Tag Archives: Christmas

Ten Secret Santa and Stocking Filler books for under £15

It’s that time of year again. You know, less than a month to Christmas and a lack of ideas for secret santa presents or stocking fillers has you panic buying “funny secret santa presents” like stressticles or office voodoo dolls which the recipient will throw in the bin by January 1st. I’m here to make a plea that you save the planet from the extra plastic waste, and for under £15 buy them book that they will enjoy for at least three hours, if not a lot longer.

The best bit? These will all be available at your local bookshop for a last minute Christmas gift.

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust

For readers of a certain age (my age) the release of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman , the first in a new trilogy which is set to be a companion to his Northern Lights trilogy was probably the publishing event of the year. Hailed as a tidal wave of imagination, though darker and more savage than the original trilogy, it’s a safe bet for any lover of fantasy.

 

 

 

The Power

The most powerful work of speculative fiction that I’ve read in a long time, Naomi Alderman’s The Power is a must read for any fan of Margaret Atwood. I keep meaning to write a review of this, but my mind is still processing the emotions I felt reading it. It’s a safe present for any woman who hasn’t read it, and it’s always interesting to listen to people’s post-read dissections.

 

 

The Wildlife Gardener

I was delighted to see the new edition of Kate Bradbury’s best-selling The Wildlife Gardener publish this year and swiftly bought myself a copy. It’s the perfect present for any gardener or wildlife enthusiast, and gives fun, practical advice for creating a home for wildlife in what outside space you have available. Saving the planet starts here, folks.

 

 

The Lost Words

Remember when Oxford University Press decided that children no longer needed to be able to look up words like acorn and bramble in the dictionary? Well that outrageous act inspired Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris to create The Lost Words, this beautifully illustrated volume of poetry. A spell book which reminds adults and children alike about the power of words, reading the poems brings the words back to life and gives nature power and relevance for a new generation.

 

Lincoln in the Bardo

Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2017, and shortlisted for multiple awards and honours besides, Lincoln in the Bardo is a safe fiction bet for anyone who likes to read the current big novel. This first novel is an experimental work of fiction, a story of love after death which looks at a problem which faces all humans, how do you find the courage to love when it means you will face loss?

 

 

Hortense and the Shadow

A beautifully illustrated picture book, with a story in the tradition of the old fairy tales, Hortense and the Shadow is dark and exhilarating at the same time. This is set to become an instant children’s classic which adults will love as well. I’ll be adding it to my collection.

 

 

 

Last Stop on The Reindeer Express

I loved Last Stop on the Reindeer Express so much when it published that I bought it only a month later to read with my daughter on Christmas Eve. It would make an ideal Christmas present for any picture book lover or younger gift recipient. A little girl who is missing her Daddy discovers a world within a post box and goes on a beautifully illustrated lift the flap and peep through the pages adventure. I can’t wait to read it as a family before Santa visits.

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

In case you worried that you’d run out of presents to buy for Harry Potter fans, the launch of the Fantastic Beasts film franchise has also lead to the publication of this beautiful Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book which reminds me of the Tolkein’s bestiary that I had as a child, with the names, descriptions and magical illustrations of all the fantasy creatures you encounter in the Potter novels.

This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor

Adam Kay is a comedian and former junior doctor, and This is Going to Hurt is his frank memoir of life on the front line of the NHS. Hilarious and heart-breaking, it gives you an insight into what life is really like for the junior doctors keeping us and the NHS ticking along.

 

 

Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling

I always find it fascinating when an author I admire writes an exposition on their craft. Philip Pullman is indisputably something of a master storyteller, and in Daemon Voices, a collection of thirty essays, he lets his readers peer behind the veil to learn about his views on storytelling, including such topics as the origins of his own stories, the art of writing, and the storytellers who have meant the most to him. A great gift for readers, and aspiring writers.

Best Secret Santa books of 2015

The Mindfulness Colouring Book has been everywhere this year. Practicing mindfulness has been credited with reduced stress levels and improved focus, but really speaking, who doesn’t love a colouring book? The Mindfulness Colouring Book is a grown up twist on everyone’s favourite childhood pastime full of the kind of beautiful patterns you used to draw for yourself then carefully colour in.

 

 

 


I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones tv series, so I was very excited to hear about the Game of Scones: All Men Must Dine cookery book when it was announced a few years ago. I’m even more excited now that it’s been released, full of recipes like Tyrion’s Shortbread, and Jamie and Cersei’s Family Mess. On a similar note, Breaking Bad fans might like the Baking Bad cookbook

 

 

 


The Magpie and the Wardrobe is an enchanting collection of folklore, traditional recipes and quirky facts tumbled together in a beautifully designed book. With a chapter for each month of the year, there’s something to interest everyone. For example, did you know that people started hanging glass baubles in their windows to trap witches?

 

 

 

 


Doing Good Better is a must read for anyone who wants to make a positive difference in the world. It challenges the reader to re-examine their assumptions about altruism to take an evidence based approach to charity. Effective altruism is rapidly becoming a hot topic.

 

 

 

 


Versions of Us is one of only two fiction books I’ve put on this list as I think that it’s quite a subtle area of interest to judge when buying a Secret Santa present, but I couldn’t resist this book which has been described as a bit of a literary sliding doors and asks the question, what if you had said yes?

 

 

 

 


Britannia Obscura takes an alternative look at Britain, exploring different ways of engaging with the landscape- via networks of caves, through the skies, by canal and around leylines- and exploring the worlds of people who experience the country through these. This would be an unusual gift for ramblers or map fanatics.

 

 

 

 


The other fiction book I’ve put on this list is the newly released, illustrated Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. The illustrations are just perfect, and it would make the perfect gift for Harry Potter fans young and old. I can’t wait to start reading this with Phoebe when she’s older.

From Christmas Jumper to Reading Gloves

Hello, this evening you find me feeling very proud of myself having had a very productive evening yesterday.  I wasn’t able to wear my Christmas jumper for the Save the Children Day at work as it had shrunk in the wash (don’t worry I still donated) and I was quite annoyed about this because a) everyone’s Christmas jumpers looked amazing and b) I actually really loved mine. So I decided to “upcycle” it. While I hate the word upcycle (it should be sent to the same hell as staycation) I like the practice and had to show off my reading gloves and Christmassy cushion. The two together can’t have taken more than an hour and a half as I did them while watching Homeland.

 

The Gloves

upcycled fingerless gloves mittensSuper easy, you could make these as a no sew project and mine involved very minimal sewing. I’m especially pleased with these as I get tendonitis from excessive typing in cold conditions (or as I like to put it, working too hard…), so they will be perfect for winter blogging. All you need to do is cut the gloves to the required length, use some bonding tape to prevent the hems fraying and cut a thumb hole to fit the recipient and you have some pretty snazzy gloves. I embellished mine with some vintage snowflake buttons that my grandmother gave me and because my jumper wasn’t pure wool, used some stitching to prevent the thumb hole fraying. If your jumper is made from 100% you can wash it on a really hot wash to felt it and it won’t fray.

 

The Cushion

upcycled sweater cushionEasier than pie, I just turned the jumper inside out and sewed the waist band closed before turning the right side around, popping the cushion pad inside, trimming it to the right size and closing up with a tight whip stitch in a matching thread colour to prevent it fraying. I think it looks very Christmassy and am glad that my favourite Christmas jumper is getting a second life.

Gifts for Sherlock Holmes Fans

Other than reading, one of my favourite things to do at Christmas is to curl up on the sofa watching re-runs of old Sherlock Holmes films and adaptations. You’d be surprised how many you can find and in the past my father and I have managed to fill at least three days of viewings with Sherlock Holmes re-runs, much to the consternation of my little sister. I’ve even managed to hook my boyfriend on the stories to the point that we now have quarrels about which of us is Holmes and which of us is Watson. I am clearly Holmes, as you’ll be able to see from the following exchange:

Me: Elementary, Watson.

Boyfriend: You’re Watson, I’m Shakespeare.

Anyway, I digress. If you have a Holmes fan in your life, or want to introduce a loved one to the Sherlock Holmes stories, the following are great gift ideas:

I am a huge fan of the Penguin Clothbound Classics series. They look amazing and if, like me, the reader in your life is constantly berating themselves for having failed to read a particular classic, they’re a great gift. Even if you’re buying for someone whose favourite book is The Hound of The Baskervilles and has read it a thousand times, they’re sure to love this beautiful edition which will be cherished by Holmes veterans and Sherlock newcomers.

 

 

 

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iconIn the unlikely event that, like myself and my boyfriend, you and your loved ones are arguing over which of you is Watson and which of you is Holmes, you can settle things once and for all by treating them to a The Hound of The Baskerville personalised classic which lets you swap the characters’ names for those of your choosing. A word to the wise, my little sister got me an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland personalised classic, and the recipient gets to choose the characters on the internet. If settling disputes like me and the boyfriend, intercept the pack and do this for them then give them the finished book.

 

 

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iconThis working magnifying glass necklace is a great gift for budding detectives or someone who keeps misplacing their reading glasses. Pair it with this cute and quirky knitted deerstalker hat for this season’s take on the consulting detective look.

 

 

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iconIt might come as a surprise to people who haven’t lurked in the darkest corners of Sherlock Holmes/Conan Doyle internet fandom but the question of what tea Sherlock Holmes drank is a contentious one and causes heated debate among more special interest fans… Adagio tea has responded to this brewing crisis (couldn’t help myself… sorry) by creating this set of teas with an exclusive blend for each of the main characters in the BBC’s adaptation, Sherlock. Don’t worry, favourite characters are also represented.

 

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iconIf you are decorating your study (in Scarlet) or any other room in your house, or know a Sherlock Holmes fan who is, then these art prints may be just the ticket. Being a lady with expensive tastes, I really like this Sherlock Holmes silhouette print which has been carefully constructed from well-chosen quotations for £75.

 

 

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iconHowever, I am also a lady who knows my budget, so this print of Sherlock Holmes keywords is a more affordable compromise at £32.

 

 

 

 

 

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iconIf your Holmes fan is, like me, a big fan of the BBC adaptation Sherlock which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Dr John Watson, then they probably can’t wait for the new series to be released. Help them catch up with this box set of series one and two. It is coming soon, it is, it must be. And I still can’t figure out how he did it.

 

 

If your Holmes fan already has the Sherlock box set, firstly congratulate them on their well-maintained DVD collection, then consider leading them in the direction of the Elementary box set which stars Johnny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr Joan Watson. I know what you’re thinking, I expected to hate it as sacrilege too. But I actually really enjoyed it and will buy pre-ordering for my father and hoping that it comes in time for Christmas. This shopping game is afoot.

Wrapping the Worm- Best Gift Wrap for Readers 2013

Today is my last realistic-to-shop-after pay-day before Christmas so I’ve started out with the easy stuff first- wrapping paper. The following book/typography/whimsy wrapping papers are sure to be a hit with the reader in your life.

 

 

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iconThese pillow gift boxes from The Alphabet Gift Shop are very cute, Christmassy and affordable at just £2.50 ideal for some bookish jewellery

 

 

 

This pink typewriter wrapping paper is retro cool and would look great teamed with bright ribbon on a present for a writer or reader. And remember, a typewriter is not just for Christmas

 

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This gorgeous scrabble gift wrap is an affordable classic.

 

 

 

And speaking of classics these Penguinand Ladybird Classics are bound to be popular choices with readers:

 

 

 

 

If typography is more your thing then this newspaper style wrapping paper from the “partnership” aka John Lewis is likely to please. 4m of Christmassy kitsch.

 

 

 

 

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If you’re looking for something a little less typography focused which is sure to please a Science Fiction fan then this robot wrapping paper is very sweet (I am definitely getting this for my boyfriend’s present).
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These are my favourites, but be sure to check out The Literary Gift Company and The Bodleian Library Shop for their great ranges extra ideas.
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Bookshop brilliantly parodies John Lewis Christmas Advert 2013

You may already have heard, but if you haven’t Christmas is officially six weeks today and UK shops are rolling out their blockbuster adverts in the hope of stealing John Lewis’ crown. This year, the John Lewis Partnership (brief side note- am I the only person who finds the Partnerships’ sociolect a little cult-like?) have splashed out a reported £7 million on an old school Disney-style epic of an advert, following the improbable friendship of a bear and hare, which has been doing the rounds on the internet under #BearAndHare. If you’ve managed to avoid it so far, it can be viewed here:

 

What caught my attention though, was this slightly surreal parody from Waterstones Oxford Street, The Hare With the Amber Eyes and A Bear Named Pooh. If Rosie Huntington-Whiteley inspired you to experiment with the unusual this Christmas in her trip down the rabbit hole for Marks and Spencer, then you should definitely watch this for a whole new level of brilliantly weird:

My Grandmother and Beryl Cook’s Fat Ladies

I think she likes it

I think she likes it

A few years ago, my grandmother gave her copy of a book by her favourite artist to her friend while she was in hospital to cheer her up. Sadly, her friend then died. My grandmother always talks about how much she loved the book and how much the pictures used to make her laugh, so for Christmas, despite knowing very little about art, I resolved to track down a copy for her.

It was surprisingly easy. I just did a quick search for “artists who paint fat ladies” and Beryl Cook’s name came up along with some very familiar looking paintings of fat ladies.

It was great to see how much my grandmother enjoyed looking at those paintings again. And an added bonus came when she was looking at the book with my very prudish boyfriend and a picture of a chubby lady in suspenders brandishing a whip turned up. I only wish I’d managed to capture the look on his face when she turned to him, with an innocent smile and asked, “Do you like being whipped, Jon?”

Old ladies, they think they can get away with anything!

 

Christmas Book Haul

I’m sure (ahem) that you’ve been waiting in a state of frenzied anticipation to see what books my family and friends got me for Christmas. I’ve finally managed to get my lazy bum in gear and dig out the camera to share the book love… ta da!

How lucky am I?

How lucky am I?

A definite fairytale theme going on. I’m looking forward to reading them all.

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

When I was small, reading A Visit from St Nicholas, more commonly known as, ‘Twas the night before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore was a Christmas Eve Tradition. I don’t normally post the full text of a poem to my blog, but this was published in 1823 so the term of copyright has expired and I couldn’t resist. I hope this gets you into the Christmas spirit!

Many St Nicks!

Many St Nicks!

A Visit from St Nicholas/The Night Before Christmas

Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

“Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
so up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes–how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

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

Fun facts about the poem

  • In the original poem, Donner and Blitzen are called Dunder and Blixem which apparently links back to the idea that Clement Clarke Moore was inspired to create his Santa Claus by a Dutchman he knew.
  • Only one original copy of the poem remains in private hands, and it sold for $280,000 back in 2006.
  • People often change “breast” to “crest” in the poem because they are embarrassed by the other kind of breasts or think it is dirty. Fools.
  • The poem has been widely parodied, my favourite is the one in the style of Ernest Hemingway

The Nutcracker illustrated by Maurice Sendak

This evening I have been forced out of my sitting room while my boyfriend and two of his friends play a football game on the Playstation.

I don’t care about that though, because I am curled up in my rocking chair in the dining room flicking through this beautiful copy of The Nutcracker illustrated by the late, great Maurice Sendak who died earlier this year. Isn’t it gorgeous? My photographs don’t do justice to the luxurious feel of the paper or the comforting weight of a nice hardback book, but they do show the charm and colour of the illustrations.

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Front cover

Many headed mouse king

Toy shop

So, I’ve got a good book, tea and a tin of Christmas biscuits. All I’m missing is some little people to read it to, but I’m not planning to do anything about that just yet! If you do have some little people, I think The Nutcracker would make a great bedtime story, a chapter a night in the run up to Christmas and they days that follow. It’s not too late to get yourself a copy either, the ISBN is 978-0-385-34864-5, ask your book shop to order a copy for you, mine gets them in the very next day.

I have a copy to give away to a lucky reader, though sadly it won’t reach you in time for Christmas. If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning, just email me your address with the subject The Nutcracker to bookandbiscuit@hotmail.co.uk