Merry Christmas Everyone.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Festive wishes & a Christmas book review by Kate O’Brien. 

Christmas is my favourite holiday. It is a time that I associate with family, friends, and lots of love. I really enjoy being festive. I enjoy buying and wrapping gifts, I love Christmas lights. I love when my home is filled with Christmas decorations. I love candy canes, I will have hot chocolate even though it is not my favourite…I do however, love a Baileys hot chocolate. 

Tis the season after all. 

I can’t believe that it is this time of year again. I feel like the year has flown by. 

It has been a busy year, but I am very thankful that I can say that it has been a great year. 

This will be my last review/discussion of 2022. I will be discussing two books. 

After I publish this piece I will be taking a break for Christmas. I love Katelovesliterature.com. It is my passion project, but I work on my laptop, I’m doing my master’s which consists of lots and lots of research and essay writing, and I am always writing reviews so even though I love what I do, and I consider myself very lucky, I’m constantly typing so I think it is important to take time away from the laptop screen every once in a while. I will be writing and publishing reviews and discussions again in the New Year. 

Thank You. 

Before I jump into my final review of 2022, I want to take a moment to say thank you so much to all of my readers. You know who you are. Thank you so much to everyone who has subscribed to Katelovesliterature.com. I really appreciate it, and I hope that you all have been enjoying my reviews and discussions so far. I hope that you continue to enjoy them as we move into 2023. There is so much more to come. Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates. I hope that you all have a happy and healthy New Year. Here’s to 2023. 

I want to say a special thank you to the Children’s Books Ireland team and to the Beehive Books team. I’m honoured to be a member of the Children’s Books Ireland reviewer team. I’m such an advocate when it comes to encouraging young people to read. I really believe that the books we read when we are young can open up so many doors. Everything that I do now can be credited to  the fact that I was an avid bookworm when I was young, and I am so glad that the adults in my life encouraged my love of reading and ensured that I always had books. This is why I am such a fan of the Children’s Books Ireland ethos, which is that every child has the right to be a reader, and every child should have access to good quality reading materials. Every school should have a library. I have huge admiration for everyone at Children’s Books Ireland, and for all of the work that they do, and so I am delighted that I can say that I am involved in some way. #everychildareader. 

I’ve also been so lucky this year as I have gotten to know some members of the Beehive Books team. I’ve had the opportunity to attend some book launches and to review some of their books. Everyone whom I have met has been so kind, so lovely, and so welcoming, which is something that I really appreciate. I have a keen interest in the publishing industry, and when you meet people who are doing what you are striving towards, and they are so encouraging, it is really lovely. Thank you to everyone at Beehive Books. 

I’m adding social links below. Be sure to check them out!

Websites.

https://childrensbooksireland.ie/?gclid=CjwKCAiA7vWcBhBUEiwAXieItj9Qhw1ZoCxI_IrMRWoQY7T-t-_ZnTJiIuACed95FJtowh7WkdHk_hoClE0QAvD_BwE

https://www.beehivebooks.ie/

Instagram. 

@kidsbooksirel

@beehivebooks.ie 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

(The first of two book discussions.)

The Christmas season never passes me by without reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It is a classic that is synonymous with Christmas in my opinion. I think it is such a significant read. Everyone should have to read this book at least once, and I do believe that it should be taught in English classes at this time of year. It is extremely hard for me to choose a definite favourite Dickens’ text. He is my favourite classic author. I loved studying his fiction and his journalism. Writing about his works was challenging, but it was a challenge that I really enjoyed. I would highly recommend reading A Christmas Carol first if you have never read any of his other works before, as although it is a dense text, I think it is a straightforward story to get into. The book also does a great job of introducing readers to the writing style of Charles Dickens. He is a very descriptive, evocative writer, and some of the scenes in A Christmas Carol are incredibly vivid because they are filled with such detail. I would argue that is why this book is so cinematic, and why a story like this lends itself to so many film adaptations. 

I have discussed A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in much more detail in a previous book discussion. You can read it by clicking the link below. 

I’m also looking forward to watching Christmas Carole starring Surrane Jones. This show will be airing on Sky on Christmas Eve, and based on the trailer, I think it looks quite good.

Surrane Jones is obviously taking on the role of Scrooge. She appears to be an uptight businesswoman who scoffs at Christmas and kindness. Following the classic Dickens plot, she will be visited by three ghosts. Some may call this plot predictable by now, and this is somewhat true because even if you have never read the original text, A Christmas Carol has been adapted so many times that by now almost everyone knows the story and how it plays out. It is a little formulaic, but that is okay. That is the nature of a story like this. It is predictable, it does follow a set structure, but nevertheless it is a heartwarming, and very important tale. I’m excited to see this new take on it, even though I already have clear ideas about how the show will play out. 

I’m a fan of Surrane Jones, and it looks as though this adaptation has a fantastic cast so I am looking forward to sitting down and tuning in this Christmas Eve. I will do a mini #watchtvwithme on the spot review as I’m watching so be sure to follow along on my Instagram stories @katelovesliterature

The Holly Pond Hill Christmas Treasury by Paul Kortepeter. 

(The second of two book discussions.) 

The Holly Pond Hill Christmas Treasury, illustrated by Susan Wheeler and written by Paul Kortepeter is a book that I have had since I was a little girl. I flipped through it again a few days ago, and I was reminded of just how charming this book is. 

This delightful book is a collection of festive recipes, Christmas stories, poems, and songs. It is filled with charming illustrations and it is the perfect read for when one is counting down the days until Christmas. The characters of Holly Pond Hill are getting into the Christmas spirit and readers will too when they flip through the pages of this Christmas treasury. I think it is such a sweet keepsake. I’m so glad that I still have it after all these years. I think that a book like this would make a lovely present for a young reader, because it is something that they can have forever. A book like this can become a Christmas tradition because it is one that can be returned to every year. I think my favourite poem in this book is A Call for Snow! It is short and sweet, and perfect for young readers who want to practise reading independently. 

I’m delighted that I came across this book. It made for a fun trip down memory lane, and I just had to share it here on Katelovesliterature.com. 

I am looking forward to 2023. I have a feeling it will be a great year. There is so much more to come, and I believe that there is no way to go except onwards and upwards. 

For now, thank you all for reading. I appreciate every like, and every comment. I love what I do, and it is so lovely that people engage with what I write. Until next year…

Merry Christmas. 

Kate xo.

The Holiday Before Christmas: Leipzig.

A travel diary by Kate O’Brien.

Christmas trees, fairy lights, gluhwein, and more. The Christmas markets in Leipzig were a magical sight. Germany has been on my travel wishlist for a long time, and I was so excited to spend a snowy few days in Leipzig. 

I wasn’t expecting to travel again before Christmas, but my Mam surprised me with a trip to Germany. It was cold, it was snowy, it was a trip filled with festive fun. 

I couldn’t wait to go, especially because Leipzig is a city that has a rich literary history, and there is nothing I love more than exploring a #literarycity. 

We flew out on a Sunday and we flew back to Dublin the following Wednesday. 

It is fantastic that Ryanair now has direct flights from Dublin to Leipzig. 

It may have been a short trip, but it was filled with amazing food, lovely drinks, some shopping, and we explored some fantastic sights. I had the best time, and Leipzig is a city that I will most definitely be returning to, but for now, I’m delighted to be able to add Leipzig to the travel diaries. 

If you enjoy reading about literary inspired trips then read on, because I’m going to outline some of the exploring we did, and I’m going to share some of the snaps I took. This city is a photographer’s dream, especially since the entire city was decorated for Christmas. 

It was glittering, sparkling, and all things festive. 

Leipzig is a cultural hub, and I was especially excited about the city’s musical history. 

The city has often been called the city of music, and if you’re a fan of classical music then this city is one you won’t want to miss. 

Please note – All images shared are photographs that I have taken myself, with my own phone. They may not be shared without my permission. 

St. Thomas Church. 

One of the places that I was most excited to visit was St.Thomas Church. (Thomaskirche). 

This church is said to date back to the 12th century, and although it has seen some changes over time, it is hard to imagine that a structure has stood in the same spot for such a long time. 

After some renovations, today the church is a beautiful, gothic building. It is a sight to behold. 

St.Thomas Church is home to one of the oldest, and most renowned boys’ choirs. The St.Thomas Boys’ Choir has sung in these halls since the year 1212, and at one point in time the choir was led by the one and only Johann Sebastian Bach. 

Johann Sebastian Bach has a reputation as one of the best composers of all time. He has been called a genius due to the way he composes counterpoints. A counterpoint refers to when melody lines are woven together, creating the harmony at the same time as the melody. Bach was also a particularly talented organ master, and during the church’s renovations, a new Bach organ was installed. This is the impressive organ that visitors will see when they visit the church today. 

In a little corner room in the church, I found my dream come true. Instruments and sheet music, all saved and displayed in cases. It was amazing to see handwritten scores that have been saved for all these years. I love music, I studied music, and while I don’t discuss it as much as I should, I adore classical music and music theory. 

I love scores. I think that there is something incredible about seeing the work that someone put on paper. Someone sat down and created song, and that is a talent that I wish I had. 

Music is universal and immortal. It seems unbelievable that the music of a choir master from centuries ago is still being played, remembered, and respected today, but Bach has left behind an impressive musical legacy and reputation. 

I was really hoping to see some sheet music and scores, so I was not disappointed. 

Outside the church, a statue of Bach sits overlooking the grounds. I think it is lovely that he is being remembered in St.Thomas Church in Leipzig after all of his musical service there. 

It is said that Bach is buried there too. The Bach museum is directly across the street so all of these must-see sights are very easy to find. 

This is a stop that music lovers won’t want to miss. Lovers of architecture will really enjoy it too, as this building with its high ceilings and stained-glass windows is just stunning. 

I bet that hearing a choir echoing through these walls would be absolutely amazing. 

I also want to note that visitors can also view the tower, but unfortunately I could not do this as this tour does not run past November. Oh well! This gives me yet another reason to return to Leipzig, not that I needed much convincing. 

I’d also like to share one of my favourite Bach quotes. 

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” – Johann Sebastian Bach. 

I think that music is something that touches the soul and pulls on one’s heartstrings in a way that not many things can. It is absolutely incredible how a piece of music can resonate with a person so much. That is why I love this quote. 

St. Nicholas Church. 

The second church we visited was St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikiriche). 

At this church, visitors are not permitted to take photographs.

This church is absolutely stunning, it is a sight you won’t want to miss, however it is a sight that you cannot take photographs of. You can buy a private photo pass in the gift shop for €1, which I did, however these pictures are for private use only. The church states that pictures are not permitted to be shared online or on any social media platforms. I’m sure that people share their pictures anyway, however I’m not going to do so, as I would not like any of my own photos to be shared without my permission. 

This church is a gothic building with baroque elements, and I would say that this building has a delicate, almost romantic feel to it. The interior is pink and white, and a huge silver organ sits overhead, looking down at all the pews. This organ is the largest organ in all of Saxony. 

Several of Bach’s pieces premiered in this church. This church is only a few minutes walk away from St.Thomas Church so it is definitely worth making a stop at both. 

Mephisto Bar. 

Mephisto is an elegant bar that you’ll find if you walk through the famous Mädler-Passage. The arcade was built between 1912-1914, and it is a sight of beauty and grandeur. At this time of year, it is also a sight of Christmas trees. Mephisto is a bar that has a wonderfully eccentric atmosphere. The stylish bar is home to Mephisto, who is a demon figure that can be found in German folktales. I just had to visit here as a lover of fairy tales and folktales. 

The bar is elegant, with a devilish touch. Mirrors change, and at certain times, smoke and lightning flashes as Mephisto himself makes an appearance on the ceiling. 

It is such good fun. Cocktail lovers need to make a stop here, as the menu is absolutely delicious. 

Christmas Markets. 

The highlight of my trip was exploring the Leipzig Christmas markets. These markets are the second-oldest Christmas markets in Saxony as they date back to 1458. The markets are huge, and at every turn you’ll find fairy lights, Christmas trees, decorations, gluhwein, toffee apples, and more. There are treats at every stall. Mugs, cakes, ornaments, jewellery, I could go on and on. 

Exploring the markets while Christmas music played was absolutely magical, and there was a festive joy in the air. I absolutely loved all of the hustle and bustle, even though it was very cold. 

I am so happy that I had the chance to tick Germany off my travel wishlist, although I definitely want to return to Leipzig as I know there is much more to do and see. I really wanted to see the Opera House, but unfortunately the schedule was tight. Next time that will be my first stop. 

I would absolutely return to the Christmas markets in Leipzig although I do think that the city would be lovely to explore in the summer, and I want to explore other places in Germany too, so be it in the cold or in the sun, I will be visiting Leipzig again. 

I really enjoy travelling to places that are filled with rich literature, history, and beauty, and I really enjoy writing about these trips. If you enjoy reading my travel diaries, then be sure to read all about my past trips to Oslo, London, Pompeii, Naples, Florence, and Rome as I did lots and lots of literary things in these literary cities. 

Links below: 

Theatre Throwback: Wicked.

Hello everyone and welcome to another #theatrethrowback. So this theatre throwback is actually quite a special one. The night still stands out in my mind. On this day three years ago, I was in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre with my best friend. We were celebrating our Leaving Cert results because we had just gotten them that morning. We were both delighted and relieved and so excited. We sat in the very front row and we saw Wicked and it was the most incredible night.

If you’re Irish then you will know how stressful the Leaving Cert can be and you’ll also know what a big deal results day is. If you are not Irish and you keep wondering what is this Leaving Cert that I keep referring to, it is one of the biggest exams Irish students do. It is the last exam we do in secondary school (high school) and it is the exam that will determine whether or not someone who wants to go to college will get in or not. We sit eight or more exams and it can be a very long, stressful experience. So results day is a very highly anticipated one. It is actually a day that I don’t like to discuss because in my personal opinion, I like to keep results private and I’m aware that not everyone walks away happy on results day, but I was someone who did walk away happy and very relieved and even though I have been lucky enough to see Wicked on a few occasions now, it is this day that stands out the most because it was a very important day in my life.

This production of Wicked was in Dublin in 2018 and my best friend and I saw the incredible Helen Woolf as Glinda and the equally incredible Amy Ross as Elphaba. If you have seen Wicked then you know already that it is a brilliant show. The staging is absolutely brilliant, the costumes are stunning, the score is beautiful and the story is funny, compelling, and very moving. I have seen this show on four different occasions and if someone asked me would I like to see it again tomorrow I would say yes. I don’t think it is possible to have a bad time seeing Wicked.

The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre is perhaps my favourite theatre in Dublin. I absolutely love seeing shows there. I always sit in the stalls and I love being out by the canal. If you’re from Dublin then you will know how beautifully the theatre is lit up on the outside and if you’re not from Dublin then I would say if you ever visit, go to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre because you will have an amazing night and there are lots of restaurants, coffee shops, and bars nearby to have a drink or some food before heading to the theatre.

This night stands out in my memory for so many different reasons. I was so happy and so excited, and my family and friends were all so excited and proud of me. New starts were ahead of me, I was looking forward to college, I was looking forward to starting my new course and making new friends. We were sitting in the very front row. We could see the orchestra and the conductor and if you know me, then you know that I am a huge fan of music (I even considered studying it in college), so seeing the conductor’s score was so exciting. One of the best moments was during Defying Gravity, I don’t want to spoil the show for anyone who hasn’t seen it, if you know you know, but being in the front row during that song in particular was an experience I’ll never forget. I was with my best friend, who I’ve known since I was a toddler. We were both so happy and we were celebrating a huge milestone and there we were, watching Wicked, a show that highlights how life changing best friends can be. It was a very special night and when it came up in my memories I just knew it had to be my next #theatrethrowback.

Have you seen Wicked? What do you think of the show? Let me know.

Kate xo.

A snap of my program xo.

Theatre Throwback: Mary Poppins.

Hello everyone and happy Tuesday. It’s time for another theatre throwback. In 2015 the magical Mary Poppins flew into the Bord Gàis Energy Theatre in Dublin and it quickly became one of my favourite musicals.

As you will see from the pictures below, I am a fan of Mary Poppins. The movie has always been one of my favourite Disney movies and over the years people have given me an array of Mary Poppins themed presents, from bobble heads to notebooks.

2015 was the year I sat my Junior Cert, if you’re not Irish and you don’t know what this means, it’s one of the two biggest exams we do while we are still in secondary school (high school). It’s the less scary version of the Leaving Cert and looking back once it was over it was hardly mentioned again, but nevertheless it is important at the time and I don’t like dismissing it because students have to get through it and the work they put in should be acknowledged.

Why mention this? Well music was one of my subjects, and as any Irish music student knows, the exam consists of a practical. Play an instrument or sing. I sang. My teacher had a method for choosing songs, show variety and do four different ones. A pop song, a hymn, an Irish song and a song from a musical. I chose to sing Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins and then later in the year after the anticipation of results were behind me, Mary Poppins the musical came to Dublin and as my own mother said, I couldn’t miss this show.

The wonderful Zizi Strallen was Mary Poppins and I still remember the applause when she flew over the audience with her umbrella. I was fifteen at the time and I was beginning to take drama classes more seriously, I was falling in love with watching things onstage and this was the show that made me really pay attention to detail. The transitions were seamless, the moving set and the special effects were fantastic. It really felt magical. It is so hard to pick just one favourite moment but the fabulous Matt Lee as Bert tap dancing upside down across the ceiling is definitely one of them.

If you’re a Disney fan then this is a show you will love. The magic of Disney is captured in every scene and of course the score is just beautifully filled with the songs we all know and love from the movie, along with some new ones specifically for the show. The costumes are beautiful, the dancing is upbeat, lively and mesmerising, and of course the story is what makes this show.

Even if you’re not a Disney fan, I would say if you get a chance to see Mary Poppins then you should go. It’s funny, it’s moving, and it’s absolutely magical and it is still a show that stands out in my memory years later.

I hope I get the chance to see this show again someday, but for now it was nice to walk down memory lane. I hope you all enjoyed my theatre throwback. Have you seen Mary Poppins? What did you think? What’s your favourite Disney musical? I’d love to know.

Kate xo.

The stunning charms, practically perfect, her boot, her picture, the famous bag, her umbrella and her hat, and of course the little stars because “if you reach for the stars all you get are the stars … but if you reach for the heavens you get the stars thrown in” xo.

Theatre Throwback: The Addams Family.

Hello everyone and happy Tuesday. I thought I would do another theatre throwback today and talk about a wonderful night I had at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in 2017 (how has it been that long?) when I went to see The Addams Family Musical.

I have always been a fan of the Addams Family, and so when the musical was coming to Dublin, I just had to go and see it. It was a fantastic night, if you love the Addams Family then this is a must see show, but I would even recommend it as a stand alone. It’s funny, it’s quirky, it’s heartfelt and there are some really fantastic musical numbers in this show.

I had the pleasure of seeing an absolutely brilliant cast, Cameron Blakely and Samantha Womack were a delightful Gomez and Morticia, and they were my stand outs of the night.
I don’t think anything beats the buzz of opening night, and I was lucky enough to see the first show so the atmosphere in the theatre was great. Everyone was excited, and probably slightly nervous, and I know as an audience member I was thinking hmm I wonder how this will translate on stage? Very well is the answer to that and the cast received an extremely long and well deserved standing ovation.

I hope that The Addams Family musical returns to the Bord Gáis. I would see this show again in a heartbeat and I would tell anyone who is on the fence about it to buy the ticket, a fantastic night at the theatre will follow.

Hope you enjoyed this little theatre throwback. I’m enjoying looking through my collection of programs, a collection that I hope to keep expanding. Have you seen the Addams Family musical? What did you think? Is it on your to see list? What musicals are on your to see list? I’d love to hear so let me know.

Kate xo.

A little snap of my program xo.
A little snap of the stage (pictures were permitted at this time, don’t worry) xo.

Theatre Throwback: The Phantom of the Opera.

Love me – that’s all I ask of you.

Charles Hart, The Phantom of the Opera.

Hello everyone and happy Wednesday. We have made it to the middle of another week. Time is flying by and I cannot believe that I will be kicking off my Theory Thursday series tomorrow. Keep an eye out for that.

Here’s a little theatre throwback. I had the most wonderful time at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London in 2018. The Phantom of the Opera is one of the best musicals I’ve seen on a stage, and I have seen many. I might dedicate an entire blog post to the trip someday. This musical is an absolute must see in my opinion and the day it comes back to Dublin, I will be a happy woman indeed. What are some of your must see shows? I’d love to know.

Kate xo.

A little snap of my program xo.
A beautiful snap of the stage before the show began. Don’t worry, photographs were permitted at this time xo.