My Best Reads of 2017

New Goals

It is time to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018. Reading challenges are over and new ones are beginning. I exceeded my goal of 42 books in the Goodread’s challenge by reading 63. The goal for 2018 is 52 starting with The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. There have been many good books published last year and I discovered lots of new authors thanks to online book clubs especially The Fiction Café Book Club.  My TBR list has grown exponentially with books I would never have found without this positive, active book community.  I tried to choose my top 10 but this proved impossible.

My top 15 books read in 2017

 

 

These are in no particular order.


The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley
This is the third book of one of my favourite series, The Seven Sisters. It is set in a  rambling bookshop, the countryside made famous by Beatrix Potter and has a main character I would love to talk to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caraval by Stephanie Garber
This was recommended to me by a friend but I kept putting it further down my TBR but this was a decision I regret because it is a unique book, full of action and vivid imagery. My full review can be read here

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Path Keeper by N.J Simmonds

This is an original plot with a fiesty main character. A full review can be read here

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

A full review can be read here

 

 

 

 


Regan: Snatcher of Souls by R. McDowall

It is dark, well written love story. I am looking forward to the next installment.

Meet the Author post with Rebecca McDowall can be found here

 

 


Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland

Set in my favourite places –  York, Whitby and a bookshop this had to be included in my top reads. I loved the characters and it made me accept that maybe, poetry is accessible and can be enjoyable.

 

 

 


A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I was impressed by the film so immediately read the book. A review will be posted soon but it is a must read.

 

 

 


A Rock ‘n’ Roll Lovestyle by Kiltie Jackson

An uplifting funny read that is deeper than your average romance. A full review can be read here

 

 

 

 


Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

I can not believe it has taken me this long to read any Alice Hoffman’s books. It is magical, well written with characters that remain with you long after you close the book.

 

 

 

 


Sleepers Castle by Barbara Erskine

Barbara Erskine is one of my favourite authors and this is has become one of my favourites with the Welsh setting, plot and characters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift/The Surrogate by Louise Jensen

I could not choose between these two psychological thrillers. Louise Jensen is an author to follow if you enjoy a good twist. Reviews can be found here and here.

 


Strangehollow by Emily Hare

I purchased a copy through Emily Hare’s Kickstarter campaign this year. It is a stunning collection of illustrations of the creatures and tales from Strangehollow.

 


Soulweaver by Heidi Catharine

Technically, this should be in next year’s list because it is not released until later this month but I received an ARC. A review will be posted shortly but it is a thought-provoking, magical read.

 

 

 

Dead Woman Walking

 

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

Another one of my favourite authors. She excels in original plots, twists and suspense. I am looking forward to her new book this year The Craftsman.

 

 

 

 What books have you enjoyed in 2017?

Happy reading and may 2018 be full of good books and happiness.

 

 

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More book reviews for Christmas

It is Christmas Eve! How did that arrive so quickly?  There is just enough time to squeeze in  a quick collection of reviews of other books I have read this Christmas.

Romance

Christmas stockingTitle The Christmas stocking and other stories

Author Katie Fforde

This is a gentle, delightful collection of stories for the festive period by a popular author.  They are perfect length to read with a cup of tea when you can snatch a few moments.
I enjoyed them especially A Dream Christmas but prefer the author’s longer work where you can connect to the characters more.

 

Mistletoe coveTitle Christmas at Mistletoe Cove

Author Holly Martin

Holly Martin has written a festive romance that made me make wish wishes did come true. The characters are relatable and I had my fingers crossed throughout that life would be perfect and nothing bad would happen to the fun loving pair. It has the funniest smouldering sex scene I have ever read. It is worth reading purely for that.

 

Christmas WishTitle   A Christmas Wish

Author  Erin Green

A Christmas Wish is a treat to curl up with on a cold day, in your snuggly socks and drinking hot chocolate.
On Christmas Eve Flora finds herself staring at the steps of a house where she was abandoned as a baby in 1984. Unsettled in her life she decides she needs to discover her history and her links to the village. With the help of policeman, Joel who literally crashes into her life, she delves into the secrets and rumours of Pooley.
The festive air, charming characters and possibility of romance along with the mystery of her parentage makes you read just one more chapter.
I look forward to reading more books by Erin Green.

 

Non-fiction Books

HarkTitle Hark! The Biography of Christmas

Author Paul Kerensa

This a well presented and written non-fiction book about the history of Christmas throughout the ages. It is easy to read and it’s gentle humour makes it a joy.

It is ideal for Christmas fanatics like me to have in their stocking.

 

 

 

Chistmas flandersTitle Christmas: a biography

Author Judith Flanders

As a lover of Christmas, I thought I knew what this time of year was about and the origins of our traditions but this book opened my eyes to how little I really knew. This is an in-depth exploration of Christmas and takes you through the evolution of Christmas including religion, festivities, books, gifts and decorations.  It is a perfect read for those who get excited at the first sign of decorations in the shop or are always on the look out for more knowledge to impress friends and family especially over the Christmas dinner.

It is a book, I long to have a physical copy of on my bookcase to dip into every year.

 

What festive books have you been reading?

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and many books arrive in your stockings.

Merry Christmas and happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Book review: We will always have Christmas by Jenny Hale

We will always have Christmas

Title We will always have Christmas
Author Jenny Hale

Blurb

An enchanting story about the magic of Christmas, the importance of family, and the joy of falling in love during the most romantic season of the year…

Christmas has always been a special time for Noelle Parker. Winter evenings spent with family and friends, drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies at her family’s cozy bakery have shaped her love for all things festive. But this year everything is changing…

The beloved bakery is facing closure and Noelle needs a miracle to save Christmas.

Determined to raise funds for the family business, Noelle sets about revamping the bakery while juggling a surprise new job, caring for the elderly and cantankerous William Harrington in his luxurious, sprawling mansion.

As Noelle melts the frostiness of the house with cake baking, snowball fights and glittering decorations, she helps William to reconnect with a romance that has spanned decades and unexpectedly finds herself falling for his grandson – the gorgeous but mysterious Alexander Harrington…

In the countdown to Christmas, can Noelle save the bakery, reunite a family and create some magical memories of her own along the way?
This is a delightful read and is perfect to help you get in the mood for the Big Day or relax with when you need to take a break from the chaotic preparations.

Jenny Hale has captured Christmas in the pages of this book with her descriptive festive scenes and taste bud tingling food.  By the end of the story I longed to be in the kitchen of the bakery eating cake and drinking hot chocolate.

This is book that can happily be reread next year when you need a festive fix.

Thank you NetGalley for sending me an ARC to review.

 

Happy reading!

Book review: Moonlight over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

Moonlight over Manhattan

Title Moonlight over Manhattan

Author Sarah Morgan

Blurb

Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family. But when dog-walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list – dealing with Madi’s temporary dog-sitter, gruff doctor Ethan Black, and their very unexpected chemistry.
Ethan thought he was used to chaos, until he met Madi – how can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple – he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide 24-hour care. But there’s nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel.
Ethan’s kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over, and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all – letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?

For those who love romance, there is nothing like a Sarah Morgan book to make reality fall away and transport you into the lives of her characters. In this book, you find yourself in Manhattan near Christmas with Harriet. I instantly felt a connection with quiet, shy Harriet who is more comfortable talking to the dogs she walks than people. Her love life is going nowhere fast after some disastrous dates until she stumbles across Dr Ethan Black or Dr Hot as others describe him. I like how none of her characters are perfect and they all have relatable flaws; it makes them more real. The plot flows well and old favourite characters from Sarah Morgan’s other books make an appearance as an added treat.
This story hits the spot for a good festive read while curling up under the duvet with a luxurious hot chocolate.

Happy reading!

 

Festive book review: The Return of the Magi

How fast is December going? Christmas book reviews need sharing so today’s book review is for P.J Tracy’s Return of the Magi.

Return of the Magi cover

Title The Return of the Magi

Author: P.J Tracy

Publisher Penguin UK – Joseph Michael

Blurb

Warm your heart this Christmas with this wonderful festive tale from bestselling author P.J. Tracy – perfect for fans of It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street. Emil Rice has a silver tongue and sticky fingers, the only problem is that his charm always gets him into trouble and he’s never been very good at not getting arrested. Twenty-two times he’s been caught and twenty-two times he’s sworn never to steal again, but it’s on his twenty-third arrest when Emil realises he may have picked up more than he bargained for. Sentenced to community service at a secure mental health facility, Emil is unwillingly befriended by two elderly female patients who believe he is the final part of a big cosmic plan that will change their lives forever… This heartwarming Christmas tale of kindness, friendship and redemption will be perfect for the cold winter nights!

I was recently introduced to PJ Tracy’s books by reading her crime novel Nothing stays Buried so  I was unsure what to expect from this Christmas short story. It was as different as chalk and cheese. Emil Rice is a smooth talking, small time crook who is facing more time in prison when he is given an alternative option – work in a secure mental institution for a year. He is soon stalked by two sisters who believe he is the third king from the Christmas story – the one they have been eagerly waiting for a long time. This is the beginning of the humorous and surreal mayhem. The   unique and loveable characters form a quirky, enjoyable read different to any I have read before. It is refreshing to read a festive story without a romantic slant. There isn’t a cosy kitchen oozing warmth and comfort in sight.

With its descriptions of the vibrant colours of the magi costumes against the institutional grey settings, light-hearted nature and seasonal plot it is easy to imagine it being adapted successfully to the screen. It could easily become a classic to be enjoyed annually as part of the Christmas tradition.

This book is on my list to be read again next year to prepare for the festive celebrations.

Thank you NetGally and Michael Joseph for the opportunity to read an advanced copy.

Happy reading x

 

#Christmasbooks #bookblogger

The Christmas countdown means festive book reviews

The countdown to the big day has begun in earnest with the arrival of decorations and Christmas music so it must be time for festive book reviews. There is nothing like a seasonal book to get you into the spirit of things with their tales of romance, family, disasters or humour. There are so many to choose from and I love seeing them line the shelves stores enticing readers with their vibrant, welcoming covers. I find them impossible to resist so my festive TBR is always overflowing and will keep me going until next year. Over the next few weeks I will share some of the ones I have read.

These include

You can catch up with the festive reads I have already posted here

Share your favourite or worst festive reads below. I can always squeeze some more on my TBR pile or maybe your suggestions will help me decide what to read next.

Happy reading!

 

 

Book review: The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part one by Audrey Davis

The weather has finally turned wintery which means it was perfect for snuggling under warm blankets and read the ARC of Audrey Davis’ new book I was given in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part One

HattieHastingscoverBlurb

Some people just won’t take death lying down … ! 

Hattie Hastings is happily married, even if husband Gary drives her up the wall at times. When tragedy strikes, she is left alone and heartbroken, with only an assortment of family and friends to prop her up.
Struggling to cope, she is left reeling when her deceased other half returns, popping up at the most inappropriate times.
Hattie can’t convince anyone that Gary has returned. Not even best friend Cat – now free from the cruel and controlling Stewart – will believe her.
Why has Gary returned? And what will Cat do when her slimy ex-husband tries to worm his way back into her affections?
The Haunting of Hattie Hastings will make you laugh, cry and count down until Part Two …

This is the first book of a fun-filled trilogy about life, death and letting go.

The Haunting of Hattie Hastings is a delightful and enjoyable read that made me chuckle  with its gentle humour and quirky observations as well as the unfortunate timing of Hattie’s husband Gary haunts. If ghosts exist, this is how they would appear unlike the romantic versions Hollywood depicts in their films, such as Ghost.  All the characters are highly relatable and I was quickly drawn into their lives as they cope after his sudden death. The close relationship between Hattie and Gary is refreshing to read.

If anyone has had conversations about whether they would haunt their other half, family or friend after  death, this is a book to read. It is fun, captivating and the only downside is having to wait for the next installment to discover what happens next.

This book is perfect for when you need to take a break from the hectic Christmas preparations and makes an ideal alternative to the festive reads that are in abundance.

I look forward to reading part two and I have another author to watch and more books to add to my ever growing TBR list.

This book can be purchased from Amazon UK – http://amzn.to/2yrBiP1

Audrey Davis

Audrey Davis

About Audrey Davis

Scottish-born Audrey studied journalism in Edinburgh more decades ago than she cares to admit. She cut her writing teeth on provincial newspapers (using a typewriter) and a London-based video magazine (another sign of her advanced years).

Engagement to her now-husband Bill took them to Singapore, Australia and Buckinghamshire, England, before they settled in Switzerland in 2002. Along the way they had two boys, both all grown-up and living in the UK.

Her journey to becoming a published author began with an online Writing Fiction course. It took well over a year but, in June 2017, Audrey published her debut romantic comedy novel, A Clean Sweep. It was quickly followed by a shorter and darker prequel, A Clean Break.
The idea for The Haunting of Hattie Hastings came from nowhere, just a random title that popped into her head and from there grew into Part One of a trilogy. It comes under the same genre, but has some poignant scenes and – hopefully – lots of laughs! Audrey admits to being a worrier, and has always used humour as a defence mechanism, as her friends will attest.

When Audrey isn’t writing, she loves shows like The Walking Dead, American Horror Story and Strictly Come Dancing (a strange mix, she knows). Her interests include cooking (and eating pretty much anything apart from oysters), travelling and going to the gym. OK, the last one is mainly to compensate for her passion for food!

Audrey would describe herself as a ‘pantser’ rather than a ‘planner’, preferring to run where a story takes her and scribble copious notes along the way. She’d love to write a page-turning thriller, but fears her natural tendency to see the comic side of life might be an obstacle.

Website – https://audinsuisse.wordpress.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/audreydavisbooks

Twitter – https://twitter.com/audbyname

Have you read The Haunting of Hattie Hastings or Audrey Davis’ other books? Let me know what you thought in the comments below.

Happy reading and keep warm!

 

Book review: Chronically Christmas

Spoon Shortage Sue is a blogger who shares her adventures with her followers as she ticks things off her bucket list with her trusty sidekick, Rolo her spaniel. This is her first book on her experiences with living with a chronic illness.

chronically christmas

Title  Chronically Christmas

Author  Spoon Shortage Sue

Genre Auto-biography,  short story

Blurb

A personal journey through chronic illness and disability. Chronically Christmas looks at how Christmas is experienced over a number of years. From first feeling unwell, to being diagnosed. From various treatments to steroid side effects. It’s the story of one woman’s struggle coping with the many different experiences faced when fighting chronic illness.

Spoon Shortage Sue is a mum, wife and assistance dog owner, a retired secondary school teacher, who runs a successful Facebook page – Spoon Shortage Sue & Spoonie Spaniel too. She has fought chronic illness and disability for a number of years and has shared with fellow fighters offering a positive outlook to dealing with the many struggles she and others face.

She also blogs frequently at spoonshortagesue.wordpress.com.

This is her first short story, a personal account of dealing with chronic illness and disability. She is also currently writing a more in depth account which will be published in the new year.

This upbeat short story is a pleasure to read. It is a well written snapshot of chronic illness and follows Sue’s Christmases from pre- diagnosis to the present, from anxieties at being in medical limbo to acceptance and living life to the full. As a follower of Spoon Shortage Sue’s blog it is great to see how it all began. She brings a smile to many daily on FB and wonderful to read her story. 
 

Book Review: This Love by Dani Atkins

As a fan of Fractured and Our Song I was excited to see Dani Atkins’ new book This Love sitting on the library bookshelf. I was not disappointed and could easily have read it in one session.

 Title  This Love

Author Dani Atkins

Blurb 

Sophie stopped believing in happy endings a long time ago, but could this love change all of that?

Sophie Winter lives in a self-imposed cocoon – she’s a single, 31-year-old translator who works from home in her one-bedroom flat. This isn’t really the life she dreamed of, but then Sophie stopped believing in dreams when she was a teenager and tragedy struck her family.
 
So, to be safe, she keeps everyone at arm’s length. Sophie understands she has a problem, but recognising it and knowing how to fix it are two entirely different things.

One night a serious fire breaks out in the flat below hers. Sophie is trapped in the burning building until a passer-by, Ben, sees her and rescues her.

Suddenly her cocoon is shattered – what will be the consequences of this second life-changing event?

After reading Dani Atkins’ other books, I should have known this one would require a box of tissues. I think her books are top contenders for those requiring a tissue warning and possibly come with a supply of Kleenex and chocolate to help you recover from the emotional rollercoaster you experience while reading them. She has an ability to create interesting characters you become attached to and stay with you long after you turn the last page.

It is a romance which deals with love, friendship, grief and loss as well as living for the moment. The story begins with a bang and ends with a twist you would not imagine. It is a must for fans of Jojo Moyes, Jill Mansell and Dorothy Koomson.

It will take me a while to recover rom this one so my next read – Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type – needs to be very good to keep my attention.

 

 

 

The Witching Hour by Silver RavenWolf

The days are getting shorter, the leaves are changing colour and falling which means Samhain/Halloween is fast approaching. It is a time for pumpkins, candy for Trick or Treat, ghoulish delicacies as well as vampires,  ghosts and of course, witches. This book is loosely connected to October’s theme but it steps away from fiction into non-fiction.

I have always been intrigued in wicca, witchcraft and magic so I am grateful to NetGalley and Llewellyn Publications for the chance to read the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Witching Hour: Spells, Powders, Formulas, and Witchy Techniques That Work

The Witching Hour

Author Silver RavenWolf

Publisher  Llewellyn Publications

Blurb

The Witching Hour—that moment when every fiber of your beings says, “This is the time to do the magick, the ritual, the enchantment for what I need.” It could be dawn, a misty twilight, or the deepest, darkest inky night. It’s a time when all of your being urges you to get up, get moving, and get working! Confidence that you can easily step from the problem at hand to the success that you desire seething around you. And you know, to the depths of your soul, it is time for magick! The moment of your own power has matured!
This is a book of magic—formulas and techniques for working with herbal blends and powders, techniques for connecting to the ultimate oneness of universe, inspiration for deepening your magical work and seeing your intentions become real changes in the world.

I am new to exploring magick so my knowledge is very basic. At the beginning I felt slightly overwhelmed by the wealth of information. I returned to the book after reading around the subject. This time the experience was different. This book is not one to be rushed, it requires a clear mind and read away from distractions. It requires focus like the Magick it is teaching. Silver RavenWolf provides in-depth information which can not be faulted, with tips about the little things which is perfect for novices like me.

Personally, I think this  is a book where a physical copy would work better than an electronic one for its ease of use, tactile nature and formatting. I am looking forward to adding one to my bookshelf.