Bookish Gifts

 I must have been a good girl this year

After regulsarly complaining that I don’t get bookish gifts for birthdays or Christmas (people assume that I can’t possibly want more when I already have so many – oh but I do!!!), this year I haven’t done too badly.

From my mum and dad I got a lovely book with short Christmas stories by various different authors (both past and present) and a gorgeous address book with quotes about reading (of which I shall be posting some soon) and also a pack of bookmarks (one can never have too many).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From my lovely cousin Sara and her family I got Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters which I have been wanting to read for ages as I loved North and South and her Gothic Tales. I also got a note book and a journey planner which I love as we go away a lot and I can now start planning my reading about the places we go:

I am a member for an online group  in Goodreads (there are 15 of us – 2 Brits, one Australian, one Candian and the rest Amreicans) and we have been really close since getting to know each other on one of the larger groups on Goodreads and setting up our own group aside from that about 4 years ago. Every year we do a Secret Santa where we make a list of 5 books each that we really want and then one of the partners of the group send out who has who so it’s a secret to us all and then we send out our gifts. This year we couldn’t open before Christmas as mine and one other package went missing and we were waiting for them to arrive. My Secret Santee, the wonderful Jen from USA, was so worried that mine hadn’t turned up that she sent me another package (with 2 books in it!) and the very next day the first package turned up so I ended up getting three books off my list! We had the grand unveiling last night where we all go online together and open them and it’s really good fun – everybody ripping open their parcels and posting little comments and refreshing to see what other people have put. My husband rolled his eyes when I told him how much fun it is; maybe you just have to be a book-nerd to understand the excitement 😉

Anyway, the fabulous Jen sent me Hunger by Knut Hamsun, Armadale by Wilkie Collins and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I also got a book bag and two bookmarks! I love them all. I have been very spoilt!

And finally…

No Christmas is complete without a little treat for oneself 😉

I have almost finished The Mayor of Casterbridge and it is shaping up to be one of my all-time favourites. And I couldn’t resist the Oscar Wilde Complete Short Fiction for reasons I shall explain when I post about it.

Did Santa visit your house too?

Merry Christmas to you all!

Christmas is here…

…and tonight Santa will  be doing his rounds and dropping off those bundles of gifts and leaving them under the tree for us to find on Christmas morning (“please let them be book-shaped, please let them be book-shaped”).

On this most magical evening of the year, I wish you all (and your families) a wonderful time together over the holidays. Enjoy your time together, eat lots and read lots and don’t forget to leave out some carrotts for the reindeers…

 

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

 

The Christmas Note by Donna van Liere

In three words:

Heartwarming, sweet, festive

 

What I thought:

These books aren’t on sales in the UK shops (not that I have seen anyway). The first time I came across a Donna van Liere book was on a visit to the USA a few years ago in December; we were at a little village in New Jersey with my American family and browsing in a Christmas shop when I saw a pile of these little books on a table and I just had to have them – they looked so welcoming and delicious. I read the first three while in NYC over the next 2 days and I have read them several times since. I ordered this latest book online and read it this weekend and it still had the exact same magic of all the others.

Gretchen has moved to Grandon (the setting of all her books) with her two small children to be closer to her Mum. While unpacking she meets the very odd and reclusive Melissa, her new next-door-neighbour, who is determined to be unwelcoming and succeeds. Melissa had a horrible childhood with a drunk, uncaring mother and when she finds out that her mother has died, Melissa doesn’t feel anything except relief and rebuffs Gretchens offer of help to clean out her mothers appartment. Once she gives in though, she finds a half fisnished note from her mother to herself that opens up a whole new world to her…

These books wouldn’t be for everyone, I accept that. They are very sweet and some may find them too sweet. I just adore them though; they are full of hope and kindness and salvation and magic and they have the most gorgeous covers ever. I have loved every one of Donna van Liere’s Christmas books and reading this latest one has made me want to go back to my shelf and read the others all over again.

Verdict: If you are feeling bah humbug at Christmas, these books cannot fail to cheer you up. Just lovely.

Day 23 – A book that is a most treasured possession

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…

When I was a little girl I loved Twinkle comics and every year my Auntie, Uncle and cousin would buy me the annual for Christmas. In the 1974 version there was a story called Rosie the Reindeer and each year after that, on Christmas Eve and once I was in my pyjamas, I would sit on my dad’s knee and he would read me this story. He laughs because even now if I see him on Christmas Eve I bring it with me so he can read it to me (although I don’t sit on his knee anymore!)

That Twinke annual is now battered, bruised and taped up with celotape but I still love it and I still know most of the stories in there by heart. I will never, never part with my pink Twinke annual.

 

 

I posted about this book last Christmas and I wrote the whole story of Rosie and The Reindeer out in full so to read it and see more pictures click here.

  Which book is your most treasured possession and why?

 

 

I’m home and wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

Our drive through Scotland

Hello everyone!

I arrived back from my week long break in the Isle of Skye in Scotland last night (after a ten hour drive home) and had the most wonderful break away that I wanted to share my photos with you.

We stayed in a cottage on the cliff tops of the north-westerly point of the Isle of Skye with the most breathtaking views! We arrived in the snow which made the journey there a little perilous but once we were in, with a roaring log fire and views to die for it was so worth it.

Here are some pictures of our cottage in the snow and when it melted.

 

View from our cottage

View from the deck

View from the deck

When the snow had melted

Our cottage

Our neighbours

Santa's been!

 

An inside our cosy cottage with log-burning fire and Christmas tree. We has a lovely Christmas day, opening pressies we had brought with us and cooking a HUGE Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and then relaxed for the rest of the day watching TV.

The rest of the week we explored  and went on some long walks and fell in love with the island.

Castle of Klye of Lochlash

Cliff walk

View over a loch

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

 

After a magical Christmas away I’m back now and have some blog posts to write and lots of yours to catch up with.

Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all a wonderful 2011.

 

Merry Christmas everyone!

 Wishing you all a wonderful holiday

 I wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas as I will now be away for the holidays with no internet access and not back until the new year.

Mr Whisperer and I are making the long journey up to the Isle of Skye (north west Scotland) today and spending our Christmas there in a cottage on the cliffs with no neighbours for miles around and a cosy wood-brning open fire. The plan is lots of walks and sitting round the fire reading books. Heaven!

 

My bookish gifts so far

It’s a well know grumble of mine that I rarely get book-shaped packages for Christmas or birthdays as people seem to be under the impression that I have too many already (What???? A person can NEVER have too many books in my opinion!).

Last night we went to my parents house for our “Christmas day” with them (a meal and exchanging pressies etc) and imagine my excitement to get these two wonderful gifts in amongst my lot:

A book journal to record all my reviews (which will be perfect for when I’m on holiday and can’t get access to the internet) and also to list all the books I want to read (I am slightly worried that there aren’t enough pages for this, however).

I also got this gorgoues illustrated copy of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

This is one of my favourite books of all times and the pictures make it feel really magical.

It also has narrative about what a Victorian Christmas was like, what they did, ate, played etc and a whole chapter on Charles Dickens himself.

I can’t wait to curl up with this in our cottage on Christmas Eve.

  Have a wonderful holiday everyone

Here’s wishing you all a very merry Christmas and may Santa visit you all with book-shaped packages 🙂

 

Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body by M C Beaton

The Blurb:

“Agatha Raisin has never been one for enforced holiday cheer, but her friendly little village of Carsely has always prided itself on its traditional Christmas festivities. But this year the bells will not be ringing out Silent Night as Mr John Sunday, an officer with the Cotswold Health and Safety Board, has chosen Christmas as the time to crack down what he sees as gross misconduct by every man, woman, and child in the vicinity. The village shop is told it can no longer have wooden shelves which have been there since the time of Queen Victoria ‘in case someone is inflicted with a splinter’. The village school is ordered to leave lights on at night ‘to prevent unauthorized intruders from tripping in the dark’. And children are warned to not play with ‘counterfeit banknotes’ after passing around toy money in the playground. But finally Mr Sunday goes too far when he rules that there cannot be a Christmas tree atop the church tower this year. Soon after the decree and just before Christmas, Agatha is sipping a cup of tea and trying to stay awake as minute by minute of the Carsely Ladies Society meeting at the vicarage drones on when a sudden scream wakes her from her stupor. The ladies rush out of the building and into the garden to find Sunday lying face down in the petunias, very much dead. Agatha is instantly on the case, but with so many people having threatened the life of the victim, it’s almost impossible to know where to start.”

(source: amazon.co.uk)

 

What I thought:

I was really looking forward to listening to this on audio book in my car – a cosy mystery, Christmas tree on the front, what’s not to love?

To be honest, although I did enjoy it, it sort of left me a little “meh”. This was my first time making the acquaintance of Agatha Raisin and part of what I was looking forward to the most was the promise of festive fun on these freezing cold December mornings, but it reality the book spans a year and Christmas barely gets mentioned.

Penelope Keith (treasured UK actress, played the comdey genius Margot in The Goode Life) is the narrator and although her plummy accent is perfect for how I imagine Agatha Raisin herself, PK’s other accents left a little to be desired (and made me cringe on many an occasion).

Although this book got me through a few long car journeys and put a smile on my face on occasion, I still couldn’t warm to it enough to say that I loved it. Bah humbug!

 (I received this audio book for review from Amazon Vine)

 

Virtual Advent Tour stops here today

Today the Virtual Advent Tour stops here and I want to share with you my favourite childhood Christmas story. At Christmas 1974 when I was just 3 years old my Auntie, Uncle and cousin Sara gave me the new Twinkle annual for my Christmas present. I still have it! It’s pink and has a picture of a ballerina on the front and even though it’s old and battered now and some of the pages are cellotaped together, it is still one of my most treasured posessions. I know almost every story and picture off by heart even now and it’s such a trip down memory lane whenever I look at it (which is about once a year – in December).

Every Christmas Eve, just before I went to bed, I would crawl on my dads lap (Daddy Whisperer) in my nightie and dressing gown and suck my thumb while he read me the most magical story ever – Rosie and the Reindeer.

Even now, every year, my Twinkle annual gets its yearly outing round at my dads house (although I don’t sit on his knee sucking my thumb anymore you’ll be pleased to know ;))

 

Rosie the Reindeer

 

It was Christmas Eve. Rosie Scott was just about to go to bed. First, she put out milk and biscuits for Santa Claus and laid out carrots for his reindeer.

Later, Mrs Scott tucked Rosie in her bed. “If you go to sleep, morning will come all the more quickly,” said Mummy.

Later that night, Rosie heard a noise outside her window. She sat up in surprise.

 

Then she heard the noise again. “I must see what is making that noise,” she thought. She crept quietly to the window and looked out. A baby deer was pawing at the snow!

“Oh, the poor little thing,” gasped Rosie. “It must be freezing.” She put on her cosy dressing gown and slippers and went outside. The deer did not run away.

 

“Come on, pet. I won’t hurt you,” whispered Rosie. The deer let Rosie put her arms around its neck and gently lead it to the house.

Rosie tucked up the deer in a cosy blanket in front of the fire. “Now I will fetch something nice for you to eat,” she said.

 

 

Rosie gave the deer one of the carrots she had laid out earlier. “Where did you come from, little deer?” wandered Rosie. “I must tell Daddy about you.”

Then Rosie heard a strange noise coming from the chimney. She turned round and saw Santa Claus in the fireplace!

 

 

“Hello there, young Rosie!” said jolly Santa. Then he saw the deer. “Ah, I see you’ve found my baby reindeer. This is the fist time he’s been away from home.”

“He came with his Daddy who is one of the reindeer that pull my sleigh,” Santa went on. He led the deer to the door. “Thanks for your help. Cheerio!”

Next morning, when Rosie woke up, she thought she had dreamed about meeting Santa. Then she saw all her presents!

 

 

Rosie jumped out of bed and began opening her parcels. She was most surprised when she opened the biggest one. It was a toy reindeer on wheels.

“Why, it’s like the reindeer in my dream,” she thought. Then she looked at the gift tag. It was from Santa Claus! “I wasn’t dreaming afterall,” she gasped!

 

The End

 

Book Review: The Christmas Books by Charles Dickens

The Blurb:

“Dickens’ definitive Christmas tales including A Christmas Carol and four other stories are collected in a beautifully produced small hardback with embossed covers on the front and back. The Christmas Books were first published in a single volume in 1852, bringing together five stories which Charles Dickens wrote specially for the Christmas season, beginning in 1843 with A Christmas Carol. Over the next three years Dickens published “The Chimes,” “The Cricket on the Hearth,” and “The Battle of Life.” There was no story in 1847 but a fifth, “The Haunted Man,” appeared in 1848. The Christmas Books, and in particular A Christmas Carol, are considered so influential that they are credited with inventing our modern notion of Christmas itself.”

(souce: Amazon.co.uk)

 

The Book Whisperer thinks:

 

Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is one of my favourite books of all time. I didn’t read it until I was in my 30’s – I don’t know how it managed to pass me by but I suspect that it had a lot to do with the many dodgy TV adaptations that turned me off over the years.

Written in 1843, A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge: old, miserly and grumpy. He counts his money but never uses any of it to help what little family he has left and he lives a lonley and desolate life. One Christmas Eve, upon returning to his cold and miserable house after work, he is greeted by the ghost of Jacob Marley, his business partner of equal character to Scrooge and who died seven years previously. Marly tells Scrooge that if he doesn’t change his ways, he is destined to a rather firey afterlife.

The joy of reading this book, for me, came from the imigary so beautifully created by Dickens. I love my cosy books – cosy mysteries, chick-lit anything that warms my heart – but this book surpasses them all.

 

“”… along the streets, the brightness of the roaring fires in kitchens, parlours, and all sorts of rooms, was wonderful. Here, the flickering of the blaze showed preparations for a cosy dinner, with hot plates baking through and through before the fire, and deep red curtains, ready to be drawn, to shut out cold and darkness.”

 

Dickens takes us on a journey through Victorian London with Scrooge and his encountered ghosts (of Christmas past, present and future) and and creates a magical, funny, sad and heartwarming tale that will surely be as treasured by future generations as it has been by families for the last 170 years.

I was sent this gorgeous copy of the book (published by Whites) by Riot Communiations (and also a copy of the Jane Eyre book as they knew it was my favourite books – thank you!). I haven’t actually read Dickens’ other christmas books yet but I fully intend to curl up with them a few days before Christmas this year as a real treat.

 

Jane Eyre

 

Have you read any of Charles Dickens’ Christmas books?

Santa’s been!

He’s been, he’s been……

So, I trudge through my front gate, through the snow, wrapped up against the minus 5 temperatues with a big coats, a scarf, gloves and laden down with briefcase and papers feeling beyond exhausted and ready to collapse on to the sofa in a heap, when…..

I look down and there, on the welcome mat at my front door, it lays…….a huge book-shaped package! After a large intake of breath, a slight squeal and a remarkable renewal of energy, I swoop down and scoop said package lovinly into my arms. Come ot mama!

Once safely inside, and de-robed of my outer attire, I rip the package open and out drops two books and a bookmark with a lovely letter from my Secret Santa.

My Secret Santa is Barb from British Columbia in Canada (who blogs at www.sugarbeatsbooks.com). She had sent me a picture book of British Columbia, a book called Santa Claus: A Biography by Gerry Bowler and a fabulous wooden bookmark!

 

Being fascintated and loving all things Christmas (have you noticed yet?) I was really excited to get the Santa Claus biography as it charts his origins and beliefs world wide etc which I find really interesting. It also has some lovely pictures in it.

I was really excited to get the British Columbia book as, and Barb doesn’t know this as we have never come across each others blogs before now, Mr Whisperer and I may have the chance to move to Canada with his work in year or so (for a couple of years) and the place we think we’d go to is Vancouver! There are some gorgoues photos in the book and I have really enjoyed looking through it.

Thank you to Barb, my Secret Santa for my wonderful gifts 🙂

 

 

A trip to the Christmas Markets in Germany

 
 

Cologne, Germany

So I’m wondering if anyone has noticed yet that I quite like Christmas? 😉  No? Well allow me to present more evidence in that case:

This weekend, Mr Whisperer and I went on a three night break to Germany. We love to travel and explore new countries (see here for all the countries we have visited) and Germany is one that has passed us by until now. So, what better way to remedy that than to combine my love of travel and my love of Christmas.

We arrived in Dusseldorf and got the train to Cologne were there are a total of 7 markets each December than attract over 2 million visitors every year. The christmas markets in Europe go back hundreds of years in the German speaking parts, with Bautzen in eastern Germany being possibly the first in 1384, although Vienna in Austria did have its own December market as early as 1294. Since then they have sprung up all over the world, and we have even started getting one in Leeds (my nearest large city) a few years ago, but you just can’t beat the atmosphere of the real authentic markets in their country of origin.

 
 

The market at Cologne cathedral

 

What a magical experience. There were four Christmas markets in the German town of Cologne (on the Rhine) selling everything from hand-crafted toys through to delicious traditional German food and drink.

 
 

Wooden toys

 

Old fashioned childrens toys

Gorgeous soft toys

♪ ♫ Food, Glorious Food…♫ ♪

The most delicious sausages in the world - krakauer!

 

Stalls cooking hot food

Mr Whisperer fighting his way through the crowds for meat on a stick

 

I also met santa and I am pleased to report that he likes a good book too 🙂

Once upon a time...

 

I loved Germany so much and plan on going back to explore some more. The people were so friendly, and there was so much culture and history – loved it!

A Yuletide feast of books

Ho Ho Ho!

Last week I asked for recommendations for some feel-good Christmas reading – thank you to all who left me some great ideas for books for the festive season.

Some of the books I have already read (in previous years) and some of the others I am looking forward to reading.

So here is Santa’s list of festive books to see you through the holidays. Click on the book to get more information and ENJOY:

 

Boof’s Festive Blah Blah Blah’s

 It’s Christmas!

♪ ♫ Tis the season to be jolly, tra la la la laa – la la la laaaa ♫ ♪

Woop woop, now I can officially get excited now. It is December, it’s snowing and I have a pile of books perfect for the festive season all ready to read.

 

The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

I will probably come as no surprise that I am joining in this challenge 🙂 The rules are to read books about Christmas – YAY! Check out the link to the challenge here. Will anyone else be joining in?

 

Virtual Advent Tour 2010

The virtual advent tour is hosted over here and means that every day in Decmember we get to “open a window” on several blogs (who have been chosen for that particular day). The post can be about anything to do with Christmas. This is what it’s about: “Each day anyone who wants to participate takes turns sharing a treat with our friends here in blogland. For example it could be something about your family traditions, recipes, your country’s holiday traditions, or a favourite Christmas memory, movie, book, song…anything you like. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas we would like to hear about what your family does during the holiday season, whether it be celebrating Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever it is that you do during this time”.

My post will be on Friday 17th December so make sure you pop by then to see what Christmassy treat I have in store.

 

Secret Santa

 

I love Secret Santas, and especially when they involve books! 🙂 I have my book all ready to send on to another blogger (whom I didn’t previously know so it was great to have a look around their blog). The person I am sending to is not in the UK either and actually lives in one of my favourite cities in the world so I was very excited about sending a book to them. I can’t wait to see what I get too….:)

 

The view from my bedroom window and why I’m feeling Christmassy

 

My December reading plans

Look, look, looooooook!!! Look at my lovely, shiny new books. I have already read one of them because I couldn’t wait. There’s nothing like curling up infront of  my roaring fire at home while it’s snowing outside (it has been snowing here for the last 4 days) and reading a cheesey, heart-warming book – love ’em!

 

What are your December reading plans? Do you plan on reading any Christmas books or do you steer clear of them?