16 October 2018

Ten Reasons I Love My Local Bookshop

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

Top Ten Tuesday
This week is Top Ten 
Bookstores/Libraries I’ve Always Wanted to Visit 
Reasons I Love My Local Bookshop
I couldn't think of more than three for the original theme, so I'm changing it up and instead talking about some of the reasons that I love my local bookshop.
  • The Building
    Emerson Chambers in Newcastle is a gorgeous building. Art Noveau architecture, with the most whimsical roof I've ever seen on a building.
  • The Staff
    The staff are all so friendly and enthusiastic, and more than happy to chat and recommend books.
  • The Basement
    My favourite part of the whole shop is the basement, where the kids, YA, sci-fi and fantasy books lurk. A lot of the authors events take place down there too.
  • The CafĂ©
    This cafe does the best hot chocolate I've ever tasted, but also (more importantly) it had an excellent range of tea and a selection of delicious cakes!
  • Books, glorious books
    I love how sometimes I'll be browsing the shelves and come across a US edition, signed copies, and older title that I love. 
  • Displays
    So much thought goes into the displays for the books. I think my most recent favourite was the Pride display, which lasted almost two months and was full of colour, and a little note on each with the rep.
  • Stationery
    Notebooks and planners, oh my! Waterstones has the most gorgeous selection of stationery and it's so difficult to resist. Who am I kidding, I don't resist.
  • Loving Local
    My local bookshop takes pride in the fact it's in Newcastle. There are local gifts, small press books, and a whole display dedicated to local crime fiction.
  • Reviews
    One of my favourite things about Waterstones bookshelves is the reviews from the staff clipped on in front of the books.
  • Recommendations
    The staff know what they're selling and are only two happy to recommend a book that they personally loved. The personal touch is excellent.

    What's your favourite thing about your local bookshop?

    15 October 2018

    Getting Books to Review When You Have No Money

    I've spent a lot of my life without money, and I know how hard it can be. Especially if you're a reader. Because books are expensive. I have vivid memories of finishing the YA section in the library at high school and thinking "what next?". Luckily the librarian had a stash of books she kept hidden away to slowly rotate stock in, and let me read a lot of those. She also gave me my first review copy and sparked my love of sharing the books I read.

    I know as a reader myself, when I'm looking at reviews on a blog I'm more likely to read one for a book I've already read rather than one that's not even out yet. I always find that when I'm talking about a book that's been out for longer there are more people who have read it, so more people that I can talk to it about.

    Honestly, don't stress about always reading the latest books. I'm lucky enough to be able to get some books occasionally from lovely publishers, but I find that well loved, well read books are often the best talking points. And here are some tips for finding books to review when you have no money.

    Getting Books to Review When You Have No Money

    Read Your Own

    Start off with the books you already own. Read them. Review them. Take pretty pictures. Shout to the world about those books that you already have, that you obviously thought good enough to buy in the first place. Think of how much joy and author would have when a new review of a back list book pops up. Reread an old favourite and gush about it, share your existing passion.

    Go to the Library

    Hit up the library (if you have one). I'm a member of my local library (physical books) and an online library (ebooks and audiobooks). Libraries are not only excellent resources of books, but using them supports authors through things like PLR, which compensates authors for their books being available in libraries.

    You can often also join multiple libraries. I am a member of over five different library services and I use them all as they have different books in their catalogues.

    Find Freebies

    Check Amazon for freebies. There are so many free books on Amazon - some of them are always free, usually the first book in a series or a novella, and some of them are free as part of a promotion. I tend to check around once a week just in case. I have found some absolute gems, books that have gone on to become my favourites.

    And don't forget that a lot of classics are free as their copyright has expired, and are available through things like Project Gutenberg (which is how I read the Sherlock Holmes books).

    Enter Giveaways

    I used to get the majority of my review copies on Goodreads Giveaways, but now they're US only (boo) and I have to use other sources. Sign up for publisher newsletters, make sure you're following publishers across social media. And keep an eye on other blogs! Fellow bloggers are extremely generous and run lots of awesome giveaways.

    Every week I read the samples on Readers First and leave my First Impressions - even if I don't enter the draw for that book I can still earn points, and then use the points I earn to claim a book I really want at a later date. This is how I got my hands on The Island by MA Bennett.

    What are your top tips for getting your hands on books?

    14 October 2018

    Six Favourite Series

    Today I am joining in with Steph from A Little But A Lot's Six for Sunday! Today's prompt is favourite series or trilogies, and I loved thinking back on series I've loved, because there are a lot. It was hard to narrow it down to just six!

    Fashionistas by Sarra Manning
    Oh man, this series. It's a favourite and I reread it often, my ultimate comfort books. I love how each of the characters are so different and how their stories come together.

    Dark Gifts by Vic James
    This whole series is INCREDIBLE, honestly amazing. I'd recommend it to everyone. I love the alternate world, the exploration of control and power and family. And magic! And EEEK.

    The Extinction Trials by SM Wilson
    These. Books. Like... Wow. I have already read both books twice and I'm eagerly awaiting the third. The world is incredible, and I love how on the surface it's people vs dinosaurs, but as you delve deeper you realise it's far more than that.

    Ophelia by Sophia Bennett
    This series is gorgeously written, it's such a rich story. I love Mary's journey and I was so sad to see it end, as I want to read about her life forever.

    Slated by Teri Terry
    I recommend these books to so many people it's starting to get a bit ridiculous. The series is amazing, a wonderful look at the dark side of control and power (oh yeah, there's a theme to this list).

    Phobos by Victor Dixen
    I may only have just finished the second book, but I love this series. It's unique and fun and pure escapism, and perfect for fans of Love Island.

    What's your favourite series?

    13 October 2018

    Friendship is Hard

    I'm not good at this friendship thing.

    I find it hard to make friends and harder to keep them.

    It's like when I popped into being, something was missing. Something that made making friends - and keeping them - easier for other people and near impossible for me.

    I feel like a large part of it is down to me. I'm awkward around people, I'm quiet, I can sometimes put on a facade and appear confident and outgoing, but I definitely am not. Unless I push myself I am cripplingly quiet and easily overwhelmed. I'm rather like a wilting wallflower.

    When I do make friends, it's like I change. Once I'm comfortable around someone I love to talk to them. There's so much chatter and back and forth, sharing your life with friends is an incredible thing.

    Then I fall back into my old ways and hang back, and listen rather than talk. And then the drifting starts and the silence and it's quiet again and I realise that I got so comfortable that I forgot to work at it.

    But yeah, friendship is hard. But I love my friends so much, and I just have to remind myself to keep working it it.

    12 October 2018

    My Autumn Reading Soundtrack * AD

    Autumn is my favourite season. I love the chilly mornings and long, dark evenings. Autumn is made for reading, for curling up with a book and just getting lost in a whole new world. More often than not you'll find me snuggled up with a book in my hands - on the couch with a cup of tea and a blanket, in bed with fresh pyjamas and soft lamplight, in a hot bubble bath with a flickering candle. You'll even find me with one hand stirring a pot of soup while the other holds a book up to my face. But always, I'll have music playing in the background.

    I'm a restless reader too. I like to pace and move around, and a bath only stays hot for so long. A sleek wireless set up like a Panasonic Speaker System is perfect for when you want to read everywhere and anywhere without having to stop and start your reading soundtrack.

    My Autumn Reading Playlist

    Rain Sounds

    I am a huge fan of Ambient Noises, especially those from nature, and so it'll be no surprise that the sound of rain makes it on to my playlist. With it being autumn, it does tend to be raining anyway, but I want the sound of heavy rain beating down, and I don't want it to stop. I often add in a couple of tracks with thunder too, especially if I'm reading an epic fantasy or a dark thriller. It really helps to build the atmosphere.

    Film and TV Soundtracks

    I have a few go-to albums that I head straight for when I'm compiling a playlist. Usually my favourite films and TV shows make this cut because lets be honest - the soundtrack can make or break anything I watch. My absolute favourites are Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 film version), King Arthur, and Outlander. I also love the soundtrack for the TV show Reign, mostly because of the next music up on my soundtrack...

    Indie and Folk Music

    I just absolutely love folk music, with twanging guitars and lyrics full of longing. And I love a little bop around to some indie pop. I head straight for Vance Joy, Birdy, The Lumineers, and Yael Meyer (who I even discovered thanks to Reign). I just low how raw the lyrics feel, how if I truly listen they can hit me hard. And the drama. There is so much drama in folk music, in the way the beat builds so subtly.

    Acoustic Covers

    Like I said, I love me a twanging guitar. Acoustic covers of popular songs are my absolute jam, and I love how a song can completely change when the accompanying instruments are stripped back. My favourite ever acoustic cover of a song is Taylor Swift's version of  Riptide by Vance Joy. It was one of my favourite songs anyway, but this version is haunting and I can easily listen to it on loop. Huge thanks to Amy at Golden Books Girl for putting this on my radar.

    Guild Wars 2 Soundtrack

    I know I'm being very specific here, but that's for a reason. I think that the soundtracks for Guild Wars 2 and the expansions are incredible. Epic, even. I can find something on there for every mood imaginable. Maclaine Diemer is truly a genius. I spend far too much time on that game anyway, but even when I'm not playing I have the soundtrack on my mind, and playing while I read. Trust me, and give it a go.

    Do you listen to music while you read?
    What's on your Autumn Playlist?

    * This was a sponsored post in collaboration with Panasonic.

    11 October 2018

    Book Review: A Ration Book Christmas by Jean Fullerton

    This was such a sweet Christmassy read for all that it's set during the devastation of the Blitz. A Ration Book Chrismas gives you the warm fuzzies with its message of togetherness inspire of circumstances.

    A Ration Book Christmas by Jean Fullerton coverAdd to Goodreads button
    It's 1940 and the German Luftwaffe have started their nightly reign of death and destruction over London's East End. The Brogan family is braced and ready to take on Hitler single-handed, if need be, but with rationing, air-raids and the threat of Nazi invasion hanging over this doughty family, their spirits are taking a bit of a battering...

    For Jo, the youngest of the Brogan sisters and newly qualified as an ambulance driver, the freedom of her job also offers the chance to see the love of her life, Tommy Sweete, more often. But Tommy's dangerous reputation means he's disapproved of by her family, and any chance of happiness seems very far away. As the Blitz devastates their homes and neighbourhood, can their love survive the horrors of war-time London?

    Source: Giveaway

    5 Words: Family, war, love, misunderstanding, heart-warming.

    I loved Jo and her determination. She knew what she wanted (for the most part) and she was ready to fight for it and do what she needed to do to get it. She strives to exceed everyone's expectations of her, and it's so inspiring.

    This book really explores family dynamics. You had the Brogans, close and caring and always looking out for each other, even if they didn't necessarily believe in each other's actions, and held their own little resentments. Then you had the Sweetes, and the control and toxicity and manipulation. I loved seeing both families side by side, delving in to the complications of families.

    A Ration Book Christmas really grabs hold of the Keep Calm And Carry On mentality of the war, and the characters really display such steadfastness against the despair of the reality of war.

    I also loved how there were a few ration book recipes in the back of the book, although the thought of offal makes me gag so I won't be trying the heart one!

    This is the perfect read for the run up to Christmas.

    Do you read festive books?

    10 October 2018

    Book Review: The Corset by Laura Purcell

    I was not prepared to quite as blown away as I was when I read The Corset by Laura Purcell. It was absolutely excellent and now I've ordered The Silent Companions so I can read more. I think this would make an amazing TV adaptation, the brooding world and dark story were so vivid that I could practically see, hear, and smell it.

    The Corset by Laura Purcell coverAdd to Goodreads button
    Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain?

    Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

    When Dorothea's charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person's skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

    The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea's belief in rationality and the power of redemption.

    Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

    Source: Purchase

    5 Words: Power, control, family, betrayal, love.

    Content Warning: Child abuse, difficult pregnancy, graphic violence.

    I'd read a few reviews prior to picking up The Corset, so I was ready for a dark book. Or so I thought. But The Corset was far darker than I had imagined.

    The writing and the story are addictive. I could not put this book down. The story is told by Dorothea's present narrative and Ruth's reflection on her past as she tells her story. I have to say that of the two narrators, Ruth was my favourite. She goes through so much but still feels so strongly, she was so well developed. I really felt for her.

    The Corset explored the power of hate and anger and manipulation. It examines humanity with a dark gaze, with a need for revenge pressing in from all sides of the story. It is chilling.

    This is the perfect Gothic horror, full of twists and turns and an "is it supernatural?" undercurrent. It is dark and unsettling and shocking, and as a reader I loved that I had the choice to believe in the supernatural. It is brooding and at all times I had this sense of dread - who would be next? Does she really have the power? Will they be OK?

    The ending of The Corset was exceptional. Although it did pan out rather how I'd guessed at the beginning, I was still completely shocked by it. Mouth agape shocked. The writing is truly masterful.