Book Review

Clara & Olivia – Lucy Ashe

If you enjoy historical fiction and are a fan of the ballet, then I have the perfect book for you as I join the blog tour for Clara & Olivia by Lucy Ashe. Many thanks to Lucy and Magpie Books for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting my to join the tour.

BLURB:

SADLER’S WELLS, LONDON 1933

I would kill to dance like her.

Sisters Olivia and Clara rehearse with Ninette de Valois at the recently opened Sadler’s Wells. Disciplined and dedicated, Olivia is the perfect ballerina. But no matter how hard she works, she can never match up to identical twin Clara’s charm.

I would kill to be with her.

As rehearsals intensify for the ballet Coppélia, the girls feel increasingly as if they are being watched. And as infatuation threatens to become obsession, the fragile perfection of their lives starts to unravel.

An exquisite goose-bumping debut from a former ballerina.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

I adore historical fiction and the ballet, so a novel set during the early years of the Vic-Wells company was always going to capture my attention. I particularly enjoy historical fiction where real people intermingle with the books characters, and in Clara and Olivia, Lucy Ashe seamlessly blends her fictional characters with the stars of the English ballet of the 1930s.

The beauty of the ballet is echoed in the wonderfully atmospheric writing, but the sense of foreboding that begins in the prologue lingers in the corner of the stage like a shadow. In fact, there is an unsettling feeling about the whole book, with the dark spaces of the theatre (not least the well) lending a gothic feel to the story. Something about the girls’ relationship feels dangerous, too close for comfort, as if they could destroy each other, in spite of loving each other dearly, and being prepared to fight to protect each other.

I love the ballet and whilst I usually read in silence, I found myself heading to Spotify to set Coppélia and Swan Lake to play in the background. I thoroughly recommend this, as the beautiful music really adds to the emotion and drama of the book.

Even before reading her author bio (see below), it was easy to see that Lucy Ashe has a great deal of experience with the ballet, and has poured her love for it into every word of Clara and Olivia. This book is an exquisite balance of beauty and tension, of emotion and drama, and it evoked the same feelings in me as if I had just sat through the most wonderful performance of my favourite ballet.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lucy Ashe trained at the Royal Ballet School for eight years, first as a Junior Associate and then at White Lodge. She has a diploma in dance teaching with the British Ballet Organisation. She decided to go to university to read English Literature at St Hugh’s College, Oxford (MA Oxon), while continuing to dance and perform. She then took a PGCE teaching qualification and became a teacher. She currently teaches English at Harrow School, an all-boys boarding school in North London. Her poetry and short stories have been published in a number of literary journals and she was shortlisted for the 2020 Impress Prize for New Writers. She also reviews theatre, in particular ballet, writing for the website Playtosee.com

LUCY WRITES:

“I have a great love of ballet and am fascinated by its history. I was lucky enough to meet many of the great dancers of the Royal Ballet, even Dame Ninette de Valois when she came to White Lodge to celebrate her 100th birthday. I have performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and learnt the repertoire for many of the classical ballets.

My novel is closely researched, re-creating the early years of the Vic-Wells company at Sadler’s Wells, and the story is immersed in ballet history featuring characters such as Ninette de Valois, Lydia Lopokova, Constant Lambert, Alicia Markova and Nicholas Sergeyev. Frederick and Dora Freed and their pointe shoe workshop play a key role, as does the history of Sadler’s Wells theatre itself. In a book shop on Cecil Court, I found beautifully preserved theatre programmes from the 1932-33 season at Sadler’s Wells and it was magical to imagine my characters holding those pages.

One major inspiration for me was my twin sister. We spent the first part of our lives doing everything together: first day of school, first ballet class, first piano lesson. We were a unit, referred to simply as the twins, and we had a very special connection. That connection remains even though our lives are so entirely different now. And so, in my novel, I have been inspired by the connectedness and the bond of twins, Olivia and Clara staying so close despite their lives starting to take them in different directions.”

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Twitter

Instagram

Make sure you pay a visit to the other blogs that are joining the tour for this fantastic book.

Book Review

The Luminaries – Susan Dennard

Today I am reviewing The Luminaries, the YA fantasy novel by Susan Dennard. Many thanks to Susan and Daphne Press for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you…

Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town―and the rest of humanity―from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night. Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal―and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.

But in order to survive, Winnie must enlist the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.

Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark. 

REVIEW:

Being a huge Leigh Bardugo fan, when I saw her quote on the front of this book, I knew I had to read it, and I wasn’t disappointed. From the very first page, I could tell that The Luminaries was the start of what promises to be a very exciting new YA fantasy series.

The prologue made my spine tingle and the hairs on my arm stand up, and whilst the rest of the book was not as dark as this made me imagine it would be, The Luminaries was the perfect escapism from a day where my health saw me miserable, in pain and stuck in bed. Winnie’s experiences as she fights to become a Luminary hunter  were a wonderful distraction from the real world. The world that Susan Dennard has created is rich with detail and I absolutely loved the pages from the Luminary compendium, complete with illustrations, that are included – a fully illustrated compendium would make a wonderful companion book to this series (hint, hint!) The inhabitants of Hemlock Falls make up a varied and well developed cast of characters, and I soon had my favourites among them. I very quickly became engrossed in their world and it was a real wrench when I had to leave it at the end of the book.

I finished The Luminaries with more questions than answers. I have a few suspicions about these though and I cannot wait until the next book so I can see if I am right about any of them.

Book Review

Blinded Me With Science – Tara September

Today, I am taking part in the blog tour for Blinded Me With Science by Tara September. Many thanks to Tara for providing me with a copy of the audiobook, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour.

BLURB:

Opposites attract like a magnet to steel, or in this case, Emerson to Steel.

Emerson Powers has been so focused on obtaining her science degree that she’s neglected the more social aspects of college life. With the new start of her junior year, she’s determined to fix that with a real hands-on lesson in biology. The assignment is simple enough—teach the rock star’s son how to be good, while he shows her how to be very bad. Two objectives, one outcome … will the lesson be love or heartbreak?

Steel is no longer the bad boy Emerson knew from prep school, and he’s set to prove it by helping Emerson complete her secret list of desired college experiences. And if he can convince her that they are meant to be together along the way, even better!

While teaming up on experiments, both in and out of the classroom, Emerson discovers a new side to Steel. Leaving her to question everything she thought she knew. Still, is it enough to forgive the past or just mere chemistry?

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

For a free bonus chapter visit HERE.

REVIEW:

My second review of the day couldn’t be more different than my first, and in actual fact is a real change from the norm for me. For one, it’s a romance, which is a genre that I don’t review often, and secondly, I “read” this as an audiobook – something I also don’t often review, as a narrator can make or break a book for me, no matter how good or bad the story is.

On the subject of narration, I think I would have preferred the audio to have been read by two authors for the dual perspectives of Emerson and Steel. I will admit that I struggled a little with the female narrator attempting a male voice for an entire chapter at a time. However, once I got past this minor irritation, Steel was a character who was hard to resist. He is exactly the kind of damaged bad boy (trying to be good) that I always fall for in books.

Bookish, serious Emerson is delightfully awkward, and I found I could easily relate to her attempts to discover her inner party animal and really live the full college experience. If I had been in her shoes, I would have been putty in Steel’s hands, but, at that age, equally scared to admit it.

I think I would have preferred getting to know some background characters a little more, to really get a feel for Emerson and Steel’s lives, but I can see how this may not have worked with the writing style which often takes the form of each of the characters’ internal monologues.

Despite being a bit too heavy on the romance and a bit too light on adventure for my personal tastes, this was a light, enjoyable read/listen that I am sure romance fans will adore. (Word of warning – don’t listen to this book if anyone else can hear what you are listening to. There were a couple of instances that saw me scrabbling for my volume control!).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Fueled by an IV of green tea and Prosecco, Tara September is a multi-award-winning contemporary romance author of bestselling sassy & steamy love stories filled with banter. Based in Southwest Florida, Tara holds a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, a B.A. from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, as well as attended college courses at Queen’s College in London, U.K. She is also the proud mom to identical twin 10-year-old boys and three cats.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs taking part in the tour.

Book Review

The Witches of Vardø – Anya Bergman

Come with me to the outer reaches of Norway today, as I join the blog tour for the historical fiction novel The Witches of Vardø by Anya Bergman. Many thanks to Anya for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Blog Tours for inviting me to take part.

BLURB:

They will have justice. They will show their power. They will not burn.

Norway, 1662. A dangerous time to be a woman, when even dancing can lead to accusations of witchcraft.
When Zigri, desperate and grieving after the loss of her husband and son, embarks on an affair with the local merchant, it is not long before she is sent to the fortress at Vardø to be tried and condemned as a witch.

Zigri’s daughter Ingeborg sets off into the wilderness to try to bring her mother back home. Accompanying her on this quest is Maren – herself the daughter of a witch – whose wild nature and unconquerable spirit gives Ingeborg the courage to venture into the unknown, and to risk all she has to save her family.

Also captive in the fortress is Anna Rhodius, once the King of Denmark’s mistress, who has been sent to Vardø in disgrace. What will she do – and who will she betray – to return to her privileged life at court?

These Witches of Vardø are stronger than even the King of Denmark. In an age weighted against them they refuse to be victims. They will have their justice. All they need do is show their power.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

Based on the real Finnmark witch trials of 1662-63 The Witches of Vardø is a hauntingly beautiful book. Having loved Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies, I was delighted to discover another author looking at the Scandinavian trials.

Told from the perspectives of two very different narrators, proud, privileged Anna and young, impressionable Ingeborg, The Witches of Vardø shows how no woman was safe from persecution as a witch. Ingeborg is easy to love. She cares deeply for her family and is willing to do whatever it takes to protect them, even if that means venturing towards people she has only ever been warned away from. On the other hand, Anna was a character who I was fully prepared to hate at the start of the book, but as her story unfolded, I found I ended up pitying her. She is a complex woman who did what she thought was the best she could with the hand she was dealt.

This book is beautifully researched with wonderfully rich descriptions of the landscape and climate – it made me positively shivery reading it at times, and very glad for my bog fluffy blanket! Through Bergman’s detailed descriptions of the conditions they were kept in, it is easy to see how women would confess to being witches if it would save them from barbaric interrogation tactics and torture, or in the hope a confession would spare the lives of those they loved. The inclusion of traditional Norwegian and Samí stories add  real depth to this book and really help bring the characters to life.

As you will know, I read a lot of books about witches, both fantasy and based on factual trials, and The Witches of Vardø is up there with the best that I have read. I am excited for what is to come next from the pen/keyboard of Anya Bergman.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Anya Bergman became interested in the witch trials of Vardø and the vivid folk tales of the north while living in Norway. Travelling to the Steilneset memorial, in which Louise Bourgeois and Peter Zumthor commemorated those persecuted witches, she became fascinated by their stories. Now resident in Ireland, she is currently undertaking a PhD by Published Works at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland where she also lectures, as well as tutoring for Jericho Writers. She is working on her next novel, which unites the fates of two very different women against the tumultuous backdrop of the French Revolution.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Website

Twitter

Instagram

Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part in this tour.

Book Review

Different, Not Less – Chloe Hayden

Today I am joining the blog tour for Different, Not Less by Chloe Hayden. Many thanks to Chloe and Murdoch Books for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

BLURB:

An empowering guide to celebrating and supporting neurodivergence from Netflix’s Heartbreak High star and disability advocate, Chloe Hayden.

Growing up, Chloe Hayden felt like she’d crash-landed on an alien planet where nothing made sense. Eye contact? Small talk? And why are you people so touch-oriented? None of it made sense.

Chloe desperately wished to be part of the fairytales she so dearly loved. A world in which the lead is considered a hero because of their differences, rather than excluded and pushed aside for them.

She moved between ten schools in eight years, struggling to become a person she believed society would accept. After years of being “weird, quirky Chloe,” she was eventually diagnosed with autism and ADHD. It was only after a life-changing group of allies showed her that different didn’t mean less that she learned to celebrate her true voice and find her happily ever after.

Different, Not Less is a moving, at times funny story of how it feels to be neurodivergent as well as a practical guide, with insights on how autism and ADHD present differently in females, advice for living with meltdowns and shutdowns, tips for finding supportive relationships, communities and workplaces, and much more.

Whether you’re neurodivergent or supporting those who are, Different, Not Less will inspire you to create a more inclusive world where everyone feels like they belong.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US


REVIEW:

Some of you will know that I suffer with a couple of chronic illnesses, and as much as I wish some of the people around me would do more to understand my health issues, I realise that I also have a lot to learn about how other people experience the world. When the opportunity to improve my understanding through joining the blog tour for Different, Not Less came about, I jumped at the chance. I know I still have a way to go, and I apologise if I word things incorrectly in this review. I would welcome any further education if I do.

While I could empathise with the sensory processing issues Chloe has faced, struggling with hypersensitivity myself, other areas were a real eye opener. The complete lack of support she received from the education system and medical professionals in the very recent past was shocking! I naively thought that, at least in these area, things had improved over the years. My heart bled for the little girl who wanted so much to find her place in the world, and was blocked from doing so at every turn, and simply written off as “weird.” I also had no idea that autism came with so many common comorbidities – as if life isn’t difficult enough when you don’t fit the accepted “normal” mould, you are hit with multiple health conditions to manage on top of everything else.

The passion with which this book was written shines through in the language used making it an easy book to read, not dry or a slog like some self-help/health books can be. Chloe’s openness about her experiences as a neurodivergent woman is brutally honest at times, but it is this honesty that a) will hopefully make other people in her situation feel less alone, and b) really drives home to neurotypical readers just how confusing and overwhelming life can be.

Whether you are neurodivergent yourself, supporting someone who is, or just want to understand more about other people’s experiences, Different, Not Less is a great place to start.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chloe Hayden is an award-winning actor and disability advocate, motivational speaker and social media influencer whose story of being “different, not less” has attracted a worldwide following. She is currently appearing in Heartbreak High, the Netflix remake of the iconic Australian series.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Instagram

Twitter

TikTok

Don’t forget to have a look at the other blogs taking part in the tour for Different, Not Less.

Book Review

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries – Heather Fawcett

I am getting back into the swing of blog tours today as I join the tour for Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett. Many thanks to Heather and Orbit books for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Blog Tours for inviting me to take part.

BLURB:

Enter the world of the hidden folk – and discover the most whimsical and heart-warming tale you’ll read this year, featuring the intrepid Emily Wilde…

Emily Wilde is good at many things: she is the foremost expert on the study of faeries; she is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people.

So, when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby.

But as Emily gets closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones – the most elusive of all faeries – she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all – her own heart.

Filled with enchanting magic, heart-warming romance and a heroine you can’t help but love, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is the perfect read for fans of The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

Well, if my first tour of the year is any indication of what is to come, then 2023 is going to be a brilliant year for books. From the outset, Emily had such a distinctive voice that I found myself presented with the clearest image of a highly intelligent, yet somewhat socially awkward and eccentric young lady that stayed with me throughout the book. She is a delightful character and I found the style of the novel as her journal to be particularly endearing.

Although we, thankfully, didn’t have the extreme weather of Hrafnsvik, this book was the perfect read for the cold winter evenings of January, and is definitely best read with a soft blanket and a warm drink.

I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book, from the warmth of the villagers of Hrafnsvik to watching Emily’s heart begin to thaw, in spite of the frozen conditions that she finds herself in. It is beautifully written and made me wish that Emily’s Encyclopaedia was a real book. That would make for some fascinating reading.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Heather Fawcett is a Canadian author of books for adults, kids, and teens, including the Even the Darkest Stars series, Ember and the Ice Dragons, The Language of Ghosts, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, and more. Her books have been translated into more than ten languages and somehow all include dragons in one form or another. She has a Master’s degree in English Literature and a Bachelor’s in Archaeology. She lives on Vancouver Island.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Website

Instagram

Meet the Author

Anya Bergman

Next week, I will be joining the blog tour for The Witches of Vardø, the beautiful historical fiction novel by Anya Bergman, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. In the meantime, Anya was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions for me, and I can share those answers with you now.

What was it about the 1662 trials that caught your attention rather than the earlier trials at Vardø or similar trials across Europe?

It was when I was living in Norway that I became obsessed with researching the history of witch trials. I was immediately drawn to the history of witch hunts in Finnmark in the far north of Norway where the island of Vardø is situated. The landscape is so extreme with the snow, ice and winter darkness that it felt like a suitable setting for a novel about witch trials. Also it is a region where the indigenous Sámi people live and I wanted to include how they were treated during this period. The trial testimonies of those accused in Vardø still exist and have been translated into English, and it was when I was reading these records I came across the startling testimony of Maren Olufsdatter in 1663. I was immediately fascinated by her fearless confessions. The 1662/3 trials also stuck out because young girls were convicted of witchcraft and denounced their mothers. How could this have happened? I came across the figure of Anna Rhodius who was outspoken and confrontational, and though privileged got into big trouble because of it. She was blamed for the witch panic and I wanted to dig deeper and find out why.

You bring the landscape to life so vividly in your writing that I feel as though I am there. How much time did you spend at the fortress in Vardø and the surrounding area as part of your research?

I lived in Bergen in Norway for six years and had travelled to the north and the snowy interior where I saw lynx before I started working on the novel. But once I began my research I travelled to Vardø twice. Once in mid-winter to get a sense of how the island felt at that time of year. I flew to a town called Kirkenes and then took a boat to Vardø to get a real feel of how it was to approach by sea. Although I was used to ice and darkness living in Bergen, the island of Vardø was on a whole other level! I experienced snowy blizzards, 24 hours darkness, and the otherworldly spectacle of the northern lights. I visited the Steilneset Memorial to the victims of the witch trials which is the most stunning memorial I have ever encountered, and is on the execution sight. From this place, the sea crashes onto the shore and you can see the outline of Domen Mountain on the mainland where the Devil was supposed to have dwelled. I returned to the Varanger Peninsula in the mid-summer flying to Kirkenes again but this time hiring a car and driving along the whole of the peninsula through the villages where the accused women would have lived and staying in the village of Ekkerøy. The landscape reminded me of Connemara in the west of Ireland, wet and marshy, with lots of bog cotton. I ended up again on the island of Vardø with 24 hours of daylight and the midnight sun. It was hard to sleep with the never-ending screeching of sea birds, and in a way it was as eerie as during the winter dark! I drew so much inspiration from visiting the locations of the book.

Ingeborg and Anna are such different characters. Did you find one of them easier to write than the other? Why do you think this was?

In my early draft of the books, I had written solely from Ingeborg’s point of view so I feel I have been with her for a long time. She is very close to my heart because I wanted to create a quiet heroine. I think she is very identifiable because she is holding her whole family together, and though not as dramatic as her mother or sister, is resilient and true. I also love her friendship with Maren, who for me is a pivotal character in the narrative. She is the ‘fuck patriarchy’ part of ourselves, and also invites us to trust in our own magic. I do believe we all have this witchy essence in all of us.

But I also have a special place in my heart for Anna, because she is neither completely bad nor good, and I am drawn to writing from the point of view of characters who are conflicted. I was also intrigued by all the historical documentation surrounding her that she was viewed as insane and hysterical, and was behind the Witch Panic. I wanted to reappraise her part in the witch trials. Anna is going through menopause in the novel, and there are very few representations of menopausal women in fiction. Those that do exist are usually stereotyped as mad, bad and sad. Since I have just gone through menopause myself, I found writing Anna in first person came very naturally. I wanted to present a different image of the menopausal protagonist. So it was possibly easier to write Anna’s story just because I can identify a little more with her experiences.

Do you have a set writing routine that you like to follow?

Not really if I am honest. I just try to write as much as I can as often as I can. As well as writing, I am doing a PhD and I am teaching and lecturing so it’s full on. I have to be very organised with my time to make sure I get enough head space to write. With historical fiction, research is so important too but you can go down rabbit holes so I have to ensure I balance research time and writing time equally. I might spend a few weeks ‘thinking’ about a novel – I do alot of ‘writing’ in my head before I put anything down and this usually saves time in the end. I also do pre-writing in the form of working on characters, and structure but I also remain very open in terms of storyline as this keeps the writing process very alive. Once I get stuck into writing, I can write non-stop for hours (sometimes 5/6 hours in a go) and write up to 5000 words a day. I would not recommend this! It can be very hard on the body in particular (hence I am a yoga fan). But it’s just the way I have always worked. I go into a zone and live in the world of my characters. When I was writing The Witches of Vardø I would have dreams that I was in the Witches Hole with the other women, and wake up in the middle of the night in terror.

I was excited to read that your next book will be set during the French Revolution. How much are you able to tell me about this?

The working title of my next book is ‘The Tarot Reader of Versailles’ which might give you an idea of what the novel is about! It’s inspired by a real historical figure who was a tarot reader during the French Revolution. I have been reading Tarot since I was fifteen, and for a time worked as a professional Tarot reader, so it’s an area I have always wanted to write about in fiction. Tarot Cards are powerful tools of self-knowledge, while they possess a magical quality to them as well. They were incredibly popular during the Reign of Terror as people searched for certainty amid the chaos of the French Revolution.

Thanks so much to Anya, for taking the time to talk to me. The Tarot Reader of Versailles sounds right up my street, and I cannot wait to read it. While I wait impatiently for that to be published, here are all the details of the blogs taking part in the tour for The Witches of Vardø, which kicked off last week.

Blog

Fifth Birthday

Happy blog birthday to me! I can’t believe that it has been five years since I first set up my little book blog. I have absolutely loved getting to know new authors, discovering new books, and generally sharing the book love far and wide. What I thought would be a little hobby has turned into a huge part of my life, culminating in 2022 with my being a part of the judging panel for the Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award. That was an absolute blast to be involved with and I loved chatting with the other bloggers on the panel.

Five years feels like a bit of a milestone, so I thought now would be a good time to look back over some of my blogging statistics.

  • I have had the honour of sharing 65 author Q&As and guest posts. The first of these was Jennifer Gilmour right back in January 2018, and the most recent was Val Penny in January 2022. I would love to host more of these types of post, so if you are a writer and would like to be featured, please get in touch!

I found it so interesting looking back over my first five years as a book blogger, and I am excited to see what the next five years bring! Thanks for taking this little trip down memory lane with me!

Blog

Top 10 of 2022

Happy 2023 folks! It’s that time of year again when I share my favourite books from the outgoing year. I always struggle to narrow it down to just ten books, but this year was particularly hard as I have read some truly amazing books. After much toing and froing though, I have managed to whittle my list down from 40-something to just ten. These are purely in the order that I read them rather than a chart run down. Click on the titles to read my reviews of each of these:

  • Dusky Dahlia – Lucy Holden
    • I absolutely adore the Nightgarden Saga by Lucy Holden, and having read the final three books in the series in 2022, it was hard to choose just one. In the end, it had to be Dusky Dahlia because of the depth of emotion in the story.
  • The Embroidered Book – Kate Heartfield
    • Two of my favourite genres are historical fiction and fantasy, so when the two collide, it is a dream come true for me. This stunning book is a reimaging of Europe at the time of Marie Antoinette, and I could not put it down!
  • Nothing Burns As Bright As You – Ashley Woodfolk (review coming soon)
    • This YA novel in verse is as beautiful as it is devastating. I wanted to review it as soon as I read it, but I just could not find the words – to be honest, nine months later, I am still struggling.
  • Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl – Joya Goffney
    • This was a tricky decision for me, because I also read Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya in 2022, and I loved both books equally, but only had space for one. I ended up choosing this one because I think that its subject matter is something that should be spoken about more.
  • The Ghost of Ivy Barn – Mark Stay
    • I can’t get enough of the Witches of Woodville series by Mark Stay, and I loved this latest instalment. Each book has a slightly different feel to it, and I found this one a lot more emotional than I had expected. Oh, and I cannot stress this enough, you HAVE to look up Mr Stay’s unboxing videos!
  • The Wedding Cake – Isabella May
    • If you don’t know by now that I am a huge Isabella May fan, then I don’t know where you have been for the last five years! I love, love, love her Foodie Romance series! It is just wonderful.
  • Words In Deep Blue – Cath Crowley (review coming soon)
    • Oh my, this book! It was recommended to me by a friend, you know the type, “You have to read this book, it will destroy you!” and she certainly wasn’t wrong. I know this is a book that I will keep coming back to – just as soon as I recover from reading it the first time!
  • We Are All Constellations – Amy Beashel
    • Yet another book that left me in absolute bits! I think maybe I should read some happier books in 2023, but I just can’t help myself with the emotional rollercoasters!
  • Goblins of Lapland – Caedis Knight
    • While a lot of the books on my list this year are YA, this one is most definitely an 18+! The latest in the Blood Web Chronicles is a festive prequel full of Christmassy delights!
  • The Witch and the Tsar – Olesya Salnikova Gilmore
    • Finishing off this year’s list is one of the last books I read in 2022, and another where history meets fantasy, this time in Russia as Ivan the Terrible encounters a reimagined Baba Yaga. It was the perfect wintery read to curl up with in the days before Christmas.

What were your favourite books in 2022? I would love to see your lists to add to my TBR!

Blog

Bookish Christmas Book Tag

The quiet period between Christmas and New Year seemed the perfect time to hop on to the Bookish Christmas book tag. Thanks to Danni at For Book’s Sake for tagging me to do this. If you haven’t already, make sure you check out her blog!

This tag was originally created by Callum McLaughlin.

Father Christmas: Name a book you received as a child that you treasure to this day.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. I adore the Chronicles of Narnia, but this was my first introduction to the world, a gift from my much loved godmother.

The ghost of Christmas past: Is there a book or series you like to revisit each year at Christmas time?

Fittingly for the start of this question, I always like to experience A Christmas Carol in some way at Christmas, whether that be reading the book or watching one of the many screen adaptations. This year, I was lucky enough to attend an interactive dramatic reading of the book at a stately home near where I live, which was so much fun (if this sounds like your kind of thing, check out their website – Torchlight Tours)! I do keep a folder of festive books on my Kindle as well to dip into if I fancy it. Some of the books on there include Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar, The Gift by Cecelia Ahern, and Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather.

Christmas tree: Name a series that reaches new heights with every entry.

This has to be Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles. I am absolutely addicted, and I am currently counting the days until the next instalment releases (35 days including today, in case you were wondering).

Friends and family: Name a book with fantastic characters.

Oh so many! As this is a friends and family question, I think I will say the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. The characters there may not be blood, but they are still very much a family.

Decorations: Name a book with a gorgeous cover you would proudly display on your shelves.

I see so many absolutely beautiful books being published these days, but I think that the Blood Web Chronicles by Caedis Knight take some beating – especially all lined up together. Designed by Jacqueline Silvester, one half of Caedis Knight, the colours are simply stunning, and the detail in each globe is spectacular. Find out more about this spicy series HERE.

Christmas cards: Name a book that carries a great message.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I remember a friend telling me that I had to read this book, but not telling me anything much else about it. At the time, I thought this was a bit strange, and when I started reading and found it was a book about a boy on a boat with a tiger, I thought it was an even stranger book to recommend. However, I ended up being absolutely blown away by it. I can’t say much more about it, or the message it carries, without spoiling it for anyone who is yet to read it, but it really is an astonishingly good book.

Ice and snow: Name a book that you were hoping to love, but which ultimately left you feeling cold.

Oh no, there’s no ice and snow here this Christmas, just hot chocolate and lebkuchen for all!

Christmas lunch: Name a book that was big and intimidating but oh so worth it in the end.

I love a big chunky book, so I don’t tend to find a high page count intimidating, and to be honest, I read mainly on Kindle, so I often don’t even know how long a book is before starting to read it. According to Goodreads, the longest book I read in 2022 was The Stone Monkey by Jeffrey Deaver at 657 pages. I really enjoy his Lincoln Rhyme series, so I am sure this didn’t feel anywhere near as long as it is.

Mince pies: Name a book you found sweet and satisfying.

A food based question at Christmas? There is only one possible answer that I could give – Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bar by Isabella May. It is an absolute delight featuring all the Christmas loveliness that your heart could desire. Read my review HERE.

Presents: What book do you wish you could give everyone to read?

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. I read this book way back in way back in February 2018, and I still find myself thinking about it. It is just such a beautiful book in every single way. You can read my review of it HERE.

Spreading the festive cheer: Tag some friends to help spread the festive bookish love.

K T Robson

Kate Kenzie