Monday, 24 April 2017

FAIRYLOOT UNBOXING MARCH 2017

Each month I eagerly await the arrival of my FairyLoot month, and March was definitely no different! This month FairyLoot are celebrating their one year anniversary, so I was even more excited than usual to receive the box, and they really did not disappoint. It featured items that are a little different to the usual offering, which I really liked!

FairyLoot is a "fantasy focused monthly subscription box containing a Young Adult book and some hand selected bookish goodies" as described on their website. You can commit to six or twelve month subscriptions or if you're fast enough, you can get your hands on their single purchase boxes! The February theme was "Myths and Monsters".

For the first time every, FairyLoot included a scarf in one of their boxes. Exclusively made by GivArt, this silvery dragon scale scarf is so cute! It's super soft and lightweight, making it the perfect accessory for the good weather we are hoping for here in the UK. Or, it could make a great addition to a bookcase or act as a lovely little decorative piece!

Next is an item that I'm absolutely in love with - the Unicorn Fairy Lights by Mustard! Who doesn't love a good set of fairy lights? The fact that these are made up of lots of little unicorns and clouds makes them even better and I can't wait to decorate my bookcase with them.
Now a FairyLoot box wouldn't be the same without a candle, would it? This Nephilim candle by GeekyClean smells of black cherry and lime, which really reminds me of the cherry cola bottle sweets! It actually smells good enough to eat so I'll be burning it pretty soon!

The Mermaid Pocket Mirror by Book Otter is so cute and will be a lovely little addition to my everyday makeup bag, and just look at the adorable Dragon and Phoenix magnetic bookmarks by Bonitismo! I don't have any magnetic bookmarks with my bookish merch yet so I'm really happy to have received these.
So, the item that I was most excited for, the March book of the month! I'd had a few thoughts as to what it might be, so when I finally pulled it out of the book bag and saw I'd been right I may possibly have squealed: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. "A whimsical tale of  Gods, myths and monsters", Strange the Dreamer is the first in a new duology, and this edition comes with sprayed blue edges (so pretty) and artwork by Laini Taylor herself. It's even signed! As always, the book came with a letter from the author and even an exclusive postcard. I cannot wait to sink into this story; I've heard such incredible things about this book and as I'm just over halfway through her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, I know I'm going to love her latest story too.

As this month is celebrating FairyLoot's one year anniversary, the box also came with a special booklet which told us the history of FairyLoot which I thought was really cool. A chapter sampler of Fallen was also included, and I do love a good Angel story. This is another awesome box from FairyLoot. I'm honestly blown away each and every month by the incredible items included and the hard work that Anissa and Michael put in. If you're thinking about buying one, go ahead and do it! You won't regret it - promise. 



*Book depository affiliate links used. I get a small commission if you purchase through them, and you get free delivery!

Friday, 21 April 2017

MY READING ROUTINE

Confession: I'm a little bit nosey. I love watching routine videos on YouTube; morning routines, planning routines, self care routines, allll of the routines. After watching and reading everybody else's, I thought I'd finally write my own: my reading routine.
Now I'm the kind of person who can usually read anywhere. I sometimes read in the car if I'm early for uni and sat in the car park, or in the cafe at uni between lectures, sometimes I've even read in a lecture before (oops). But without doubt my favourite place to read is at home, in my bed. 

The first thing I do is fluff up all my pillows (my boyfriend may say too many pillows) and sort out my little reading corner. My favourite pillows have to be my ACOMAF themed ones from Evie SEO. They're so cute, super good quality and how could I resist anything that's related to my favourite series?

We've been having some unusually good weather here in Manchester recently, so I've been loving having the curtains pulled back and the window open, letting in all that good sunshine and fresh air. However in the winter, I much prefer the dark and snuggly aesthetic, with just my bedside lamp on, covered in a heap of blankets.
While this is usually the part where people say "and then I brew a strong and sweet cup of tea in my favourite mug", that's just not me. I actually think it'd result in me scalding myself while reading! I do however have some water or sugar free juice (because I'm actually seven years old) and occasionally a snack or two, typically a chocolate digestive.

While I can read in total silence, I often like to listen to some music or have the television on in the background as sometimes I find that the silence can be a bit intimidating if I'm trying to get into a particularly difficult book. I usually find a playlist on Spotify, either like a soft jazz or acoustic playlist and play that on my phone or laptop. I've been really getting back into listening to music recently. 

One of my favourite things to do when I wake up in a morning is to stick on my own "Miracle Morning" playlist and sing and dance along while I get ready to start my day. Because of this I've been looking into investing in some new equipment, like these Panasonic Wireless Speakers*. My dad's always been into his tech, especially surround sound equipment and televisions, so I know that sometimes spending a little more does result in better quality and longer lasting gadgets! I'll definitely be adding these to my wishlist, and 'cause they're bluetooth I'll be able to sing along in the shower even better.

So I've chosen my book, sorted out my space, got myself some refreshments and chosen my music. Now it's time to sit back, get comfy and cosy and get lost in another great book. Recently I've been really loving reading self help and personal development books again as I want to work on being my better self and just becoming a happier and more positive person. I've got a self help TBR coming up very soon so make sure to check that out if you want any book inspo! 


*This post has been sponsored by Panasonic.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

LAINI TAYLOR BOOK SIGNING: STRANGE THE DREAMER

First of all, please accept my apologies for the terrible quality photos in this post. But at the same time, I'm kind of not sorry because this was a totally awesome day! So last week I attended a very exciting book signing at Waterstones in Liverpool: Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor! Despite having read none of Laini's books when I bought this ticket, I already couldn't wait to meet her because I'd heard such wonderful things. I promptly ordered the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy and eagerly awaited the arrival of Strange The Dreamer which arrived in March's FairyLoot box (unboxing here)!
Admittedly, at the time of the event I was only halfway through the trilogy and a hundred pages into Strange the Dreamer thanks to working none stop on uni assignments, but I was already so in love with Laini's writing that I knew her books would creep up my favourites list.

I made my way to Liverpool with the lovely Lauren (Northern Plunder) and Beth (I Am Book Mad) who I met at the Caraval book signing, along with Bec (Two Book Thieves) who I met for the first time at the event. Despite having only met once or for the very first time, I had such a lovely time with the girls. We chatted about all sorts and I felt as if I'd known them much longer!

The event itself was amazing, just as I'd anticipated. Laini told us how Strange the Dreamer had initially been The Muse of Nightmares, a story told from Sarai's point of view, but how after writing a certain falling book scene featuring Laszlo, it quickly became his tale. Don't worry though! Laini did let it slip that the second instalment in this duology will indeed be called The Muse of Nightmares and hinted that it might be published next year.

The interview was thoughtful and funny, and Laini was a totally down to earth and funny individual, though I did still suffer the whole "omg I'm meeting an author whose books I really love and what the hell do I talk about" scenario. I actually made stupid small talk about the weather with Laini Taylor, yup. To make matters a little less embarrassing and a little more cool, Laini actually recognised me from Twitter as I'd tweeted her earlier that day! We also received two beautiful golden moth transfer tattoos, and I can't help but think what a stunning real tattoo it would make...
I had such a great day getting to know the girls over pizza and books, and then meeting the wonderful Laini Taylor! I've been reading Strange The Dreamer at every opportunity I've had and it's glorious. I'm trying to take my time and savour the book due to Laini's beautiful writing style but I'm finding that quite hard, I need to know what happens!





*Book depository affiliate links used. I get a small commission if you purchase through them, and you get free delivery!

Monday, 27 March 2017

WHAT I READ THIS MONTH: MARCH 2017

 While I started 2017 off with two really great reading months, I slowed down a little in March, reading a total of three books. I'm happy with that though, considering that I handed in my dissertation this month too! *internally screams*


The first book that I read in March was The Mime Order, the second book in The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon. I read The Bone Season last month and absolutely loved it; I can't believe that I waited so long to read this series! So I can't really go into too much detail plot wise as I would hate to ruin the story for you, but the second instalment in this series is just as action packed, tense and exciting, if not more, as the first. I was never bored and actually found myself reading The Mime Order during any spare time I had (it was actually a life saver during breaks between lectures). Just like with The Bone Season, when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it, and I finished the book within a matter of days. This series has bumped it's way up my favourites list and I can't wait to read the rest! 4/5 stars.

Surprise surprise, the next book I read in March was The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon. My immediate response after finishing this book was "Holy shit!" so I think that sums up my feelings pretty well. I went to the book signing for this release at my local Waterstones (you can read about it here) and had all of my books signed by Samantha Shannon, it was such a fab night! I really made an effort to slow my reading down with this book, as I knew that once I'd finished this it'd be a long wait until the fourth instalment and I wasn't ready for that. But, as you may guess, I failed miserably.

This book was so incredibly good that I just couldn't help but devour it page by page. We get to explore more of the UK, heading to places like Manchester and Edinburgh. I really loved this, especially as I live in Manchester myself and am a quarter Scottish (is that even a thing? Well my Grandad is from Glasgow ok) so I found it really interesting to read about these cities in one of my favourite series. The characters go through some seriously harrowing stuff in this book, and I've really grown quite attached to them, so I found this pretty hard to read, but overall The Song Rising was amazing. It brought out so many different emotions and feelings: excitement, worry, panic, sadness, happiness, warmth and tension to name but a few. Once again, this was a really well thought out plot, with superb writing skills and excellent world building from Samantha Shannon. A definite 5/5 stars!

In March I finally delved into the wonderful world of Laini Taylor through the first book in the trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I'd heard such great things about the series but never got around to reading it, until I saw that Laini was coming to Waterstones in Liverpool this month to celebrate the release of her new novel, Strange the Dreamer! I knew before even reading the books that I would love them after reading all of the reviews, so I booked my tickets to the book signing and ordered this book.

The writing was absolutely magical; it was unlike anything I've read before and I found myself completely swept up in the story and a little in awe of Laini's incredible talent. While I did find the plot a little slow in parts, I felt that the pace really helped with the world building and development of the story and I was hooked throughout, desperate to know what was going to happen next. For a change, I really loved each of the characters. Apart from the obvious (you know, living between our world and another) Karou is totally normal and relatable. She could just be that girl with the crazy cool blue hair in one of your lectures at uni, but underneath she is strong, and sassy and actually really brave. And Akiva, ah, well. Akiva made me all sorts of emotional. After all the loss and torture he has been through, he remains loyal, and hopeful and most of all, good. The romance between the two was definitely "swoon worthy" as much as I hate to use that phrase; no insta-love as such, though I did guess the link between the two of them before it was revealed. It didn't lessen the heartbreak any, though!

Reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone has me lusting to visit Prague so bad, it sounds amazing! As soon as I finished this book, I ordered the second, Days of Blood and Starlight. I mean technically I am on a book buying ban for lent, but if I'm meeting the author I really should have read her books, right? I got my hands on Strange the Dreamer yesterday and I'm so excited to read it. It's such a beautiful book and I wouldn't be surprised if it made an appearance in next month's TBR!


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*Book depository affiliate links used. I get a small commission if you purchase through them, and you get free delivery!



Friday, 17 March 2017

MINI WATERSTONES BOOK HAUL

Back in February, for Valentine's Day, my boyfriend bought me a Waterstones gift card. We'd agreed no presents (which I stuck to apart from a large bag of Magic Stars, oops), and I was feeling a bit emotional, and he just knows me so well that I let out a huge sob. Anyway, I thought I'd share the books that I bought with the gift card! It seems that I had a bit of a thing for red books this month...
After finishing The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon in February (check out my wrap up here), I just had to get my hands on The Mime Order, the second book in the series. I ordered the book online, and with choosing First Class delivery it arrived the next morning! I was super impressed. It did cost more than had I ordered it on Amazon, but I've been finding out more about how Amazon really aren't that cool recently, so I'm going to try and shop more in bookstores where I can. 

This weekend I visited one of my local Waterstones stores and spent a good while browsing the store. My boyfriend George waited patiently as I scoured each shelf, even rearranging some of the books, and dutifully "uhmmed" and "ahhhed" as I pointed out various books and authors. The second book I bought was Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. So I haven't read any of Laini's books, but I've heard such great things about her books, this in particular, that when I saw it on the shelf I couldn't resist (I do also have Strange The Dreamer on pre-order).

The last book I bought from Waterstones is A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, the third in the Shades of Magic trilogy. Funny story, I haven't actually read the first two in the series... BUT, I do have the e-books on Kindle, and after reading all the rave reviews of the series I think I'm kind of guaranteed to love it, so I couldn't leave ACOL in the store! 

Also, major bonus surprise at the till. Both books were included in a offer so they ended up costing less than anticipated! It's the little things, hey? I've already read both The Mime Order and Daughter of Smoke and Bone so I'll be including those in my wrap up at the end of the month!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

SAMANTHA SHANNON BOOK SIGNING: THE SONG RISING

Earlier this week, on Wednesday night, I made my way to my local Waterstones on Deansgate in Manchester, for a very exciting event: a book signing for The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon! I attended one for Caraval by Stephanie Garber a few weeks back (which you can read about here) so I was very much looking forward to this as I knew how awesome these signings were! I started reading The Bone Season series last month, and it very quickly made it's way up my favourite book series list. I was about 50% of the way through The Song Rising the day of the event, which was only a day after the book was released, so that's testament to how much I was enjoying it.
Samantha's discussion was both insightful and inspiring; I loved learning about the history of her writing, how she developed ideas for the series and even a couple of personal things. 

I really like the fact that she draws on a lot of real world issues and events, and these influence her writing. For example, the way that the Salem Witch Trials were conducted and the idea of "unnaturalness", with those that are "different" being persecuted. 

While The Bone Season series could be considered dystopian, the fact that the world is actually quite progressive is quite contradictory. For example, Samantha clearly explained that there is no sexism or homophobia in her books. Her characters see people as just that, people. Not man, woman, gay, straight or bisexual for example. For a world that is so damaging in some ways, is actually more developed than ours in others. The idea of mass hysteria interests Samantha too, which is clearly reflected in the way that certain groups react within The Bone Season series, and again is quite prevalent to today's society.

Samantha began writing in her teens, around the age of 12 or 13, and started to write her first novel, Aurora at 15 (Samantha described this as Twilight with aliens)! While this story wasn't picked up by an agent, Warden was actually created first for this story and then adapted for The Bone Season. Apparently Warden was quite dark and brooding in Aurora, with the story revolving a lot around the "swooning" between him and his human lover. 

Speaking of which, Paige and Warden's relationship was somewhat inspired by the story of Beauty and the Beast, particularly how the Beast never really tells Belle what's really going on, when actually by doing that he'd have made things much simpler! Samantha also said that she drew inspiration from V for Vendetta (one of her favourite films) and the character of Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre.

While Aurora was unfortunately rejected, Samantha did receive feedback from one agent, and it was on her trip to this agency that she came across the area of Seven Dials for the first time. The New Age shops in the area helped Samantha to develop the idea of a secret society of clairvoyants in a not-too-distant future London, and so began The Bone Season.

I also found out that the film rights for The Bone Season have also been bought by The Imaginarium Studios, which is ran by actor Andy Serkis. I'm so so so excited for this, but I really do hope that they do the books justice!
I had such a great time at this event, and even got to have a chat with Samantha while she signed the books I had brought with me. It's such a pleasure to meet the authors of my favourite books, and so I encourage anybody that's thinking about going to a signing to just do it! You won't regret it. Keep up with any events at your local Waterstones here*. 



*Not sponsored or paid for, I just love bookish events!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

REVIEW: THE ROANOKE GIRLS BY AMY ENGEL

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel is a book that I'd seen a lot of buzz about on social media, and so when the opportunity arose for me to be sent a proof copy (thank you Hodder Books!), you better believe I said yes.

From the cover:


Beautiful.
Rich.
Mysterious.

The Roanoke girls seem to have it all. But there's a dark truth about them which is never spoken. 

Every girl either runs away, or dies.

Lane is one of the lucky ones. When she was fifteen, over one long, hot summer at her grandparents' estate in rural Kansas, she found out what it really means to be a Roanoke girl. Lane ran, far and fast. Until eleven years later, when her cousin Allegra goes missing - and Lane has no choice but to go back.

She is a Roanoke girl.

Is she strong enough to escape a second time?


Thoughts:

First, of all, wow. This book had me gripped from the beginning; I read 30 pages the first day and the only reason I stopped was because I had to go out. The day after (yesterday as I'm writing this), I found myself saying "just 10 more minutes of reading"... until I'd finished the entire thing.

This book deals with some pretty dark and heavy themes, and certainly could include triggers for some people so I would recommend maybe reading a few reviews online which go into this further. as I don't want to reveal the main theme of the book here.

I really can't go into the actual story much without giving away huge spoilers, but I can say that the main themes are pretty easy to work out early on in the book (pretty much spelled out for you in the first quarter of the book), while the main "whodunnit" totally shocked me. This is testament to how well written and full of suspense The Roanoke Girls is; usually I'd be attempting to pick holes in the story line while trying to figure out who did what, but this time I was far too engrossed to even bother. There were parts of this book where I felt uncomfortable and disgusted, but my main feeling was sorrow. The Roanoke Girls seem to have it all, but at what price? 

The Roanoke Girls covers two periods in our protagonist Lane's life. Written in first person, we start with Lane at 16 years old when she first visits Roanoke, and discover the awful events that unfold the summer that she stays there, and eleven years later when Lane returns to help find her missing cousin Allegra. The book is also peppered with snippets from the other Roanoke girl's stories, which only added to the overall feeling of unease.

Lane sometimes confused me; don't get me wrong, I really liked her but in some parts of the story I found her actions very out of character, as if they'd been slotted in to help fuel the story with no thought as to how it would tie in with how we have previously seen her act. Despite this, I still loved how the characters were written. They all just worked. Even though some of the characters were truly terrible, they seemed completely three dimensional, and I felt as though I could picture them in every single scene.

I put this book down after finishing it feeling quite odd; had I really just enjoyed a book about something so evil? I had, but this book definitely isn't for everyone. If you like dark, deep and twisted stories about dysfunctional (to say the least!) families, then I would highly recommend The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel, released today.


Thursday, 2 March 2017

WHAT I READ THIS MONTH: FEBRUARY 2017

Last month I read eleven books. Yup, eleven, and I was totally proud of myself. This month I only managed to read five, and I'm still pretty chuffed with that. Five is a great number of books to read, especially when you love pretty much all of them (most are 4/5 star books), and are reading them in the midst of writing your dissertation and other final year work!
The first book that I read in February was Wintersong by S, Jae-Jones. I have a full review of Wintersong up already which you can read here. But long story short, Jae-Jones has taken inspiration from 19th century German fairy tales, along with a pinch of David Bowie's Labyrinth to create a novel unlike anything I'd read before. I was automatically drawn to this story and I loved it. With interesting, three dimensional characters, a dreamlike way of writing with amazing world building and a dark and mythical undertone, Wintersong had me enthralled from the first chapter. 4/5 stars.

I then read One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus. Over the past months I have leaned towards fantasy books, I love how you can get sucked into a new and exciting world so easily. Though, I do love a good mystery thriller, and when I heard about this book (which has been likened to Pretty Little Liars!) I had to request it on NetGalley, and thankfully I was very kindly approved to read it!

"On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention: Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, Cooper and Simon. Only Simon never makes it out of that classroom". Eep! The story follows the four remaining students as Simon's murder is investigated. I was kept guessing until the very end with this book; the last few chapters are so incredibly tense! I read it in less than 24 hours too as I just HAD to know 'whodunnit'. You can get your hands on One Of Us Is Lying on the 1st of June. A solid and well deserved 4/5 stars!

I've had the audio book of The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken on the Audible app for a while now, and while I'd started it about four times, I finally listened to the whole thing this month.

After most of America's children fall victim to a mysterious disease, the survivors develop uncontrollable abilities which make them dangerous and unpredictable, resulting in them being sent to brutal government "rehabilitation camps". After escaping her camp, Ruby joins a gang of kids seeking a safe haven for their kind, but faced with an unrelenting government and leaders who aren't what they seem, Ruby must make a terrible decision that may mean that she has to give up the one thing that makes her life worth living.

While it did take a long time to finally get around to listening to this, oh man I wish I'd listened earlier! I tend to listen to audio books whilst driving, but because I just could not get enough of this story I was listening to it while I was getting ready, whilst working, whilst doing jobs around the house - basically anywhere that I could. Dystopian stories often tend to be quite 'samey', (think The 5th Wave etc), but despite this I really enjoyed The Darkest Minds. I found the middle to be quite slow, and can imagine that if I were physically reading the book I'd be quite bored, but overall the plot was well thought out and I really enjoyed the character development. Parts of the story were quite hard hitting and my heart broke for the characters; imagine having been taken away from your family at 10 years old because they don't understand? Or worse, being given away by your family? So so sad. The world building was second to none and I am so excited for this to be brought to life in the upcoming film! Another 4/5 star read for me.

*I just want to post a trigger warning for the next book: rape, sexual harassment. cyber bullying*

I'm really not sure how to write a review for the next book I read in February, Asking For It by Louise O'Neill. I'd heard a lot about it in the book blogging community, but it wasn't until The Banging Book Club posted a review podcast on it that I decided to pick up the e-book.

One summer in a small town in Ireland, beautiful, happy and confident eighteen year old Emma O'Donovan goes to a party. The next morning, she is found on the front porch of her house by her parents. She doesn't know what happened, but everyone else does. Emma finally finds out what happened, through photographs that were taken on the night of the party, explicit  photographs, that have been shared with the whole town.

Ok so this book deals with a lot of heavy and serious issues, from alcohol and drugs, to sexual harassment, to rape, to bullying both on and offline to dysfunctional families. I didn't actually give this book a star rating on Goodreads because I genuinely don't know how to feel about it. I cannot say that I 'enjoyed' this book, because parts of it made me feel disgusted, sick, exasperated, uncomfortable and down right angry. On the other hand, I think that Asking For It is so powerful, and although there are shockingly high rape statistics, isn't really discussed in YA.  I'll leave you with this quote from Emma: "They are all innocent until proven guilty. Not me, I am a liar until I am proven honest." Ugh. That sentence alone is enough to make my blood boil. As Louise says herself, "We need to talk about rape. We need to talk about consent. We need to talk about victim-blaming and slut-shaming and the double standards we place upon our young men and women".

The last book I read this month is The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. What a way to end my reading month! I'd had The Bone Season on my bookcase for an embarrassing amount of time, but as I'm going to a Samantha Shannon at my local Waterstones later on this month, paired with the unending praise I hear for this series, I decided it was about time I read it. While the first few chapters were a little info dumpy and hard to get my head around, as soon as I had a grip on the world and the characters, I was hooked. Why oh why did I put off for so long?

The year is 2059. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London where it is her job to break into people's minds as a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant, and in Scion, she commits treason just by breathing. One day Paige is attacked, drugged and kidnapped and taken to the secret city of Oxford where she is then controlled by an otherwordly race. To be able to escape this prison, Paige must learn to thrive and adapt, and most of all, trust.

I couldn't get enough of this book. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about reading it, and when I was reading it, I was devouring it, racing to get to the next page, the next chapter. I loved the kickass female lead, I loved the London setting which I found really interesting, but most of all I loved the fast paced, action driven plot. I was constantly entertained and was just completely enthralled from beginning to end. I've just started The Mime Order and I'm SO excited to attend the Samantha Shannon event in a couple of weeks. Another 4/5 stars!

I've had such a good reading month, I feel like I've started 2017 with a bang and I'm so excited for the rest of the year - there are some amazing books being released!


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*Book depository affiliate links used. I get a small commission if you purchase through them, and you get free delivery!

Monday, 27 February 2017

FAIRYLOOT UNBOXING FEBRUARY 2017

So I'm back with another FairyLoot unboxing. Every month I legit set an alarm to make sure I'm in time to order the new box, and then I obsessively watch the shipping tracker for the few days before it is delivered. I just love these boxes so much; they never fail to disappoint! The February box was no different, and this time I had no idea what to expect which made it all the more exciting. Warning: this post is a little photo heavy but everything was just so pretty...

FairyLoot is a "fantasy focused monthly subscription box containing a Young Adult book and some hand selected bookish goodies" as described on their website. You can commit to six or twelve month subscriptions or if you're fast enough, you can get your hands on their single purchase boxes! The February theme was "Emperors and Fugitives".
I'm so excited for this month's book, Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza. I mean that beautiful cover alone is enough for it to sail straight to the top of your TBR! A combination of fantasy and sci-fi, described as "a saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy", I'm already pretty sure I'm going to love this book. Ok so *deep breath*. This double sided art print of my queen Manon and the lovely Prince Dorian from The Throne of Glass series by Taratjah. I was kind of expecting this after seeing a couple of FairyLoot's tweets but I still squealed when I saw it. Now the only hard part is trying to decide which side to have showing!
Next is this Funko Pocket Pop! Keychain mini little cutie baby Dancing Groot JUST LOOK AT HIM. I'm so happy to finally own my own Groot Funko Pop, even if he is a miniature one. Whenever I'm feeling a bit down, a sure fire way to cheer myself up is to do the little Groot dance, so now I have my own personal one to carry around with me! I love a good bath with a book, so this Celestial Gunpowder bath bomb from Bathing Beauties is perfect for me. And it smells like cupcakes - yay! This Illuminae Quote Coaster by Read At Midnight will look perfect on my bedside table and will hopefully give me that kick up the arse to finally get around to reading Illuminae. I've also got another gorgeous bookmark to add to my collection: Space Girl by Till and Dill. So pretty!
The next item is this Rebel of the Sands Pouch by Alisse Courter. I read Rebel of the Sands earlier this year and oh man I loved it, so naturally I love this pouch too! And if you follow me on any other social media channel you'll know that I have a slight obsession with bookish candles, so to receive another one in February's FairyLoot box was just fab. The Kalusian Sunset Candle (which is huge!) by Happy Piranha not only looks super cute, but was named by this month's author AND smells absolutely delicious.

There were a couple of bonus items included too, like a Secret Sampler of The One Memory of Flora Banks and a discount for MyBookmark. I'm so pleased with this month's FairyLoot box (as usual!) and can't wait to get using all of the items and get reading! Seriously, if you're uhmming and aaahing about buying a FairyLoot box, just do it,.You won't regret it - promise!

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*Book depository affiliate links used. I get a small commission if you purchase through them, and you get free delivery!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

STEPHANIE GARBER BOOK SIGNING: CARAVAL

Last night I went to my first ever book signing at Waterstones in Manchester, and oh my it was amazing. It felt very fitting for my first event to be in celebration of the only book I've given five stars to this year so far (and has the loveliest author!), Caraval by Stephanie Garber! I was super nervous, not only because it was my first bookish event, but also because I'd planned to go alone. After posting on Twitter about my nerves, and both Stephanie and the staff at the Waterstones store sending lovely replies, myself and fellow book blogger Lauren at Northern Plunder decided to meet up before making our way to the event.
Upon arrival, we settled down in the upstairs cafe whilst we waited for the event to begin. Once the doors were opened we managed to bag some seats on the second row, so we had a fab view of the mini stage, and were then joined by Lily from I Am Book Mad. The three of us discussed our favourites books, our thoughts on Caraval and they very graciously listened to me complaining about my university stresses, before Stephanie took to the stage and the book talk began! 

We heard all about about Stephanie's writing process (she writes six days out of seven each week and creates several paths that each character could take so even Stephanie didn't know how Caraval was going to end!), where the ideas for Caraval came from (mainly music and films such as Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby), how she took inspiration from Pinterest for the clothingand Stephanie's one piece of writing advice is to "write the book you want to read". I absolutely love this; if you're passionate about the story line and you would love to read it, chances are other people will love it too! And looking at the response Caraval has received, as in being on bestseller lists, it's clear that a lot of people, me included, do love it. Also, did you know that the film rights for Caraval have been bought?! I am SO excited. This book is going to translate into a film so well and be an absolute treat for the eyes, I just hope that they stick to the story in the book.
Stephanie is literally one of the nicest, most genuine people I've ever met, and her positive attitude and happy manner are so infectious, I couldn't help but smile along to everything she was saying. At the end of the talk we could get our books signed and pictures taken, and Stephanie very kindly signed all four copies of her book that I had taken with me. I think the coolest part of the night had to be when she recognised me from our conversations on Twitter - total fangirl moment! I had such an amazing night, and I'm so thankful that Stephanie took the time to visit Manchester on her tour and have a little chat with us all whilst signing books and taking pictures. I also had a fab time getting to know Lauren and Lily too; it's always so nice to meet fellow bloggers, especially those who don't live too far away and like the same kind of books! 

My next book event is in a couple of weeks, again at the Waterstones store in Manchester, with Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season series. I can't wait! Check out my review of Caraval here.


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Monday, 20 February 2017

REVIEW: WINTERSONG BY S. JAE-JONES

Over the past couple of months I kept seeing a certain book popping up all over the bookish Twitter accounts I follow, and when I came across the opportunity to review Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones, I absolutely count not turn it down - thank you Titan Books! Taking inspiration from 19th century German fairytales with a subtle nod to David Bowie's Labyrinth, I was automatically drawn to this story; I'd never read anything like this before. Also I just have to say, just look at that beautiful cover. It also fits in nicely with my bedroom aesthetic which is a nice added bonus.I hope that I can put into words just how much I did enjoy this book!

From the cover:
Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.


Thoughts:
Something that doesn't happen too often, I actually really liked our main character Liesl. She had human, relatable traits and faults. She wasn't society at that time's definition of beautiful, but throughout the story it is reinforced that what is inside of you is more important than your external looks which is something I wish we saw more of in YA. There was no "magic makeover" where suddenly everybody thought she was the most stunning person they had ever seen after only a good bath and a change of clothes, and I loved that. She was normal, just like most of us. She also broke the confines of the historical female stereotype; she stood up for herself, she knew what she wanted and she took it, or she did a pretty good job of trying. Yes girl. She also made a lot of sacrifices, and I really admire this about Liesl.

Some aspects of the main character's romance did feel a little off to me, though after reading the book I discovered that Wintersong was initially written as an adult novel, and had most of the romantic scenes between the two main characters stripped out and made more 'YA appropriate' which may provide some explanation for why I wasn't really into it. Though I did love the gay bi-racial romance that Wintersong features! 

The Goblin King. Ohhh, the Goblin King. He was a constant source of confusion for me. For most of the story I was questioning myself: did I hate him, did I love him, did I feel sorry for him? It was kind of all three. I imagine that he was constantly fighting an internal battle asking the exact same things about himself, though the more his backstory was revealed, the more I began to understand him and eventually, care about him. The history between himself and Liesl was so strong, and was a prominent force throughout the book; the resulting emotion felt as though it was bleeding off the page and my heartstrings were definitely tugged more than once or twice.

Music featured very heavily throughout Wintersong; almost on every page there was one reference or another to a musical piece, an instrument or how music influenced their lives. Whilst I can appreciate the beauty of the writing, and I do admit that the style was mesmerising and I felt as though I was being swept up in a song through it. I would probably have felt a deeper connection to the story if I were a classical music lover.

The world building in Wintersong was definitely one of my favourite things about the book. Each change of scene was described carefully and in detail, but not so much that you feel like a whole load of information has been dumped on you. I frequently felt tense and uneasy, but also excited, which made me flick through the pages faster and faster each chapter. There was just enough description for you to be able to create a picture in your head, quite dreamlike actually, and because of this I would have loved to have seen more of the Underground and the goblin living areas!

I definitely enjoyed the ending of this book, but be warned, it's no happy ever after fairytale ending. Despite this, it wrapped up nicely and left room for not only a sequel but for your imagination to go wild with possibilies, whilst breaking my heart. Wintersong was addictive and enthralling. It was a dark, mythical and magical story, filled with poetic writing, stunning scenes and an antagonist you just love to hate. It is completely different than anything I've ever read before, and I'm almost convinced I won't read anything like it again any time soon. I raced through Wintersong in only a couple of days, totally engrossed in the fantastical word, so it receives a well deserved 4/5 stars.

Monday, 13 February 2017

REVIEW: CARAVAL BY STEPHANIE GARBER

I fear that this will be a post full of nonsense while I fangirl my butt off, but I will try my best to make this resemble a logical review. The majority of my review will be non-spoiler, but I do want to throw in a couple of my favourite quotes from the book so I'll give you a heads up before I get to those in case you don't want to read them! This was also the first book that I "tabbed" using different coloured arrow post its to help with my review and to mark my favourite parts (there's a hell of a lot of tabs). I received Caraval by Stephanie Garber in the January FairyLoot box (check out what else was inside here). I had actually pre-ordered the book months ago as it was one of my most anticipated releases for 2017, so when I managed to get my hands on it a couple of days earlier than the publication date through FairyLoot I was SO excited.
On the cover:


"Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever."

My thoughts:

I have to start by mentioning the absolutely stunning covers. The dust jacket is simply beautiful, but there are four variations of the actual hardback: a tent, a rose, a dress and a clock. I received the tent and I'm in love with it! I did a bit of digging online and came across the US hardback and well, I could hardly resist could I (the last two pictures). And now I hear that a special edition is being released in Tesco and I'm going to have to buy that too! (Update: I bought it).

I read 10% on the day I received the book but sadly had to put it down to get on with some uni work *booo*. So. yesterday (when writing this) I made sure that I put some time aside to settle down with the book and dive back in. I'd planned to have an early night and catch up on some sleep, I could fit in a few chapters of Caraval right? Wrong. I could fit in the entire rest of the book. I absolutely could not put this book down. At one point, I declared (internally) that it was time for bed. So I got ready, set my alarms, got under the covers ready to get some sleep... and picked Caraval up again. There was no way I could sleep until I finished the book.

Possibly my absolute favourite things about this book are the world building and descriptions - they're frickin' amazing. I was enthralled from the first couple of pages, it is full of absolutely stunning sentences. In fact, while Face-timing my boyfriend I actually made him shut up for a minute so that I could read a few out to him and his response was "you look very happy with that" and I was. So happy. I felt like I was experiencing Caraval right along with Scarlett - I could feel the mystery and magic of it as if it were pouring off the page. The writing was absolutely stunning and I could visualise each and every scene as if I were standing right there. There was just so magic and fantasy in Caraval, from the ever changing dress, to portals, to the time moving quicker there than anywhere else, they all worked together to create a perfectly bewitching environment.

I fell in love with (most of) the characters too. The bond between the sisters in Caraval was so strong and clear, it was as if their love for each other was tangible. Their father however, I did not like. Without spoiling anything, the fact his gloves are described as "plum coloured... the shade of dark bruises and power" should say more than enough. I really appreciated that each character was different, they were individuals with their own mind and really helped to propel the story forward as opposed to being a "side character" just for the sake of it. I could feel Scarlett's frustration through the whole book which only added to the intensity and urgency of the plot. I also found the fact that Scarlett has synesthesia really interesting; she sees emotions and thoughts in colour and it's something I haven't read about before!

I'm pretty sure I fell in love with Julian from the first scene (sidenote: Stephanie actually said in an interview that she never really intended to keep him in the story after the first chapter or so which makes him all the more intriguing)! Also, Caraval included one of my all time favourite YA tropes, even if just for a short while: the fake husband and wife scenario with lots of playful flirting. Yesss.

Throughout the story there were tonnes of character development which I really enjoyed, but was this just to help "the game"? I loved that  as the story went on, Scarlett decided to do what is right for her and not just what is right for everyone else, but I was constantly changing my mind on the other characters. Were they genuine? Were they real? What is going on!?

I truly felt as though no one and nothing could be trusted. The cover says "Remember, it's only a game", and it definitely lived up to that. My mind raced from one possibility to another, while my eyes frantically took in each word as I flipped through the pages. I had a constant feelings of unease, dread and nervousness but I was thoroughly excited too - I guess this is how the real players felt! My heart broke over and over, I actually found myself saying "oh my god" several times, particularly in the last 1/4 of the book but I loved every part of it. I'm quite content with the ending and how it was (or wasn't) wrapped up, though I'm pretty sure there is a sequel and I need it now!

I actually have the opportunity to meet Stephanie at an upcoming event at my local Waterstones and I'm so excited! Caraval was a magical, stunning and thoroughly enjoyable read that twisted, turned and shocked at every opportunity. I truly loved it, so I gave it a well deserved 5/5 stars - I'd give more if I could! Keep reading for some awesome quotes...

Some of my favourite quotes:

"Lovely seeing you Scarlett." Julian smiled, as cool and seductive as a slice of shade in the Hot Season - One of Julian's first lines

The hazy glow of a lantern caught the metallic edges of the paper, making them blaze a shimmery gold, the colour of magic and wishes and promises of things to come - The invitation to Caraval

Glittering mist swirled around vibrant green mountains - all covered in trees - that rose toward the sky as if they were massive emeralds. From the top of the largest peak an iridescent blue waterfall streamed down like melted peacock feathers, disappearing into the ring of sunrise-tinted clouds that pirouetted around the surreal isle - Isla de los Suenos

The sky was black, the moon visiting some other part of the world, as Scarlett took her first step into Caraval. Only a few rebel stars held posts above, watching as she and Julian crossed the threshold of the wrought-iron gate, into a realm that for some would only ever exist in wild stories - The first step into Caraval

She remembered her first impression of him, tall, roughly handsome, and dangerous, like poison dressed up in an attractive bottle - Scarlett thinks of Julian

"Crimson," Julian murmured as his eyes flickered back open. Light brown, the colour of caramel and liquid amber lust

Everything on pages 208 - 212. So much loveliness and swooning.

There are so many more awesome quotes and lines throughout the rest of the book, but I don't want to include anything from the last half of the book because - spoilers!



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