugar Loaf Lodge is opening its door for the festive season. With snow falling on the mountains outside and warm fires roaring inside, it’s the perfect place for guests to celebrate the happiest time of the year. But what if you’ve just had your heart broken? Or discovered that the man you’re married to has lied to you? What if a secret from your past has finally come back to haunt you?

For some of the guests arriving at the Sugar Loaf Lodge, Christmas is looking far from tranquil. But can they find the magic and romance of the season within the walls of this beautiful hotel?

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak 

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It’s Christmas, and the Birch family is gathering for the first time in years.

Emma is elated at having everybody under one roof, but her oldest child, Olivia, is only home because she has nowhere else to go. She’s just returned from treating an epidemic abroad and must stay in quarantine for a week – and so, too should her family.

For the next seven days, no one can leave the house and no one can enter.

It doesn’t sound too hard. But a week with your nearest and dearest can feel like an eternity, especially when they’re all harbouring secrets.

One of whom is about to come knocking at their door…

An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe 

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“My mother is not a foodie. But for as long as I can remember, once a year, she becomes possessed of a profound and desperate need to serve up a perfect roast turkey. Faced with a walk into the village though, she might think ‘oh, f*** it’ and decide to get a frozen one from Bejams on the 23rd and leave it to defrost in the downstairs toilet for not quite 48 hours.”

From perennially dry turkeys to Christmas pudding fires, from the round robin code of conduct to the risks and rewards of re-gifting, An Almost Perfect Christmas is an ode to the joy and insanity of the most wonderful time of the year.

What will you be reading over the Christmas period?

Blogmas: November Reads

During November I stuck to Non-Fiction November, reading no fiction whatsoever, however I didn’t get round to all the books I’d planned for the month (as is always the case…). I ended up doing all of my reading in the first half of the month and then got distracted by freelance work, DIY and decorating…whoops.

Last month I read:

Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth – 4/5

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I picked this one up on holiday earlier this year – in the hotel we were staying, they had a library where you could swap books or just take books that had been left. I wouldn’t have picked this up if I’d have been paying, but I’m so glad I did as it was a really enjoyable, quick and easy read. As you might have guessed, it’s the book that the TV series of the same name – Call The Midwife – is based. Jennifer’s voice is candid, she’s a great storyteller, and whilst it is gory in places it’s a great study into 1950s London and how midwifery and medicine has changed over the years.

The Gender Games: The problem with men and women, from someone who has been both by Juno Dawson – 4/5 

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The Gender Games is part memoir and part social study on gender; it explores what it is to be a transgender woman in the 21st Century. It really opened my eyes and answered questions I didn’t know I had; it wasn’t patronising or forceful, but rather it laid out facts, arguments and discussions in an intelligent, unique and insightful way. I listened to the audiobook of this one and it was informal, chatty and funny – Juno is such a great narrator.

Astrophysics for people in a hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson – 3/5 

Astrophysics

This short book packs a punch and does exactly what it says on the tin. deGrasse Tyson answers questions we’ve always wanted to know the answer to: What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? Whilst this is super interesting, I felt it was very similar to the series Cosmos on Netflix, which I had just finished watching. I took quite a lot from this book, but even some of the simplest of concepts went over my head…however, that says more about my scientific ability rather than deGrasse Tyson’s explanations.

Little Black Book: A toolkit for working women by Otegha Uwagba – 3/5

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I was sent this one as part of the Ninja Book Swap – it is a modern career guide for women, giving advice on how to build a successful self-made career. Now, this is nothing groundbreaking, but it is a great little book to dip in and out of for tips and hints to keep you on the right path. I liked that it had lots of resources at the back of the book to continue your reading.

For the rest of December I’ll be taking part in Blogmas. I’m hoping to post every day in the lead up to Christmas, but if all else fails I’ll post every other day.