5 Things I Love about a New Year!

There’s just something about a brand new year that sets my fresh start loving heart all aflutter! Although my New Years Eve is being spent trying to finish my 80th book of the year and watching Castle before it’s taken off Amazon Instant Video, I thought I’d write a little 5 Things post to get us all excited for what tomorrow brings…

1. That Fresh Start feel!
2015 kind of sucked for me. Some years just do, so I’m looking forward to a new year and hopefully- a better one. Time is an illusion and all that but you can’t deny that the first day of a new year feels different from the others.

2. New Years Resolutions!
I may be in the minority here but I love new years resolutions. I love the fact that the gym fills up, my Bloglovin’ feed overflows and just the general determination of everyone. Sure, some fall by the wayside and by February, the gym is significantly emptier but better to try and fail than never try at all. And some do stick.

3. New Challenges!
Tomorrow I’ll be talking about what I want to accomplish in 2016 and my Goodreads challenge will be set, soon I’ll put up my 2016 reading goals and on the 20th I’ll be revisiting my 30 Before 30 list! I love a challenge, and deciding what I want from the 365 days of 2016 is giving myself a big one.

4. A New Good Things Jar!
In 2014 I started a ‘Good Things Jar‘ where I wrote down little notes of good things that happened to remember at the end of the year. I didn’t do one in 2015 and I missed it, so I’ll be re-starting this in 2016 because gosh knows it’s nice to have a reminder of the good times.

5. Saying Goodbye!
I know at least a couple of my friends and I that would agree, 2015 was the worst. But tonight we say goodbye to the year and the bad times. It’s healthy, to let go of that stuff and it’s hopeful too. So tonight, I won’t regret 2015 leaving us. But I’ll try and remember what I learnt this year and use that to push myself onwards.

What do you love about a New Year?
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Travel: My Trip to the Christmas Markets of Cologne!

Earlier this month I went to Cologne, or Köln, in Germany to visit the Christmas Markets. I’ve grown up around the German Christmas Market in Manchester so I’ve always been interested in seeing an actual German version. I took a bunch of pictures while I was over there so I thought I’d show the best ones and share the Christmas spirit tonight!

The main reason to go to Cologne is the beautiful cathedral, and the massive Christmas market that goes with it. It’s super pretty, even to me, who has almost no knowledge of architecture or cathedrals. I didn’t go in but I took a while to admire the huge old building in the middle of a very modern city. This was also the only market we could find the mini puff pancakes with Nutella and icing sugar that taste so good.

Of course, the reason I chose Cologne was the famed Chocolate museum. I’m a big chocolate person so I found it absolutely fascinating. You got little freebies and it had a lot of the history at the beginning, then went on to how it’s made, then up to it actually being made. It’s seriously a must-visit if you love chocolate. There’s even a greenhouse with a huge cocoa plant. I found the hand wrapping of Lindt Santa so cool, especially since I’ll be eating a (smaller) one tomorrow.

My favourite market was the Home of the Elves. The elves that looked a lot like gnomes to me, but never mind. I had my first Glögg with my friend and those little elf gnome things were the cutest that I went back to this market the most to soak up the atmosphere. There’s a whole folklore about these little guys doing the people of Cologne’s housework for them until a tailer’s wife got curious and left peas on the floor to trip the gnomes. This annoyed them and they never came back, so the people of Cologne had to do their own housework from then on!

Another market I went back to was the Market of the Angels as it had an amazing decorations store. It was all one way, you walked around the different sections and ended up at the tills, so I ended up spending way too many Euros buying all sorts of ornaments for my tree and as gifts for people. The whole market felt a little more elegant, whereas the others were very rustic, and it was really nice seeing how different the markets could be.

The last market I have to show you is the Village of St. Nicholas! I just managed to snap some pictures of the little bears on swings in the tudor-y themed market before catching the tram back to my hotel. The German markets really go all out compared to the ones in England, I was amazed at all the little extras and themes.

I leave you with a reminder of who is dragging around your presents tonight. This trip actually marked something off my 30 Before 30 List, and I really recommend it as a holiday if you’re looking to go away next December. I think the Cologne markets could put even Scrooge and the Grinch in a Christmas spirit. Don’t forget to check out what books I took here!

I hope you’re having a good Christmas Eve! Have you ever been to the Christmas Markets?
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Books I Took to Germany!

Last week I heading to Cologne for a week to see the German Christmas markets and just have a little break. It was actually the first time I’ve gone abroad this year, I really cut it close! Anyway, I’ve shown you books I’ve taken travelling before and I really like these kinds of posts, so here are the books I took this trip…

The Sleeping Doll and Roadside Crosses by Jeffery Deaver
I’ve been saying to myself for a while that I’m going to start one of Jeffery Deavers series over again so I packed up the first two books featuring Kathryn Dance. I started The Sleeping Doll while I was away and it hooked me so quick, I was reading 100-200 pages every time I picked it up!

The Heart of Winter by Emma Hannigan*
I really wanted to finish this before I left but I had a little left when I went away, and it’s the type of book that if I put it down, I knew I would struggle to pick it back up again. I did manage to finish it when I was away and I’ll talk about it in my monthly round-up.

The Hitchhiker Trilogy by Douglas Adams
Despite it being one of my favourite films, and enjoying the beginning of the book every time I pick it up, I’ve never actually sat down and devoted some time to this series. Therefore, I’ve never got past the first chapter. I know, it’s awful. I’m so sure I would enjoy it as well. I need to read this, it might end up being one of my 2016 reading goals!

The Widow by Fiona Barton*
This is being published in January of 2016 and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a proof before I went away. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to it but this is top of my list for my next reads because it sounds fascinating.

What kinds of books do you take on holiday?

*These books were sent to me for review. I’m not obligated to talk about them

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5 Things to do when Christmas is Over!

Before you start calling my the Grinch- I love Christmas, and I’m not wishing away the season. But there’s an awful gloom that comes over me when Christmas is over, the wrapping is recycled, the presents put away, the decorations taken down, and I know I’m not the only one! So here are 5 Things to do when Christmas is over to help ease the post-holiday blues.

1. Take care of yourself!
There’s a weird 5 days between Christmas and New Year that are perfect for some serious self care. I know for me, I’ll have eaten too much rubbish, not got enough sleep and my emotions will be running on high. It’s a recipe for disaster. I’ve written a post on 5 things to do for Self Care, but for me, I know that post-Christmas will be filled with resting, a marathon of Frasier and lots of vegetables.

2. Start thinking about next year!
I know! We’re not even at Christmas 2015 and I’m thinking about Christmas 2016! But, there are some things that need to be thought about once Christmas is over. For example, I always buy my wrapping paper in the sales. I know it’s not an extravagant cost but saving 50% on some really nice high quality wrapping paper is always nice and it doesn’t spoil so I can put it away with the Christmas decorations.

3. Play with your new stuff!
It’s not quite the same now I’m an adult and my gifts aren’t Polly Pockets, Barbies or Sylvanian Families. But one of the things I like to do when Christmas is over and the craziness has calmed down is really take in what I’ve been lucky enough to be given. Books are read, DVDs are watched, instruction manuals looked over. It’s always nice to have something new!

4. Take down the decorations- but replace them with something else!
There’s nothing worse than the bare sight after the decorations are gone. Everything just feels- wrong when you see the space where they were. I’m not sure what I’m going to replace them with yet though. My fairy lights are staying up, I know that much.

5. Look towards the New Year!
It’s going to be 2016. It’s going to be fresh and shiny and the year that something amazing happens- I hope! I recently started my 2016 Blog Calendar and I’m really looking forward to what’s coming on Imogen’s Typewriter. Not to mention the amazing books being published, returning to education and hopefully some travel.

What do you do to keep away the post-Christmas gloom?
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Books I Want to Buy and Why #6

And we’re back! With the sixth Books I Want to Buy and Why, and a bit of a different one today.  It wasn’t until I finished the post that I realised five out of the eight books are the first in a series. Normally I spread them out but I have a love for series and I just want to read all of them it seems! You can see the rest of the Books I Want to Buy and Why series here!

But anyway, what made it on today’s list?

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris
There are few writers who I aim to systematically read all of their work; Enid Blyton, Jeffery Deaver, and Charlaine Harris. Midnight Crossing is the first book in her new series, set in a small town in Texas where nothing is as it seems. Colour me intrigued.

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
I’ve mentioned Nora Ephron before in the first Books I Want to Buy and Why when I talked about her fictional book, Heartburn. Well, this is her self-deprecating book about things she had learnt as she aged. Considering some of my favourite life lessons come from her movie; You’ve Got Mail, I’m hoping I’ll learn from this too.

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
I won the 9th book in this series from Gollancz on twitter a couple months ago and was debating if I should really start a new series just because I owned the 9th book. I downloaded a sample from iBooks and everything. Then I happened to mention this to my brother, it turns out that my sister-in-law is a big fan of the series and the writer, and I trust her opinion. So Slave to Sensation, the first book, joined the list.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen 
I could probably write an entire blog post on books I bought because they were mentioned in a TV show. Actually… I might. Anyway this was mentioned in Parks and Recreation Season 3, Episode 13 so I clearly need it if Leslie Knope likes it. Apart from that, I know nothing about it.
“-the book Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.”
“Why am I reading this?”
“Because I’m almost done with it, Ann. And I want to talk to you about Patty!”

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Everyone in the world has read this series, or at least it feels like it. At least 10 of my Goodreads friends and most of the Booktubers I watch. I have no idea what it’s about but I’m willing to read anything that so many people love!

iZombie, Volume 1, Dead To The World by Mike Allred and Chris Roberson
So I marathoned season 1 of iZombie in about two days. It’s really good, corny, fun and I’m all for reading the original comics when you like the TV adaptation. I read that it’s slightly different than the show too, which makes me all the more curious about what was changed.

Undead And Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson
I went on one of those websites that recommend books from a book you enjoyed and put in Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris. This is what was recommended, so I read the synopsis and added it to my list! A new vampire, who doesn’t care for vampire politics and just wants to live- so to speak. Sounds like my kind of book.

You Are Not So Smart: Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, Why You Have Too Many Friends On Facebook And 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David Mcraney
I found this on a googling binge for books to make me smarter, and by gosh if that title didn’t just reel me in. I’m pretty sure that I’m deluding myself in a lot of ways, and I want to know what they are! Even if I never really had that many friends on Facebook (wah), I’m interested to see what this book has inside.

Have you read any of these books? What do you think of my picks?

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Books I Read in November!

November seems to be the month of the female authors this year! Every novel I read was by a female author and only the one comic book, which didn’t seem enough to do a separate Comic Books I Read in.. post, was written by a man. Although unintentional, this makes me quite happy. As does the number of books, quite a contrast from November 2014!

A New York Christmas by Anne Perry*
You can find my review here!

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
I read this way back at the beginning of November as part of the Hallowreadathon, and flew through it in a day. But honestly, a month later, I can barely remember what happens. I enjoyed reading it while I was reading it, but as the series goes on, the plot lines blur and the books become less and less memorable.

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris
I just didn’t click with this one, there’s a lot of domestic happenings which I like- in moderation, which this lacked. I could see clearly where the series was going but, like Dead Reckoning, I struggle to remember any details of story or plot. I really need to write better notes while I read!

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
This book is neon, which shows up horribly in bad lighting. It is also the final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series and I’m in shock. This is the first time in over a year that I’m not currently reading a Charlaine Harris series, I hope to remedy that soon. Either way, I wasn’t as disappointed with this book as most people were. Maybe because I knew Harris’s endgame, I knew who Sookie ended up with and knowing that possibly had an effect on the way I read the book. I did, however, think it could’ve been written with more emotion. I’m not sure quite how I feel, but I was a little confused by the sudden change in narrative. 12 books of first person then suddenly, first person and third person.

Redemption Road by Katie Ashley*
Note to self: When you’re not sure about the first book, don’t let the blurb of the second hook you in.
The dialogue was so unnatural in this book, I couldn’t get past it. It was like the characters were trying to sound posh but it just came off wrong. And they just spoke so much about certain ideas about sexual assault and love that it really just came off as preaching to the reader, rather than conversation.
Not only that but they kept repeating the same phrases. The thing is, I get it, because I do it when I’m writing. I think of something brilliant that fits perfectly and it sticks in my mind so by the end of a writing session, it’s been used about fives times with varying success. But it feels like something that should have been picked up in the editing process, especially when they’re repeated just a few pages or even paragraphs apart.
I won’t be reading the third book in the series, even though it’s about the most interesting character from the first two. I’m afraid I just don’t click with Katie Ashley’s writing.

How to Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake*
You can find my review here!

The Rules According to Jwoww by Jenni ‘Jwoww’ Farley
Jwoww is my second favourite from the Jersey Shore cast, first being Snooki obviously. She’s strong, she’s tough, she takes no nonsense. She reminds me of my best Booboo, Ashley. So when I first read this book in my late teens, I soaked up the information and remember thinking to myself that I would re-read it in the future.
I loved it, but I’ve matured. There’s lots of talk about manipulation in relationships, some really awful opinions about men and women, and a questionable rule about not going home with a guy if you don’t plan to sleep with him or you’re ‘asking for it’. Bleugh. Not acceptable.
I enjoy her attitude, I liked the parts about self-respect, and I’m pretty sure the book would read differently if she wrote it today. But I won’t be following a lot of her advice. If you’re a Jersey Shore fan, you might want to pick it up. But Snooki’s books are better.

Chew, Omnivore Edition, Volume 1 by John Layman
Chew is about a detective who knows the history of everything he eats. This was another read from the Hallowreadathon and it’s a fun comic! A little gory, a little gross, and very intriguing. It’s right up my alley. Unfortunately, it can be a little hard to follow at times but the art is great and it’s a really original concept!

What did you read in November?
*These books were sent to me for review. This has not changed my opinion.

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5 Things to do for Charity this Christmas!

It’s Christmas and all over the nation, money is tight. There are trees to deck, feasts to prepare, nuts to roast, presents to buy and the heating bill is taking a beating. But if you have an extra couple of quid to spend then here are 5 Things to do for Charity this Christmas that won’t break the bank, but could really help somebody out.

1. Give some food to a food bank!
This is super easy to do since all you have to do is buy a little extra at the food shop. Lots of supermarkets have donation points but you can also pop in your postcode on The Trussell Trust’s map to find your nearest food bank! 
2. Order a letter from Santa!
Santa 100% exists, kids. And if you’re a parent or know a child, you can order a letter for them from the NSPCC for a donation amount of your choice! All the money goes to preventing child abuse and can really help children in unsafe and neglectful situations.
3. Reserve a place at Crisis for a person who is homeless!
£22.29 can get three hot meals, a shower, a change of clothes, a haircut and a health check for someone out on the streets this Christmas with Crisis. And with this year rumoured to be the coldest the UK has seen in a while, it can get someone out of the cold.
4. Buy an Oxfam Unwrapped gift for someone!
With these gifts you can buy anything from a health check, safe water or even a goat couple. And at checkout there are Little Extras so your friend, significant other or family member has something to unwrap. Although probably not a gift for kids unless you’re prepared for conversations like this and this!
5. Donate to the Samaritans!
Even though suicide rates go down, depression rates spike around the holidays. Christmas is a tough time. It can be stressful, cold, surrounded by family- which can be good or bad, and expectations are high. But the Samaritans are there, even on Christmas day, answering calls and helping people through dark times. 
Have any other charities to add to the list?
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Christmas Movies with Emma Hannigan!

I’ve got a special author post for you today! As part of her blog tour, Emma Hannigan, author of the new release; The Heart of Winter, is here talking about her favourite Christmas movies that get her in the spirit. Personally, I’ll be watching festive films all December so if you want to know some great options, look no further…

Christmas means different things to different people. Some loath it, finding all the fuss and expenditure infinitely stressful. I can appreciate that line of thinking, but I’m afraid I’m one of those annoying people who gets excited from October onwards!

I also like to be organised. I never do all my shopping in one swoop. I begin picking up bits and bobs from September. I know, feel free to groan. I’m an unashamed Christmas smug. If it makes you feel any better, I still tear off to the shops on the 23rd and panic buy. Why? Because I suddenly think the things I’ve bought aren’t good enough! Agh!

As I write this with full on excited Christmas anticipation I would like to share with you, the things that give me that magical feeling. I wonder if any of you have the same little triggers?

I know there are a load of new movies with Christmas themes, but I tend to fall back on the ones I grew up with. Yule tide wouldn’t be the same without The Wizard of Oz. I know I’m free to watch it at any time of the year, but for some reason I never do. The ruby slippers, Munchkins and dulcet tones of Judy Garland take me back to Christmases past, when I counted down the days to Santa Clause’s arrival.

Home Alone was another stalwart in our house. It’s one of those fabulously violent yet hilarious movies that appeals to all ages.

My daughter is utterly obsessed with The Grinch so it’s been added to the list. Even in her teens she still lights up when it’s on. Her word-for-word recitation alongside the actors can be slightly annoying after half an hour. So she’s been instructed to say the words on the inside now!

I have a confession to make. I’ve never seen It’s a Wonderful Life. I have heard so much about it and for some reason I cannot fathom, I haven’t managed to watch it. Now that I’ve made this confession, I’ll make it my business to rectify the situation before the dawn of 2016.

Needless to say, the movies all must be accompanied by treats. I’ve never been a crisps or savouries type of gal. So it’s chocolate all the way. I still get giddy with excitement at the sight of a selection box. Tins of Roses, Quality Street or Heros are my idea of heaven. The only down side is that it’s impossible to step away from the tin once it’s open. Those divine jewel coloured wrappers seems to call out to me in high-pitched tinny voices saying “eat me”. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

After all, what good would January be if I wasn’t feeling over-fed and slovenly? My post chocolate binge is the best reason in the world to get myself back to the swimming pool. Herbie my dog is the world’s biggest January fan. Our walks increase and he never needs to sit at my feet with those please-bring-me-for-a-walk eyes. Movies with chocolate guilt kick start my year with a splash and a strut.

I hope you watch all the movies that warm the cockles of your heart. I hope you are surrounded by the people you love and most of all, I hope there’s chocolate – and lots of it! 

Thank you to Emma for this post! You should definitely watch It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s a great film and on Netflix! Don’t forget to check out The Heart of Winter and look for my review coming next week.

What are your favourite Christmas movies?
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My Christmas List!

It’s that time of year again. December 1st when I put up my Christmas list for your perusal. You can see my post from 2013 here! And my 2014 post here! I kept it pretty low-key this year, I’m really not feeling stuff. I think moving everything out of my room has really clued me into how much I have and I don’t feel like I need much that can be bought.

One thing I do need desperately though, is new gym gear. I go to the gym three times a week but I have almost no gym clothes, and my trainer is always telling me to get some. So I had a look and obviously being the massive Captain America fan, I need this compression shirt! And maybe some SHEILD yoga pants to match.

Every Christmas I ask for the same things. The first being Whittards Instant Tea. Unfortunately, they’ve stopped making one of my favourites! Blackcurrant and Elderflower is no more. So this year I only want a tub of Cranberry and Raspberry. The second being a pair of Snooki Slippers. I have three pairs now and I adore them. I think the Blue Leopard pair needs to join the ranks. And, of course, a Toblerone. Apparently there are ones that are about a metre long. I’d eat it all.

And finally I’d quite like a new pet! Kinda. I want a Marima Moss Ball. After seeing this picture making the rounds on Tumblr I decided that I would really like one of these in my life. I love the idea of having something small that slowly grows as I do. Especially since I kill most plants, and this is low-maintenance.

What’s on your Christmas list?
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