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 Café
    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.

    09 October 2018

    The Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

    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 
    Longest Books I’ve Ever Read
    This is probably the easiest Top Ten Tuesday I've ever take part in haha. I simply went to my "Read" shelf on Goodreads, added page numbers in the settings, then sorted by page number. I have decided to only include one book per series when it comes to Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Outlander, otherwise they'd probably be the only titles on this list, and that would be boring.
    • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke - 1024 pages
      I was still in high school when I read this, twice, over the course of a month. It was a hefty book, hardback and with black sprayed edges, and I think it was the footnotes which meant it took me so long.
    • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling - 870 pages
      I can't believe that this book is longer than Outlander and A Game of Thrones. I know when I was reading it it only took two days (was anyone else a massive Potterhead?)
    • Cross Stitch (Outlander) by Diana Gabaldon  - 868 pages
      I have read this first book a couple of times since first picking it up as a teen, but I've never really read on as the books are So. Bloody. Long.
    • The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray - 834 pages
      I feel like this book was a bit of a let down after the first two in the series were so good, but I'm glad I read it.
    • A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin - 819 pages
      I feel like this took me an age to read! I read it over around two weeks but it felt like longer, and I wouldn't rush to pick up any of the other books in the series. Perhaps I'll audiobook them?
    • The Midnight Rose by Lucina Riley - 689 pages
      This book was sent to me by a fellow blogger so I could do a guest review on their blog. It was a fantastic story and didn't feel nearly this long while I was reading it.
    • Priestess of the White by Trudi Canavan - 688 pages
      This is actually one of my least favourite Trudi Canavan books, as I feel it just doesn't live up to the world of the Black Magician Trilogy.
    • Sundowners by Lesley Lokko - 672 pages
      This is one of my favourite summer reads and I try to reread it every year. It's perfect for long sunny days with a glass of wine.
    • The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates - 669 pages
      This is one I wish I'd never bothered with. If I picked it up now I would quickly DNF but back when I read this I felt I had to finish every book, and I definitely did not enjoy The Accursed.
    • The High Lord by Trudi Canavan - 659 pages
      This book is probably my favoruite in the series, so I'm glad it was the longest! I love how Sonea and Akkarin's relationship develops and changes, and how everything comes to a head.

      What's the longest book you've read?

      08 October 2018

      Unboxing Wildest Dreams - Survival September 2018

      If you don't want to see spoilers, then look away now! The Wildest Dreams book box starts at  just £18 a month, and it's a little box of self care containing a newly released YA book, a bath/body/home product, and a bookish tea. There's always a little extra surprise in there too, which is a fantastic personal touch.

      There is only a week or so until the October box ships and the November box goes on sale, so I thought I'd share the contents of my September box before I forget.

      In The Box

      That's Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger
      "Caraval" Inspired Whipped Cream Wash from Shimmer & Luxe
      "The Hunger Games" Inspired Green Tea from Rosie Lea Tea
      Biodegradable Disposable Teabags
      Throne of Glass Quote Bookmark
      Wildest Dreams Review Card
      Unboxing Wildest Dreams - Survival September 2018

      My Thoughts

      This was another excellently curated box from Zoe. Everything fits the theme fantastically.

      I think my favourite thing was the Hunger Games inspired tea blend - it's vegetal and floral and fruity all at once, and a delight to drink. The hibiscus really elevated the natural sweetness of the tea. I found that I could brew the leaves twice before the flavour started to change, so I really got a lot of use out of the tea. When brewed, it is a vibrant bright pink, and it really does smell like cherry and rhubarb, the second brewing is a paler pink and more subtle. I used my own tea strainer for the tea, I actually save up the disposable teabags from my Wildest Dreams boxes and use them for making bouquet garni when I'm cooking.

      That's Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger is a fantastic read - I rated it four stars when I read it. I loved how the book isn't so much about the immediate aftermath of tragedy, but focuses on how people are shaped and changed by that tragedy years later. The tragedy is not central to the plot, and the story explored friendship, faith, sexuality, secrets, and trying to move on.

      The whipped cream wash is gorgeous, and a little goes a long way! It is packed with coconut oil and olive oil and it left my skin delightfully soft. I couldn't stop stroking my arms all day. My skin even looked more hydrated. I have sensitive skin, so I really appreciated that it was SLS free, and it's currently my self-care Sunday treat.

      I absolutely loved this box, it feels like every box is even better than the last and I look forward to it so much. It honestly is like self-care in a box.

      Do you get any subscription boxes?


      07 October 2018

      Six Best Debut Books

      I am finally joining in Steph from A Little But A Lot's Six for Sunday! This was such a fun topic, and I loved looking back through my Goodreads at debuts I've loved. I'm sticking with books from the past couple years, as otherwise I'd have a list of 60.

      So here they are, debuts that have easily made it into my list of best books ever! I'm also sharing my five word reviews.

      Friendship, space, family, secrets, lies.
      Family, power, magic, control, love.
      Family, slavery, magic, rebellion, separation.

      Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
      Honour, family, friendship, war, unite.

      Friendship, sex, feminism, blame, attraction.
      Friendship, trust, family, betrayal, survival.


      What's been your favourite recent debut?

      06 October 2018

      Dinner at Riley's Fish Shack, Tynemouth

      In the past when we've gone to Riley's Fish Shack we've managed to grab a seat inside. We couldn't do that this time as a large party pretty much took over the place the second it opened, but we did manage to grab a deck chair next to a fire, and it was the perfect excuse to take our shoes off and bury our toes in the sand.

      We always try to get down as early as possible for the dinner service, as everything is seasonal and stock depends on what was bought that day from the local fishing boats. More than once in the past things have sold out or been changed while we've been waiting.
      Riley's Fish Shack - King Edward's Bay, Tynemouth
      I think the only thing that was disappointing about our experience was the state other customers were leaving the place in. In two minutes my mum managed to fill two bags with discarded drinks cans and cups, empty food wrappers, and napkins. And that was just around the branded deck chairs. I know that they don't have any control over how inconsiderate some of the other customers were, but it'd be nice if they kept more of an eye on the state of the beach, as it's such a shame to be surrounded by other people's rubbish.

      What I Ate

      Mackerel Wrap
      I had a chargrilled mackerel wrap, served with garlic potatoes and vinaigrette salad. The portions are so generous, and I loved every bit. 
      Dinner at Riley's Fish Shack - Mackerel Wrap
      It was absolutely delicious! Everything works so well together, and the acidity of the vinaigrette salad cuts through the smokiness of the fish in the most wonderful way.


      What I Drank

      Waylla Sauvignon Blanc
      This wine was absolutely gorgeous and went so well with our meal. It was dry and crisp and very moreish.
      Dinner at Riley's Fish Shack - Waylla Sauvignon Blanc
      Usually I'd grab a pint of one of the local ales on offer, but this time we were both feeling like wine, and I'm quite glad we changed it up. The sauvignon blanc was the perfect accompaniment to our meal.


      Tips for Visiting

      There are definitely some things to keep in mind for when you visit Riley's Fish Shack. It's a very popular place for a reason, so I'm sharing some little tips to get the most out of your visit.
      Riley's Fish Shack - menu

      • Check it's open
        Always check the website or Twitter beforehand to check that it's open, as occasionally it's closed for private functions.
      • Get there early
        Riley's is very popular with locals and visitors alike, especially since it's been featured on various food programs.
      • Take a picture of the menu
        While you're queuing, nip ahead and take pictures of the menu - that way you can deliberate about what to order before you're at the front and on the spot.
      • Wrap up warm
        You are on the beach, metres away from the cold North Sea, so wrap up warm! We tend to take a blanket each if we're visiting between October and April, on top of our big coats.
      • Be prepared to queue
        Riley's is very popular, especially on weekends and nice days. Be prepared for a queue! I think the.
      • Prepare for stairs
        There are a lot of very steep stairs down to King Edward's Bay, so be ready to tackle them on the way back up! There is a stair-free route that takes you North around the bay and towards Longsands, but even then it is still quite steep.
      • Dogs are welcome
        Although dogs are banned from  the beach from 1st May to 30th September, if it's out of season dogs are welcome, so your furry little friend can curl up at your feet.
      Riley's Fish Shack - deck chairs

      I can't wait to visit again, it's one of my favourite places to eat.


      05 October 2018

      Halloween Creatures (2.0) Book Tag

      I was tagged by Kelsey at There's Something About KM to do The Halloween Creatures 2.0 Book Tag, which  was created by Anthony at Keep Reading Forward (who also created the original version). I've marked any horror books with a star in case you're looking for recommendations!

      Halloween Creatures (2.0) Book Tag

      Witch

      A Magical Character or Book
      Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb
      Meg Lytton is probably one of my favourite fictional witches. I actually read this story out of order (I started with book two) but I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a historical, Tudor Witch fix.

      Werewolf

      The Perfect Book to Read at Night
      The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud *
      OK so maybe not perfect to read at night? I think the Lockwood & Co books are actually terrifying. I love the ghostly alternate world.

      Frankenstein

      A Book that Truly Shocked You
      I know it's a Red Eye book, but I was still not expecting it when I went in. I loved how twisty it was, how chilling it was. Just don't read this book when it's snowing.

      The Devil

      A Dark, Evil Character
      I swear, I can feel their sharp little fingers digging in to my skin. C R E E P Y. And most definitely evil.

      Grim Reaper

      A Character that Should Never Have Died
      Riley from Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
      Yes, without Riley's death the story would never have happened (this isn't a spoiler, it's there on the blurb AND the first chapter of the book) but her and Mila just meant so much to each other.

      Zombie

      A Book that Made You “Hungry” for More
      Gosh, I love this series. I love Rory, and I love how much this book (and series) makes me feel things.

      Gargoyle

      A Character that You Would Protect at All Cost
      Rayne from Possessing Rayne by Kate Cann *
      Rayne, oh Rayne. She's one of my favourite fictional characters ever, and I would definitely protect her at all costs.

      Vampire

      A Book that Sucked the Life Out of You
      The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton
      This was a DNF for me, it was somehow too wordy. Definitely a not-you-it's-me thing and I think this would be a good read for people who like super long fantasy.

      Ghost

      A Book that Still Haunts You
      Lucas by Kevin Brooks
      This. Book. I remember first reading it around 15 years ago and quickly falling in love with Cait and Lucas. The writing and the story are truly haunting, and I have read it countless times since.

      Demon

      A Book that Really Scared You
      Darkemere by Helen Maslin *
      Although this is a horror and has ghosts, it wasn't so much the ghosts themselves that scared me as it was the exploration of privilege and power. Darkmere is an excellent book and one of my all time favourites, I'd recommend it to everyone. Think Skins, but in a haunted house.

      Skeleton

      A Character You Have a Bone to Pick With
      Leonor from Ascension by Victor Dixen
      I love Leonor, but I sometimes want to give her a shake! Her self-consciousness about her scar really makes me sad, because she's so amazing.

      Mummy

      A Book You Would Preserve Throughout Time
      I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
      This is my all time favourite book, a true modern classic that I think everyone should read. There is a bit of a fairytale quality to the story, and I love it.

      Creepy Doll

      A Cover too Scary to Look At
      Say Her Name by Juno Dawson *
      Yeah so this cover is terrifying. Nuff said I think.
      Say Her Name by Juno Dawson cover

      The Monster Mash

      It’s Fun to Be with Friends on Halloween!
      Tag Your Friends!

      04 October 2018

      My Self Care Routine

      I believe that taking care of yourself is very important, and you should always try to put yourself first at least once a week. For me, this includes around two hours on a Sunday solely dedicated to self care, to treating myself. So I thought I'd share a bit about my routine.

      Self Care Sunday

      I try to dedicate a few hours on a Sunday just for self care. It's true Me Time, when I step back and look out for myself.

      Have a Lie In
      Although this tends to fail, I try to have an extra hour on a weekend, especially on a Sunday. I keep my eye mask on and my ear plugs in and try to force myself to get that extra hour. Then I give up, get up, and drink the glass of water I keep by my bed.

      Get Some Tea
      I get myself a huge cup of strong tea. Usually it's just a breakfast blend with milk, but sometimes I really treat myself and reach for some Darjeeling.

      Book and Tea - Jinxed by Amy McCulloch

      Read a Book
      Once I have my tea, I crawl back into bed and read for an hour or so. I like this quiet hour, this time spent solely on a book. Sometimes I'll have my Sunday Morning Acoustic Chill playlist on in the background. But this also leads to my downfall, as after an hour I tend to reach for my phone to update my currently reading on Goodreads and then I just end up lost scrolling on Twitter.

      Catch Up on YouTube
      I spend an hour or so catching up on any YouTube videos from my faves that I may have missed during the week. I try to keep on top of them daily, but some videos can be very long. I also use it as an excuse to watch old favourites.

      Get Up and Do Stuff
      This is my general milling around and getting stuff done. Sometimes it's going out for lunch, sometimes it's cleaning the house and doing the dishes. This is where it stops being so much about me, and more about doing what needs to be done.

      Play a Game
      Around four o'clock I tend to boot up my laptop and jump on Guild Wars 2 or The Sims 3. More often than not it's Guild Wars 2, and I'll run around doing a bit of story and map completion before going on World vs World, the server Discord nattering away in my ear, pew-pewing with my ranger. If it's The Sims 3 then I create worlds full of book characters and watch it all fall apart.

      #SundayYA
      I love #SundayYA chat, it's honestly my favourite thing on Twitter. It's going to be taking a break shortly, so I'm cramming in as much chatter as possible. I love my Sunday evening bookish chats, and I've made the most amazing friends.

      William and Joseph candles, Be Our Guest

      Set the Scene
      As soon as it starts getting dark I dim  My favourite candle in autumn is William and Joseph's Be Our Guest, which smells like apple pie and cinnamon (and I want to eat it).

      Bath Time
      I run myself a hot bath and either pour in some bubbles - my go to is Tisserand's  Lavender & White Mint bath soak - or chuck in a bathbomb or bath salts. While the bath is running I'll pour myself a glass of wine, pick which book I'm going to read, and get an ambient noise playlist going. This is just more time for me and getting lost in a book.

      Book and Bath - Mata Hari by Michelle Moran

      Bed Time
      I try to have an early night on a Sunday, to set me up for the day ahead. PJs on, lights dimmed, and I just think about the week I've had an the week ahead until I've wound down. Sometimes I use some Lush Sleepy Time lotion on my elbows and knees, for an extra boost of lavender, but not too much as lavender can be quite stimulating in large quantities and wake you up.


      Do you dedicate time to self-care?

      Daily Acts of Self Care

      These are the little things I try to do on the daily. I don't do them all every day, but I do try. How many I get through seems to be a pretty good measure of how I feel mentally and physically that day.

      • Drink some water
      • Cleanse and moisturise
      • Read a book
      • Drink a hot cup of tea
      • Brush your hair
      • Have a bath
      • Eat your comfort food
      • Settle down with Netflix
      • Put down your phone
      • Give yourself a compliment
      • Paint your nails
      Have a wonderful day note

      How do you practice self care?

      03 October 2018

      My Thoughts on Throne of Glass

      I have a lot of complicated feelings around the Throne of Glass books. There is a lot of bad, but some good as well, and it's difficult for me to unpick them. So I thought I'd better write it all up and see how I really feel.

      But more specifically, this is a post about how the Throne of Glass books, in particular the first three, helped me unpick my internalised misogyny. Yes, really. So there are a whole host of problems that I'm not going to touch on in great detail, but I do acknowledge that they exist.

      There are some spoilers for the first books, and I apologise for that, but I didn't feel I could address what I wanted to without them.

      Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas cover

      When I first read Throne of Glass I was hung up on one thing specifically - Caelaena and her girlishness. Where is this strong, ruthless assassin I've been promised? Why is she eating sweets and dreaming of pretty dresses? I was so annoyed that I didn't get what I was promised. She was saving people, and strategising, and she wanted to to dance the night away in the arms of the boy that she liked.

      My problem? She was traditionally feminine. She was girly. For all that she thought about killing everyone around her in the most brutal ways, she never enacted it. I even confronted this in my review.
      For all of her mutterings that she could take out everyone, kill everyone, maim everyone, there was some simpering in front of a mirror wondering how pretty she was and whether everyone was attracted to her or not.
      Then we have Celaena's near constant slut shaming. She's putting down other girls for what she think may - or even may not - have happened, and it was something I absolutely hated about her. Girl against girl for being girls? No thank you.

      It wasn't until after I had finished the second book, Crown of Midnight, that I stopped myself and truly thought about why I felt how I did, as Celaena was starting to grow on me. And then we have the whole Nehemia situation, which left such a sour taste in my mouth. It seemed like her whole purpose had been to die for Celaena to then take action. She was the only POC character and she was killed off, to drive the main character. Honestly I was gutted - Nehemia was an excellent character, and confronted a lot of racial stereotypes.

      By Heir of Fire I understood that she was kick ass while being girly, and she didn't have to conform to traditionally masculine, and that that was OK. I think this is why Heir of Fire is my favourite of the series, and where I stopped reading (See also: Rowan. Ick).

      I'd never truly thought of why, for a character to be kick-ass and strong for me, they had to have traditionally masculine traits. This was the first time I stopped myself, and took a long hard look at why that was. Nowadays I throw around "strong female character" a lot, in my own little attempt to reclaim it. I use it for mental strength, physical strength, emotional strength.

      But by the fourth book I felt that the story itself was completely different. Suddenly is was far bigger than I thought it would be, it was hyper-sexualised beyond what I'd read in earlier books. I'm all for sex in young adult books, because young adults have sex, but woah, I've read tamer Mills & Boon. And I just wasn't enjoying it any more. Rather than force myself through and end up truly resenting a series I'd quite enjoyed, I gave up reading Queen of Shadows around 1/4 of the way in.

      Now, I'm not going to go back and change my old reviews. I'm not going hide how shitty I was in the past, as I'm proud of how much I've changed in the years since first reading Throne of Glass. But I wanted to somehow acknowledge that crap as they can be, the Throne of Glass books helped to shape me a little.

      Self portrait with Throne of Glass, and a beanie hat from Fairyloot


      So yeah, Throne of Glass has its problems. The series is very problematic, in many ways. I never even read past around 1/4 of the way in to Queen of Shadows as it was all getting a wee bit too much over the top for me, even for a fantasy. But I do want to acknowledge that for me it did some good, it made me stop and take notice and change my own thinking.


      What do you think of Throne of Glass?


      02 October 2018

      Ten Authors I’d Love to Meet Again

      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 
      Authors I’d Love to Meet Again
      I am incredibly lucky to have been able to meet so many authors over the years, even if I am a mess of nerves and tend to squeak. Or stare silently. Or my brain just goes blank. All in all, I'm not very good at first impressions. So these are the authors I'd love to meet again, so I can hopefully do better. Because I have so much platonic love for so many authors.
      • Leigh Bardugo
        I'm lucky enough to have already met Leigh Bardugo twice and oh man, I definitely want to again. Funny and dark and I love the stories that are told at their events. I love how they always bring fairytales to the forefront.
      • Vic James
        I love showing Vic my battered and annotated copies of Dark Gifts and watching her flick through the pages to see what I've written, seeing her laugh at what I've underlined and trying not to shout out my swears (I do a swear a lot when I annotate oops).
      • Sarah J Maas
        Honestly she was just so lovely when I met her at Seven Stories around four years ago, putting me completely at ease and making me laugh so much. I'm actually gutted she's now so popular that we'll never joke about burning thigh muscles and trying to hold a smile for a dodgy camera again.
      • Teri Terry
        I love when authors seem 100% OK with fangirling about their DARK DARK BOOKS and drop the teeniest hints of what may be coming. I love the darkness in the way they talk too.
      • Zoë Marriott
        I have only managed to briefly meet them at YAShot, and I loved how we had a little chat about the new and old covers for Shadows on the Moon, and Zoë signed some extra bookplates. I love how they take apart the patriarchy in their books, and their feminism isn't just for stories.
      • Sarra Manning
        Basically I just want to fangirl cheerlead in her face because I love her books so much. They were a huge part of my teenage years and when I met her at YALC a few years ago it was great to chat about the injustice of the marketing for the Fashionista books.
      • Melinda Salisbury
        So dry and dark and snarky and bitchy in the best way, I love how Mel tells it straight. I just want to listen to Mel take down the patriarchy and rip into stereotypes.
      • Chris Russell
        So much enthusiasm for Irn Bru. And music. And Songs About A Girl. The enthusiasm just gets me all excited for the series all over again. 
      • Laura Steven
        The cutest voice ever, and the funniest (and creepiest) Nice Guy stories in the world. Honestly she's so adorable and I could listen to her speak for days.
      • Sarah Maria Griffin
        Furbies and funnies. And witchiness. And such relatable jokes and anecdotes about her family especially. I've seen Sarah at a couple of events now and I just love her.

        Have you met any authors?
        Who would you like to meet?

        01 October 2018

        Book Review: Light Years by Kass Morgan

        When I first picked up Light Years by Kass Morgan I wasn't sure whether I would even enjoy it. But I was quickly addicted to the story and now I'm desperately waiting for the next one. It is an excellent book and a gripping story.

        Light Years by Kass Morgan coverAdd to Goodreads button
        Reeling from the latest attack by a mysterious enemy, the Quatra Fleet Academy is finally admitting students from every planet in the solar system after centuries of exclusivity.

        Hotshot pilot Vesper, an ambitious Tridian citizen, dreams of becoming a captain - but when she loses her spot to a brilliant, wisecracking boy from the wrong side of the asteroid belt, it makes her question everything she thought she knew. Growing up on the toxic planet Deva, Cormak will take any chance he can get to escape his dead-end life and join the Academy - even if he has to steal someone's identity to do it. Arran was always considered an outsider on icy Chetire, always dreaming of something more than a life working in the mines. Now an incoming cadet, Arran is looking for a place to belong - he just never thought that place would be in the arms of a Tridian boy. And Orelia is hiding a dark secret - she's infiltrated the Academy to complete a mission, one that threatens the security of everyone there. But if anyone finds out who she really is, it'll be her life on the line.

        These cadets will have to put their differences aside and become a team to defend their world from a cunning enemy - but the danger might be lurking closer to home than they think... 


        Source: Illumicrate Box

        5 Words: TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK.

        Ahem.

        Actual 5 Words: Friendship, secrets, prejudice, subterfuge, space.

        This book was absolutely excellent.

        I'm not sure what I was expecting when I came into Light Years, I just knew that I was in the mood for a space book and this one was at hand, as it came in May's Illumicrate box. Now, I'm usually not a fan of space books. My sci-fi love leans toward dystopia. But oh my. This book.

        My favourite characters were Vesper and Orelia. Vesper because of how steadfast she was and how she wanted to challenge the prejudices of her society. Orelia because of her conflicted feelings and changing beliefs. That's not to say that I didn't like the other characters - this book is something of an outlier in that I actually really liked all of the different narratives and characters.

        While it is not the most action packed space adventure, but the action does definitely pack a punch. I'm so glad that the story wasn't bogged down by training montages. Light Years is a boarding school book (one of my favourite things) with a difference. Rather than being about the school itself the story is driven by the characters and their relationships, and I loved it.

        That being said, there is one relationship that left me feeling a little squiffy. The characters had such amazing chemistry together, and even knowing the secret of one character that made it kind of a little OK, I felt it was still a huge barrier that they were crossing. The power imbalance just makes it the wrong side of acceptable for me. It reminded me of Sonea and Akkarin in the Black Magicia' Trilogy, which is another pairing with amazing chemistry that just doesn't sit right. I have Feelings, OK?

        Light years is packed with toxic relationships, poisonous parents, friendships, power struggles, changing societal dynamics. It has everything I love in a book and it has all come together wonderfully.

        This book feels rather incidentally diverse, and I absolutely loved that. None of it felt forced, it was all incredibly believable.

        After the ending of Light Years I am desperate for the next book. It's a definite cliff hanger!

        Will you be reading Light Years by Kass Morgan?