Monthly Archives: December 2015

Au Revoir 2015! My Bookish New Years Resolution

Hey everyone! 

Well we are getting ever closer to the end of this year and the start of 2016! Therefore, I thought it would be the perfect time to look back on my New Years resolution for 2015. I set myself a challenge of reading 100 books in a year and I’m really proud to report that I read 104

I was adamant I would continue to read for pleasure a variety of poetry, prose and drama and I’m thrilled that I managed to do it! I tried to read different genres too. You’ll see from my list there’s a mixed bag here. I’m sure others would have read many more than me, but considering how life and work sometimes takes over I’m really chuffed. 


The books I read in 2015: 


A:

  • John Agard – Half-Caste and Other Poems
  • Cecelia Ahern – The Year I Met You
  • Cecelia Ahern – Love, Rosie (Where Rainbows End)
  • Mitch Albom – The First Phone Call From Heaven
  • Hans Christian Anderson – Stories from Hans Andersen
  • Hans Christian Anderson – The Tinder Box
  • Hans Christian Anderon – Andersen’s Fairy Tales
  • Daisy Ashford – Where Love Lies Deepest
  • Dani Atkins – Fractured
  • Jane Austen – The Beautifull Cassandra
  • Denis Avey – The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz

  


B:

  • Fredrik Backman – A Man Called Ove
  • Alan Bennett – The Lady in the Van
  • Harold Brighouse – Hobson’s Choice
  • Emily Brightwell – Mrs Jeffries & the Missing Alibi
  • Emily Bronte – The Night is Darkening Round Me

  



C:

  • Eric Carle – The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Rachael Chadwick – 60 Postcards
  • Stephen Chbosky – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Jenny Colgan – The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris
  • Judith Cutler – The Keeper of Secrets

  


D:

  • Roald Dahl – Rhyme Stew
  • Roald Dahl – Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life
  • Roald Dahl – Switch Bitch
  • Roald Dahl – The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
  • Roald Dahl – Esio Trot
  • Roald Dahl – Going Solo
  • Jill Dawson – The Great Lover
  • Len Deighton – An Expensive Place to Die
  • Charles Dickens – Christmas Books
  • Charles Dickens – Oliver Twist
  • Charles Dickens – The Great Winglebury Duel
  • Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol
  • Arthur Conan Doyle – The Narrative of John Smith
  • Jonny Duddle – A Pirate’s Guide to Landlubbing

  


E:



F: 

  • Jasper Fforde – The Eyre Affair
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Penelope Fitzgerald – The Bookshop
  • Giovanna Fletcher – Dream A Little Christmas Dream
  • Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter – The Dinosaur That Pooped A Lot

  


G: 

  • Claire Gadsby – Perfect Assessment for Learning
  • Robert Galbraith – A Career in Evil
  • Nina George – The Little Paris Bookshop
  • Linda Grant – The Clothes on Their Backs
  • John Green – Looking For Alaska
  • John Green – Paper Towns
  • John Green & David Leuithan – Will Grayson, Will Grayson

  


H: 

  • Mark Haddon – A Spot of Bother
  • Daniel Handler – Why We Broke Up
  • Helene Hanff – 84 Charing Cross Street
  • Paula Hawkins – The Girl on the Train
  • Emma Healey – Elizabeth is Missing
  • Mary Hooper – At the Sign of the Sugar Plum
  • Nick Hornby – High Fidelity
  • Nick Hornby – How to be Good
  • Nick Hornby – Juliet, Naked
  • Nick Hornby – A Long Way Down
  • Kathryn Hughes – The Letter

  


I:



J: 

  • Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen – The Rabbit Back Literature Society
  • Henry James – The Figure in the Carpet

  

K:



L:

  • Harper Lee – Go Set A Watchman
  • Harper Lee – To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Nell Leyshon – The Colour of Milk
  • Mary Elizabeth Lucy – Mistress of Charlecote: The Memoirs of Mary Elizabeth Lucy 1803-1889

  


M: 

  • Christopher Matthew – Now We Are Sixty
  • Guy de Maupassant – Femme Fatale
  • Bob McCabe – Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filming Journey
  • Horace McCoy – They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
  • David McKee – Elmer’s Parade
  • Kristina McMorris – Letters From Home
  • Tom Michell – The Penguin Lessons
  • Arthur Miller – A View From the Bridge
  • A. A. Milne – Now We Are Six
  • Clement C Moore – The Night Before Christmas
  • Richard C Morais – The Hundred-Foot Journey
  • JoJo Moyles – Paris for One
  • Kate Muir – Left Bank

  


N:

  • Jandy Nelson – The Sky is Everywhere
  • Irene Nemirovsky – The Fires of Autumn
  • David Nicholls – Starter for Ten

  


O: 

  • Jenny Oliver – The Parisan Christmas Bake Off
  • France’s Osbourne – Park Lane
  • Wilfred Owen – Anthem for Doomed Youth

  


P:

  • Raquel J Palacio – Wonder
  • Nicky Pellengino – The Food of Love Cookery School
  • Samuel Pepys – The Great Fire of London
  • Sarah Perry – After Me Comes The Flood
  • Edgar Allen Poe – The Tell-Tale Heart

  


Q:

  • Anthony Quinn – Curtain Call

  


R:

  • Willy Russell – Blood Brothers

  


S:

  • Annie Sanders – Busy Woman Seeks Wife
  • Claire Sandy – What Would Mary Berry Do?
  • Brian Sibley – Harry Potter: Film Wizardry
  • Julia Stoneham – Muddy Boots and Silk Stockings

  


T:

  • Elizabeth Taylor – Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
  • James Thurber – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • J.R.R Tolkien – Letters From Father Christmas
  • Sue Townsend – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4

  

U:



V: 

  • Delphine De Vigan – No and Me

  


W: 

  • David Walliams – Ratburger
  • David Walliams -Awful Auntie
  • Walt Whitman – On the Beach at Night Alone
  • Katherine Woodfine – The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow

  

X:


Y:


Z:

  • Benjamin Zephaniah & Richard Conlon – Face: The Play

  

So, this leads me to this years resolution, again, to read 100 books including a variety of prose, poetry and drama from a range of genres. Wish me luck! 

Whilst I’m at it, I just want to wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year. Make sure 2016 is the best yet!! 

Big love xx

27 Comments

Filed under Literature, New Year

My 2015 in review!

Hey everyone!

I awoke to find this little email waiting for me and I have to say, I’m very excited.

I started my little blog in May, just as a little hobbie. I didn’t realise how much I would enjoy it and also the amazing other bloggers I would have met.

So, the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Thank you WordPress!

 

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,300 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

 

image

 

I really can’t thank everyone enough for making my experience of being a ‘blogger’ so amazing. Everyone that’s just popped by and had a mooch around my blog, liked or commented on something, and those of you that even follow me, thank you.

There are some bloggers that are highlighted as being my ‘regulars’. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Click here to read the Booksandbakes1 report! Are you mentioned?

Before this gets too mushy, I’ll disappear, until the next post at least.

Big love xx

57 Comments

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The Penguin Lessons – Tom Michell

  
Hey everyone! 

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and engrossed yourselves with numerous festivities. 

Today, I’m going to review The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell. I really enjoyed this book. The first person narration made it easy for me to feel like I was a part of this book and if I’m perfectly honest, I wanted to be a part of it. It left me wanting a little penguin of my own! 

Set in Argentina during the 1970s, the narrator explores the issues of this period: the collapse of the Peronist government and living with high inflation as well as his own adventures: hiking in the high Andes, wandering in the snowy, pine-covered wilderness of Tierra del Fuego. The core of this novel: the Magellanic penguin he rescued and befriended. 

‘It was a time when liberties, opportunities and attitudes were so completely different from those of today.’

At the start of the novel, in 1975, Michell was a 23 year old Englishman living in Quilmes, Buenos Aires. He has been offered and thus accepted a post as assistant manager at a prestigious boarding school. He had gone with the intention of exploring and meeting different people. His free time usually came at weekends and this is when he did his exploring. 

On one of his free weekends, he decided to visit Uruguay. It was here where he stumbled upon the penguin, well a vast number of penguins, to be precise. At first he did not  identify them as penguins due to the state they were in. They were lifeless, black, unmoving shapes, which were littering the beach as far as his eyes could see. Upon investigation, he could see that the penguins were covered in thick, suffocating oil and tar.  I was utterly heartbroken to learn that most of those penguins were dead or dying. Except one. 

‘Each wave that broke piled more birds on top of those already there. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. One valiant bird was alive: a single surviving soul struggling amid all that death.’

In the corner of his eye, Michell saw a tiny movement from one bird that was still alive. He rushed over to see a tar soaked penguin, lying on its belly, holding his head up and slightly shuffling his wings. In utter defiance, as he approached, the penguin struggled to his feet. The penguin glared at Michell. He took it as a view of rage for what has happened to him and his penguin family. Rather aptly, the penguin blamed man. 

Panic, adrenaline and compassion urged Michell to scan the beach to look for anything that would help him with this penguin. He only found a paper bag. He manages to find a paper bag. He gathers the bird, who is still relatively angry and places it in the bag. He has a vague notion as to how to help this bird and heads back to his friends apartment where he was staying. He tried a number things to try and remove the tar: butter, margarine, olive oil, cooking oil, soap, shampoo and detergent. It was a slow but steady process. 

Things weren’t as easy as originally thought. The penguin, still angry and still covered in tar, caused some hurt for Michell as a battle between the two continued. However, perseverance pays off. By the time the penguin resembled a penguin again, both were exhausted. Michell has blood pouring from his fingers. I felt physically tired reading it. But, it made me feel so sad that a penguin would be so worried about a human trying to save him. I guess that could be seen as a good thing! 

‘…moments, from being terrified and hostile, it became a docile and cooperative partner in this clean-up operation. It was as if the bird had suddenly understood that I was trying to rid it of all that disgusting oil rather than commit murder.’

Michell had zero confidence that the penguin would survive the night but, ready and waiting for him, very much alive was the penguin. He was hungry! Thus begins Michell’s relationship with the penguin. He names him Juan Salvador, or as he translates it, John Saved. 

Now the penguin had survived, more difficult questions and decisions were arising. What next? Should he take the penguin to Argentina? What could he do with him? 

Human kindness is demonstrated when Michell smuggles the bird into the country. It took great wit and skill to pull it off, but successful he was. The more time man and bird spent with each other, the stronger the bond between them became. 

Once at home in St. George’s College, a new world was waiting for them both. Juan relished in it. They met with new visitors, socialised with people, consoling the housekeeper, cheering on the sports team were the tip of the ice berg. He’s adorable. The description of his looks and engagement with humans is just beautiful. I fell in love. 

‘That was the first of so many times when I observed how completely at ease he was with humans.’

The students in the school too adored him. They shared responsibilities of feeding and looking after him. The dorm housekeeper turned Juan Salvador into a trusted friend and confidant. She shares all her problems and worries to him. Even the rugby team adopt him as their team mascot. This little creature brought out the best in all he met. With his natural swimming talent, he bought out a shy, lonely boys swimming ability. Another love struck teenager asks Juan for advice: Should he ask his crush out? His stares, his non verbal reactions, provided the answers that people needed. 

‘That was one of those extraordinary seminal moments that makes teaching so worthwhile. There had been a rebirth, a new beginning. The ugly duckling had become a swan and the most astonishing part was that the boy had not yet perceived that his life was on the cusp of a radical change.’

Michell certainly fulfilled his urge for exploration and the exotic. He found above and beyond this. Rescuing this bird helped him make a home for himself, helped him to bridge the gap between the old and the new in terms of his employment. He helped Michell make new friends and take risks. He also provided him with added experiences and adventures. 

Thus, the death of this little penguin, whilst on his travels, is the most difficult and uncomfortable aspect of the story. He’s offered no time to prepare or to even say goodbye. But, as the novel closes we clearly see how much this little penguin, this slight interruption to his life meant to him. 

‘Juan Salvador was a penguin who charmed and delighted everyone who knew him in those dark and dangerous days.’ 

A charming little book, with a heart warming plot and a historical setting makes this book a great read for just about anybody. The little sketches of Juan throughout are utterly adorable and break up the narrative nicely. Be warned: you will want a penguin after this! You’ll fall in love, hopelessly. 

Big love x

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The Night Before Christmas – Clement C Moore

  

 
Happy Christmas Eve everyone! Or, if it is Christmas already where you are, merry Christmas! 

It seems like a perfect time to firstly, wish all my lovely followers and stoppers- by a very, merry Christmas and also to review a very festive poem. The Night Before Christmas brought so much joy to my life as a youngster. I just read it again, being as it’s Christmas Eve. It still brings me joy today and I just feel so excited. Everything is ready for the big day tomorrow! 

Onto the poem:

The poem tells the story of a Christmas Eve night. A father awakens to noises outside his own house, whilst his wife and children slept. 

”Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’

He looks out the window to see St. Nicholas in his sleigh being pulled along by eight reindeers. If only this was real life!! 

‘When what to my wondering eyes did appear,

But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.’

St. Nicholas lands his beloved sleigh on the roof. He enters the house through the chimney, carrying a sack of toys and gifts with him. 

‘His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!’

The father observes St. Nicholas filling the children’s stocking, which were hanging by the family fire place. He laughs to himself. He notes specifically how he looks. It’s clear to see how the iconic image of Santa has originated over time. 

‘He had a broad face and a little round belly

That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.’

The men share a private moment together, before St. Nicholas heads off up the chimney again. As he flies away with his reindeer he exclaims:

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

The magic created in this short poem, which has been reprinted with various illustrations, is really rather special. There is a reason why it has lasted so many years and has been a feature of many Christmases around the globe. Can you believe it’s nearly 200 years old?! 

I’m not old enough or proud enough to admit that I still find it enchanting. The rhyme makes it easy to follow the poem and experience the feelings expressed by both father and St. Nicholas. It boasts atmosphere, excitement and enjoyment, all the things I hope your Christmases have! 

So, to all my wonderful friends and followers, I’m sending my festive love and well wishes to all. 

Big love x

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Filed under Book review, Christmas, Poetry

300+ followers! 

Hey guys! 

I just happened to notice that I’ve reached (and now passed) the 300 follower mark! Normally WordPress give me a notification, but I’ve not had one. Never mind! I hadn’t forgotten though and I want to thank you all! 

So, thank you so much everyone.  I never thought my little blog would be this popular. Even when I’m super busy with work, you guys still check on me and leave me messages. You’re all so lovely. Thank you!  

You’ve made Christmas come early! Thank you for your support, especially those bloggers who followed me when I first started (and had no idea what on earth I was doing!) To my latest followers, I can’t wait to get to know you all. I’m sorry this is so repetitive, I just feel so lucky! 

To make your day, or simply just to make you laugh, here’s a photo of me as an elf! 

  

Big love xx

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The Frankfurt German Christmas Market in Birmingham 2015

Hey guys!

Today I braved the rain to visit the German Christmas Market in Birmingham with my lovely parents. I got lucky this year because normally my parents go without me! 

Despite the rain pouring, it still felt so Christmassy and jolly. The stalls really do look beautiful. Birmingham’s Victoria Square is transformed for a magical Christmas. 

  

The dazzling lights coloured the ever gloomy skies… 

  
  

Of course, there is always a big wheel to see the best of Birmingham from a height. (Although I’m sure the current building works cloud the view a little!)

  

Victoria Square really did look stunning – history paired with the magic of Christmas. 

  

Finally, an outing to a German Christmas market isn’t complete without a mug of mulled wine. I adored the cute cups as well! 

  

So, I completely loved it. The music, the lights, the food, the wine. All Christmassy and wonderful, made all the more special because I was with my family. 

  

Nevertheless, Christmas is galloping along and I’m still not quite ready! Mind you, are we ever completely ready for it?! 

Big love and festive cheer! X 

 

20 Comments

Filed under Christmas, Days Out, Photography

12 Days of Christmas Blogging: Day 2

Evening! 

Time for Day 2 of the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging extravaganza! Thanks again to Amy & Curiouser and Curiouser and Laura @ Lala’s Book Reviews for nominating me. 
The Rules:

  • Include the photo below in each blog post
  • You may start at any point in December
  • Use the topic supplied for the post of that day
  • Make sure all posts are in December, but they don’t have to be posted consecutively (lets face it it’s a busy time)
  • Nominate 3 people after each blog to start the challenge
  • Have fun!

  

  

Day 2: My favourite tradition new or old.

My tradition is more of a family tradition. I don’t think that’s against the rules?! Well, I’m going for it nonetheless! 

Anyway, the tradition we have as a family surrounds the Christmas Eve run. We’ve been doing this ever since I can remember and the pattern has rarely changed in the past 20 odd years. 

Christmas Eve is an exciting day. It’s the day where everything is brought together ready for the BIG day. We wake up relatively early, with a list of jobs to be completed as long as my arm. The first thing we do is load the car with all the presents for my grandparents. The first stop is the grandparents. We swap presents, have a quick cuppa and a mince pie. We talk about our plans for tomorrow, and consult with the TV guide, noting the number of repeats usually! 

From then we head towards the turkey farm to collect our bird for tomorrow. It’s always a bit eerie there because it’s so quiet. The turkeys we’ve been driving past every weekend have suddenly gone… One lovely thing is the family hasn’t changed. I remember when one lady was pregnant. It dawned on me last year that that little baby actually processed my payment and gave me my bird. He must be a teenager now. I felt old for a second… 

This then leads us to the next stop which is my other grandparents house. We swap presents, eat 20+ homemade sausage rolls and more mince pies, drink more tea and recheck the TV times, noticing especially when the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special is on. (The food is always better here because my grandma is an excellent baker.)

We haul ourselves out of the sofa and head off into the dark towards home. My mum nags at my dad to have the Rod Stewart Christmas CD on as we drive along. Once home, we put the presents around the tree, watch whatever Christmas programmes are on, bath and get ready for bed. Depending on work commitments, my best friend usually pops round for a quick present swap and catch up. 

The Christmas Eve run is quite tiring, but writing all this up has really made me feel a)homesick and b) excited that I can do this again very soon. It’s those little traditions, that are personal to you, that make Christmas so magical. The smiles, the laughs, the hugs…

  

I’m jingling my bells all the way to:

Erika @ Bookventureland

Melanie Noell Bernard

Arec @ Rainy Thursday’s 
Like usual, feel free to take part or ignore if you’re busy! 

Big love xx

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