‘The Christmas Holiday’ by Phillipa Ashley

Genre: Adult Fiction – Chic Lit

Published: 2022

Format: Audiobook

Rating: ★★★★

Another great chic lit love story from Phillipa Ashley. I feel like I’ve been bingeing her books lately, but I’m thoroughly enjoying them! I can listen to them on audio while I’m working without distracting myself from what I need to do, which is fantastic.

I wasn’t sure about Brett from the beginning, he just seemed like he didn’t really care about Krystle at all, only about himself and his career, but when Max was introduced I loved him immediately, and as more of his backstory was revealed you could understand more about why he was how he was, but you could also see him recovering and entering the world again. It was inspiring, as so many of Ashley’s novels are. They deal with people who are having to tackle some great trauma and makes you grateful to be alive.

Even when you know from the beginning just how the story is going to end, it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to see the obstacles that they have to overcome to make it work. Just a perfect little read for what I need right now to get me through the days. Though I did prefer ‘A Special Cornish Christmas’ and ‘An Endless Cornish Summer’ – I’d thoroughly recommend both if you enjoyed this one!

‘Infamous’ by Lex Croucher

Genre: Adult Fiction – Historical Romance

Published: 2022

Format: Paperback

Rating: ★★★★

I was surprised when I saw that Lex Croucher had written another book after ‘Reputation’ – I didn’t know she had another book in the works, but I was absolutely thrilled! ‘Infamous’ certainly didn’t disappoint my expectations, either.

The only thing I could say was that it took a good few chapters to get into; I’d give it 4.5 stars for this reason (add half stars, Goodreads!). I love the variety of characters in Croucher’s books: aspiring writer, washed-up poet, painter, and a couple hiding secrets. These misfits come together and explore themselves and the world around them. Croucher’s writing certainly has the potential to be divisive among readers for several reasons.

I wouldn’t usually pick up an LGBT+ novel unless the storyline really jumped out at me – I wouldn’t read it just because it’s LGBT+, but I love Regency style romcoms, so this appealed to me immediately. Over the last few years LGBT+ fiction has really come into the open and it can only be a positive thing that something often hidden has more of a platform. Rose and Eddie were both struggling with their identities, one more than the other, but their batting back and forth was one of the highlights.

Eddie was short-sighted and often overlooked what was right in front of her, but I guess that’s where the journey across the book comes from as she finds her way from childhood to adulthood, in quite a brutal awakening. I became addicted to following Eddie’s story, as she found her way to the inevitable romantic ending. In contrast to Eddie, Rose appears to be more conventional, wanting marriage and a traditional life, but hiding her true self under the surface.

There is so much to love about this book, and I understand there is another one coming out as well, so I will definitely be keeping an eye out for that one!

‘The No-Show’ by Beth O’Leary

Genre: Adult Fiction – Chic Lit

Published: 2022

Format: Paperback

Rating: ★★★★

I really enjoyed this. The perfect light and cosy read that I needed right now. I loved the three main characters – Siobhan, Miranda, and Jane – they were all so different but the contrasts between them made their stories side-by-side all the more engaging, because you never got bored of one character. Joseph Carter was also interesting because you got the sense that he wasn’t as bad as he perhaps came across to be, and this is borne out across the story.

The way that the plot all came together in the last couple of chapters was unexpected and I didn’t see it coming. It was kind of heart-breaking but life-affirming at the same time. That twist changes your perspective on other things that happened earlier in the book, so I think that this is one of those books that would benefit from a second reading once you know how it ends. I’ll be intrigued to come back to it and see if I read it differently.

The story pulls you in all kinds of directions as you try to figure out what is going on, and why things sometimes don’t quite make sense. You just want to keep reading, and I didn’t want to put the book down to do any work when reading it on my lunch break. I wanted to know what was going to happen next and couldn’t wait to see how it would all come together. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

I really enjoy Beth O’Leary’s books – ‘The Flatshare’ is still, I think, my favourite, but this one certainly has the biggest twist of the ones I’ve read, and I’m so glad I delved into her novels as they are just perfect when you want something to cheer you up and make you laugh.

‘The Golden Enclaves’ by Naomi Novik

Genre: Adult Fiction – Fantasy

Published: 2022

Format: Hardback

Rating: ★★★★

I can totally understand why my friend wanted to know my reactions as I was reading this conclusion to the Scholomance trilogy. I’d read the first two in quick succession but then had to wait for this one to come out.

It is slow to start, so for around the first third I didn’t feel the urge to pick it up to find out what would happen next, but for the last half at least I struggled to put it down! There were so many twists and turns and revelations that I couldn’t believe some of what I was reading, given all the events that have led to this point. Orion is pivotal as I knew he would be, but not in the way that I expected. And finding out more about the history of enclaves was also interesting as well as sickening.

It read really well, and perhaps the reason why the first third was so slow was just El coming to terms with being out of the Scholomance; it was like an adjustment for character and reader as the first two books had been based solely in the Scholomance – it reminded me a little of the last Harry Potter book in that way; the beginning is slow and an adjustment, and then all the actions and revelations happen which pull the events of the previous novels together into a whole which makes sense and feels finished.

If you like fantasy, and you wanted perhaps a slightly darker version of Harry Potter, this trilogy is for you!

‘The Final Year of Anne Boleyn’ by Natalie Grueninger

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction – Historical Biography

Published: 2022

Format: Hardback

Rating: ★★★★★

I’d been looking forward to this book since it was announced. It examines the last 18 months of Anne Boleyn’s life in detail. Across 5 parts and 21 chapters Anne’s life and circumstances are examined in minute detail to bring the English Tudor court back to life. Anne was trapped by circumstance and her intelligence, and vivacious and flirtatious personality caught the king’s attention and then led to distrust and her downfall. It’s one of the most shocking episodes in British history, but Grueninger brings it back to life in a new way.

Grueninger has gone back to the original sources, and there are some new insights of original letters that have been discussed in previous works, and new opinions based on some recent research. Many of the myths and rumours around Anne’s fall don’t stand up to close scrutiny – the places and timings of the cases of adultery, the fact that her body was but in an arrow chest, and the final letter said to have been written from Anne to the king in the Tower. There are new insights and a close examination of all of the evidence to bring Anne and her horrifying situation to life.

It’s a lovely tribute to Anne Boleyn, and her spirit, vivaciousness, and bravery in facing her death with gumption, leaving her young daughter to grow up without her mother. She knew she had to protect those she was leaving behind, and the ignominy she would inevitably face, asking those who might examine her case to “judge the best”.

I love Grueninger’s writing and how she examines the sources without any prior bias. It’s absolutely fascinating and very well-written. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone fascinated by Tudor history, and those who think they know Anne Boleyn’s story as this offers a completely new perspective. Absolutely wonderful and eye-opening.

‘Your Heart is the Sea’ by Nikita Gill

Genre: Adult Fiction – Poetry

Published: 2018

Format: eBook

Rating: ★★

This is the second poetry book I’ve read this year, but this didn’t live up to the first one by Amanda Lovelace. This one felt a bit too whimsical for my tastes, and too depressing.

It’s split into sections, but the sections didn’t seem to form a whole, especially towards the end when it starts to delve into mythology. The last few sections seemed disconnected from the rest of the book. There is no real through thread that links the collection together other than quite a lot of complaining. I did get the sense towards the end that it was supposed to be more uplifting, but I didn’t feel that at all.

But the rhythm and flow of the individual poems did work quite well. I preferred the first half to the second and I think I just skimmed some of the later ones, not entirely interested in reading them. But I suppose sometimes that’s what’s good about poetry; you can just delve in and out and some poems might appeal to you more at different times.

Talking to a friend who has read others of Nikita Gill’s poetry collections, this is quite an early one and you can tell, and she prefers the later collections, so perhaps I could be persuaded to give one of her more recent collections a try.

Monthly Reading Summary

Top Book of the Month – ‘An Endless Cornish Summer’ by Phillipa Ashley

Book Club Book This Month – ‘Your Heart is the Sea’ by Nikita Gill

Books Read This Month:

  • ‘The Party Crasher’ by Sophie Kinsella ★★★
  • ‘An Endless Cornish Summer’ by Phillipa Ashley ★★★★
  • ‘The Witch’s Heart’ by Genevieve Gornichec ★★
  • ‘Shopaholic Ties the Knot’ by Sophie Kinsella ★★★★
  • ‘A Surprise Christmas Wedding’ by Phillipa Ashley ★★★★
  • ‘Your Heart is the Sea’ by Nikita Gill ★★★

Books Bought This Month:

  • ‘Your Heart is the Sea’ by Nikita Gill
  • ‘Arthur Plantagenet: Henry VIII’s Illegitimate Uncle’ by Sarah-Beth Watkins
  • ‘Educating the Tudors’ by Amy McElroy
  • ‘The Woodville Women: 100 Years of Plantagenet and Tudor History’ by Sarah J. Hodder
  • ‘A History of Treason: The Bloody History of Britain Through the Stories of its Most Notorious Traitors’ by The National Archives
  • ‘Threadneedle’ by Cari Thomas
  • ‘The No-Show’ by Beth O’Leary
  • ‘The Kiss Curse’ by Eric Sterling
  • ‘It Happened One Summer’ by Tessa Bailey
  • ‘Hook, Line, and Sinker’ by Tessa Bailey
  • ‘Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman’ by Lucy Worsley
  • ‘Anne of Athelhampton and the Riddle of the Apes’ by Giles Keating


  • Books Read – 6
  • Currently Reading – 2
  • TBR – 179
  • Fiction – 6 (100%)
  • Non-Fiction – 0 (0%)
  • Male Author – 0 (0%)
  • Female Author – 6 (100%)
  • Multiple Authors – 0 (0%)
  • Paperback – 1 (16.67%)
  • Hardback – 0 (0%)
  • eBook – 2 (33.33%)
  • Audiobook – 3 (50%)
  • Total Pages Read – 972
  • Average Pages Per Book – 324
  • Hours Listened – 30.82
  • Average Star Rating – 3.33

‘Captain Tom’s Life Lessons’ by Tom Moore

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction – Biography

Published: 2021

Format: Audiobook

Rating: ★★★★★

A little gem of a book from a man who offered some positive news headlines in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, this is more than just the story of what he did during COVID, but a wider exploration of what he learnt from 100 years of life.

He discusses his childhood, war experiences, and family, as well as the pandemic and his newfound fame. It’s written in a friendly confiding tone, encouraging you to live each moment and be the best person you can be, helping others and making yourself happy.

It’s not profound but it’s encouraging and reasserts those things that you wish you could do and be, and makes you want to do and be those things all over again. Derek Jacobi is also a fantastic narrator of this audiobook. He strikes a perfect tone for the encouragement and dry humour that the book is full of.

“The overgrown track is always the more interesting option than the well-trodden path, and if the idea of that frightens us a bit, then all the better.”

‘A Surprise Christmas Wedding’ by Phillipa Ashley

Genre: Adult Fiction – Chic Lit

Published: 2020

Format: Audiobook

Rating: ★★★★

Another Phillipa Ashley book that I’ve really enjoyed. Again, I listened to this while working from home. The narration is really soothing, and the stories are cosy romances which I’ve always loved to read. This one is about Lottie who ends up having to organise her ex-fiancé’s wedding in time for Christmas.

There are some great moments of humour, and love, and family togetherness. The story rumbles along as a countdown to the wedding, as secrets come out, new relationships form, and old relationships are rediscovered. The atmosphere makes for a perfect Christmas / winter read with snow, felling trees, reindeer, and even a sleigh!

But there are also some heavier elements such as a cancer scare, a baby that isn’t yours, and a broken heart. Ashley deals with these issues with sensitivity and tact, but as part of the larger story rather than making it too heavy. The story keeps its light tone, which is really well done, and makes for something not entirely fluffy, but real. It’s something you can relate to and it’s easy to put down and pick up again, which is always a bonus, knowing exactly what’s happening when you start listening / reading again.

If you want something light with engaging characters, plenty of romance, spurts of humour and a massive sprinkling of Christmas then this is the book for you!

‘Shopaholic Ties the Knot’ by Sophie Kinsella

Genre: Adult Fiction – Chic Lit

Published: 2002

Format: Paperback

Rating: ★★★★

This one, along with ‘Shopaholic & Baby’ is my favourite. Weddings are always so fun to write about and this one is no exception. I always love reading books about weddings going awry. Sophie Kinsella manages to make what should be quite a serious situation laugh-out-loud funny and enjoyable. The one thing that annoyed me slightly is that Becky dragged on making the decision because she was worried about hurting people, frankly, having too much fun, and simply unable to make up her mind! That was frustrating.

My love for this one is largely because this one sees Becky in a real scrape that could upset family, not just herself. And plus we see a more vulnerable side to Luke in this book, as he begins to lose it a bit, and he’s not as sure and self-confident as he has been in the previous two. I really like Luke as a character – he balances Becky and brings a calm head. But I’m not convinced two people so different would last together. I’m more like Luke and I know someone like Becky would drive me crazy!

This series always pulls me out of a slump, whether it’s a reading slump, a depressive episode, or just need to lose myself in fiction. The characters are loveable, and you can’t not laugh reading some of the things that Becky does and the scrapes she gets herself into. Having not read the series for about 10 years I’m really enjoying reacquainting myself with it, and now there are a few more that I haven’t yet read as well!