Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My Favourite Reads of 2014

Last year I posted My Favourite Books of 2013 and my list ended up being pretty long and diverse.  As 2014 comes to a close it is time to look back at some of the books which captured my imagination, and my heart, over the past twelve months.  If you click on the link beneath each picture you'll be taken to my review to find out exactly what made it such a wonderful read.  Hopefully it'll inspire you to add some of them to your collection in 2015.














Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The End of the Year Round Up 2014

Christmas might be over but there's some final wrapping up to do at Books with Bunny...

I've had a rollercoaster year health-wise as some of you know, and as 2014 drew to a close I found myself with answers as to why I've been feeling rubbish for so long.  After a hospital admission, an ECG, X-Rays, a flexi-scope, a colonoscopy and biopsies taken, I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease just before Christmas- where the digestive tract becomes inflamed.  Crohn's manifests itself in lots of different and unpleasant ways, and not everyone with IBD (the umbrella term which covers both Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis) has the same symptoms and signs- mine are abdominal pain, diarrhoea (sometimes with blood/mucus), achy joints, extreme fatigue and feeling feverish.  It is a disease which has no cure, but it can go into long term remission.  That's my main goal for 2015-to get it under control so there's less chance of me needing harsh treatments or surgery.  I'm currently taking a high dose of steroids to try and reduce the inflammation that's spread through my colon, awaiting a very sci-fi sounding capsule test which will see if there's inflammation elsewhere and  have numerous appointments at the hospital with specialists to assess the best medication for me.

With all this going on, my blog has naturally had to take a back seat for a while.

I'm not going to get the chance to catch up with writing the reviews I missed out on when I was at my most poorly, so, just for a sense of finality, here are the other books I've read this year that I haven't had chance to review.  I'm planning on 2015 being a new slate in many, many ways, so it's time to wrap 2014 up!

I read and enjoyed-

The Wrong Knickers- Bryony Gordon
Geek Girl 2- Holly Smale
Beautiful Bastard- Christina Lauren
Beautiful Stranger- Christina Lauren
Beautiful Player- Christina Lauren
The Christmas Bake Off- Abby Clements
The Little Stranger- Sarah Waters
The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes- Anna McPartlin (review coming in January, as it is released in paperback on New Years Day)
The Girl on the Train- Paula Hawkins (review coming on January 15th 2015, as this one isn't actually released yet)

I read and wasn't so keen on-

All I Want for Christmas- Claudia Carroll

I was nowhere near my target of 250 books read in 2014, but I enjoyed my reading, blogging and the wonderful friendships I made and built on with other bloggers, authors and publicists throughout the year. 

Here's to 2015!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Books for Christmas- A guide to buying those last minute presents

Last minute shopping getting you flustered?  In my opinion you can't go wrong with a book, and here are my recommendations for the game addict, teenager, fangirl and bibliophile in your life.

For the one addicted to games-
Collins Little Book of Bananagrams

If you're buying for one of the many Bananagrams addicts out there, then this little book of hints and tips could be the perfect stocking filler.  It's a handy, pocket-sized guide of useful ways to work challenging letters into a game, variations to the traditional game and even ways to get extra vital seconds of time over your opponent (who knew there was such a knack to turning over tiles?)

My only slight gripe is there are LOTS of exclamation marks and ellipses in this book, which when you read it cover to cover rather than dipping in and out can be a bit much.  However, the book fulfils exactly what it sets out to, so I can't argue with it as a fun gift for the wordaholics.

After reading this I'm expecting to win every game of Bananagrams I play over Christmas and reign as Top Banana in my house. 

For the teenager-
Girl Online- Zoe Sugg

There's been a lot of furore over this one, especially the question did 'Zoella' write it herself ?  (The answer to that is no, it was ghostwritten).  Most importantly, is it worthy of the hype?

I have to say I really enjoyed Girl Online.  It's not a lifechanging book, not the best written, it's predictable.  But I found myself whizzing through, keen to find out if Penny and Noah had a future.  It's a contemporary look at teen life which examines the effect social media has on friendships and relationships, and as a blogger myself I thought it really came across how a community can come together through shared interests and discussion.  Personally, I would have liked to have seen more of Penny's blog posts and feel it would have allowed further character development and for me as a reader to get to know more of her innermost thoughts.

There are plenty of fantastic YA books out there right now, but if you're looking for the must have book for teen girls this Christmas then you can't go wrong with Girl Online.

For the fangirl-
McBusted- Jennifer Parker

For the die hard fans of Busted and McFly, McBusted feel like a bit of a compromise.  True, there's an overlap in their guitar-led musical styles, their devil-may-care attitudes and their lack of conformity towards mainstream fashions, but they have very definite fanbases of their own.  However, now McBusted are an actual bone fide band rather than a bit of a musical experiment as it first seemed (their debut album as a six piece released last month signifying this as a serious project for all involved rather than the extended 'lad's trip' of music, madness and mayhem which doubled as their 2014 tour), they earned a book of their own.  And Jennifer Parker was the one to write it. 

If you've ever been a fan of Busted and/or McFly then you'll find excerpts from interviews and the official books quoted throughout familiar.  It's probably most suited to a newbie to the fandom. Although this is an unofficial product, there's obviously been great care taken to make this book as reliable and trustworthy as possible- not something which can always be said when it comes to unofficial books about popstars. 

There are plenty of pictures for your visual pleasure and if your fangirlling heart doesn't beat faster reliving Harry's bulging biceps during Strictly Come Dancing or Danny's half unbuttoned shirts (hello chest hair!) then there's something seriously wrong.

If you can't give the gift of Mr Judd or Mr Jones to the McBusted fan in your life this Christmas (and you can't- sadly they're already spoken for) then this book could well be the next best thing. 

For the bibliophile-
The Bookshop Book- Jen Campbell

I don't know where to start with this one.  My mind was literally blown. 

I guess it's pretty obvious that I'm totally and utterly smitten by all things books.  I wouldn't have a blog dedicated to them if I wasn't!  And bookshops are even better, so many of these beautiful word-carrying, dream-fuelling objects all gathered together in one space.

The Bookshop Book shares the stories of some of the best/most unique/most famous book shops in the world, as well as those of the people who run them and the people who keep them going.  I beamed continually as I read this book and made a mental list of the ones I desperately need to see for myself!

So be warned, this is a great present for anyone who loves books and bookshops, but may lead to daydreaming and wanderlust.

With thanks to the publishers of McBusted, The Bookshop Book and Collins Little Book of Bananagrams for providing me with a copy of these books in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Little Christmas Kitchen- Jenny Oliver

I loved Jenny Oliver's last Christmassy offering.  The Parisian Christmas Bake Off was sweet, fun and festive (you can read my review) and it's fair to say I was very excited to find out what she'd be bringing to the table this year.
The Blurb
Christmas at the Davenports’ house was always about one thing: food!
But when sisters Ella and Maddy were split up, Ella to live in London with their Dad, and Maddy staying in Greece with their Mum, mince pies lost their magic.  Now, a cheating husband has thrown Ella a curved snowball…and for the first time in years, all she wants is her mum. So she heads back to Greece, where her family’s taverna holds all the promise of home. Meanwhile, waitress Maddy’s dreams of a white Christmas lead her back to London…and her Dad.  But a big fat festive life-swap isn’t as easy as it sounds! And as the sisters trade one kitchen for another, it suddenly seems that among the cinnamon, cranberries and icing sugar, their recipes for a perfect Christmas might be missing a crucial ingredient: each other.

The Review

The Little Christmas Kitchen started off with a bang as Ella ran from her problems in London and hot tailed it to Greece- I was immediately interested in her story.  We are led to believe she had a nigh on perfect life until finding out her husband has been cheating on her with one of 'the girls' and I would perhaps have liked this to have been shown a bit more of their relationship before things went belly up.  However, I loved the imagery and doubt of her 'taxi scene' and the thought of her hapless cheat balancing a ten or twelve foot tree precariously as she walks from their flat. 

Maddy on the other hand-well, I struggled to warm to her at first -I'm not sure if it was because in the early chapters she was portrayed as self centred and jealous of her sister's London lifestyle (although I did always admire Maddy's drive and the pursuit of following her dreams to sing).

Being honest, this story didn't grab me in the same way The Parisian Christmas Bake Off did. I loved the wonderfully descriptive writing and zippy dialogue, yet there were occasions in the first 25% where I skimmed over the text.  I suppose it was a bit of a slow burner for me.  However, by the end I was well and truly won over, enjoyed finding out how life changed for both sisters, and when it came to the descriptions of the food ... wow. Just wow.  I think I actually physically drooled. 

Overall, this is an easy chick lit read about the difficulties families and relationships face, with festive undertones and a foodie flavour.  If, like me, you aren't immediately hooked, it is well worth persevering.  My opinion definitely changed as the story developed and characters I was convinced I didn't give two hoots about won me over and had me hoping for resolutions and a hopeful future.  The Little Christmas Kitchen is a charming read.

Jenny’s latest novel THE LITTLE CHRISTMAS KITCHEN is out now.
Hungry for more? Try  THE VINTAGE SUMMER WEDDING and THE PARISIAN CHRISTMAS BAKE-OFF, which are also available in paperback.

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a galley copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Skating at Somerset House- Nikki Moore

This looks like such a fun read for those long winter nights!  I can't wait to get stuck in!
Out on 4th December

Book 1, #LoveLondon Series; Skating at Somerset House by Nikki Moore

There’s nothing Holly Winterlake loves more than Christmas and skating, so working as an Ice Marshall at London's Somerset House is a dream come true.

Noel Summerford hates the festive season and is a disaster on the ice, so taking his godson to Somerset House is his idea of the nightmare before Christmas!

Things are bound to get interesting when these two collide…

With a forty foot Christmas tree, an assortment of well meaning friends and relatives, and a mad chocolate Labrador, will this festive season be one to remember … or forget?


More books in the #LoveLondon series coming soon!

Released over December 14 to May 15 by HarperImpulse;

Bk 2, New Year at The Ritz (Short Story)

Bk 3, Valentine's on Primrose Hill (Short Story)

Bk 4, Cocktails in Chelsea (Short Story)

Bk 5, Strawberries at Wimbledon (Short Story)

Bk 6, Picnics in Hyde Park, (Novel)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

On Strike for Christmas- Sheila Roberts

It's time for more Advent-ures in Fiction!  Today I'm talking about Shelia Roberts' festive offering On Strike for Christmas.

The Blurb

It's time for the men to take over . . . NYT Bestselling author Sheila Roberts gives the best gift of all in this funny, heartwarming story that touches the very core of Christmas spirit.

At Christmas time, it seems as though a woman's work is never done. Trimming the tree, mailing the cards, schlepping to the mall, the endless wrapping - bah humbug! So this year, Joy and Laura and the rest of their knitting group decide to go on strike. If their husbands and families want a nice holiday filled with parties, decorations, and presents - well, they'll just have to do it themselves.

The boycott soon takes on a life of its own when a reporter picks up the story and more women join in. But as Christmas Day approaches, Joy, Laura, and their husbands confront larger issues in their marriages and discover that a little holiday magic is exactly what they need to come together.

Sheila Roberts makes me laugh. I read her books and come away inspired, hopeful, and happy.
- Debbie Macomber

The Review

This is the first Sheila Roberts book I've read, and she's not an author I'm familiar with at all.  I haven't heard of her in the book blogging community or on the bookish forums; I haven't seen people tagging her books as 'to read' on Goodreads.  And after reading On Strike for Christmas, frankly I'm surprised.  There are other authors out there of a similar ilk who are better known but that in my opinion don't write with as much verve and insight.

This is a gentle book really, examining gender roles and Christmas tradition in a jovial way.  I could certainly relate to Joy!  When she's dashing about trying to create a festive environment for her family and conjure up a Christmas to remember, her husband Bob seems rather miserable about the whole affair.  And she soon realises her household isn't the only one like that and there's a revolution on their hands!  Can the men take up the reins?  And can the women give up their control?

At times this book was a little bit twee, but overall it is a warm and cosy read to unwind with  after you've been battling the crowds on the high street or slaving over a hot stove at home.  You don't need to concentrate to enjoy the writing style which is conversational and flows at a steady pace. 

It might be a little bit too gentle for me, but for fans of  writers such as Debbie Macomber and Cecelia Ahern, I can imagine this is a perfect Christmas treat.

Monday, 1 December 2014

A New York Christmas- Anne Perry

The Blurb

New York, 1904. Jemima Pitt arrives in a city where new American money and old English aristocracy collide. She's here to chaperone her friend, Delphinia, who has crossed the ocean to marry one of New York's richest men, but Jemima discovers a secret that could destroy Phinnie's future. Drawn into the crisis, Jemima desperately wants to protect her friend. And she must use all her courage and wits to decide whom to trust, and how to thread her way through the snowy streets of this brash new city. A New York Christmas is the enthralling new festive tale from the master of Victorian mysteries.

The Review

I wasn't sure whether this would be my kind of book, if I'm honest.  Whilst the cover was Christmassy and I am a true New York-phile, I worried that this might be a bit granny-ish.  It just gave out that kind of vibe.  However, I'm pleased to say it wasn't and I easily read it over two sittings. 

A New York Christmas is a short read, only 160 pages, which gives a glimpse into a wealthy world. I do love a bit of glamour, but this book is a bit more gritty than that.  Chaperone Jemima finds herself embroiled in a mystery relating to Delphinia's mother and soon there are accusations aplenty and fallings out among the elite. 

I was interested to know what would happen and had no idea that it was going to have the twists and turns it did, but the ending of this one was a disappointment to me.  In my opinion the final ten pages or so were just a stretch too far, unfortunately, and tried to cram too much in.  It was as though the slow build up came to a sudden end, like the author was trying to wrap up the book to meet a deadline or fit into a certain number of words.

That said, I can see why Anne Perry has a large fan base, her writing was easy to read and her characters strong and vivid.  Fans of the Victorian crime and mystery genre may well enjoy this book.

Finally, whilst it is a festive read according to the title, I would have preferred a stronger Christmassy vibe-especially as it was earmarked as my first Advent-ures in Fiction book for the year!

A New York Christmas is out now, published by Headline.

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.