Archive | December, 2010

My year in books – favourites of 2010

31 Dec

I read 74 books this year but as I didn’t start this blog until June, I only reviewed 45 of them on here. I’ve decided to pick my favourites from books released this year and have linked reviews where I posted them. I couldn’t pick an absolute favourite as I loved all of these books for different reasons so, in release date order, my books of the year are:

The Blue Bloods Series (published throughout 2010 by Atom)

Actually a bit of a cheat as I read all five of the books in the series when they were released this year plus the companion book Keys to the Repository. This is my absolute favourite vampire series at the moment and I can’t wait for the next installment Bloody Valentine: A Blue Bloods Novella which is released in January 2011.

The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne (published in May 2010 by Hodder)

 I loved this story of a very modern finishing school. Hester Browne was a new author for me this year and I’m hoping to read her previous novels in 2011 and am already looking forward to her new book Swept off her Feet which is released in March 2011.

Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon (published in July 2010 by Simon and Schuster) Cover of Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon

I’m a huge fan of Paige Toon’s books and have read them all. Pictures of Lily was the perfect summer love story and I’m already counting the days to the release of her next book Baby be Mine a much awaited sequel to Johnny be Good.

I Heart Paris by Lindsey Kelk (published by Harper in July 2010)

Angela’s adventures in the ‘I Heart…’ series never fail to make me smile and her jaunt through Paris was another brilliant summer read.  I Heart Paris is also on the Romantic Novelists’ Association longlist for the Pure Passion Romantic Novel of the Year Award so good luck Lindsey when the shortlist is announced in February!

The Ivy by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur (published by Greenwillow books in August 2010)

A brilliant debut and start to a new college based series following Callie Andrews as she starts her first year at Harvard University. The next book in the series, Secrets is out in May 2011.

Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (published by Transworld in September 2010)
In July I set myself a Shopaholic Challenge after confessing that I hadn’t read any of Sophie Kinsella’s books. The challenge was to read and review all of the Shopaholic series before the publication of Mini Shopaholic in September. I had an amazing response to the challenge and really enjoyed it. Mini Shopaholic is a fab addition to the series and I hope we see more of Becky and the gang soon.

 Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (published by Bloomsbury in October 2010)

The sories of Andi (modern day New Yorker) and Alex (occupant of Paris during the French Revolution)  collide in this brilliant historical fiction novel. It’s an absolutely gripping read.

Welcome to my World by Miranda Dickinson (published by Avon in November 2010)

One of my favourite reads this winter, Miranda Dickinson’s second novel sees protagonist Harri locked in the loo for the majority of the book as she ponders the events that have brought her to her hiding place. A lovely warm, romantic winter read.

From Notting Hill with Love … Actually by Ali McNamara (published by Sphere in November 2010) 

My favourite ending in a book this year, this book tells the story of film obsessed Scarlett as she tries to live her life like the movies whilst house sitting in Notting Hill.  A wonderful debut from Ali McNamara and I’m looking forward to reading more from her in 2011.

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (published by Atom in December 2010)

A late addition to my favourite books of the year, Nightshade was released earlier this week and is set to be a huge hit in 2011. Also my favourite cover of the year and I can’t wait for the next book in the series, Wolfsbane.

So, that’s my list of favourite reads this year. What do you think? What was your favourite book of 2010?

Book Review – Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

28 Dec

She can control her pack, but not her heart …

‘I wanted him to kiss me – wished he could smell the desire that I knew was pouring off me. You can’t, Calla. This boy isn’t the one for you.’

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: graduation, marriage and then a life leading her pack. But when she defies her masters’ laws to save a human boy, she must choose. Is one boy worth losing everything?

Nightshade is the first book in the Witches War Series and Andrea Cremer’s debut novel. Seventeen year old Calla Tor is the leader of the Nightshade pack. Calla and her pack have the ability to shift into wolf form at will and are designated ‘Guardians’, charged with protecting the secrets and sacred sites of their masters ‘The Keepers’ from their enemies ‘The Seekers’. Calla, as female Alpha, is the leader of her pack and is destined to unite with her opposite number Renier (Ren) Bane, Alpha of the Bane pack bringing their packs together in a powerful alliance.

The book starts explosively as Calla breaks the rules to save a lone hiker who is being attacked by a bear in the woods. Calla thinks she has got away with her crime until the hiker she saved shows up as the new boy at school, the mysterious Shay Doran. Shay makes it clear that he remembers Calla but also marks himself out as different by not having the natural human reaction to the ‘Guardian’ packs (to run in the other direction). The plot becomes all the more intriguing when Calla, Ren and their packs are asked to protect and look after Shay by the Keepers.

Woven into the story, the love triangle between Calla, Ren and Shay provides a brilliant background against which the mysteries surrounding the relationships between the wolves and their masters play out. Calla knows that it is her duty to unite with Ren and lead the new pack and she finds herself strongly drawn to the enigmatic Alpha male that she has been destined for since birth. At the same time though, she cannot forget Shay and as she spends more time with him she finds herself more and more drawn to him raising the question; will she follow her destiny and ‘unite’ with Ren or will she forsake all that she knows to be with Shay? 

I loved that Calla is a strong female character; she isn’t afraid to speak out and stand up to Ren or anyone else for that matter. She has been raised as a warrior and that gives a real edge to her character. The dynamic between her and Ren, who has a reputation as a ladies man, is also very interesting and I enjoyed seeing how their relationship developed through the book. Their respective pack-mates are also well developed and interesting characters; I particularly liked Calla’s younger brother Ansel and her second Bryn and am looking forward to finding out what happens to them next.

Shay and Calla make a series of discoveries that throw everything Calla has been raised to believe into question.  As the book progresses there are so many more questions than answers that I was reading as quickly as I could to find out what would happen next. I was expecting to like this book but I was surprised to find that it gripped me in the same way that Twilight did (dare I even say, more so?!). This is a book that will appeal to young adult and adult paranormal romance fans alike and I would highly recommend it to anyone. The mythology is complex and well thought out with a huge cast of fantastic characters and creatures who move seamlessly through our world; the romantic element is gripping and the plot fast paced. Nightshade is full of mystery and kept me guessing until the end. In fact, having read Nightshade, I’m still guessing as to who is the true enemy and I can’t wait for the next installment, Wolfsbane which will be out in July 2011!

For those who can’t wait that long, there is a prequel novella Shadow Days available to download free from Amazon (in the product details section of the Nightshade page).

Nightshade is out today and I’d like to thank the publisher, Atom for sending me a copy to review. You can find out more about the Nightshade Series, Andrea Cremer and Atom books at: http://nightshadeseries.co.uk/

British Books Challenge 2011

22 Dec

This is my 100th blog post and what better way to celebrate being a UK book blogger than signing up for the British Books Challenge?  The BBC (love it!) is a new challenge hosted by The Bookette to promote our fab British authors. I’m signing up under the ‘Home Grown’ category and will be aiming to read at least 12 books by British authors in 2011 – I’m hoping it will be a lot more than that but 12 will do to begin! I’ll be reading a mixture of old and new, young adult and adult books: and will be linking my reviews here as I go along.

Here are some of the books I’m hoping to read:

1. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
2. The Love Verb by Jane Green
3. The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison
4.  Brown Owl’s Guide to Life by Kate Harrison
5. Entangled by Cat Clarke
6. Beautiful Creatures by Lulu Taylor
7. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sarah Manning
8. The Girls’ Guide to Homemaking by Amy Bratley
9. Swept Off Her Feet by Hester Browne
10. The Single Girl’s To-Do List by Lindsey Kelk
11. Jessie Hearts NYC by Keris Stainton
12. The Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolff

Book Review: Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley

21 Dec

Christmas has always been a sad time for young widow Holly Brown, so when she’s asked to look after a remote house on the Lancashire moors, the opportunity to hide herself away is irresistible – the perfect excuse to forget about the festivities.

Sculptor, Jude Martland, is determined that this year there will be no Christmas after his brother runs off with his fiancée and he is keen to avoid the family home. However, he will have to return by the twelfth night of the festivities, when the hamlet of Little Mumming hold their historic festivities and all of his family are required to attend.

Meanwhile, Holly is finding that if she wants to avoid Christmas, she has come to the wrong place. When Jude unexpectedly returns on Christmas Eve he is far from delighted to discover that Holly seems to be holding the very family party he had hoped to avoid.

Suddenly, the blizzards come out of nowhere and the whole village is snowed in. With no escape, Holly and Jude get much more than they bargained for – it looks like the twelve days of Christmas are going to be very interesting indeed!

When I originally picked my Christmas reads for this year, Twelve Days of Christmas wasn’t on my list, but then I heard lots of good things about it and saw it on offer in my local supermarket so I decided to treat myself. I’m so glad I did because this is a lovely Christmas read and I really enjoyed it.

The story focuses on Holly Brown, who despite having a lovely Christmassy first name, goes out of her way not to celebrate Christmas. Holly is a chef and to give herself a break during the winter season, she is also a professional house sitter. At the start of the book, we find out that Holly is a widow, having lost her husband in an accident at Christmas time eight years earlier. As the book opens, Holly’s gran who raised her has also passed away, leaving her without family. Her booked house sitting job has also fallen through and all looks to be going wrong, but at the last minute an emergency call from the Homebodies agency sees Holly heading off to Little Mumming to look after a large house called Old Place.

I took to Holly straight away; she is a no nonsense, straight-talking character and although a bit of a recluse to begin with, I liked her more and more as the book went on. The story is told entirely from Holly’s perspective and her sharp thoughts and quick comments made me smile. I enjoyed seeing things from her point of view and watching as she gradually changes through the book.

The relationship between Holly and Jude Martland (the man Holly is house sitting for) is well written and at times they seemed like a modern day Darcy and Elizabeth with their arguments and assumptions about each other. For the first half of the book, Jude is abroad and he and Holly have some particularly fiery telephone conversations but things really begin to hot up when Jude returns on Christmas Eve. Whilst Holly and Jude were both hoping for quiet Christmases alone, circumstances conspire to cajole Holly into hosting several of Jude’s family members over the Christmas period and heavy blizzards mean that the family (and a few extras) are stranded together at Old Place.

I really liked the supporting characters in this book – they are all quite dramatic and eccentric in their own way but my favourites were quirky Oriel, owner of the local shop and twelve year old Jess, Jude’s niece who is writing her own vampire novel!Holly soon attracts the attention of local farmer, George and with the addition of Jude’s competitive brother Guy and stranded actor, Michael, there are plenty of suitors for Holly but she is determined not to fall in love again.

At the same time as Holly is having her Christmas plans turned upside down, there is also a sub-plot running through the book involving some diaries that Holly discovered after her Gran’s death. From her arrival in Little Mumming, each chapter starts with an excerpt from one of the diaries, revealing a family mystery. Holly exhibits the patience of a saint not to skip ahead and find out what happened to her Gran but it works brilliantly to keep the plot moving and kept my interest right to the very last page.

This is the first book of Trisha’s that I’ve read and I will certainly be adding her others to my reading pile. Twelve Days of Christmas is written with warmth and humour and is perfectly paced to snuggle up with this Christmas. If you are looking for drama and action, this probably isn’t the book for you but if you are looking for a nice gentle read that will leave you with a warn glow, this is it.

4/5

You can find out more about Trisha and her books at: http://www.trishaashley.com/

In my mailbox (17)

19 Dec

It’s been a quiet book month for me and this is the first week I’ve had books to post about.  I got some very exciting mail this week – it felt like Christmas came early!

For review

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Released 28th December
Publisher: Atom

I’ve been raving about the cover of this book for a while now and it’s on my December wish list so it was a lovely surprise to receive a copy from Atom this week. It is such a beautiful book and even more lovely in real life! I totally wasn’t expecting to get this so I’d like to say a huge thank you to Atom for sending me a copy to review :-)

She can control her pack, but not her heart …’I wanted him to kiss me wished he could smell the desire that I knew was pouring off me. You can’t, Calla. This boy isn’t the one for you.’ Calla Tor has always known her destiny: graduation, marriage and then a life leading her pack. But when she defies her masters’ laws to save a human boy, she must choose. Is one boy worth losing everything?

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Released 8th February 2011
Publisher: Headline

This book caught my eye when I saw it in another blogger’s IMM a while ago and I’ve been lusting after it ever since! I was so excited when Caitlin at Headline offered me a proof. I worked as a trainee librarian at the Bodleian Library and lived in Oxford for a year so I’m really looking forward to reading this! Many thanks to Caitlin and Headline for the review copy.

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

Won

The Best Friends Guide to Life by Fearne Cotton and Holly Willoughby

I won this one over at Dot Scribbles (thank you Dot!)

It’s a fab book with lots of interesting lists and snippets to dip in and out of.

From the back cover:

What makes a great friend? Has Facebook ruined dating? What’s the secret to effortless style?

“Hello! This is a book written by proper best friends – us! – who have been hanging out together for over ten years. We thought that if we shared some of our own experiences and views on friendship, relationships, leaving home, studying or starting a new job, then it might help you on your own journey.

Inside you’ll find loads of stories – some funny, some sad, and some that make us cringe with embarrassment – as well as tips and advice on things like dating and looking good. We’ve included our best photos from over the years (even the dodgy ones!) and drawings that Fearne has done especially.

Let’s face it, life isn’t easy at times so we hope that this book will make you laugh, entertain you, but most of all that it might be a bit like talking to your very best friend.”

Bought

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I decided to buy this one after reading Danielle’s review over at Chick Lit Reviews. It sounds like a lovely Christmas love story and is set in my favourite city of New York! I also love the cover.

“I’ve left some clues for you. If you want them, turn the page. If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Have a great Christmas everyone!! xx

Countdown to Christmas – my favourite Christmassy chick flicks

18 Dec

What better way to get yourself in the mood for Christmas than with a good film? I love Christmas films in general (who watched Elf the other day?!) but I wanted to do something a bit different for a blog post today so I’ve decided to list my five favourite Christmassy chick flicks. These are films that I love to watch at any time but all feature Christmas in some way.

In reverse order my favourites are …

5. While You Were Sleeping

This is a lovely feelgood film and a large part of it is set at Christmas. Sandra Bullock plays Lucy Moderatz who works in a ticket booth on a subway in Chicago and has a huge crush on one of her customers (Peter). On Christmas Day she saves his life when he is mugged and pushed off the platform. On the way to the hospital, a nurse hears her saying she was going to marry him and assumes they are engaged. His family take her in and she celebrates a lovely Christmas with them but Peter’s  brother works out that something isn’t right and as he spends more time with Lucy to try to find out the truth, she begins to fall for him instead. As Peter wakes up and preparations begin for their wedding, Lucy has a huge choice to make!

4. Bridget Jones’s Diary

I’m guessing everyone knows about this one already but just in case you haven’t seen or read it (it’s based on the novel by Helen Fielding), the film tells the story of a year in the life of Bridget Jones (played by Renee Zellweger). The story is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice and even includes a Mr Darcy (Mark). I love this film and Colin Firth in that Reindeer jumper always makes me laugh but the best bit is the ending in snowy London. I remember thinking when the film came out ‘it never snows like that in London’ … how wrong could I be?!

3. The Holiday

Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) swap homes for two weeks over Christmas to escape from it all. Iris heads to L.A. and and Amanda finds herself in a cute little English cottage. I didn’t see the appeal of Jude Law until I watched this film and Jack Black was a surprise as the other love interest. This is the perfect film to leave you with a warm Christmassy glow.

2. Love Actually

Set mainly in the weeks leading up to Christmas, this is romantic comedy at the highest level. It has a brilliant cast and so much going on that you could never be bored! Amongst my favourite bits are when Andrew Lincoln’s character (Mark) sends a special message to Keira Knightley’s character (Juliet) silently using written cards and when Hugh Grant (as Prime Minister) dances round Number 10 :-)

1. Serendipity

This is one of my all time favorite rom-coms and stars John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. This film sums up the magic of New York (and Christmas)  for me.

From Amazon, “New York City, just before Christmas. The last pair of black cashmere gloves in Bloomingdale’s is on its way to the counter. As the gloves arrive, Sara (Kate Beckinsale) and Jonathan (John Cusack) claim them simultaneously. And so it begins–Sara and Jonathan go to a little coffee shop, named Serendipity, to decide who gets the gloves. They skate in Central Park. They look at the stars–the Cassiopeia constellation has the same pattern as the freckles on Sara’s forearm. She writes her phone number in a book, saying she’ll sell it to a random bookstore tomorrow. Jonathan writes his number on a five-dollar bill, and she gives it to a street vendor. If destiny means for them to be together, the book will find him, and the five-dollar bill will find her.”

So, do you agree? What’s your favourite Christmassy chick flick? Have you got some new ones to add to my list?

Vampire themed giveaway winner

17 Dec

The winner is …

Iffath

Congratulations! I’ve sent you an email. Thank you to everyone who entered.  I have more giveaways lined up for the New Year so please come back soon.

Miranda Dickinson giveaway winners

16 Dec

The winners are …

Chrissie and Kulsuma

Congratulations! I’ve sent you both emails. Thank you to everyone who entered.  My Vampires giveaway is open until midnight tonight and I have lots of fab giveaways lined up for the New Year so please come back soon.

Book Review: The Secret Shopper Unwrapped by Kate Harrison

15 Dec

Christmas is coming, and while the bells are ringing, the tills aren’t. But Sandie – the rising star of the retail spying world – is busier than ever, rooting out the best and worst in festive customer care through her company. The former Charlie’s Shopping Angels are helping out, too. Glamorous widow Grazia is going undercover under the duvet at boutique hotels, in between dating a succession of toyboys and trying to remember which lie she’s told about her age. Meanwhile, not-quite-yummy mummy Emily investigates the child-friendliness of the high street with the help of three-year-old Freddie, when she’s not working flat out with her partner to save their fledging village shop from the un-festive credit crunch. The shoppers are back, but is the happiness they’ve worked so hard for, about to disappear faster than a Louis Vuitton handbag in the Harrod’s sale?

This book is a sequel to The Secret Shopper’s Revenge. It was originally released in October 2009 but the paperback came out last month and if you haven’t read this series I’d highly recommend it. Although you could read this as a standalone book and enjoy it (there is a brief recap of the events in book one in the opening chapter), the first book is such a good read as well, I’d recommend starting at the beginning!

The series has three main characters, all from very different backgrounds but all united by their secret shopping endeavours. In the first book, Sandie, Emily and Grazia become friends through secret shopping and this second book visits them two years after the end of the first.  It’s difficult to review a book like this without giving spoilers – I’ll try to keep them to a minimum but you might not want to read on if you want to read ‘The Secret Shoppers Revenge’ first.

Sandie is the high flying executive of the group – all smart suits and efficiency. At the start of this book she is running her own Secret Shopping company and is doing extremely well. Her former Secret Shopping colleagues are now helping her out; Grazia, the rich,  sophisticated and glamorous and Emily, slightly scatty mum to three year old Freddie. All three women have a lot to contend with in The Secret Shopper Unwrapped and I loved the way this book went deeper than the first, exploring each character’s background in more detail.

The book starts in November and actually goes through the whole Christmas period, ending as the New Year dawns. Each chapter is told from one of four character perspectives, the fourth character being newcomer Kelly – a feisty and very interesting addition to the mix, with some dark secrets hidden away! Each character narrates in the first person and I love how Kate Harrison gives them all such unique voices.

This isn’t really a book about shopping although there are some very funny moments as the gang carry out their secret shopping assignments, especially when Emily and Freddie check out Santa’s grotto’s at a number of stores; it is the story of four women facing the ups and downs of their lives.  The Secret Shopper Unwrapped gives much more of an insight into the inner workings of Sandie, Emily and Grazia and I liked them all the better for it (although I did find Emily annoyingly selfish in this book). Each woman has to face her own personal set of challenges as the story progresses and they are ones that many readers will identify with; the loss of someone you love, getting older, having children, love and relationships with partners, ex-partners and parents.

Kate Harrison has written a funny, enjoyable book but also addressed some difficult and saddening topics with warmth and sympathy. There are some excellent twists in the story and the element of mystery in Sandie and Kelly’s stories really held my interest. The Christmas aspect added an extra sparkle and I thoroughly enjoyed the girls getting  together to see each other through again. An excellent and highly recommended Christmas read!

5/5

I can’t wait to find out what happens to the girls next. A third installment, The Secret Shopper Affair will be released in March 2011.

You can read the first chapter of The Secret Shopper Unwrapped and find out more about Kate and her books at: http://www.kate-harrison.com/

Countdown to Christmas: Stocking fillers for book lovers

14 Dec

Some more book-inspired gift ideas for people that love reading …

Bookplates and Labels

Put your mark on your books with thirty pages of book plates and labels. £5.43 from The Book Depository

Book bag

I love this quote from Louisa May Alcott and you can never have too many bags for carrying all those books home from the library or shops! £8.95 from The Literary Gift Company

Book mug

I’m probably showing my age with this one, but my Mum mum was a big fan of Ladybird books and I learned to read with Jane and Peter so I love this mug! £8.95 from Amazon

Penguin Classics Card holder

I love the Penguin Classics range of mugs, notebooks and other gifts but hadn’t spotted this card holder before. It’s perfect for travel cards and features a classic book and classic cover –  £8.95 from John Lewis


Book owl brooch

This is soooo cute! Part of a range of jewelry made by Ellymental which uses old books and printed materials to create original pieces. There are earrings and necklaces available too and other animals but I think the owl is particularly bookish! Available on Folksy £12.00