The Bookish Advent Calendar: The Story

Bookish advent calendar with classic novels and 24 gifts

Every year for the past five or so years, I have eagerly scoured the available advent calendars. I’ve bought chocolate ones, beauty ones, even enjoyed whisky ones. But what I REALLY want is a book one. But, I’m fussy. I don’t want 24 books – there are advent calendars that offer this, but honestly, am I going to read a book a day in December when I don’t the rest of the year? Or are those books going to sit on my bookcase for eternity, gathering dust?

This is the reason I put this advent calendar together. It’s designed for fans of the classics, and it’s put together to give you a wonderful advent full of beautiful reading experiences. You get a mixture of books and gifts – which is why it’s a ‘bookish advent calendar’ not a ‘book advent calendar’.

So, what will you get? Of course, each one is different and I want to keep them as much of a surprise as possible. Without giving too much away, here’s what you definitely will get:

  • 3 books – 2 of them classic novels/collections, 1 novella – either from the little black classics or modern classics collection.
  • At least 3 prints – either ones available on my shop, or ones specially designed for the calendar.
  • At least 3 bookmarks – as above.

You could also get a selection of:

  • Enamel pin badges
  • Socks
  • Teabags
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Notebooks
  • Sweets
  • Candles
  • Christmas decorations

In all, you will have 24 individually wrapped gifts, one to open for each day of advent.

All in all, the value of all items when bought individually is over £70, so it’s a bargain!

This year has been a strange year for everyone. What I want to do is bring a bit of joy at the end of the year – some cheer at what could a particularly grim Christmas period (particularly for those of us in the U.K.).

Some frequently asked questions:

What if I’ve already read the book?

The novels are beautiful Arcturus editions, so they are perfect for adding to your collection and rereading in December. If there are any books that you definitely don’t want, you can add a message to your order and I will do my best to accommodate you. The joy of this calendar is the wonderful surprise, and rereading old favourites is always wonderful!

What if I already own one of your prints or bookmarks?

I will search for any previous orders in your name prior to curating your calendar, so you can be confident that you won’t get duplicates.

How quickly will my order be delivered?

The advent calendars take on average 2 working days to put together, so if you are in the U.K. they take around 4-5 working days to arrive. If your overseas, postage will take longer so please bear this in mind when ordering.

Can I order one as a gift for someone else?

Please do! There is an option at checkout if you want to add a gift note.

When is the last order date?

I have been blown away by the interest in the advent calendar. It has been a true joy to see the orders coming in and the sweet gift notes that have been written. Demand has been huge, and I’m ordering new stock all of the time – but there may come a point where the items I need are no longer available. Therefore, if you’re desperate to get a bookish advent calendar, I would recommend ordering as soon as you can. In terms of delivery, if I’m able to keep ordering stock, please order by 14th November if you’re in the U.K. and 1st November if you’re abroad to ensure (as much as possible, given the current world situation!) delivery by 1st December.

How do I order?

Easy easy – click hereto buy on Etsy, or use the payment form below.

Bookish Advent Calendar

A bookish advent calendar with 24 individually wrapped gifts, delivered to you. Postage included. Processing time is 5 working days, plus delivery.

£43.50

Things We Lost In The Fire – Mariana Enriquez

Things We Lost In The Fire – Mariana Enriquez

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“Her body refused to turn around; something was holding her there in the bedroom doorway. But she wasn’t dreaming. You don’t feel pain in dreams.

It is no secret that I am a fan of weird and wonderful short stories (and occasionally enjoy getting my quill out to write some of my own), and the joy of stumbling across a collection which is as good as this one is almost indescribable.

Things We Lost In The Fire is…there’s no other word for it, it’s terrifying. These are modern day, gothic horror stories set in the slums of Buenos Aires. Each is fast-paced, twisting and turning with terror building with each line.

I tend to judge the success of horror stories by the weirdness of my dreams after reading – and based on the disturbed sleep I had, this collection is a winner.

One of my favourites was The Neighbor’s Courtyard, a terrifically creepy yarn which reminded me, with its obsession, of The Yellow Wallpaper. But all of the stories are very good, and all very different.

You know that excitement when you read a book you love, will remember forever, and that you know you won’t stop recommending to people, probably ever? Yep. This is one of them. I’m sad that I can’t experience the joy of reading it for the first time again.

You can find Things We Lost In The Fire here and the book tracker bookmarks here.

Orfeia – Joanne M. Harris

Orfeia – Joanne M. Harris

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My plaid away, my plaid away,

And o’er the hill and far away,

And far away to Norroway,

My plaid shall not be blown away.

Oh, how I love a fairy tale retelling. They are so deeply immersive and, when well-written, pick you up and spirit you away to another world.

Orfeia is a retelling of the Orpheus myth (a quick recap – Orpheus’ wife Eurydice died and Orpheus went to the underworld to beg for her life. The gods allowed her release as long as Orpheus did not look back at her as they travelled back to the land of the living. Unable to do so, Orpheus looked back and Eurydice was gone forever). Orfeia draws on the themes of death and grief, but focuses instead on a mother and her daughter.

As with all of Harris’ work, the story is beautifully told. Magic weaves through it and you question dreams and reality. I rushed through the book in a few sittings, swept away by the enchanting tale, and it would be perfect for a chilly autumn evening- by the fire with a glass of wine.

The book is illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins (who also illustrated A Pocketful of Crows and The Blue Salt Road) and the beautiful drawings bring Harris’ words to life.

Highly recommended!

You can find Orfeia here and the book tracker bookmarks here.

My £200 Kitchen Makeover

I know, I know, this probably reads like a click-baity title but I promise it’s true – although I didn’t factor in the value of my time (of which I used a lot!). I used easily sourced paints and you can do this too – I promise!

Before

The obligatory ‘before’ picture – bear in mind that this picture was taken when we were considering selling the house, so it looks in much better nick than it ordinarily would.

There was nothing wrong with it, but it was a bit twee and was looking old fashioned. The yellows tones are not my cup of tea at all. BUT we loved the layout, the breakfast bar is ace and my brain couldn’t come up with a better way of setting out this space. Plus, we’d recently replaced the dishwasher and the other electric goods are in great condition too. There was absolutely no reason to spend a load of cash replacing the kitchen – but that didn’t stop me from being unhappy about it.

During

Once I’d decided how I wanted the kitchen to look, there were a few steps to complete. Before that, I painted the walls with some Dulux Polished Pebble Silk paint to brighten and cool the room – that was £15 from B&M.

Step 1 – The Work Surface

I wasn’t a big fan of the green colour of the work surface. It’s nothing expensive – just a wrap over a wooden base – so I wasn’t precious about changing it up. Research told me they could be painted. After some deliberation, I decided on the Galaxy Black kit from Rust-Oleum Kitchen Worktop Transformations. I ordered from Andrews Coatings, and the total cost including delivery was £84.22. It took a while for this to arrive, but it was ordered at the peak of lockdown!

If you have a look, there are lots of other colours available too (and lots of brands), like this Diamond White one or this Sicilian Sand one.

The kit was really easy to use. You just sand your surface down, add two coats of the black paint and then top it with a special gluey layer which hardens and makes your surface really tough. It takes about a week to fully harden though, so be careful how you use it in the meantime.

Step 2 – The Cupboards

Oh the cupboards. They were exhausting! If you want every muscle in your body to burn, do this (perhaps I just need to work out more often). Still, worth it. 100% worth it.

I chose to paint the bottom cupboards navy and the top cupboards white gloss. I used Johnstone’s Deep Blue Gulf Satin Finish as the main colour. A little 750ml tin goes a long way, I managed three coats of the bottom cupboards with mine and it cost £14.99 from B&M.

First, though, I used two coats of a white undercoat (£13.99 for 2.5l from B&M, more than enough for all of the cupboards). Although the tin says it doesn’t need it, I wanted the cupboards to be as hard wearing as possible and thought this would be a good idea. Here I am doing the first coat of blue after applying the two coats of undercoat:

And the second:

The top cupboards followed the same pattern, two coats of undercoat followed by two coats of white gloss (£13.99 from B&M).

My top tips:

  • Clean the cupboards thoroughly with hot water and soap first to get rid of any grease.
  • Sand them down once dry.
  • Remove handles if you can (I couldn’t because they were glued on, so tried taping them up to start with. This made it worse and I just ended up using a smaller paintbrush which worked better).
  • Patience, persistence and frequent shoulder rubs.

Step 3 – The Tiles

The wall tiles always looked dirty and the colour was just grim. I wanted to paint them white continue that fresh, bright look. I started with a tin of Dulux Iced Ivory Tile Paint from (you guessed it) B&M – that was £17.99. However, after the first coat it was evident that it wasn’t the bright white I wanted – fortunately it made a great undercoat though! So instead I ordered a tin of Johnson’s White Tile Paint from Amazon for £20.98. I did another two coats with this.

Make sure you sand your tiles first, and don’t use too much paint otherwise it will drip.

Step 4 – Finishing Touches

The fun bit! I used some frames I already had and a free app called Typorama to jazz up some song lyrics related to food. These were the finished results:

Limp Bizkit Kitchen artworkKitchen artwork

Kelps Milkshake Kitchen Art

I even made a playlist with all of the featured songs to quiz guests when they come over!

The Finished Result…

Here we go – fresher, brighter, and for only £181.16! In the future we will change the barstools, but for now I’m delighted.

Before and after:

I hope this has inspired you to have a go yourself! You can always ask if you have any questions.

*There are some affiliate links in this article. This means that if you purchase something, I’ll get a few pennies for sending you there but you won’t pay any extra.

Thomas Nelson Seasons Editions

Thomas Nelson Seasons Editions Winter Summer

Last winter, the publishers Thomas Nelson released the Winter Seasons Editions, a set of four books with glorious laser cut cover designs. They are limited edition, with just 10,000 copies of each book available to buy. You can see in the picture above that I managed to get my hands on three of the collection – Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and A Tale of Two Cities. I missed out on the fourth! Little Women sold out very quickly and, although I have alerts everywhere for a copy, I haven’t been able to find a second hand one for under £200. That’s how special they are.

So when I received the news that the Summer Seasons Editions were on their way, I was determined not to make the same mistake again. Thomas Nelson were kind enough to send me this copy of Jane Eyre to feature on my Instagram, and let me tell you that the Summer Editions are even better than the winter ones, so I think they will sell out quickly. They have listened to feedback from their first set and these ones have a thicker protective wrap. They also each come with a laser cut bookmark. As with the winter books, they’re all individually numbered too.

The Summer Seasons Editions are being released on 30th June, so you can preorder the set now and make sure you don’t miss out. Although I’ve preordered the rest of the set from Amazon, and they won’t be delivering to here in the UK until 23rd July. Still, the wait will make the anticipation even greater!

Here’s where you can get the collections from:

Winter Seasons Editions:

Pride & Prejudice

Wuthering Heights

A Tale Of Two Cities

Little Women – this link is to a currently (at the time of posting) available secondhand copy for £207.45. I am not sure how long this will last!

Summer Seasons Editions:

Jane Eyre

Persuasion

Wonderland Collection

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Thomas Nelson Seasons Editions Winter Summer

A Thousand Ships- Natalie Haynes

“But this is a women’s war, just as much as it is the men’s, and the poet will look upon their pain – the pain of the women who have always been relegated to the edges of the story, victims of men, survivors of men, slaves of men – and he will tell it, or he will tell nothing at all.

There are good retellings of Greek myths and legends – The Song of Achilles, for example. There are good feminist retellings – Circe and The Penelopiad. And there are (I’m sorry to say it) not so good feminist retellings, such as The Silence of the Girls. With A Thousand Ships, we thankfully have a feminist retelling which falls into good – if not excellent- category.

The book follows a mostly chronological story of the Trojan War and Odysseus’ (and other ‘heroes’) various meanderings afterwards, told solely through the eyes of the women involved. Some are well known to fans of the immensely popular recent novels, others were new to me.

A Thousand Ships flits between many of the women involved in and affected by the war, and I have read several views that suggest the book was the worse because of this. I found the opposite- perhaps it’s down to my lack of focus at the moment but I loved gaining a wider perspective through multiple viewpoints.

I gave this book 9/10. Will it win the Women’s Prize? Probably not. It may not be as in-depth and focused as some people would prefer, but it was the perfect read for me at this time. If you want to escape into the world of Greek myths and legends, this is the book for you. And on that note, if you have any other recommendations for myths and legends retellings, pop them in the comments!

You can find A Thousand Ships here.

The Broken Hearts

By Harriet Young

The broken hearts by Harriet young short story

Blood appears black in the moonlight. Don’t ask me how I know that. There are many things I’ve done and many things I’ve seen that I’d prefer not to tell you. But I suppose, now I’m here, that I should share.

It is freeing, in a way, to be able to tell you anything. To feel like I can tell you anything. I trust you. I haven’t trusted many people in my life, but you – I feel like we have a connection. Don’t you?

So, where to begin? I suppose you want to know everything, don’t you? Perhaps I should start with my childhood. How little there is to tell about that though. I was a loner – I imagine you guessed that already, from how I am now. An only child, distant parents. I can’t pretend that my difficulties, the trials and tribulations I’ve felt during my life, haven’t stemmed from then. In fact, until I found you, I was drifting. I had no anchor, despite my wealth. Oh, how I do now!

No, don’t worry, my parents weren’t cruel. But I can’t say that they showed me love either. They were busy, I felt like an afterthought. I found my own ways to entertain myself. I won’t bore you with them, ordinary childhood things that they were. Games.

I went to University a year early. I always was bright, but numbers come naturally to me. I was confused by how others struggled in those lessons, perhaps that goes some way to explain my lack of friends. I hoped things would be different at Oxford University. Surely there, there would be people like me?

As you know, I was disappointed. They had all of the benefits of a socialised childhood and they gathered in groups that I couldn’t infiltrate. I just didn’t know how – they weren’t like me. Instead, I went from lecture to lecture, head down, books in hand, talking to no one. I was invisible. I kept my eyes on the ground and studied in my room. I spoke to no one and no one spoke to me and that was that.

This may sound like I want your pity. I don’t. You know that since then, my life has become an apparent success. I have friends, fans even. My money. Status. But I’ve always wanted more. I’ve always been hungry for more. Now that we’re together, I’m content. You have changed that side of me, at least.

Yes, I know why we are here, having this conversation. Yes, I can tell what that expression on your face means. You want more. Well. I don’t know whether delving any deeper would be helpful. You already seem disappointed in me. What can I do? It is more difficult than it seems, peeling back the layers. As painful as removing a layer of skin. I’ll try. I’m flattered that you want to learn more about me. I feel there is something I’m missing though, something urgent that you want. You are tense. But you feel as though you can’t ask. Ok, that’s fine. I want you to believe in me.

A heart is like an apple, you know. When it’s healthy and happy it is fresh and juicy and red – filled to bursting. Have you ever bitten into an apple and left it on the side? Straight away it starts to wilt, brown, rot. There’s no healing it. That’s my experience, anyway. Give it an hour or two and there’s nothing you can do to save it, you may as well just toss it in the bin.

You could say that’s been my life’s work.

You don’t get the connection? You look confused, but trust me, it is a good metaphor. I can see your micro expressions now, flitting across your face, you are struggling to understand. It will become clear. I want what you want – I want the two of us to be happy and I want you to know me. I know that’s important for us to move forward.

Shall we move on to your reservations about me? I can see that you have them. People have had reservations about since I was a child. Perhaps it’s something about the way I hold myself. I’m so used to being alone that others sense that they are unnecessary around me, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I need you as much as you need me. I’m sorry that I can’t be different.

Perhaps talking about my career will help. You know that I’m successful and – well, you’ve seen my office. You perhaps don’t know quite how hard I had to work to build my company. From the ground up. Starting with nothing – no loans, just a computer in my bedroom. Am I proud of what I’ve achieved? Yes, of course I am. Wouldn’t you be? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to undermine your own career. I know you work hard. But yes, to get to the bottom of what you want to know, I did trample on people on my way up. To be a success, you have to. Kind people don’t get anywhere in this life. Oh, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but you understand – to make millions, to become a someone, you have to stand on top of a pile of bodies. Excuse my crude phrasing. It was harder for me than those Eton boys with their connections readymade. I had to rely on pure talent and guts. You think I’m cold, and I don’t deny it. But you can see why I would be, with a life like mine.

Now I’m confused because you still seem to want more from me. There are no more relevant things that I can share about my life. I said it was freeing to be able to tell you anything and I stand by that, but your reaction is frankly quite disappointing. You have a strange look on your face. What is that look? If you came closer to me, maybe I would be able to decipher it. As it is, I am drawn to your glinting eyes in this gloomy room.

I see what you want. I understand now. You want to know about my past relationships. Are you alright? I noticed a subtle change in you. This is what you were waiting for. Well, I’m afraid there’s really nothing to tell you. I have never been much of a one for long relationships. They don’t tend to work for me.

I know that’s not the answer you wanted to hear.

***

Interview adjourned at 13.49. The accused remains unwilling to disclose the locations of the other bodies.

*

Glorious Neutral Spines

White books with flowers

Bright, light books should grace everyone’s shelves. These are six of my particular favourites. The Wuthering Heights and Pride & Prejudice are part of the glorious Thomas Nelson Seasons Paper Cut series. These fall under winter – the summer set is available for preorder now. They are some of the most gorgeously intricate designs I’ve ever seen. Also included are my incredibly special Anna Karenina and the Knickerbocker Jules Verne collection.

Here’s where you can find them (starting from the bottom):

Jules Verne – The Ultimate Collection

Anna Karenina

Wuthering Heights

Pride & Prejudice

The Beautiful and Damned

Romeo and Juliet

Purple Florals

Beautiful purple books

Late spring is perhaps my favourite time of year. The anticipation of summer and long, warm days ahead, bright flowers bursting onto the scene and chirruping birds. Throw in some glorious sunshine and I don’t think you can beat it.

This is the mood I was trying to convey with this image. Here are the links to the books that I featured (starting from the bottom):

Jane Austen: The Complete Novels

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Jane Eyre

Madame Bovary

Persuasion

Civilization and It’s Discontents

Pink and Purple Pastel Books

Pink and purple pastel books

Ah, this is one of my favourite photos that I’ve taken in a long time. I love the colours, they remind me of spring. Here’s where you can find the books to brighten up your bookcase. They’re a variety of publishers and editions, and I’ve done my best to locate them all for you. Here they are, from bottom up:

Little Women (Leatherbound)

Jane Austen Complete Novels

Middlemarch

Little Women (Flexibound)

Persuasion

Jane Eyre

The Singer not the Song

Civilization and Its Discontents

And my floral bone china tea cup is here.

I hope you enjoy these beautiful books as much as I do.