Posted in Christmas Posts

A Book Blogger’s Christmas List

It’s very hard to buy for a book blogger, because I’m told people assume I have all the books I want. This is so far from the truth! I don’t always managed to secure a proof of a book I want so I still buy a huge amount of books. There’s also those e-books I’ve read, from the publisher and from Netgalley, where I would love a finished copy. This especially matters where the format of a book has been a struggle in e-book form – Robert Galbraith’s The Ink Black Heart and Janice Hallett’s The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels come to mind. Finally there’s those special editions, whether it’s a first edition, signed edition or has special sprayed edges I’m there for it. I’m an absolute sucker for spredges so I’m happy to receive pre-orders at Christmas if it secures me that special book. I’ve also included here, some sellers who create bookish jewellery, clothing etc because there’s nothing I like more than a sweatshirt or piece of art inspired by a favourite book. So here’s my Christmas List. I hope you get whatever your bookish heart desires.

Have an E-Copy want a Real Copy.

The left-over women from Jane Eyre and Dracula, Lucy Westernra and Bertha Mason – are living in Los Angeles when they find out that Dracula and Mr Rochester are on their way. Lucy has been resisting Dracula for many years and Bertha does not want to join Rochester’s harem of female fans. They must fight against these men who have tried to erase them.
A fantastic post WW1 look at the seedier side of London through the eyes of two women; Ruby Miller the charismatic and ambitious member of girl gang the Forty Thieves and Harriet Littlewood an aspiring writer who wants her own position at the local newspaper. These women’s lives overlap, changing the course of their lives and ambitions for the future.
Lucy Caldwell takes us back to four days in August 1941 when two sisters, Audrey and Emma, are caught up in the Belfast Blitz. One sister is engaged to be married and the other is in a secret relationship with another woman. Here we find out how they live under duress and try to maintain those elements of our personality that make us who we are.
Maggie Mackay has been haunted her entire life. No matter what she does, she can’t shake the sense that something is wrong with her. And maybe something is…When she was five years old, without proof, Maggie announced that someone in the remote village of Blairmore in the Outer Hebrides had murdered a local man, sparking a media storm. Now, Maggie is determined to discover what really happened and what the villagers are hiding. But everyone has secrets, and some are deadly. As she gets closer to the horrifying truth, Maggie’s own life is in danger…
The much-loved poet behind Milk and Honey and Home Body presents a guide to mindfulness and self-love through the act of writing, blending her own luminous verse with profound and empathetic advice for exploration through art.
Healing Through Words is a guided tour on the journey back to the self, a cathartic and mindful exploration through writing.
This carefully curated collection of exercises asks only that you be vulnerable and honest, both with yourself and the page.
You don’t need to be a writer to take this walk; you just need to write – that’s all.

Throwback Books and Classics

In 1976, Dana dreams of being a writer. In 1815, she is assumed a slave.

When Dana first meets Rufus on a Maryland plantation, he’s drowning. She saves his life – and it will happen again and again.

Neither of them understands his power to summon her whenever his life is threatened, nor the significance of the ties that bind them.

And each time Dana saves him, the more aware she is that her own life might be over before it’s even begun.

This is the extraordinary story of two people bound by blood, separated by so much more than time.
It is 1865, the American Civil War has just ended, and 18-year old Vita Tenney is determined to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a country doctor like her father. But when her father tells her she must get married instead, Vita explores every means of escape – and finds one in the person of war veteran Jacob Culhane. Damaged by what he’s seen in battle and with all his family gone, Jacob is seeking investors for a fledgling business. Then he meets Vita – and together they hatch a plan that should satisfy both their desires.

Months later, Vita seemingly has everything she ever wanted. But alone in a big city and haunted by the mistakes of her past, she wonders if the life she always thought she wanted was too good to be true. When love starts to compete with ambition, what will come out on top?
Paris, 1750.


In the midst of an icy winter, as birds fall frozen from the sky, chambermaid Madeleine Chastel arrives at the home of the city’s celebrated clockmaker and his clever, unworldly daughter.

Madeleine is hiding a dark past, and a dangerous purpose: to discover the truth of the clockmaker’s experiments and record his every move, in exchange for her own chance of freedom.

For as children quietly vanish from the Parisian streets, rumours are swirling that the clockmaker’s intricate mechanical creations, bejewelled birds and silver spiders, are more than they seem.

And soon Madeleine fears that she has stumbled upon an even greater conspiracy. One which might reach to the very heart of Versailles…

A intoxicating story of obsession, illusion and the price of freedom.

Those Very Special Editions

How beautiful is this special addition of Kiran Millwood Palgrave’s The Girl of Ink and Stars? Not only is this book an award winning tale in it’s own right, this is a beautiful hardback gift edition with stunning illustrations from Olia Muza. Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella dreams of the faraway lands her cartographer father once mapped. When her friend disappears, she volunteers to guide the search. The world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself. I think this is a beautiful gift for any age group and it’s high on my list this Christmas.
This is a beautiful new special edition of a much loved book within the blogger community. This new edition is from Waterstones and has incredible Art Deco inspired end papers as well as this gold foil cover. Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ’80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Pre-Order Promises

When I was young I had absolutely no patience when waiting for presents I had to feel them all and was allowed to open one present when we got home from midnight Mason Christmas Eve, just to stop me from getting up at 4am to open them all! Now I don’t mind waiting, espe

In New York City, two rival witch families fight for the upper hand.

The Antonova sisters are beautiful, cunning and ruthless, and their mother – known only as Baba Yaga – is the elusive supplier of premium intoxicants. Their adversaries, the influential Fedorov brothers, serve their crime boss father. Named Koschei the Deathless, his enterprise dominates the shadows of magical Manhattan.

For twelve years, the families have maintained a fraught stalemate. Then everything is thrown into disarray. Bad blood carries them to the brink of disaster, even as fate draws together a brother and sister from either side. Yet the siblings still struggle for power, and internal conflicts could destroy each family from within. That is, if the enmity between empires doesn’t destroy both sides first. There are some gorgeous editions out there too, with spredges and end papers to die for.
Be careful what you wish for… it may just come true.

At The Mercury Theatre in London’s West End, rumours are circulating of a curse.

It is said that the lead actress Lilith has made a pact with Melpomene, the tragic muse of Greek mythology, to become the greatest actress to ever grace the stage. Suspicious of Lilith, the jealous wife of the theatre owner sends dresser Jenny to spy on her, and desperate for the money to help her family, Jenny agrees.

What Jenny finds is a woman as astonishing in her performance as she is provocative in nature. On stage, it’s as though Lilith is possessed by the characters she plays, yet off stage she is as tragic as the Muse who inspires her, and Jenny, sorry for her, befriends the troubled actress. But when strange events begin to take place around the theatre, Jenny wonders if the rumours are true, and fears that when the Muse comes calling for payment, the cost will be too high.
No one survives war unscathed. But even in the darkest days, seeds of hope can grow.

It is 1946 and in the village of Oakbourne the men are home from the war. Their bodies are healing but their psychological wounds run deep. Everyone is scarred – those who fought and those left behind.

Alice Rayne is married to Stephen, heir to crumbling Oakbourne Hall. Once a sweet, gentle man, he has returned a bitter and angry stranger, destroyed by what he has seen and done, tormented by secrets Alice can only guess at.

Lonely and increasingly afraid of the man her husband has become, Alice must try to pick up the pieces of her marriage and save Oakbourne Hall from total collapse. She begins with the walled garden and, as it starts to bear fruit, she finds herself drawn into a new, forbidden love.

Bookish Extras

As I’m sure most bookish people know, there are a wealth of gifts out there for your favourite bookworm. Above are just a few items from my wishlist on Etsy, as it’s my ‘go to’ place for bookish extras. I’m going to feature just a couple of them to give you a place to start and for all those bookish ladies, something to leave for your other half to ‘find’ when it’s your Ruth day.

The Vintage Bookworm is a great shop full of old books that need a new home. Some are recovered and restored vintage books, but the owner also makes new stationery such as covered sketch books and journals. You can even adopt an old book!

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheVintageBookwormUK?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=913582441

If you or your loved one has a favourite book, just do a search and you’ll find. Wealth of different gift ideas from bookmarks, to earrings to book cover art. I love The Great Gatsby and luckily it’s one of those books that seems to inspire artists. I also collect items inspired by The Night Circus and again, it’s a book that seems to spark creativity.

Another great shop on Etsy is Storiarts, who stock unique products from scarves and long fingerless gloves (which I’ve taken to writing in) to weekend bags, duvet covers, badges and candles. Usually based on classic literature from Shakespeare to 19th Century classics like Jane Eye and Dracula, there is something for every reader.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/storiarts?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=153180793

Finally there’s this lovely shop that does book subscription boxes of all kinds from self-care boxes to Blind Date With A Book. Each box has a chosen book plus other items like journals, teas, chocolate, bookmarks and bath bombs. They look lovely and are great for those bookish friends who live far away.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/happilyeverafterbook?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=1021606838

So that’s my Christmas list. My lovely other half is brilliant at choosing something I’d love from my lengthy list. I don’t make a long list so I get so much stuff, I do it because I like to be surprised and also I like him to choose what he wants to give me from my suggestions. It’s often quite a surprise what he chooses. Us bookish types are not so hard to please, ask your bookworm to list books they’d like or share their Amazon wishlist with you. Or use their favourites list on Etsy or Folksy to steer you into the right direction. If you find out what your bookworm’s favourite book is you can find tote bags, sweatshirts and art for that title, or maybe look on abe.books or trawl old bookshops to find a vintage copy or even a first edition if it’s not too expensive. Finding an old copy of their favourite childhood book always looks thoughtful. I hope something here has given you a great idea for the bookworm in your life. I’ll be sure to post a first look at my pressies on Christmas Day. Happy Christmas shopping everyone.

Posted in Squad Pod Collective

All About Evie by Matson Taylor

This novel is the second in Matson Taylor’s series following Evie Epworth (Yorkshirewoman, Fashion Lover, List Maker). So now, I can categorically say that each time I finish a book about Evie I have a big sunny smile on my face. Of course all books make us feel things, even if it’s to throw them out of the nearest window, but it’s a rare book that gives us a real physical reaction such as the spooky ones that give us goosebumps on the arms or lift the hairs on the back of our neck. I’ve only spontaneously burst into tears once, thanks to David Nicholls’s One Day and that twist none of us saw coming. Not only is Matson is great at those laugh out loud moments, such as the ‘cow incident’ that precipitated her car accident in the first book. As I finished All About Evie I found myself unable to stop smiling. This book feels like liquid sunshine being poured into your veins.

Our previous book ended as Evie is being waved off to an adventurous new life in London, alongside mentor Caroline, the unconventional and glamorous daughter of Evie’s lifelong neighbour and baking partner Mrs Scott-Pym. All About Evie starts ten years later in 1970’s London, where Evie is working in a junior role on BBC Radio Four’s Women’s Hour. Previously, we met Evie at time of great change and this novel is no different. Thanks to a terrible incident with a visiting Princess Anne and the misuse of a mug Evie is sacked from the BBC. Does this mean her life in her little London flat is in jeopardy? Caroline thinks this is an opportunity to try something new so Evie tries working in an art gallery. When it turns out art, particularly the modern variety, isn’t for her she lists things she’d like to do and falls upon the idea of writing for a magazine. She finds the magazine Right On in an office above a sex shop – handy windows for checking one’s hair before walking into the office – and asks for a job. Assuming she’s been a journalist at the BBC, NickStickUpBum and NickWithCollars agree to give her a trial on the listings pages, essentially long lists of what’s on in London across the arts from opera to poetry evenings. With the offer of help from Lolo (Radio Three producer, homosexual, basset owner) on the classical music listings, Evie decides to give it a go and sprinkle some sunshine over her work, in her own inimitable way.

In between Evie’s story there are a couple of flashbacks to other character’s lives. Evie’s neighbour Mrs Scott-Pym has died recently and we see her packing a case for Evie, with little artefacts to remind Evie of their time together – including a pestle and mortar wrapped in a tea towel of Bolton Abbey. Evie is grieving for her old friend, but the reminiscences become even more emotional when we realise that Mrs Scott-Pym was, aside from Dad Arthur, the only link back to Evie’s mum Diana. Preserving her memories of their friendship for Evie is so poignant and it does make Evie think about her future. Can she keep dating totally unsuitable men, who she carefully and comically lists for us, or does she want to meet someone she can share her life with? I thoroughly enjoyed the tension between Evie and her rather hippy dippy workmate Griffin. Griffin is a proponent of high culture and wants the magazine to remain intellectual rather than popular. So to try something a little more highbrow, Evie accepts Lola’s invitation to her first opera. Afterwards, NickWithCollars suggests she write a review for the magazine. This infuriates Griffin who thinks Evie is definitely low culture and would rather they published one of her own poems. When the men are out of the office, Griffin places herself in charge and gives Evie petty tasks to fulfil, often creating a mistake to trip Evie up or keep her working late. Evie tries to take the high road, but her yoga chant trick is absolutely brilliant and well deserved. I couldn’t wait for Griffin to receive her real comeuppance! Meanwhile, there’s a lovely friendship forming between Evie and Lolo, as well as his basset hound.

Yet underneath the humour, there’s so much more going on. A beautifully poignant thread running through the novel is that of motherhood. There are memories of Evie’s mum of course and we’re aware of all the life experiences Evie would have loved to share with her. Evie’s mum never got to see her grow and all that promise is encapsulated in one little throwaway object from the suitcase. Evie has many mother figures though, obviously Mrs Scott-Pym and her friend Mrs Swithenbank who gives Evie a call every week just to check in. Caroline and her lover Digby are disagreeing over the possibility of becoming parents, particularly as Caroline would have to carry the child and believes she doesn’t have that maternal instinct. However, both women have been invaluable to Evie, she even loves popping in and watering their plants while they’re away. Their house gives her the sense of having a family in the city, an anchor that keeps her from being swept away amongst the crowds. We see Evie draw on all these maternal figures when Mrs Swithenbank’s daughter Genevieve turns up in London in search of a fashion career. Genevieve carries just one suitcase, but is full of ideas and her outlandish outfits were so funny – one inflatable hoop dress brought back terrible memories of being stuck in a dress in Laura Ashley’s changing rooms and having to ring my Mum to get me out. Evie feeds Genevieve, lets her stay and starts introducing her to the right people. Every day she comes home, dejected from receiving lots of knockbacks, despite her inventive fashion portfolio. Every time Evie props her up and brings her spirit back. It was lovely to see Evie in this life stage, being the mentor and feeling so confident. As much as I love London, it was also nice to see her at home on the farm with old friends reunited and new ones being introduced, plus a very exciting finale which gives us a nod towards what Evie might do next. I can’t wait to celebrate this fantastic novel with a 1970s party. I’m hoping for a cheese and pineapple hedgehog and Babycham to toast this joyful new stage in the Evie story.

Published 21st July 2022 by Scribner UK

Meet The Author

Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire (the flat part not the Brontë part). He comes from farming stock and spent an idyllic childhood surrounded by horses, cows, bicycles, and cheap ice-cream. His father, a York City and Halifax Town footballer, has never forgiven him for getting on the school rugby team but not getting anywhere near the school football team.

Matson now lives in London, where he is a design historian and academic writing tutor at the V&A, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. Previously, he talked his way into various jobs at universities and museums around the world; he has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers. He gets back to Yorkshire as much as possible, mainly to see family and friends but also to get a reasonably-priced haircut.

He has always loved telling stories and, after writing academically about beaded flapper dresses and World War 2 glow-in-the-dark fascinators, he decided to enrol on the Faber Academy ‘Writing A Novel’ course. All About Evie is his second novel.

Posted in Random Things Tours

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau.

What a great coming of age novel this is as we follow Mary Jane Dillard’s summer of 1978, caught between her straight-laced and devout home, that’s all rigorous routine and tidiness, and the home where she ‘nannies’, which is untidy, chaotic, has no rules and is harbouring a famous rock star and his girlfriend as he dries out from drink and drugs! Fourteen year old Mary Jane has a complete culture shock when she takes a summer job working for the Cone family down the road. Her role is to look after the daughter, Izzy, but as she finds out roles and rules are not very clearly defined in the Cone household. Mary Jane has grown up with rules, and her favourite things up till this point are cooking with her mother and singing in the church choir. Her mother is the great organiser of their household: tea is always on the table at the same time; they go to the same weekly church activities; she shops for groceries every Friday and always knows where her daughter is. Dr Cone’s professional status is enough for Mary Jane’s mother, who imagines a serious, professional man with a wife who keeps the household running like clockwork. Nothing could be further from the truth and even Mary Jane’s dad points out they might be different – they’re Jewish he tells his family, their name would have been Cohen but they’ve changed it. Besides which, Dr Cone is a doctor of psychiatry and has his own unusual treatment methods.

If the state of your house is truly reflective of who you are (overstuffed, slightly shabby, but full of charm in my case) then the Cones are chaotic, anarchic, full of ideas and very well read. Just like all children, Mary Jane has imagined all homes are like hers and looks at this one with horror and wonder too. There are things everywhere and in Izzy’s room she can’t even see the floor. The family are not just incontinent with their belongings, but their affections too. Mary Jane’s parents don’t show their emotions and seldom show physical affection, but here Izzy’s parents are full of kisses and hugs – something that takes quite a bit of getting used to on Mary Jane’s part. I grew up in a similarly religious and strict family during my adolescence and although my parents were always very loving, I was very shocked when friend’s mums talked to them openly about sex and relationships, or allowed them to read or watch anything, go out till late and wear what they liked. I really felt Mary Jane’s bewilderment at this complete lack of rules or schedules. As it neared late afternoon she would be surprised that no one had thought about what to have for dinner, or that no one had ironed Mr Cone’s shirts. Mr Cone’s office was in the garden, but his methods are rather unorthodox and within the week the house has two new guests; the rock star called Jimmy and his movie star wife Sheba. Jimmy is drying out, which seems to involve eating a lot of very sugary sweets! Mary Jane has been asked to tell no one the couple are there and this is the first thing she has ever kept from her parents. The second thing is her cut off shorts that Sheba has cut so high they only just cover her bum cheeks – I loved the bit where Mary Jane’s mum bumps into her and Izzy in the supermarket, and she hastily throws on an apron to cover her modesty. She knows that if her mother knew even the half of what is happening over at the Cone’s residence, her summer job would be over, and now she’s grown to love both Izzy and their happy go lucky lifestyle.

Of course these two families are not simply good and bad, they’re just different and that difference is appealing when we realise that Mary Jane is getting from the Cone family, exactly what she is missing at home. Her own mother, although rigid and a little remote, is not a bad woman. Yes she has elitist, and often, judgemental views – the first thing she asks about the Cones is which country club they belong to? She also lives a very ‘Stepford Wife’ existence, with a rota of family chores to follow and the ingrained view that a woman looks after the house, children and her husband. In teaching Mary Jane how to cook and clean, she is preparing her for a similar role in life because that is her norm. They belong to a church that reinforces those same views. However, Mary Jane is well cared for and has a very stable home life, with a mother who wants to keep her safe. By contrast, Bonnie Cone is openly affectionate, praises her cooking and cleaning skills as if they’re a magic art, and encourages her to express herself both emotionally and creatively, but she does have shortcomings. She doesn’t work outside the home, but Izzy is often unfed, unwashed and without Mary Jane’s input could be neglected. As a couple, the Cones choose to bring a known addict into their home who is a total stranger, leave food to rot in the fridge and are effectively allowing a fourteen year old to run their home, cook all their meals and be a full-time nanny to their daughter.

Whilst there is so much charm in their lifestyle and love in their hearts, it doesn’t always translate to action and could be seen as dysfunctional. I can imagine many people finding their nudity troublesome – Mrs Cone is often without a bra and Mr Cone wanders naked from bedroom to bathroom, knowing Mary Jane is in the house. As I was reading I found myself drawn to the Cone’s way of life, but also a little troubled by it. While I dislike rigid, religious upbringings I had to feel a drop of sympathy for Mrs Dillard who thinks she is doing the best thing for her family and often is, in a practical sense. While Izzy seems a happy and well- adjusted little girl now, would that continue into her teenage years or might she crave some structure and safety? There’s a scene, early after Sheba and Jimmy’s arrival where the whole household sit and watch Russian and American astronauts meet in space for the first time. Mary Jane observes that as they all sit together, on or in front of the sofa, everyone has an arm round or hand on someone else. It’s a big affectionate sprawl she describes as being like a litter of puppies. This description stayed with me, and I think it is because they all seemed to be on a equal footing. There are no adults and children here – they are all children. This can also be seen in later descriptions of evenings where everyone sings together, dances to the Jimmy’s records and the adults smoke joints. She is even included in group therapy sessions where everyone is encouraged to be honest and has equal status. I couldn’t tell whether it was the whiff of 1970s nostalgia that made this communal living sound idyllic. There were times when I wondered if any five year old brought up in a similar atmosphere now, might even be flagged up at school or to social services.

However, the author’s skill is in creating that nostalgia for the past, the music, the peace, the love and the permissive family. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming and the reader is charmed into wanting to be a member of this loving and accepting household. I felt seduced by it, but then I was Izzy’s age in 1978 and it does feel like a golden time. These are the rose coloured spectacles of a child. Yet, if I asked my parents what was really going on in our lives then, I might get a completely different story. This is how I felt about Mary Jane, that naïvety she has lead to her being charmed by the Cones. She hasn’t stopped to think what would be happening to Izzy if she wasn’t hired for the summer? On one of the last weeks of summer, they all decamp to the coast, sharing a beach house for the week. I was simply waiting for these couples to clash, or something else to go wrong. One thing is definitely true, seeing an extremely different lifestyle opens Mary Jane’s eyes and gives her a more definite picture of who she wants to be and what to do with her life. This is an interesting, nostalgic and funny coming of age novel with a sympathetic heroine who I really enjoyed.

Meet The Author

Jessica Anya Blau is the author of US bestselling novel The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and three other critically acclaimed novels, most recently The Trouble With Lexie. Her novels have been recommended and featured on CNN, NPR, The Today Show and in Vanity Fair, Cosmo, O Magazine, and many other US magazines and newspapers.