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31 October 2018

My Halloween Rituals

Halloween always feels a bit more like New Year for me. New Year itself is just an excuse to get together as a family and eat pie and mash and play board games together. But Halloween? It's when I feel invigorated and inspired and Get Stuff Done. Autumn is my favourite season and everything about it

This year I've been focusing a lot on clearing out the old. I'm decorating and rearranging my room, changing up my blog a little, getting new projects planned in my head. But I'm also taking some time to reflect.

I do have a bit of routine that I stick to, things I like to do. And this time I'm sharing some of them.

My Halloween Rituals

A Ritual Bath

Nothing can beat a ritual bath, and this is mine. It's one I do whenever I'm a bit stressed or need some inspiration, and I love it for new starts too. I spend a good hour or so, sometimes more, just chilling with some rain sounds and some candles.

Our boiler broke down on Monday so I'm actually doing this at my fiance's house this year.

You Need
A good handful of salt
Two sprigs of fresh lavender leaves
Two teaspoons of dried lavender flowers
Amethyst stone
Rain sounds

The Method
Mix the salt, dried lavender, and crystal in a jar and leave them to infuse for a few hours. Put it all in an empty bath under the taps, crush the fresh lavender in your hands to release the oils them place on top. Light the candles, set a rain sounds playlist going if it's not raining outside, and run the bath. The salts will dissolve in the running water, and the bits of lavender float on the surface.

Just make sure not to sit on the crystal when you get in the bath. I made that mistake once and ouch.

A Reflective To Do List

I set up a to do list for the next few weeks. Nothing immediate or pressing, just stuff I'd like to do for me and my own well being. I think it's especially important when the days get shorter to remember to take care of yourself.

To Do
  • Reread the DCI Ryan series and catch up with recent additions
  • Walk from Warkworth to Amble, along the beach
  • Visit the Alnwick Gardens and Barter Books
  • Reread the Grisha Trilogy before King of Scars comes out
  • Visit the Laing Art Gallery
  • Buy new pyjamas
  • Write something every day

A Reading

I do a three card spread for the coming months and spend an hour or so with the cards I've drawn, thinking about what they mean to me and how I can interpret them in positive ways, even if I get a scary card like the eight of swords which came up in every draw in July and August. 

What is Halloween to you?
Do you have any rituals?

30 October 2018

Ten Magical Reads

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 
Halloween/Creepy Freebie 
Magical Reads
I love stories filled with magic. I love the possibilities that open up, the power imbalances, the easy (or are they) fixes to problems.

So here are ten of my favourite magical reads, with a decidedly witchy slant
  • Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
    Faith, hope, learning, magic, friendship.
  • Shadows on the Moon by  Zoë Marriott
    Family, revenge, power, beauty, magic.
  • Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow
    Magic, survival, family, love, responsibility.
  • Half Bad by Sally Green
    Magic, power, trust, secrets, betrayal.
  • Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
    Magic, friendship, power, justice, secrets.
  • Possessed by Kate Cann
    Thrilling, real, eerie, attraction, belief.
  • Gemini Rising by Eleanor Wood
    Magic, mystery, poison, realism, AMAZING.
  • Witch Child by Celia Rees
    Magic, conflict, superstition, secrets, new-world.
  • Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb
    Magic, history, power, control, danger.
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch 
    Ghosts, magic, power, secrets, wit.

    What's your favourite magical book?

    29 October 2018

    Book Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

    A fantastic story about geeky passions and love, the pressure of fame, and the expectations against which you are judged. I read Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde in the run up to YALC earlier this year, and it made me so excited and buzzing with happiness.

    Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde coverAdd to Goodreads button
    Three friends, two love stories, one convention: this fun, feminist love letter to geek culture is all about fandom, friendship, and finding the courage to be yourself.

    Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

    Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie — no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

    Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads, is an empowering novel for anyone who has ever felt that fandom is family.

    Source: Purchase

    5 Words: Fandom, anxiety, friendship, belonging, fame.

    That was so cute. Queens of Geek is a bit of a slice of life where nothing really happens, but it was so damn lovely to read. It gave me the warm fuzzies and make me giddy with happiness.

    I love Charlie and her self belief. I love Taylor and her insecurities. And I love their friendship.

    As much as Queens of Geek has a good (warm fuzzy) dose of Romance, the story itself mostly focuses on friendship. It's a gorgeous exploration of what makes friends friends, and the joy of sharing your passions and love with them. The story looked at the insecurities of the relationships too, the wonder if there's something more and if the friendship is worth risking.

    This is a rather short book, less than 300 pages, but it packs a punch. It's a quick read, driven by the passion of the characters - whether for each other or for their shared geekiness and con experiences.

    This is a pretty empowering book, and a delight to read. Also, F/F!

    Friends. Stop. Hanging. Out. That’s what really scares me.

    28 October 2018

    Blog Tour: Book Review: A Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft

    I read A Christmas Gift wrapped up warm in a blanket, with a glass of red wine and a slice of chocolate cake. It's a pretty sumptuous festive read, bursting with the joy of community and family and love. It's a gorgeous read for the run up to the festive season.

    A Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft coverAdd to Goodreads button
    Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.

    To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there be more to him than meets the eye?

    Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?

    Curl up with the gorgeous new book from the Sunday Times bestseller, perfect for fans of Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.

    Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

    5 Words: Community, family, Christmas, secrets, love.

    This was such a gorgeous story, and perfect for the run up to Christmas. I found it a pretty quick read as I did not want to put it down.

    I quickly got invested in Georgine's story, and that of her family. I think I was more invested in the sister-drama between Georgine and Blair. That's not to say that the romance in this story isn't excellent, it's so heartwarming and sweet. I just love me some family drama.

    One of my favourite things about this was the assumptions that the characters made based on perceived wealth. It's such a human thing to do, to judge people on how much money you think they have and see that as a measure of their success, and I loved how this book pretty much ripped in to it. Your success is not measured by your wealth. Money does not equate to happiness (even if it does make life easier).

    A Christmas Gift has a wonderful sense of community, and I loved how everyone rallied together and supported each other. The circumstances of the characters really hit me hard, and I think that anyone who hasn't had quite enough to make ends meet will probably shed a tear reading it.

    This was an excellent festive read, perfect for keeping you warm on cold evenings. It is not overly festive, but it did get me very excited for winter.

    What's on your festive TBR?

    27 October 2018

    Five Creepy Reads for Halloween

    I love reading seasonal books. Romance in February for Valentines Day, coming of age summer holiday stories during August, Horror nearing Halloween, and everything festive in the sun up to Christmas.

    Today I'm sharing my top five creepy Halloween reads. And all of these were five star for me.

    Darkmere by Helen Maslin
    When I read this book it went straight on my all time favourite shelf. It's a fantastic blend of contemporary teen drama, supernatural horror, and historical betrayal. Think Skins in a haunted manor.
    Fir by Sharon Gosling
    This book is so creepy! Everything from the setting to the characters, even the weather is full of the creep factor. It's not one to read when it's snowing unless you really want to be terrified, and I love the subtle environmental message behind it.
    Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell
    Gosh this book. It's probably the most well known on this list thanks to it being featured in the Zoella Book Club, and it's an excellent read. It's creepy and really gets in your head, and makes you think. Also Frozen Charlotte dolls are the creepiest things ever.
    Monster by CJ Skuse
    What is a monster? This book explores what makes a monster, and I love it. It's set in a boarding school over Christmas and really used the isolation of the circumstanced to build the tension and fear factor. It's one to read wrapped up warm.
    Say Her Name by Juno Dawson
    Nope. No more mirrors for me after reading this book. It takes a popular (and scary) urban legend and puts a boarding school twist on it. I love everything about this book and it creeps me out so much. And also makes me afraid to look in mirrors for around a month after reading.

    What are you reading this Halloween?

    26 October 2018

    Unboxing Wildest Dreams - We Are Monsters October 2018

    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 are only around five November boxes left so if you want to experience the joy of the Love Triangles theme then run now and get one.

    In The Box

    The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke
    "Diary of a Vampire" Bathbomb from Pretty Suds UK
    "It's A Monster's World" This Savage Song Inspired black tea from Rosie Lea Tea
    Biodegradable Disposable Teabags
    The Extinction Trials Bookmark
    Bloody Syringe Pen
    Creepy Eyeball Jellies
    Wildest Dreams Review Card

    Unboxing Wildest Dreams - We Are Monsters October 2018

    My Thoughts

    I think this is one of my favourite Wildest Dreams boxes ever!

    I think my favourite thing was the "It's A Monster's World" This Savage Song inspired tea. And yes, I am predictable, I love my tea. I've actually already repurchased this tea from Rosie Lea Tea, the Caramelised Pumpkin blend, because I loved it that much. It's the perfect blend for autumn. I manged to get two brews from the leaves each time, the first was rich and smoky and vibrant, and the second brew was much more mellow but with a slightly sweeter note. This tea also prompted me to pick up This Savage Song, which is full of monsters and a perfect Halloween read.

    The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke is amazing and spooky and gripping, and the foiled cover is stunning. I actually picked the book up straight away and started reading it before I'd even made myself a cuppa. It's dark and atmospheric, but my goodness did it make me hungry! And did I mention a soft Hufflepuff assassin?

    The "Diary of a Vampire" Bathbomb is one I'm already familiar with. Pretty Suds are one of my go-to bathbomb companies and Diary of a Vampire is my second favourite bathbomb from them. It's so dramatic when you put it in water, and it leaves the water black and your skin silky soft.

    I was actually really excited about the bonus The Extinction Trials bookmark, because I absolutely love that series. It was a fantastic extra.

    "It's A Monster's World" This Savage Song Inspired loose leaf black tea from Rosie Lea Tea

    I absolutely loved the Halloween-y box, with its creepy feminist book and amazing treats. Self care for witchy times.

    Do you get any subscription boxes?

    25 October 2018

    Book Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

    To Kill A Kingdom is fabulously dark and perfect for this time of year. This Little Mermaid retelling really twists the tale and makes it even darker. It's a bit gory, very dark, and a gripping read.

    To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo coverAdd to Goodreads button
    I have a heart for every year I've been alive.

    There are seventeen hidden in the sand of my bedroom. Every so often, I claw through the shingle just to check they're still there. Buried deep and bloody.

    Princess Lira is siren royalty and revered across the sea until she is cursed into humanity by the ruthless Sea Queen. Now Lira must deliver the heart of the infamous siren killer or remain a human forever.

    Prince Elian is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world and captain to a deadly crew of siren hunters. When he rescues a drowning woman from the ocean, she promises to help him destroy sirenkind for good. But he has no way of knowing whether he can trust her… 

    Source: Purchase

    5 Words: Sirens, pirates, princes, power, family.

    I think my favourite thing about this book was the brutality. The siren's are violent, and Lira perhaps the most violent of all. It is a dark book, filled with death.

    I loved the pace. I struggled to put this book down and I loved the story.

    I wasn't such a fan of Elian. I'm not sure what it was about him, but nah. I didn't like him.

    Honestly though, Lira. I loved her. I loved her conviction, her scheming, her strength, her sense of purpose. She is a hard character, and I loved that about her. At times I wanted to skip Elian's chapters to read more from her.

    I did struggle with the descriptions. They weren't clear enough for me to picture the sirens or the mermaids or even the places. I think this is probably down to the length of the book - there just isn't space for more description. Which is a shame, because I am a huge fun of description and would rather too much than too little. I know that people who are all about the action will love it though.

    I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a dark re-imagining of The Little Mermaid, who isn't a fan of a huge amount of description. It's fast paced and packed with action.

    What's your favourite retelling?

    24 October 2018

    Book Tag: Villains Award Tag

    The Villains Award Tag was created by Cait at Paper Fury, and when I saw her post I couldn't help but join in. It's that time of year after all, and I love me a villain. They can make or break a story, and are often the most complex characters.

    Villains Award Tag

    Villain You Absolutely DESPISE And HATE.

    This is easily Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter. I actually talk a lot about how she's low-key one of my favourite characters in the series because of how villainous she is, especially as she seems so normal. She's the hero of her story, she truly believes she is doing right but my gosh, she is so wrong.

    Villain Who Is Entrancing

    Xifeng from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is hypnotising and I am well under her spell. I don't actually see her as a villain. Xifeng is my queen and I'm her follower, thanks. I know you're not supposed to like her, but I love her.

    Book You’d Like To Read From Villain’s Perspective

    Basically any story ever! I love seeing things from the "dark side". I guess I'd love to most see everything in the Grishaverse from the Darkling's perspective, to see how power changed and corrupted him.

    Worst Antagonistic YA Parents

    Guma from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is kind of more a terrible parent figure than a parent as such, but what she does is honestly pretty awful. It's her ambitions that actually set everything in motion.

    Antihero Who Is a Little Bad, Little Good

    I'm definitely going to go with Orelia from Light Years for this. She's not necessarily bad, she's just doing what she thinks is right, and I love the fact that she learns from it and her beliefs and preconceptions are changed.

    Villain Made From Tragic Circumstances

    Mila from Undead Girl Gang, she's basically an accidental villain to a lot of people around her, but only because she's trying to find some good from such horrific events.

    Antagonist Who Gets In Hero’s Way But Isn’t Necessarily “Pure Evil”

    Cardan from The Cruel Prince - although by the time I finished The Cruel Prince I wasn't so sure he was even a villain any more. So yeah, not necessarily pure evil, especially compared to the rest of his family. Which one was the Cruel Prince anyway?

    A Non-Human Villain

    The trees in Fir. Yep, the trees. And probably also the snow. I mean, all of the nature in Fir has a distinctly sinister twist to it and it's excellent. Stop cutting down trees, pick up your litter, take care of the earth.

    Villain Who You Think Is Wicked But They’re Intriguing

    Raiden from Smoke in the Sun. In the first book he was awful, but the second book? Well I warmed enough that I was shipping Markio and Raiden, so lets pretend that the epilogue doesn't exist.

    Antagonist Who Gets A Redemption Arc

    Silyen from Gilded Cage. Ish. He's still a prick but OH MY GOODNESS his arc throughout the series? Incredible. What you first see of him, at the beginning of Gilded Cage, is completely different to what you see of him in Bright Ruin.

    I'm tagging:

    23 October 2018

    Ten Villains I Love

    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 
    Now, I love a good villain. I can't get enough of them. For me they can make or break a book, completely change a story. For this list I'm looking at my favourite villains, anti-heros, and morally grey characters. I love the ones who start off as evil and slowly become good, the ones who start off good and slowly become evil. I love complicated and full of conviction.
    • Xifeng from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
      My dark, corrupted queen. I just have all of the love for Xifeng. She's an incredible character on an incredible journey.
    • Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter
      Is there a better villain out there? Honestly, I think she's even a better villain than Voldemort because she is so sure that she is the hero of her own story. She's so despicable but she thinks she's right. She's so chilling because kittens and pink.
    • The Darkling from Shadow and Bone
      He's so dramatic. Dark and manipulative and power hungry, and straight up bad to be honest.
    • Raiden from Smoke in the Sun
      I quite specifically prefer Raiden in the second book. He may be evil, but even he has limits and morals because really he's soft at heart. I shipped him and Mariko so bad and thought it would have been an amazing enemies to lovers arc (if only).
    • Silyen from Gilded Cage
      GUYS HAVE YOU READ THIS SERIES YET? Oh man, I absolutely love Silyen. I love how he's evil but also self aware and strangely soft? How can a villain be all that at once?
    • Lira from To Kill A Kingdom
      I love how she just rips out hearts, OK? It's a mood.
    • Serena McBee from Ascension
      Basically, without Serena there wouldn't be a story. She's self-aware, she knows she's bad, and she pretty much revels in it.
    • Akkarin from The Magicians' Guild
      *fans self* gosh I swear Akkarin was my first proper fictional crush. I love how all is not as it seems with the High Lord of the Magicians' Guild.
    • Ruth Butterham from The Corset
      Is she mad or is she a murderer? Does she wield wild, dark powers? Or is it all a coincidence? I absolutely loved Ruth in The Corset, her narrative was my favourite.
    • Alice from Popping the Cherry
      Take your typical mean girl trope and then turn it on its head with the most incredible backstory and you get A Girl Called Malice. Also her story introduced me to hazelnut lattes (which are delish)

      Who's your favourite villain?

      22 October 2018

      Update on My Autumn 2018 TBR

      A little over a month ago I shared my Autumn TBR, and today I'm looking back to see how many I've managed to tick off. Now I'm not going to lie, I am terrible at sticking to TBRs. Awful at it. But I managed to smash my ARC August TBR so I was hopeful.

      My Autumn 2018 TBR update
      Only Autumn hasn't been what I expected so far, I have been so busy it's unreal and had little time for reading. I've been re-listening to audiobooks for the more part, so my shiny new Autumn TBR has been neglected.

      Out of the ten books I laid out, convinced I'd manage to read... I have managed one. I still have nine to go. So wish me extra luck, as I have some cramming to do.

      What I've Read

      This was honestly excellent and perfect to read at this time of year. Full of creepy Victorian Gothic thrill and darkness, I would absolutely recommend it, just be wary of the content warnings for child abuse, difficult pregnancy, and graphic violence. Also it's pretty graphic.

      Still on My TBR

      Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C Dao
      The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner
      Vox by Christina Dalcher
      Mirage by Somaiya Daud
      Saving Death by RL Endean
      The Sealwoman's Gift by Sally Magnusson
      Everything Leads to You by Nina La Cour
      Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
      The Tyranny of Lost Things by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

      How's your Autumn Reading going?
      Which book from my TBR should I pick up next?

      21 October 2018

      Six Books I Want To ReRead This Year

      Today I am joining in with Steph from A Little But A Lot's Six for Sunday! Today's prompt is books I want to reread, and as I love Rereading Books I decided to narrow it down to the six books I want to reread before the end of the year.

      Darkmere by Helen Maslin
      I usually reread this every summer, but this year I wanted to save it for closer to Halloween, to really up the spookiness. It's one of my all time favourites.

      Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
      I am itching to reread this series! It's been a few years since I first read the series and I figure now is the perfect time to jump back in and experience it all again and get ready for King of Scars.

      Sleigh Bells In The Snow by Sarah Morgan
      This is one of my favourite festive reads and I reread it every December. This year will be no exception and I can't wait to go back to Snow Crystal.

      Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
      I reread this every Christmas and I absolutely love it. It's a classic children's story with a touch of the magic of Christmas and a huge amount of feminist thinking.

      Slated by Teri Terry
      With Fated coming out next year, I want to just experience it all again. Slated is one of my favourite series and one I recommend a lot.

      Soulless by Gail Carriger
      This series is just everything, and it's been a while since my last reread. I can't wait to get sucked back in to Alexia's wild world of vampires and werewolves, oh my.

      Which books do you want to reread?

      20 October 2018

      Book Review: The Treatment by C.L. Taylor

      This was an excellent YA dystopia that ticked all of the boxes and kept me gripped in. It's easy to read and difficult to put down. A fantastic story of control and rebellion that I would absolutely recommend.

      The Treatment by C.L. Taylor coverAdd to Goodreads button
      “You have to help me. We’re not being reformed. We’re being brainwashed.”

      All sixteen year old Drew Finch wants is to be left alone. She's not interested in spending time with her mum and stepdad and when her disruptive fifteen year old brother Mason is expelled from school for the third time and sent to a residential reform academy she's almost relieved.

      Everything changes when she's followed home from school by the mysterious Dr Cobey, who claims to have a message from Mason. There is something sinister about the ‘treatment’ he is undergoing. The school is changing people.

      Determined to help her brother, Drew must infiltrate the Academy and unearth its deepest, darkest secrets.

      Before it’s too late.

      Source: Purchase

      5 Words: Control, family, society, rebellion, escape.

      I thought that this was excellent and I absolutely loved it! It reminded me a little of Slated by Teri Terry. It is a standalone, and although I would actually love to read more I'm happy with that.

      I listened to this on audiobook and I thought that Georgia Maguire did an outstanding job. She is engaging and perfect for the voice of Drew.

      One of my favourite dystopia tropes is control the teens, it has such huge scope and is so scarily conceivable in even today's society. And the conditioning in The Treatment was scary in its believability.

      The story is fast paced, and very much driven by the conviction and desperation of the main character, Drew. The writing style makes it very easy to get caught up in what's going on, to have your heart racing along with the characters. 

      This was a great dive into YA for the author, who typically writes (excellent) adult thrillers. I was not disappointed and would definitely recommend.

      19 October 2018

      Northern Ballet's The Three Musketeers - Theatre Royal Newcastle

      Last night we got our glad rags on and headed to Newcastle's Theatre Royal on our annual trip to the ballet. We have always been immensely entertained by Northern Ballet's performances, last year The Little Mermaid had us entranced, and The Three Musketeers was no exception.

      A night at the ballet - Northern Ballet's The Three Musketeers - Theatre Royal Newcastle

      I had managed to get us some pretty good seats (Row A in the Grand Circle anyone? Expensive but worth it) and I'd had a look at some of the rehearsal videos (absolutely follow Northern Ballet's Twitter they're always posting amazing videos) so excitement and expectations were high.

      Being us, we were running a little late, but we made it in time after inhaling our pre-theatre meal (Lola Jeans, would not recommend) and even managed to order our interval drinks. The bar staff  even very kindly reserved us a table for the interval.

      The atmosphere was amazing. The performance was so funny and engaging that it was easy to get lost in the story. And the story? It was hilarious. It was a fantastic adventure, packed with action.

      I loved the sword fighting - it was seamlessly part of the choreography, it was intense and exciting to watch, and at times it made us laugh. The costumes were gorgeous, and the set was so lavish and clever.

      The Three Musketeers was an outstanding performance, gripping and sumptuous all at once, with a wicked humour throughout. It's an easy story to follow and get lost in, and filled with breathtaking action.

      There are plenty of tickets left for the remaining performances at The Theatre Royal before the production moves to the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre and then Canterbury Marlowe Theatre and I would 100% recommend going along.

      18 October 2018

      Release Day Review: Distortion by Victor Dixen

      This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year after Ascension blew me away earlier this year, and I was not disappointed. Distortion again explores relationships under intense pressure and scrutiny, and examines the ugly side of reality TV.

      Distortion by Victor Dixen coverAdd to Goodreads button
      After a speed-dating show that is literally out of this world, twelve young astronauts are set to become the first humans to colonise Mars. They are also the victims of the cruellest of plots.

      Léonor thought she was a pioneer on an extraordinary mission. She thought she had left all regrets behind her on Earth. But when memories are this painful, there can be no forgetting... 

      The second thrilling installment in the Phobos series, following on from Ascension by Victor Dixen.

      Source: Readers First Giveaway

      5 Words: Friendship, survival, secrets, love, hope.

      I had been eagerly awaiting Distortion since I finished Ascension, so I couldn't help but jump straight in as soon as I got it. And I was absolutely not disappointed.

      Again we follow Léonor as the main protagonist, and Serena as the antagonist. I liked seeing both perspectives, how each side fought to keep secrets. Then we have Anthony and Harmony, who didn't get much page-time in the last book, adding a third viewpoint with mixed motivations.

      The writing is different in style from what I'm used to, and it takes me a while to settle in, perhaps three chapters. I'm not sure if this is a result of the translation, but it doesn't impact my enjoyment of the books and I think it actually helps me to read them faster, but the style won't be to everyone's tastes.

      Distortion by Victor Dixen is very much a story of hope. The ending of Distortion was quite a hopeless affair, and the cliff hanger had me turning to the author's note in outrage. Although no less of a cliffhanger, this book actually gives some an aspect of hope in the ending, which I really appreciated. I loved the further scrutiny of reality TV and human greed, control and manipulation.

      This series is commonly referred to as Love Island in Space and although that is a fair and excellent comparison, I feel like it sells it short. Because the Phobos books are so much more. Yes, there are the intense relationships brought on by living in such close quarters, the coupling up, the cameras everywhere... But there is so much more to the story. There is drama and a fight to stay alive, secrets and subterfuge, a possible betrayal hovering ready to strike at any moment.

      Distortion is an addictive page-turner. The events of Ascension are covered well enough that you don't necessarily have to have read the first book to enjoy it, but I would absolutely recommend it to get the wider story.

      Have you read any of the Phobos books?

      Got the space bug? Try:

      17 October 2018

      Five Random Questions

      I've been thinking of doing a Q&A for a while now, but I had no idea what questions to answer. Then I remembered Jenny in Neverland's Random Questions Generator post, which I thought was a fantastic way to do a Q&A. So I typed "Random Question Generator" into Google and found this site which generates five random questions whenever you refresh the page.

      Five Random Questions

      What is your favourite Disney movie?
      I am such a cliché in that Beauty and the Beast is my favourite. I can't help it, I just bloody love it. The soundtrack, the beauty of the art work, the story. All of it. It's just such a lush film. Second is Mulan, third is Sleeping Beauty, fourth is Moana. After that I'd really struggle as I generally love Disney and aside from my absolute favourites it's a case of I love them all equally. Ish.

      Have you ever been done karaoke?
      Twice. Both times while horrifically drunk haha. I'm usually a quiet wallflower, but one time on a night out me and a friend stumbled into a karaoke bar and thought "why not?" so belted out some Pink and Rihanna. I'm tone deaf so was probably awful, but I can't really remember much of it so silver linings?

      What was your worst injury?
      I've been so incredibly lucky to have never seriously hurt myself! But the worst is probably this one time I was walking through the park and all of a sudden I tripped over and was face down on the ground. I skinned all around my eye, there was grit in it, it was bleeding. Totally gross. Luckily it didn't scar! Just looked super gnarly for a week.

      Which do you like better, shop online or shop offline?
      I actually kind of hate shopping, especially for clothes. I like that offline I can try things on, and I like that online there's no forced human interaction! I think I'll go for offline, because I can see and feel and have a go. And also it's an excuse to stop off in a cafe and read for an hour. So yeah, offline shopping if it's somewhere like Primark, where the staff leave you a alone and there's a Costa Coffee on the third floor. Online shopping if it's some hellscape like Lush where the staff don't leave you alone.

      What is the worst movie you've seen?
      This is a difficult one - if I'm watching a film and I'm not enjoying it, I'm going to turn it off! One I did recently try to struggle through was Secret Life of Pets, which just wasn't doing it for me. I know it's an animated film, but the humour seemed so immature. I switched to Zootopia instead and had a blast. In terms of "so bad it's good" I'd recommend Strippers vs Werewolves to everyone who wants to have a laugh and watch a horror that isn't actually scary and doesn't take itself too seriously.

      So there we go, a little random Q&A. It was actually really fun and I think I might make it a regular thing on the blog, a way to share random things about myself.

      Would you do a random Q&A?

      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?