Although I didn’t really make any new years resolutions this year, there were definitely things I wanted to work on and improve over the next year. One of those things was to make a bit more time to myself, to do things I enjoy, look after myself and relax more. These included buying new sheets and pillows for my bed to make it extra comfy and cosy, taking more long baths with a cuppa and a good book and being creative with simple things like colouring and sketching.

Illustration School - Lets Draw Plants and Small Creatures Sachiko UmotoOne thing I’ve made the effort to do, is to go to bed an hour early where possible and put on an audio book and getting out my colouring books and sketchbook. Although January was a very busy month for me and I certainly didn’t manage to do this every day, when I did I definitely felt better for it.

Illustration School Little Miss SunflowerI recently picked up a lovely book, with step by step guides to drawing cute little plant characters and flowers. The Illustration school series is a lovely set of adorable books, each showing you how to draw different sketches. So far this year I have whiled away quite a few hours copying all the cute little pictures.

Illustration School SunflowerI love that you can try different poses and expressions on the little characters and once you’ve worked your way through the book you can put all the ideas together and create your own pictures or even make your own characters. The possibilities are endless and I’ve really enjoyed having an easy creative outlet at the end of busy days.

Illustration School Sunflower PictureI’d love to share some more of the things I’ve been doing in my down time this year. So look out for some more posts about things I do to relax. What do you to when you take time out for yourself?

This book is available to buy on Amazon.

Last year I shared a post with all the books I’d read in 2015, this year I thought I’d do the same. Whether on Kindle, Audible or on paper, I love to devour a good book. As you can see from my list I read a big mixture of books, both fiction and non fiction.

The Viceroys Daughters Book ReviewThis year I’ve found a huge interest in female history and have read a lot of books about women in the early 20th century. I always really enjoy anything about society in the 1920s especially.

screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-17-45-30I’ve also just started reading all the Jane Austen novels and finished Sense and Sensibility last week, I’m currently re-reading Emma. I also re-read lots of Jenny Colgan novels. When I need a little chick lit or light reading, she’s always the one I go for.

Margot at War ReviewMy favourite books of the year would have to be Margot at War and First Lady the biographies of Margot Asquith and Clementine Churchill. It was so interesting finding out more about the wives of two very prominent prime ministers both in the first and second world wars.

screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-17-45-43Earlier in the year I also read lots of books by Cathy Bramley, her books are so lovely and very cheerful and I’m really looking forward to her writing some more. Another reading highlight of the year was Take Six Girls, a new book bout the Mitford sisters, who always really fascinate me.

Love Notes For Freddie by Eva Rice ReviewA fiction highlight this year for me was Love Notes for Freddie, by Eva Rice. I’ve really enjoyed all her books and I love the way you get such a strong representation of the era they were written in.

screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-17-46-00There’s a slight overlap with last year here, but at the end of last year I started re-reading all the Harry Potter books and then while looking back at my favourite books from my teens I also re-read His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman which I absolutely adore.

Young Elizabeth Book ReviewI read so many books this year, that it will hard to read as many next year, but I’m definitely going to try. So you have any good book recommendations that you think I’d like?

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One of my favourite times of day, would have to be story time with Lila before bed. So I’m always on the lookout for new children’s books to read with her. I was really excited to see that Pavillion books have  published a series of classic fairy tales re-told and illustrated in different vintage eras.

Sleeping Beauty - A Mid Century Fairytale ReviewThere are currently 3 books in the series written by Lynn Roberts-Malony and illustrated by David Roberts. The previous books a 1920s themed Cinderella and a retro 1970s Repunzel have just been joined by a wonderful 1950s version of Sleeping Beauty.

1950s Sleeping Beauty BookThe illustrations in the book are absolutely beautiful. I love the stylish mid-century theme of the book and the little details in all the pictures are perfect. The book is definitely design led, and this gives it just as much appeal to adults as to children.

Mid Century Sleeping BeautyIn the story baby Annabel is cursed by a jealous witch at a party, she will be pricked by a needle before her 16th birthday and die. Her aunt, a good witch changed the spell, so that she will sleep for 1000 years instead. If she is not woken at midnight after 1000 years she will die.

Sleeping Beauty A Mid Century Fairy Tale Evil QueenAnnabel grows up with her aunts, she loves science fiction and spends her time reading space books and watching films about Robots. Her aunts remove all the needles from the house. All seems well until a mysterious record player appears on the doorstep right before her 16th birthday.

1950s Sleeping Beauty Record PlayerI won’t give away the rest of the re-telling, but it is fantastic and would definitely appeal to modern children. I like the female based plot, there is not a handsome prince in sight which I prefer to tradition fairy tales.

Sleeping Beauty A Mid Century Fairy tale Rose BushThe book itself is nice and big, so you get to enjoy the beautiful pictures in all their glory. It’s not too long either so it’s perfect for a bedtime story. I like that it is grown up enough for both girls to enjoy, both Lila who is 5 and Jessica who is ten both really enjoyed reading it with me.

Mid Century Sleeping Beauty BedroomEven if you don’t have children, this would appeal to anyone who like the 1950s and would look lovely on a coffee table to dip into and enjoy the illustrations.

Sleeping Beauty A Mid century Fairy Tale Book ReviewI’m really hoping that more of these books will be out soon, I would love to see all the decades of the 20th century recreated in fairy tale from.

Sleeping Beauty LilaSleeping Beauty: A Mid Century Fairy Tale is Published by Pavillion, written by Lynn Roberts Maloney and Illustrated by David Roberts. You can buy a copy on Amazon.

*Thank you to Pavillion Books for sending me the book to review. All opinions are my own.

Love Notes for Freddie is the third book by Eva Rice that I’ve read. I have previously really enjoyed The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets and The Misinterpratation of Tara Jupp, so I was really excited to give her latest novel a read. Love Notes to Freddie is set at the end of the 1960s, and tells the story of Marnie a school girl and her teacher Miss Crewe. When Marnie is expelled from her private boarding school, the events that follow are completely unexpected and have a huge impact on everyone around her.

Love Notes For Freddie by Eva Rice ReviewThe book is beautifully written and this follows the same coming of age theme as Rice’s other novels. The main character Marnie is really easy to like. She is a model student, who makes one mistake that sends her life in a completely unexpected direction. I really enjoyed the subtle changes in her behaviour as the book went on. Her feelings are written realistically and she is one of my favourite heroines from a book in a long time.

Review Love Notes for FreddieThe characters are deeply complex and the way their personalities are explored throughout the book is stunning. The relationships within the book are all unpredictable and very engaging. The development of Marnie’s feelings towards Freddie, a boy she meets early in the book are one of my favourite parts of the book. The ongoing battles between love and friendship really do come out in each and every character.

Love Notes for Freddie by Eva RiceMiss Crewe has a really interesting past, which comes out more as the book progresses. She is a brilliant guide for the other characters and her back story is definitely one of my favourite things from the book. I would love to read a book just about her.

Freddie starts the book as a simple character, with a normal everyday job. Further into the book he starts to embrace his talent and we find out more about his home life. He is the perfect love interest for Marnie’s character and in true Eva Rice style their relationship is neither obvious or predicable which I love.

Love Notes For Freddie by Eva Rice Review

The book is about overcoming tragedy and the way people cope with life shattering circumstances. This is explored through each character in different ways. As the book progresses you see younger characters begin to grow up and move on with their lives, often in unexpected ways. I loved how each of them found strength in each other to get past hurdles and develop as people. In the end you really see that good things can come from the worst situations. This isn’t just shown through the main characters but also in the relationships between Marnie’s family and through her friend Rachel.

Love Notes For Freddie Review

Another strong theme in the book is fascination with another person, be it Marnie’s obsession with Freddie or Miss Crewes life long love for Joe, a mysterious man from her past. The book is full of unexpected plot twists, with flash backs to events of the past. Everything comes together at the end to give us a full picture of each of the characters lives and it makes for a very satisfying conclusion.

Being set in 1969, the book is full of cultural and musical references and pays perfect homage to a bygone era. I love the stark contrasts between Marnie’s upper class background and Freddie’s humble working class background. These differences seem all the more profound at first, but slowly they blend together and it works very well.

Love Notes For Freddie Book Review

The book has plenty of depth and is imaginative and engaging. As with her other books the plot is complex and moving. It is intelligent and thoughtful and I came away from it completely connected with the story and the characters. If you’re looking for a really good quality novel to read, then I would definitely recommend this one.

Buy a copy of Love Notes for Freddie on Amazon.

As promised I have another book review for you today. This continues along the theme of history books about women. This time I’ve gone a tiny bit further back in time to the early 20th century.

Margot at War Book ReviewLast week I finished reading Margot at War, a biography of Margot Asquith by Anne De Courcy. Margot Asquith was the wife of the prime minister during the First World War. Her story runs alongside a hugely turbulent era for the country and for politics and it makes for a hugely interesting and informative read.

Margot at War by Anne De CourcyI instantly liked Margot, partly because she is one one women who has never been described as a ‘great beauty’ as way too many women are. Margot was very ordinary looking and had a crooked nose as a result of a riding accident. What she lacked in beauty was made up for by an incredible dress sense, intelligence and generosity.

Margot at War Back of BookThe books talks about so many fascinating topics, including in depth details on the Liberal Party at the time as well as the political issues that surrounded the country being at war. The details on the Great War told from the point of view of people at the time is deeply heartbreaking and made the terrible loss of life and suffering all the more poignant, than any book I’ve read before.

Margot at War ReviewOne of the most interesting parts of the book was the bits that talk about the Suffragette movement. Looking back from a female perspective 100 years on I personally hail these women as heros. Every time I vote I say a little thank you to each and every women who fought for my rights. From the perspective of Margot and other people at the time you see them more as terrorists. These parts of the book are just fantastically written and shone the movement in a new light to me.

There was only one real downside of the book to me. Where the book goes into a huge amount of detail about the era and about other people in Margot’s life, I feel that I didn’t really learn enough about her. There was not a massive connection between the reader and the subject of the book. I felt hugely engaged in her husbands life and that of his lover Venetia, who’s affair covers huge swathes of the book.

Love and Betrayal in Downing StreetI feel like while researching the book, the author uncovered more letters, information and sources on other people than she did on Margot. Considering the book is over 350 pages long, it is perhaps bulked out with a lot of information on the world around Margot as opposed to her herself. I did enjoy reading excerpts from her letters and diary though. I certainly felt her pain and loneliness when at times she felt her husband slipping away or suffered at the hands of his daughter.

Margot at War Anne De Courcy ReviewThis in no way diminishes how fantastic the book actually is. Although I came away without feeling like I knew Margot, I enjoyed every single word and page of the book. It is beautifully written, well researched and deeply engaging. I was engrossed in this small snapshot of a truly fascinating era of British history. It appealed to my political side as well as the part of me that has a never ending thirst for history.

Book Review - Margot at WarI’d recommend the book to anyone interested in politics, women history and the first world war. Seeing the events from the point of view of those living in Downing Street at the time is well worth the time taken to read the book.

Buy the book on Amazon.

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