17 October 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #104

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Yummy Foods and Drinks Mentioned In Books. 

Oh man, this is killer for me. I'm so easily led. I get so hungry when I'm reading. Whether it's sweetmeats in a historical novel, watery stew in high fantasy, grand feasts at the merest mention of royalty, I AM THERE FOR IT. I may have had the worst relationship with food in the past, but now I bloomin' love food.

  • Hot Chocolate and Fresh Bread
    You know in The Hunger Games when they're on the train to the Capitol and it's what Katniss eats for breakfast? Yum.
  • Spag Bol
    Specifically the dried stuff in a packet that you add water too. I'd actually gross but Uglies made me crave it.
  • Chocolate Ices
    Maeve in Glass Mountain pretty much always has chocolate ices (little cups of chocolatey goodness that are SO DIFFICULT to find now) and some colouring pencils with her. Relatable.
  • Hazelnut Lattes
    I had never had one of these before reading A Girl Called Malice but now they're my go to. And they're delicious.
  • Jam Donuts
    Thank you Lockwood and Co, for making me drink countless cups of tea and eating a disgusting amount of jam donuts.
  • A Box of Chocolates
    OK, so it's actually the dog, but The Unexpected Everything made me want to indulge in a box of chocolates.
  • Choffee Cake
    This is the signature cake for Ellie in The Cosy Tea Shop In The Castle and in the back of the book there's even the recipe. Mmmmm.
  • McChicken Sandwich
    Thank you, Sarah Millican. As well as making me cry with laughter, you had me making a run to Maccy D's for a McChicken Sandwich.
  • Bacon Sandwiches
    The Canal Boat Cafe sells bacon sandwiches and cup of tea and coffee from the narrow boat, and I wanted so badly to be there next to the canal. Eating a bacon sandwich.
  • All of the Food. Ever.
    Twylla is not a Sin Eater, for she is The Sin Eater's Daughter. So her mother eats all of the food symbolically eating the sins of those who have passed. I want to eat all of the food.

14 October 2017

Blog Tour: The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness - and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend - a slave boy from her betrothed’s household - Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. 

Source: NetGalley Request | Blog Tour | Review Consideration

5 Words: Dragons, stories, power, obligation, family.

Going in to this I know only one thing about it: Dragons. I knew that there would be dragons. And I love dragons.

Before starting, I was in love with the cover. The gold foil, the intricate details, even the font. Such a beautiful cover immediately sets my expectations high.

And I was not disappointed.

I loved Asha's character, how she changed within the pages. As much as I experienced the story through Asha's eyes, I also felt it in how she changed as a person as the story progressed. Asha is the Iskari and she is bad ass. She is physically strong, mentally strong, yet still authentically vulnerable. I loathed the villainous Jarek. I was so-so about Torwin, but I am generally so-so about any romantic interests.

Throughout the story itself, are small stories. The old stories. I thought that these were a fantastic touch, and I loved the parallels between the old stories of the past and what was happening in Asha's present. The stories within the story held power.

I did feel like pace faltered a little in the middle. It wasn't that it was slow - there is no way that you can call this story slow paced - it's just that it was a little slower than the majority of the story. But right after, it ramps right up again.

Overall this was a fantastic debut, and I cannot wait to read more.

Have you read The Last Namsara?

12 October 2017

Four Steps to Saving For YALC

I'm not going to lie, YALC is expensive. And with a little over 9 months to go, I thought it was time to release this saving guide into the wild.

Step One - Start Now
No, really. Start now. The sooner you start the easier it is. Start putting money aside now. The sooner you start, the less you have to put away each week/month to reach your goal.

I set up a second, instant access bank account and any money I'm saving is automatically transferred on pay day so I can't spend it.

Step Two - Write a List
Write down a list of what you will need to save for. This means you can start researching prices.

Typically my YALC list looks like this:
  • Accommodation
  • YALC tickets
  • Train tickets
  • Bus/Tube fare
  • Food and drink
  • Spending money
  • Emergency extras
If you intend to stay, shop around. Look at prices and decide what type of accommodation you want. I like the freedom of self-catering, and this can often bring the price down. Look at different areas too, even within a few tube stops the price can drastically drop.

The average price for a Newcastle to London train ticket is a whopping £140 (eek!) so I always save more than I need in case I can't find a decent deal on early release tickets. I've been lucky in that I've never paid more than £50 including a first class upgrade. But I also look into maybe getting the coach - although I absolutely love travelling by train so it's a last resort.

I find travel in London super cheap. I don't know what crazy subsidies they get down South, but a day of unlimited travel with TFL is cheaper than a return ticket to town for me up North. I know I won't need more than £30 for a long weekend in London, where up here I'd need more than double.

Step Three - Set Goals
OK, so you have some pennies put back now. But how much do you need? Set yourself a final figure. 

My figure last year was £500 for YALC, because I was doing an extra long weekend and travelling from Geet Up North. This paid for a four night AirBnB stay, my YALC tickets, my train tickets (including an upgrade to first class!), travel to and from venues and stations, takeaways and wine each night, and spending money while I was there.

Based on my final figure I set aside £10 per week for a year, and added in a little extra when I could. I actually ended up with more like £600 saved be the time YALC came around, and the little extra helped when my card stopped working. And I still had change, which went right back into the savings pot.

Don't think you have to pay so much though! My first year was £100 including YALC ticket, last minute train tickets, travel in and around London, food and drink, and spending money for YALC. And I had change, despite coming back with many new books.

Step Four - Book Early
This applies mostly to tickets. The general rule is, the further in advance you book, the less you pay.

YALC tickets are on sale now. Eeek!

Some travel companies have an alert system, so you can enter your dates and get an email alert as soon as tickets are released. I also found it cheaper to go direct to the travel operator for my train tickets, and as a bonus I got free wi-fi for my journey and a first class upgrade. It's also a good idea to check out split ticketing, as that can often get you cheaper fares.

Also, once a particular part of your expenditure is out of the way you can relax a little. Once my accommodation and travel were booked I was chill, because it was out of the way and paid off. With those big tasks ticked off the rest was plain sailing.

Money Saving Ideas

Start a Book Buying Ban
This is very difficult but very rewarding. Not only do you spend less, but you get to actually tackle that TBR of books you've already acquired. And if you really need new reading material, why not join your local library? 

Set Up A Coin Jar
After seeing Aoife at Pretty Purple Polka Dots post about this, I decided to do it too. And it's a huge success. All I do is put £1 in my coin jar every time I finish a book. I already have over £100 saved this year and have had to swap out £1 coins for notes so I have space to keep adding.

Drop a Bad Habit
I'm not saying that my chocolate addiction is a Bad Habit (it is, I know it is, shh) but if you're not spending £1 a day on a chocolate bar then you can save an extra £1 a day. I'm on a super-saving kick at the moment so I've stopped buying chocolate, wine, books, and takeaways. And boy, does it add up.

10 October 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #103

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Books With Autumn Covers. 

This was difficult, I didn't really feel the theme. I love Autumn. So while these books themselves may not be particularly autumnal (most of them are) the covers and how they remind me of autumn prompted me to pick them.

Reign: The Prophecy by Lily Blake
I'm Reign trash and re-watch it pretty much on loop all autumn. And the rich colours on this cover scream out for the season.

STAGS by MA Bennett
There's something about stags as an animal that makes me think of autumn. Probably because it's rutting season so... Anyhow, these magnificent antlers are all up autumn for me.

High Force by LJ Ross
Out of all of the covers in the series, this is the most autumnal. And I can still feel the icy chill of the water.

Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
Just look at the reds and the flowing lines. It reminds me of falling leaves and high winds.

Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davis
Oh look, another stag. Surprise. I loved reading this in autumn as a child, I have vivid memories of being 10/11 and curled up in bed reading this as the wind howled outside.

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
It just makes me think of the start of autumn, where it's still mostly green but the first yellows and reds are appearing.

Witch Hunt by Tabitha Morrow
This just makes me think of those days between Halloween and Guy Fawkes night, where everything is slightly chaotic and exciting.

Banished by Liz de Jager
I know that's it's crows on the cover (and they're autumnal enough) but I always thing for murmurations of starlings when I see this cover.

Hunger by Melvin Burgess
This is a super creepy cover, and the book itself is intense. I love it, and 100% recommend the audiobook, it has my now favourite narrator.

The Falconer by Elizabeth May
Maybe it's the fire and the smoke, maybe it's the grey colour scheme reminding me of the grey sky outside, but this cover reminds me of autumn.

What is your favourite autumnal cover?

09 October 2017

Guestpost: Holly Webb on writing The Princess and the Suffragette

It is 1913, nine years after the end of A Little Princess saw Sara Crewe escape Miss Minchin's orphanage.

Lottie, the smallest girl from the original story, learns about the Suffragette movement from Sara, who returns to visit from time to time. Soon Lottie finds herself sneaking out of the orphanage to attend a demonstration, in defiance of her cold, distant father. A father who has a secret to hide about her own missing mother...

It's a story about lost mothers turning up in unexpected situations, the power of friendship and female empowerment.

“They’re Suffragettes,” Louisa gasped. “They must be. They were in Miss Minchin’s paper. And my mamma said something about them, when I last went home. But – there are hundreds and hundreds of them. I thought there were only a few – Mamma said that no good woman would ever think of being a Suffragette, they were shameful and unwomanly.”
….Lottie watched the line of women marching past. They were almost all wearing white dresses, with coloured sashes and ribbons, and pretty hats – not quite as big and feathery as the hat Lavinia had been wearing a few days before, but along the same sort of lines. They looked extremely ladylike to her. In fact, they looked very like all the mothers and elder sisters that came to visit the Seminary. She glanced at Louisa. “Are you sure?”

Holly Webb on writing The Princess and the Suffragette

I have always loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book, A Little Princess. I can still picture the exact copy I had as a child. It had illustrations by Margery Gill (she illustrated lots of my other favourite books too, like Noel Streatfeild’s Apple Bough) and Sara had dark bobbed hair with a fringe, just like mine. I wanted to be like Sara so much – she was clever, she loved books, she had the most amazing clothes and a doll who had her own complete wardrobe. Most of all, she was so confident! I was very shy as a child and I found it really difficult to talk to strangers, or to answer back when anyone said something mean at school. I wanted to be clever and quick-thinking (but always with perfect princess manners) just like Sara. 
In the original book, Lottie is a spoiled motherless baby who throws herself on the floor and screams when she’s asked to wash before lunch – but at the start of the story, she’s only four. I remember being amazed that a four year old was at a boarding school. When I first thought of writing a sequel to A Little Princess it was Lottie that I found myself thinking about. Why had she been abandoned at Miss Minchin’s so young? 
Two years ago, I wrote a sequel to The Secret Garden, and the real inspiration for the story was thinking about the time that the book was written, and realising that Mary, Colin and Dickon would have grown up as the First World War broke out. A Little Princess was written slightly earlier, just as the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union aka the Suffragettes) were starting to be talked about in drawing rooms across the country. Schoolmistresses like Miss Minchin would have been protecting their charges against these unwomanly women. I really wanted spoiled, unloved Lottie to find a way to make her voice heard, and I was fascinated by the Suffragettes – I’m so glad I had the chance to write this book!

I'm so glad that Holly agreed to a guestpost on my blog, because A Little Princess is one of my favourite children's books (along with The Secret Garden, Holly Webb wrote Return To The Secret Garden inspired by it!) and I love seeing what authors inspirations are.

What was your favourite book growing up?

06 October 2017

Book Beginnings #54

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

For Friday 56, Freda's Voice asks you to turn to Page 56 in your book or 56% on your e-reader and pick a sentence.

I am currently reading The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli.

Asha lured the dragon with a story. 
It was an ancient story, older than the mountains at her back, and Asha had to dredge it up from where it lay deep and dormant inside her. 
Firstly, the cover is beautiful. It has the most gorgeous gold foil, I can't stop staring at the details on the blade, and I am in love with the font for the title, so my very first impressions are good. Very good. I love pretty books.

This is hailed as a crossover fantasy, bridging between Young Adult and Adult fantasy, and add dragons to that I am sold. From the off I am in love with the writing style.
Asha followed the smoke and ash. The deeper into this cavern she went, the more familiar her surroundings became. It wasn't that she'd been here before. It was more like she'd been dreaming of this place all her life
Yep, I still love the writing style! This isn't what I had expected, but it is excellent. I can't wait to share my review with you next week!

What are you reading this weekend?

05 October 2017

Blog Tour: The Woolly Hat Knitting Club by Poppy Dolan

Finding happiness one stitch at a time

When Dee Blackthorn’s brother, JP, breaks both wrists not only is he in need of a helping hand – or two – but the knitting shop he owns can’t function. Sisterly duties take Dee away from her demanding job and she is unceremoniously fired amidst scandalous office rumours. Dee is certain that her hot-shot nemesis, Ben, is behind it all.

Back in the village of Fenwild where JP's shop resides, Dee bumps into Becky, an old friend who is new mum to a premature baby. Desperate to help Becky, Dee convinces JP to enlist his knitting pals to make tiny woolly hats to keep the little one warm. Seeing how grateful her friend is, Dee makes it her mission to help lots of other premature babies. When Ben turns up denying involvement in Dee’s sacking she is initially furious, but hears him out before roping him into helping the knitting cause.

But before long Dee’s good intentions backfire and she risks losing her friends, her family and Ben, who’s turned out to be not so bad after all...

Source: Blog Tour | NetGalley Request | Review Consideration

5 Words: Betrayal, knitting, family, friendship, ambition.

This book was absolutely delightful. It was heartfelt and inspiring.

Before reading this book I had never knitted in my life. Now I'm a knitting machine (kind of) and halfway through the super-long, super-soft scarf of my dreams. I'm nowhere near knitting woolly hats for premature babies, but that's my goal.

Read on to find out Poppy Dolan's shopping addiction.

Born to Knit by Poppy Dolan
In my twenties, I couldn’t stop buying shoes. It was silly, frivolous and I loved it. Then I got older and realised the pile of shoes and thick credit card statement were closely linked. So I got sensible about shoes. About a month later, I started spending all my money on wool instead. But this is a shopping addiction I'm yet to crack. I think because I justify if with an altruistic spin: I'm making things for other people! They're gifts! I'm being generous! So to try and get some perspective, I'm going to list all the bonkers things I've made for you all to see (with some pics) and hope I can shame myself from making any more crafty purchases this year. Month. Week. HELP.
  • (A million hats and scarves, I hope it goes without saying)
  • A draught excluder
  • Knitted toys including: a zebra, a lion, a rhino, an elephant, a mouse, a fox, a ballerina, a teddy, a rabbit
  • Bunting with a baby’s name knitted onto it in a different colour. So fiddly.
  • A log basket, which was then felted as part of the design. A LOG BASKET? What was I thinking?!
  • A baby hat that looks like a Christmas pudding.
  • A baby hat that looks like a dinosaur.
  • A baby hat that looks like a Minion.
  • An all-in-one fluffy bear onesie for my daughter.
  • A baby mobile where it was supposed to look like rocket ships but instead it looked like a certain part of the male anatomy.
  • A cardigan for myself that, five years later, I still haven’t sew the buttons on.
  • Flowers which I then sewed onto a cushion, alongside ladybird buttons. For an adult friend.
  • A jumper for my daughter that makes her look like an 80s weatherman.
  • An intricate Peruvian-inspired hat for my husband. Which he then shrunk in the wash.
  • A multi-coloured, super-fun loopy cared for my daughter. Which she instantly rejected and I had to give away.
Perhaps my most shameful thing of all: I buy my own hats from the high street. I have a weird problem here, guys.