Sharing a Chair | Book Club

- Book Review: Enough -

by Angela Cox

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Book Peak: A real life story of overcoming, with tools to help those who will no doubt read this and relate on so many levels. Truly inspiring. 

Book Pit: Only that I was enjoying the autobiographical section of the book so much that I wished there was more to read. 

Favourite Quote: 'Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.' - Ian McClaren

Similar Reads: The Art of Being Brilliant by Andy Cope, Eat Drink Run by Bryony Gordon. 

 | FULL REVIEW BELOW | 

 
 

I've followed Angela on social media for two years, you could say that her transformation on The Body Coach plan sealed the deal on starting my own 90 day plan transformation. 

It was always clear from Angela's posts that she had a difficult relationship with food, I knew this because of my own experiences. Many of us will have a reason that we turn to food in times of trouble, and some of us will simply battle with food and body confidence and get stuck on that never - ending treadmill of self - destruction. 

I was stuck. Lost in a maze which seemed to have no exit and I really didn’t know where to turn.

Angela, much like myself, had a trigger. This was something I knew nothing about until I attended the launch for her book and she gave an emotional reading. I don't like to give spoilers in my reviews, and I feel it would take away from the heart of the book, the thread that holds it all together. Be prepared, it is shocking and the desperation you feel for Angela is overwhelming, but she tells the story so eloquently and has turned trauma into tenacity. 

The autobiographical section of the book will resonate with so many readers. Even if your battle has not been with an addiction to food, any addiction will occupy our thoughts and lure us into temptation much the same. We all have a story and Angela's is a brave one that so many of us can learn from. Many times I found myself nodding or even experiencing a few revelations about my own eating disorder that I hadn't yet dealt with. 

...I stayed strong in the moment of self-sabotage and didn’t yield to a binge. This was transformational progress.

Angela has played out the most recent part of her journey on social media, which brings with it an abundance of positives with a sprinkling of negatives too. This aspect of the book will be recognised by most who read it, given that the majority of us have experienced negative comments online and are all growing and adapting to this new world of fast - paced communication.

The second section of the book is brilliantly insightful, and to a planner like me, a real call to action. When you are sat on the edge of a seemingly impossible task, like having to lose a substantial amount of weight, it can appear hopeless. What I love about Angela's approach is that she too believes that breaking it down into smaller chunks or 'goals' and 'tactical steps' will make the task at hand seem less intimidating. We should celebrate the small achievements as ultimately they will add up to a much bigger one. 

... feedback in any form tells me less about myself and more about the person who is giving it.

I powered through this book, so much of it was like reading about myself or seeing my own thoughts written down. I wish I had this book when I was in my twenties because I know it would have pulled me out of that self destructive cycle and the years of self criticism which happened as a result of that. 

As a writer, I can understand why potential publishers wanted to split the book in two - one an autobiography and the other a book of tactics and strategy. However, this should only be seen as a positive, Angela has so much to give of value and I believe this book is just as successful as a singular module as it would be in two. The most important point is that the content draws you in with it's honesty, a characteristic of a great writer and of a great friend. Reading this book makes you wish you could give this friend a great big hug. 

The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed. - Ernest Hemingway

Angela Cox is now a successful mindset mentor, specialising in one to one sessions, retreats and upcoming event 'Mojo' follow Angela on Instagram, Twitter or check out her Facebook Page for Big Girl's Journey to Lean.  

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Sharing a Chair | Book Club

- Book Review: The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock -

by Imogen Hermes Gowar

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Book Peak: The imagery of the book is faultless, written with extreme care, research and dedication. It was clear that the author had thoroughly explored the era down to minute detail, before I even knew anything about her. It is impressive.

Book Pit:  The pace of the novel is slow, which is overpowered by the incredible writing style, however for me, perseverance does not necessarily pay off culminating in feeling immense dissatisfaction at the ending. 

Favourite Quote: "A loss is not a void. A loss is a presence all its own; a loss takes up space; a loss is born just as any other thing that lives."

Similar Reads: The Essex Serpent, The Night Circus

 | FULL REVIEW BELOW | 

 
 

This kind of book is right up my street. I love historical fiction, and I am quickly realising, the older I get, that it might just be my favourite genre. So having seen countless bloggers and avid readers raving about this one it went straight on my 'to read' list. 

Upon starting the book I realised that it was not quite what I had expected, however, I know from experience that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Many books I've read have turned out to be so much better than I had imagined they would be, even if first impressions had indicated otherwise. So I stuck it out.  

For mermaids are the most unnatural of creatures and their hearts are empty of love.

I had thought the book would be about a Mermaid, some mystical creature that was integral to the story, and I would be excused, given the title. However it becomes a tiny stitch in a tapestry woven from many other tales that don't always come to anything. 

Mr Hancock, a merchant, comes to acquire a mermaid. It is not the ethereal beauty of legends, but rather a gnarled and twisted foetal version of the myth. He sets out to make money from the creature, and that he does, however what he also gets is a lot more than he bargained for. 

Mrs Chappell, a madam, strikes a deal with Mr Hancock to display his mermaid within her establishment. This is where we encounter Angelica Neal, a courtesan who has recently lost her 'keeper' and is on the lookout for a new one. 

Its appearance is unbeautiful. It is not what people expect of a mermaid.

The story carries itself on mirroring themes between mythical mermaids and females of the time, lightly touching on the idea of being a trapped woman trying to obtain power and purpose in a world ruled by men. 

One sub story, which promises to tackle something beyond the restraints of gender, follows a mixed race prostitute called Polly who manages to escape from a 'job'. Much like her miraculous disappearance from this particular party, she vanishes from the plot never to be seen until the very end when we wonder if the author suddenly stumbled across her in her memory again. 

There are many metaphors throughout the book, some more obvious than others. The moral of the story is buried so deeply it is not easily accessible.

The book lures you into a place where you accept it as a real, viable story despite the appearance of mermaids, and so magical realism is not really apparent. That is until the end of the book when we are suddenly expected to accept some strange mystical happenings and it doesn't quite sit right. 

I cry out and there is a dull nothing.

Overall I found the book went at a glacial pace, I kept reading hoping that the story would turn a corner and reveal a major twist or unveiling that would make the journey worthwhile. Sadly I met my destination at the same tentative pace that I had sought it, rather than the climatic exit I had endeavoured to find awaiting me. The writing, setting and astounding attention to detail that went into this piece of work seem wasted somewhat as this could have been so much more.

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Rating 3/5

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The words spoke from behind a mask may be bolder than those uttered barefaced, but this need not mean they are more honest.

If you would like to be part of our online Book Club then please subscribe to our email list below. You will be updated on the book pick for the month and reviews of previous reads. We will also send resources to aid you in further discussion on your current read. 

Head over to the Sharing a Chair Facebook page to join our Book Club Discussion group and chat to fellow members. We will also be having votes there in future to involve members in choosing the books we read. 

Sharing a Chair | Book Club

- Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine -

by Gail Honeyman

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Book Peak: The developing friendship between Eleanor and Raymond and the underlying theme of kindness is extremely heart warming. 

Book Pit:  That it ended! This was one of those books that really stays with you long after you've finished it. 

Favourite Quote: "There are scars on my heart, just as thick, as disfiguring as those on my face. I know they’re there. I hope some undamaged tissue remains, a patch through which love can come in and flow out. I hope."

Similar Reads: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, The Lido by Libby Page, Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. 

FULL REVIEW BELOW | NO SPOILERS 

 
 

I am definitely someone who buys into the hype of a book, however this comes with a risk. Just because a book is riding high on the bestseller lists does not necessarily mean it's going to be 'just one more chapter' kind of excellent. 

But fear not. Eleanor is absolutely worthy of the hype. I may even go so far as to say that this is one of my favourite books of all time. It's that good.

I wouldn't usually go for this genre of book, so this was based purely on recommendations - it's not something I would have picked up in a local book shop (remember those?)

This is a story of loneliness, friendship and the great impact of kindness in the smallest of gestures. Whilst reading, it struck me just how surprising it was that this story hadn't yet been told. But thankfully Gail Honeyman put pen to paper and gave us Eleanor's point of view. 

If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.

The book covers themes such as loneliness, grief and has sparked much debate on the subject of nature vs nurture. One thing is for sure, you will grow attached to the characters - whether that's because you adore them or because you are simply intrigued. 

Personally I loved Eleanor, she took shape in my imagination in such detail I felt like I really knew her by the end of the book, and had fully invested my emotions in her and what she had gone through. The way she is socially unaware is both eccentric and endearing and yet I also found myself agreeing with her logic on many occasions. 

I loved how the author gave tiny glimpses into Eleanor's past but however desperate we were to know what had happened, it was far more important that we knew her as she was presently. The budding friendship with her colleague Raymond was the highlight of the book for me, showing that if we only pay more attention we could make those small gestures of kindness that can truly change the whole world for someone. 

It is beautifully written, giving a wonderfully raw narrative of life and all its complications. It's completely relatable in a sense that we've all known an Eleanor at some point, or perhaps in some ways we are her. The author cleverly leaves us readers thinking about our own actions it changes and challenges you.

There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock. The threads tighten slightly from Monday to Friday.

I don't see how anyone could read this book without being affected. The thread of friendship that evolves throughout the story is something of beauty and yet it is so subtle and quietly suggested. 

A book that teaches us to look inwards and question our own actions is to be commended. The story stayed with me long after I read the final paragraph and I think it will continue to echo back to me for a long time to come.

An absolute must - read!

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5/5 Rating

These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.

If you would like to be part of our online Book Club then please subscribe to our email list below. You will be updated on the book pick for the month and reviews of previous reads. We will also send resources to aid you in further discussion on your current read. 

Head over to the Sharing a Chair Facebook page to join our Book Club Discussion group and chat to fellow members. We will also be having votes there in future to involve members in choosing the books we read. 

SHARING A CHAIR | Book Club

-Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird-

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by HARPER LEE

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Book Peak: The morals and hidden lessons that Harper Lee weaves so eloquently into her storytelling.

Book Pit: The writing is so important, and written so well that you do need to take the time to really soak in the story, and what lies beyond it. 

Favourite Quote: 'Atticus...he was real nice...' 'Most people are Scout, when you finally see them.'

Read if you liked: 'A Tree Grows' by Betty Smith or 'Adventures Huckleberry Finn' by Mark Twain.

FULL REVIEW BELOW | NO SPOILERS 

 
 

Unlike most people I had never read this book before, I mistakenly thought I had done during my secondary school years but turns out I would most definitely remember if I had. There's no forgetting this book. 

Though the story is told by Jean Louise Finch, as an adult looking back on several years of her childhood; it becomes inherently clear that the character at the focus of the story is her father, Atticus Finch. 

Jem and I found our father satisfactory: he played with us, read to us, and treated us with courteous detachment.

A single Father, Atticus represents a steadfast character, consistently true to his morals in a novel full of changing attitudes and changing times. He guides his children as if they are adults, at first you think he is a little distant but as the story unfolds his parenting style becomes apparent, and relevant. 

Though he treats his children with maturity he is not quick to anger and realises they will make childish mistakes and have child like ideas. This is where his wisdom and morality comes into its own. He teaches the children, and those around him, to see people as equals and that to truly understand others we must walk a mile in their shoes. 

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

The book explores themes of Morality, Change, Race, Class and Relationships. It is no wonder this novel is studied in schools the world over, as there are so many layers of meaning which leave readers truly inspired. I don't personally believe that every reader will extract the same messages, but there is a consistent thread throughout which begs us to think before we judge, and regardless of race, religion or stature we are all human. 

There is a lot of mirroring in the story, characters who differ in race or status, yet united in their experience of being on the fringes of society. Atticus represents the central point amongst the differing 'folks' and it is through him that the children and other characters begin to see what he sees, and learn how we are not so different after all.  

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5/5 Rating

They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

If you would like to be part of our online Book Club then please subscribe to our email list below. You will be updated on the book pick for the month and reviews of previous reads. We will also send resources to aid you in further discussion on your current read. 

Head over to the Sharing a Chair Facebook page to join our Book Club Discussion group and chat to fellow members. We will also be having votes there in future to involve members in choosing the books we read. 

SHARING A CHAIR | Book Club

- BOOK REVIEW | THE GREAT GATSBY -

by F.Scott fitzgerald

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Book Peak: The writing by Fitzgerald, which reads like prose. The descriptive nature of the storytelling helps to paint a vivid picture of the times and more importantly the characters.

Book Pit: It is difficult to relate to or sympathise with any of the characters, but this does seem intentional by the author to highlight their hollow lifestyles.

Favourite Quote: "I hope she'll be a fool -- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.

Read if you liked: Any classic literature exploring the lives of those in high society. 

FULL REVIEW BELOW | NO SPOILERS 

 
 

To look at The Great Gatsby on surface level, one would conclude it was a love story. But this novel has so much more to say than just that of love lost and found. 

Set in the 1920's, a period in American history where the importation, production and transportation of alcoholic beverages was prohibited nationwide. The story is told by Nick Carraway, who introduces us to the lavish parties that take place at his neighbour, Gatsby's house every weekend.

Gatsby is elusive during his parties, inducing an atmosphere of mystery around who he is. None of his guests ever seem to completely know about who he is and how he came to be so wealthy. Gatsby holds a dark secret about his past and what lead to his wealth and popularity, a connection that will ultimately lead to the climax of the story. 

And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.

The Great Gatsby, in many ways, demonstrates the emptiness a life of luxury can bring. There is a running theme of 'time', with Gatsby seemingly fixated on finding a future, but only by means of changing the past. It's as though he is happily living in his past and wants to recreate it by denying the relationships and emotions of those around him that get in the way. 

The reader will become increasingly frustrated with the characters and their many flaws. Tom with his brutish nature, not loyal in his marriage but expecting more than he puts in himself and Daisy with her lust for the finer things in life over the invaluable qualities of character. Our attitude towards Gatsby will ebb and flow, at some points feeling sorry for him and his quest for the love of his life, then at others we find ourselves annoyed when he acts like a spoilt child - requesting that Daisy deny ever having any feelings towards her husband. 

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

By the end of the novel you are left feeling that there is a great injustice in the world. There are no heroes and the careless get to carry on being careless and selfish in their ways. 

The book tells the story of the dreamer, of those who wish for the perfect ending and will do anything to reach for the unreachable. One could deduce that this is a little depressing, as the ending does not culminate in the long told tale that if you chase your dreams you will reach them, instead it shows that if you channel all your efforts into those that are unworthy, it will only have disastrous effects. 

They were careless people, Tom and Daisyβ€”they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

This is a beautifully written tale of love and loneliness. The undulating prose of Fitzgerald makes the story come alive. I enjoyed every sentence and the fact that it is fairly short means that the quality leaves you satisfied and not overindulged. 

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5/5 Rating

Please leave your thoughts and comments on this novel below. If you would like to join in with the Sharing a Chair Book Club then please join our group on Facebook.

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-Book Review | The Lie Tree- 

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by Frances Hardinge

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Book Peak: The climax in the final part of the book is exciting and intense and the characters have become beautifully rounded and fully understood by this point.

Book Pit: The writing is beautiful but could equally feel over bearing, quite heavy for Young Adults as I found I had to concentrate at times.

Favourite Quote: "A rain shower was rehearsing. A few experimental droplets filled the silence."

Read if you liked: His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman.

FULL REVIEW BELOW | NO SPOILERS 

 
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I'd never had the pleasure of reading a book by Frances Hardinge before, in fact, I had never heard of her, which I now realise is shocking. This was one of those moments when you see something and then you keep seeing it everywhere you go, so I took the hint and set about making sure I gave it a read. 

It quickly became apparent that this was an author who delighted in language and knew exactly how to make it dance across the page in beautiful prose. It took me such a long time to finish this book because I have two young children but I also wanted to devour every single word, savouring each carefully constructed sentence to acknowledge the thought that had gone into it. 


β€œListen, Faith. A girl cannot be brave, or clever, or skilled as a boy can. If she is not good, she is nothing. Do you understand?”

The Lie Tree follows young girl Faith Sunderley, the daughter of a socialite Mother and a natural scientist Father. Faith is a girl with a thirst for knowledge, but she finds herself up against the time in which she has been born and learns a lot about what is expected for a girl of her age and social standing. 

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The book begins with the family upending their life in Kent in favour of a new start on the remote island of Vale. It becomes apparent that Faith and her family are running from scandal surrounding her father’s latest scientific findings. When tragedy strikes the family, Faith takes matters into her own hands. In order to uncover the mysteries surrounding her Father and save the reputation of her family, she must be covert in her attempts to manipulate those around her and find the truth. 

β€œWomen find themselves on battlefields just as men do. We are given no weapons, and cannot be seen to fight. But fight we must, or perish.”

We are convinced of the battles that Faith has to face by Hardinge’s flawless ability to paint a perfect picture of the time. Issues such as the treatment of left-handed children and after-death photography are intricately weaved throughout the narrative to reinforce the authenticity of the storytelling. The effect of Darwin’s theories on Victorian society play a major part in setting the scene for Faith’s Reverend Father, also a fossil enthusiast who battles with the juxtaposition of his faith and the rival theories of his peers. 

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β€œFaith had grown used to her father’s guests smiling, bantering and my-dear-fellow-ing over their tea, while racing their rival theories like prize ponies”

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The fantasy element of the book is the inclusion of a mysterious tree, which is hard to review without revealing too much of the mystery within the story itself. It is quite fantastical but gives a great depth to the tale and makes the reader think about the role of a lie and where it can take us. 

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Though this was written for Young Adults, I felt it was perfectly enjoyable for adults too. As a fan of His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman,  this felt like another example of YA fiction that can equally be enjoyed by adults. I especially felt that this would be an encouraging story of feminism for young women, showing that in adversity you can still achieve all that you put your mind to. Ultimately this is a beautifully written and brilliantly intelligent book about a strong-willed, intelligent young woman, offering an intricate story that leaves you with a satisfying conclusion.

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4/5 Rating

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Blogmas Day 23 | CHILDREN'S BOOKS Sharing a Chair // BOOK CLUB

Christmas Book Picks: Children

We love story time in our house and Christmas Eve is the perfect opportunity to get out the favourite Christmasy books. We keep ours safe, stored with all the decorations throughout the year so we get to discover them all over again in December. Here are a few of our favourites.

 
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The Jolly Christmas Postman

By Janet & Allan Ahlberg

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 - This book is lovely, with interactive bits for the children to pull out and look at such as letters and cards. It integrates classic fairytales such as Goldilocks and Jack & the Beanstalk which many children will recognise. 

 
 
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The Night Before Christmas

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By Clement C. Moore & Niroot Puttapipat. This is a classic Christmas story, but we love this pop up version with silhouette illustrations that are just beautifully intricate.

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God Gave us Christmas

By Lisa Tawn Bergen. This is a lovely story that combines the true meaning of Christmas with the image of presents and Santa Claus. It shows that the two can live side by side but shows us the joy and importance of remembering God at Christmas time. 

 
 
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Stick Man

By Julia Donaldson. No one writes children's books like Julia. Now a short film, this tale is all about a Daddy Stick Man trying to get home to his family at Christmas. Perfect rhyming prose for little ones this Christmas. 

 

Other books we love:

  • The Snowman | By Raymond Briggs - What a classic, it's a bit of an obvious one so we haven't included it in the above list but it would just be totally wrong not to mention it at all. 
  • The First Christmas | The Bible - We read this lots throughout December in lots of different formats - but each and every one is just as special as the other. 
  • The Gruffalo's Child | Julia Donaldson - This snowy follow up to the popular story of The Gruffalo has also been made into a Christmasy TV short and is a favourite all year round in our house. 

What are your children's favourite stories to read this time of year? Or what do you remember reading as a child at Christmas time? Let me know! 

Sharing a Chair | Blogmas

 

Blogmas Day 3 | Christmas Book Picks

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My Christmas Book Picks

If you are as crazy about books and Christmas as me, then this is the list for you. I love embracing the festive feels in any way I can, and a book is the perfect excuse to bring Christmas into the house as early as possible. So here are my selections for the season that will help build up the hysteria just that little bit more!

Letters from Father Christmas by J R R Tolkien

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This is a beautiful book that would make the perfect gift for a Tolkien fan. It is a collection of letters that Tolkien wrote to his children, acting as Father Christmas. Every December the children would receive letters from Father Christmas, and on occasion an Elf. The familiar scrawl of Tolkien brings these touching notes to life with the accompaniment of some joyful doodles. 

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The Nutcracker // Penguin Christmas Classics by E T A Hoffman

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We all know the story of the Nutcracker and every Christmas the English National Ballet puts on a breathtaking performance of this famous tale. I remember playing the part of a sugar plum fairy myself when I was a little girl so this story always brings such warm feelings of nostalgia for Christmas' past. 

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The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans

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This book is a modern day scrooge meets 'His Name is Earl'. A great story of redemption and forgiveness. It captures the spirit of Christmas and the most important things in life that we fully embrace at this time of year.

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Little Women // Penguin Clothbound Classics by Louisa May Alcott

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This is my all time favourite story to read at Christmas time, and if you don't have time for the book then most definitely watch the film. The story of a loving relationship between four sisters and the struggles of adolescence in the Post - Civil war environment.  

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone // Illustrated Edition by J K Rowling

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This particular edition is lovely to read through during the festive period, the following two books are now out in this edition with the other four being released one a year, usually around October time. Harry Potter is always a cosy read a Christmas, or anytime really!


What's your favourite Christmas read? If you fancy joining my online book club, we will be reading The Great Gatsby during December and January. You can join in the fun on my Facebook page.