My posts may contain Amazon Affiliate links, if you buy something through these links it doesn't cost you anything, but I may make a small commission which helps to keep this site up and running.

25 February 2020

Unboxing Wildest Dreams - Retellings January 2020

The Wildest Dreams book box starts at  just £16.66 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.

I have been getting this box since the very start, and I couldn't recommend it more.


In The Box

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin
The Surface Breaks inspired Loose Leaf Tea Tea from Rosie Lea Tea
Deathless Girls inspired Bath Bomb from Shimmer & Luxe
Priory of the Orange Tree inspired Bracelet from Lucas Bracelets
Cinder inspired Art Print from Lia Lost in Ink
Throne of Swans Bookmark
A Heart So Fierce and Broken Bookmark

My Thoughts

This box was incredible.

My favourite thing was the Deathless Girls inspired Bath Bomb from Shimmer & Luxe. Shimmer & Luxe are fast becoming a favourite bathbomb company and I'm so glad that this book box introduced me to them. This bathbomb was gorgeous, it fizzed away on the surface for a good ten minutes, smelled amazing, and left my skin super soft. 10/10 would use again.

Almost as soon as I opened the box, I picked up Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin. It's an excellent book and was right up my street. I have to admit that I was surprised by the choice of book in this book - I honestly thought it's be Throne of Swans! Foul is Fair was an excellent choice though, a violent Macbeth inspired story that took me by surprise. And it meant that I didn't end up with multiple copies of Thorne of Swans.

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

The Surface Breaks inspired Loose Leaf Tea Tea from Rosie Lea Tea came just in time, as I have been working through my tea collection from previous boxes and I'm almost done. It tasted amazing, and it was great to have something from a book with a smaller fandom. It was very refreshing to drink and in summer would work great as an iced tea. Although it definitely won't last that long as I can't resist it.

I love Lia's take on Cinder, with the Cinder inspired Art Print from Lia Lost in Ink. So much so that I sought her out to let her know. cinder looks exactly as I imagined, and I love all of the little intricacies on this design, and the expression on her face.

Although I have only just finished reading the book, I love the Priory of the Orange Tree inspired Bracelet from Lucas Bracelets. It's pretty and delicate and subtle enough for day-to-day wear. The charm itself is small yet substantial, and I love the orange shade used.

Last up are the two promotional bookmarks, for Throne of Swans and A Heart So Fierce and Broken. I loved Throne of Swans when I read it last year, it's absolutely gorgeous. And A Curse So Dark and Lonely was one of my favourite books from last year, so I'm excited to read the sequel.

This Retellings box hit the mark, and I really enjoyed everything in it.

Do you get any subscription boxes?




21 February 2020

Blog Tour: Book Review: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

I received a copy of Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin in January's Wildest Dreams box, and I read it and loved it and was about to post my review when I jumped on the blog tour. A digital review copy was made available to me, but I did not use it. As I'd already read it. And loved it. Woooo.

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin US CoverAdd to Goodreads button
Elle and her friends Mads, Jenny, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Elle’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Elle as their next target.

They picked the wrong girl.

Sworn to vengeance, Elle transfers to St. Andrew’s. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.

Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.


Source: Purchase | Review Copy

5 Words Review: Revenge, friendship, manipulation, family, misogyny.

Content warning: Off page sexual assault, misogyny, rape culture, abusive relationships, bullying, transphobia, suicide, substance abuse, violence, gore.

I think that Foul is Fair is one of those marmite books - you'll either love it or hate it. And from the very first page, I loved it.

Foul is Fair is exactly my type of book. It needs those content warnings, and the author has a detailed breakdown on their own website. It is dark, so very dark, and it is full of vengeance. It's brutal and packs a punch, it doesn't hold back. It's theatrical and fast paced, and I loved how the Shakespearean influence came through and really complimented the story. Jade is understandably a very angry narrator - and she has a lot to be angry about.

One thing I particularly liked about this story was the way friendship was explored. Jade is A Lot, and this was shown particularly in how she interacted with both her actual friends (her coven) and the group she was inserting herself in to.

After reading Foul is Fair I will definitely be checking out the author's other book. I just loved their writing style so much.

One small thing I want to throw out there is that I think I prefer the UK cover - it's sharp and subtle and has such impact. It reminds me of some of the RSC posters I've seen in the past too, particularly the font. Don't get me wrong, both covers are absolutely gorgeous, but in a bookshop it's the UK one I'd grab. What do you think?

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin UK cover

19 February 2020

Unboxing Shimmer & Luxe - Valentines Gift Set

I decided to treat myself for Valentines Day by getting  myself a Shimmer & Luxe Valentines Gift Set. I was introduced to Shimmer & Luxe through Wildest Dreams book box, where their bath and home goodies are often included in the items, and I quickly fell in love.

Unboxing Shimmer & Luxe - Valentines Gift Set

Contents

This box was packed with goodies, they were really crammed in there! It smelled beautiful when I opened it, it even made my mouth water. There was a handwritten thank you note, which I thought was a lovely touch.

Shimmer & Luxe - Valentines Gift Set
  • Smitten Soap 
  • Velvet & Oud Bath Bomb
  • Sweetheart Bubble Bar
  • Champagne & Diamonds Bubbling Bath Truffle
  • Strawberry Kisses Bath Bomb
  • Verrry Vanilla Massage Melt 
  • Be Mine Bubble Scoop 
Shimmer & Luxe - Champagne & Diamonds Bubbling Bath Truffle

The first thing I used was the Champagne & Diamonds Bubbling Bath Truffle. And it was heavenly. It smelled amazing and lightly fizzed away for around fifteen minutes. It left my skin feeling so soft and I can't wait to buy more bath truffles - they're definitely a treat.

Next up was the Verrry Vanilla Massage Melt. I used it after shaving my legs and oh my gosh, I was in heaven. It melts slowly, it's not greasy at all, it soaked in really well, and it left my skin feeling so luxurious. It was an almost decadent addition to my self-care routine and made the chore of shaving my legs worth it.

I've been using the Smitten Soap generally when I'm washing my hands. It smells gorgeous and doesn't dry out my skin - and a bonus, it's lasting for ages!

Last night I used the Velvet & Oud Bath Bomb. It was another slow fizzer, although quicker to disappear than the bath truffle, and it bubbled away for almost ten minutes. It left the water a pale violet colour and today my skin is super soft. Best of all, it fizzed on the surface of the water, it was very pretty to watch.

Shimmer & Luxe - Velvet & Oud Bath Bomb

I have sensitive skin, and I have had no reaction to any of the products so far. The shimmer in them is light enough that it doesn't set me off itching like products from Lush do, and I don't need to vigourously hose myself down after a long relaxing soak.

Next up for me will be the Strawberry Kisses Bath Bomb. Even through the packaging it smells wonderful, but I want to save it for a sunny day.

I am very excited to use my Be Mine Bubble Scoop and Sweetheart Bubble Bar - the only reason I haven't used them yet is that I've never used things like them before!

Shimmer & Luxe - Valentines Gift Set Bath Bomb

At only £20 I feel like this was an excellent deal, and I've loved everything I've used so far. It was beautifully packed, with personal touches, and it smelled delightful. I would definitely purchase it again.

17 February 2020

Q&A with Nina de Pass

At the beginning of last year I read a book that blew me away. The Year After You by Nina de Pass broke my heart and lifted my soul. It's a firm favourite and I've read it four five six seven times.

Q&A with Nina de Pass

Q&A with Nina de Pass


Can you describe The Year After You in five words?
It’s a book about guilt, grief, forgiveness & second chances – doused in snow.


What inspired you to write the The Year After You?
When I was seventeen, there was a terrible car accident at a nearby school – one that has stayed with me ever since. A girl of my age died; a girl of my age – the driver – survived. I didn’t know those involved personally, yet I have thought about them for over a decade – about what happened, about everything that came after. The Year After You is not about that accident – that’s not my story to tell – but the events in the novel are underpinned by a car crash. For years I had been thinking about the aftermath of such a tragedy and the complex relationship between guilt and grief – how do you reconcile yourself to a life without someone you love, when you feel responsible for their death?

In terms of creating the setting, when designing the school that my main character Cara is sent to in the book, I was inspired by the image of Wes Andersen’s iconic The Grand Budapest Hotel, the snowy landscape from snippets of old James Bond films and the winter scenes from The Night Manager BBC TV series. Winter is my favourite season, and the image in the opening scene of the book – a perilous journey up winding, icy roads to Cara’s new school – became stuck in my head.


Which of your characters would you most like to sit down and have a cuppa with?
Oh, that’s easy: Hector. I loved writing him – to me, he’s bright and engaging, and not totally straight-forward. I’m not sure it would be the most relaxing cuppa, but it certainly wouldn’t be boring!


How do you think you would cope if you were dropped into Cara's story?
That’s an interesting question. I would hope that I, like Cara, would find it within me to open up to the new people I met at Hope Hall. If I found friends like Ren, Hector and Fred, I hope I’d find a way through to the other side like Cara does.


Are you a planner or a pantser?
Hmm… A bit of both, I think. A huge part of the joy of writing for me is seeing where things go and being creative and imaginative as I write. I used to hate planning essays at school – I just wanted to get on with it! – and I feel the same about writing novels. That said, I don’t usually start writing if I don’t know in what direction the story is going. I have markers throughout – I know where I have to get to, or what has to happen, and then I just write as I go.


What is your favourite thing about writing?
I love stories; I love creating new characters. Sitting down and writing the first draft of a novel is always my favourite part. The page is a blank canvas and the possibilities are endless


Finally, what are you working on now? What can we expect from you in the future?
The Year After You is coming out in the US and Canada at the end of March, so that’s my big focus at the moment and something I am very over-excited about. I am also working on a couple of new projects and have lots of ideas spinning around my head – that’s all I can say for now!


    


   
So there we have it, my Q&A with the wonderful Nina de Pass. And both gorgeous covers, for the UK and US editions. Check out my Five Favourite Quotes from The Year After You by Nina de Pass and read my fan-girling book review. It's an incredible book, and I hope you pick it up.


Have you read The Year After You by Nina de Pass?



14 February 2020

Book Beginnings: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

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

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

I am currently reading The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon cover
The stranger came out of the sea like a water ghost, barefoot and wearing the scars of his journey.
I have been putting this book off for a while. A long while. I've had it since it came out. I'm taking part in the Series Crackdown 9.0 Readathon for the next week-ish and this is my first read and team read. It'll also tick off three prompts on the bingo board, yay.

First off I love the cover. It's stunning and vibrant and so intricate. There are small illustrations on chapter pages too, and some gorgeous maps. Everything I love in fantasy!

I mean... Wow. That's a first line. So much mystery already, and I love the writing style. I am excited.
When she has bene banished, Kalyba had fled to a part of the forest she had names the Bower of Enternity. It was said that she had put an enchantment on it that tricked the eyes.
This is from roughly 56% through the books. As it's a mammoth 800+ pages this is fairly far. Having just started this book today I am nowhere near this far through.

I have no idea of the context for this, but I am excited to reach it. Dramatic.

What are you reading this week?

12 February 2020

Series Crackdown 9.0 Readathon

Series Crackdown is a 10-day long readathon where you attempt to read those unread series on your bookshelf, between Friday 14th – Sunday 23rd February 2020.

I'm going to be using this readathon to try and tackle the books on my shelves that I already own and have not read yet, so I'll be joining the Beasts team lead by Jemima Osborne and reading the team book The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon because it's been sat on my TBR since it came out.

As for the other books, I've no idea. I guess I'll just scan my shelves and pick based on my mood, and ask people on Twitter for recommendations.

Series Crackdown 9.0 Readathon

The Prompts

One book can tick off up to three prompts, and I'll be using the Team Read The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon to fulfill three of them. Because fantasy, has gorgeous maps in it, and is first in a series.
  • First Book in a Series
  • Sequel
  • Gathering dust on your shelf
  • Includes a Map
  • Recommended by a friend
  • Fantasy
  • Read with a warm drink
  • 5-Star Author
Check out Mel at The Book Moo's blog for all of the details.

Will you be taking part?

10 February 2020

BlogTour: Book Review: The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo *AD - Gifted

St. Martin's sent me a review copy of The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo ahead of the blog tour. 

The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo coverAdd to Goodreads button
During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired.

Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him.

As war rages and shifting alliances challenge the pope’s authority, Maddalena and Cesare's lives grow inexplicably entwined. Maddalena becomes a keeper of dangerous Borgia secrets, and must decide if she is willing to be a pawn in the power games of the man she loves. And as jealousy and betrayal threaten to tear apart the Borgia family from within, Cesare is forced to reckon with his seemingly limitless ambition.

Alyssa Palombo's captivating new novel, The Borgia Confessions, is a story of passion, politics, and class, set against the rise and fall of one of Italy's most infamous families--the Borgias.


Source: Digital review copy

5 Word Review: Family, secrets, ambition, obligation, power.


I am a bit conflicted about this book. On the one hand, I loved the story. On the other, I hated the characters. But I think that I enjoyed the story itself so thoroughly that I could look past the characters.

With the characters, I generally liked Cesare and Maddalena to being with. It was once they met that I started to dislike the two of them. I didn't have much love for the secondary and supporting characters either. What I loved about Maddalena, her devotion and naivety, seemed to be pretty quickly tossed aside, and I thought that was such a shame. And I definitely wasn't expecting the steamier scenes in the book!

The story though? It's glorious. There is plotting and intrigue and secrets and lies and power plays. I loved the descriptions of the places and the clothing, the historical setting really came alive for me. I loved all of the little details, the intricate strategies and dramas.

Overall I loved the story, but my dislike of the characters was definitely a personal preference thing. I'd recommend this to anyone who's a fan of political intrigue and steamy romance.

08 February 2020

Blog Tour: Book Review: Witness X by SE Moorhead *AD - Gifted

Trapeze sent me a review copy of Witness X by SE Moorhead ahead of the blog tour. 

Witness X by SE Moorhead coverAdd to Goodreads button
From one of the most original new voices in fiction comes a startling vision of a world where hero Kyra must fight the past to save our future. A genre-bending thriller for the Netflix generation, for fans of Altered Carbon, Dark and Mindhunter.

She's the only one who can access the truth...

Fourteen years ago, the police caged a notorious serial killer who abducted and butchered two victims every February. He was safe behind bars. Wasn't he?

But then another body is discovered, and soon enough, the race is on to catch the real killer. Neuropsychologist Kyra Sullivan fights to use a new technology that accesses the minds of the witnesses, working with the police to uncover the truth. Will Kyra discover the person behind the murders, and if so, at what cost? And how far will she go to ensure justice is served?

An addictive futuristic thriller, perfect for fans of Stranger Things.


Source: Review copy | Blog Tour

5 Words Review: Crime, truth, deception, morality, justice.


When I heard this book as being described as Silence of the Lambs meet Blade Runner, I was intrigued. I requested it straight away. And I was not disappointed by the comparison.

Witness X is tense and chilling and shocking. It's a compelling and thrilling read, and I could not stop turning the pages to find out what would happen next. And more than that, it's something that feels very possible and real. This book ticked all of the boxes for me when it came to both sci-fi ad crime, and I loved it. There was the grittiness and mystery of crime, the possibilities of the future, and the way they came together was great.

I loved Kyra. I loved her strength of conviction, her stubbornness, her morality. She was so determined to do the right thing, always. She has a strong moral compass even if her business partner is a bit of a snake.

At times the story had me physically bouncing up and down, it was so bloody tense. If I still bit my nails my finger tips would have been bleeding. My partner watched my anxious reading, and when I was finished he started reading it himself.

I definitely want more of this story and this world. I really hope that this is the start of a series because it's something special.

07 February 2020

Book Beginnings: Wranglestone by Darren Charlton *AD - Gifted

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

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

I am currently reading Wranglestone by Darren Charlton (gifted copy).
Wranglestone by Darren Charlton cover

Peter was born into a world of unwelcome visitors. And winter on Lake Wranglestone sure as hell was one of them. 
I was sent a free finished copy of Wranglestone by Darren Charlton after I requested it from the publisher, and it released yesterday. I am very excited to start this queer zombie thriller.

The cover is gorgeous and isolated and cold, and I love the small flash of red, like a warning. There's a map of the layout of the islands on Wranglestone lake which is great for orientating myself.

I love these first lines - it introduces the setting as almost a character in itself and makes the feelings of the narrator very clear. I think it's an excellent start.
The bottom step hovered about five feet above the line of the water to stop wolves and lynx from getting up the watchtower when the lake was frozen.
This is from page 56 in my finished copy.

This isn't far into the book and I'm still getting the feel of it.I love how nature is very much at the forefront of the story. There is desperation on almost every page.

I am really enjoying Wranglestone by Darren Charlton, I feel like it's one I'll struggle to put down.

What are you reading this week?

05 February 2020

Five Favourite Quotes from The Beholder by Anna Bright

I was pretty excited when I picked up The Beholder by Anna Bright. I received it in May 2019's Unlikely Romances themed Fairyloot box and then read it the next month for the readalong and when I couldn't resist the cover any longer. I absolutely adored reading this book.

Today I'm sharing my five favourite quotes from this beautiful slow burn, and I'd like to see them plastered across all kinds of merch please.

The Beholder by Anna Bright cover

Today I'm sharing my five favourite quotes.

He'd left me burning brighter than the candles.
Now I just felt burned.
*
My heart was a burning star, singeing my lungs, setting fire to my nerves.
Was it my fault, really, that my chest couldn't hold it?
*
My heart was a lit candle, a forest fire, a burning star.
*
I think the powerful would love less the fruits of violence if they had to deal it out by hand.
*
I was straw in a breath of wind. I was glass shattered on stone. I was the soft red flesh of a heart, vulnerable to every sharp thing in its path.

Hopefully these quotes will convince you to read The Beholder by Anna Bright, but if you need another push then check out my spoiler free review.

03 February 2020

First Impressions: Crescent City - House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas

I was very excited to see a sampler for House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas on NetGalley, and I requested it straight away. I have a kind of love/hate thing with Sarah J Maas's books even though the author is one of the loveliest I've met, and I enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses a lot when I binged it last year. Like, a lot. Even though it's not my thing and hella problematic. It's complicated.

Because of this, I am very excited to see what I think of the first Crescent City book, House of Earth and Blood.
There was a wolf at the gallery door.

I liked the run down of the different houses at the start - not that I know truly what I meant when I read them. It did mean however that once the houses started being mentioned then I knew a bit about what was going on.

There is a map. Of course there's a map, it's fantasy. But it's a very pretty map, a round of applause for the cartographer!

As for the story, you are dumped right in. And I love it. I found myself quickly becoming submerged in the world, watching it come slowly to life in front of me. I loved the vibrancy, the colour and life in the characters.

I feel like Sarah J Mass's writing style has definitely evolved. It's much more mature and polished from what I remember of Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses. It's darker too, more gritty, yet with a wry humour. I'm impressed, I think.

This sampler is pretty sizable - five whole chapters that took me well over an hour to read through. It has made me very excited for House of Earth and Blood, because I need more! It's an excellent start.


Crescent City - House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas

31 January 2020

Book Beginnings: Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

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

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

I am currently reading Starsight by Brandon Sanderson.
Starsight by Brandon Sanderson cover
I slammed on my overburn and boosted my starship through the middle of a chaotic mess of destructor blasts and explosions. 
It took my all of my strength and will-power to not pick this book up until I'd finished my review of Skyward by Brandon Sanderson. After the revelations at the end, I knew that I needed to continue the story as soon as possible.

I loved Skyward, so I'm excited to see how the second book turns out. I have a hard copy and the audiobook, again read by Sophie Aldred, and I have very high expectations.

The first lines bring us straight in to the action. I feel that if you haven't read the first book you would definitely be a bit confused. But I love it.
"What happened to the silent treatment?" I asked. 
"You were looking too comfortable," he said. "I decided that being silent is the wrong approach. Instead, I need to remind you what you're missing while not talking to me - by showing you how wonderful my interaction is." 
As I said in my review of Skyward by Brandon Sanderson, M-Bot is my favourite character. Interactions like this are a big reason why, he's such a sassy ship.

As I said, I'm excited to see where the story goes next, and barely 10% in at page 56 (UK hardback) it looks like there is already drama and twists. I am excited.

What are you reading this week?

29 January 2020

Book Review: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

I got Skyward by Brandon Sanderson in a Fairyloot box ages ago. It was a book that intimidated me - how could I not be intimidated by an author as hugely popular? But wow. It was amazing.

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson coverAdd to Goodreads button
Spensa's world has been under attack for hundreds of years. An alien race called the Krell leads onslaught after onslaught from the sky in a never-ending campaign to destroy humankind. Humanity's only defense is to take to their ships and fight the enemy in the skies. Pilots have become the heroes of what's left of the human race.

Spensa has always dreamed of being one of them; of soaring above Earth and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with her father's - a pilot who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, placing Spensa's chances of attending flight school somewhere between slim and none.

No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, but she is still determined to fly. And the Krell just made that a possibility. They've doubled their fleet, making Spensa's world twice as dangerous... But their desperation to survive might just take her skyward...


Source: Purchase, Fairyloot

5 Word Review: Reputation, bravery, family, secrets, passion.

I always have this little voice in my head that whispers "you don't like space books" whenever I so much as look at a pretty space-themed cover. Which is ridiculous as Lilith's Brood by Octavia Butler is my favourite sci-fi and I read space opera in a single sitting.

So it took me a long, long time to read Skyward. In fact, it wasn't until I had a copy of the second book in my hands that I considered it again. And even then, it wasn't until the Kindle edition was on sale for 99p and the Whispersync deal for Audible was £3.47 that I finally took the plunge. And now I have regrets.

I can't believe that I waited so long to read Skyward. It was absolutely excellent and I could not put it down, and when I had to stop listening to the audiobook I couldn't stop thinking about it. This book is my jam. It is the only time I've truly used the Whispersync feature on my kindle and audible app, I was switching between them so I didn't have to stop.

I can't quite put my finger on quite why I loved it so much, as to be honest there's a fair bit not to love. But honestly? This was a solid five stars. Sophie Aldred does an incredible job narrating the audiobook, and really brought every character to life.

I loved the themes that the story explored, and I loved the little twists and reveals that changed my previous conceptions of characters. Nothing was black and white, and judgement was clouded by unknown pasts. I actually gasped at some of the revelations and they changed everything.

I do have to say that Spensa is annoying. So annoying. So dramatic and immature and childish. But at the same time, it was almost endearing. She is a drama queen, make no mistake, but she grows and changes so much throughout the story. It was excellent. Character development is something that I thought this book excelled at.

Is it weird to say that my favourite character was M-Bot? That I liked the straightforward ship the most out of all of the characters? Perhaps it was the Scottish accent in the audiobook, but I looked forward to M-Bot's every quip.

I only just finished this book, but already I want to read it again. And again. I let the hype put me off and I was wrong because this book is so bloody worth it.
You get to choose who you are. Legacy, memories of the past, can serve us well. But we cannot let them define us. When heritage becomes a box instead of an inspiration, it has gone too far.

27 January 2020

Unboxing Fairyloot - Defying The Odds December 2019

Although it's usually one of the last of my monthly subscription boxes to arrive (it was well into January when this one dropped on to my doorstep) I have a deep love for Fairyloot. A monthly subscription will cost you £26.00 and for that you will get exclusive bookish goodies and a recent YA fantasy release.

December's Defying The Odds box was packed with goodies!

Defying The Odds, December 2019

Unboxing Fairyloot - Defying The Odds December 2019

In The Box

LiteraryLifeCo Quote Microfibre Cloth
Throne of Glass inspired Enamel Pin
The Wrath and the Dawn inspired socks
Red Rising inspired Pencil Case
Game of Thrones inspired Quote Pencils
Skyward inspired Mangentic Bookmarks
The Priory of the Orange Tree inspired Tea
Collectible Tarot Cards
Advance Copy of Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco
Eight Will Fall by Sarah Harian

My Thoughts

My favourite thing was the LiteraryLifeCo Quote Microfibre Cloth. It came at just the right time for me, as my current flannel is reaching the end of its life and is about to be turned into a cleaning rag! The quote art is beautiful and I love the quote.
My favourite game is called how many chapters can I read in one night

I read Eight Will Fall by Sarah Harian for the Fairyloot Readalong. It is tense and dark and scary and exciting. It gave me actual nightmares, and one morning I woke up with a scream and scared my wee dog. I loved it. There is exclusive artwork on the inside of the dust cover too, it's a gorgeous book and I loved picking it up each day to read a few chapters.

I haven't yet tried The Priory of the Orange Tree inspired Tea. I have a huge collection of tea I'm trying to work my way through! I plan on reading Priory this year, so I may hold off until I start reading it. I do have to say though, it smells amazing.

The Game of Thrones inspired Quote Pencils are, well, pencils. I'm not sure what else I can say about that haha. I will definitely get use out of them though, as I pencil out my bullet journal layouts being inking them.

The Red Rising Inspired Pencil Case is a little bit small for me to use as a pencil case, even the pencils we got in the box are too long to fit in it except diagonally! It is pretty and well made, but I've never read Read Rising.

While I am not a huge Throne of Glass fan, I love the Throne of Glass inspired Enamel Pin. It's stunning, with Fire Breathing Bitch Queen and fiery colours. It'll definitely be going into my regular rotation and I'm excited to wear it - it really is beautiful.

Throne of Glass Fire Breathing Bitch Queen inspired Enamel Pin

I literally just read Skyward and absolutely loved it, so I love the Skyward inspired Mangentic Bookmarks. I love the cute style and I can't wait to use them when I'm reading Starsight by Brandon Sanderson next week.

I always need socks in my life, and I love the design on the Wrath and the Dawn inspired socks, even if I have the newer editions so they don't match my books. They're bright and comfortable and will be in a Sock Sunday Instagram post one Sunday soon.

I have heard a lot of mixed things about Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco, but I haven't go around to reading it yet!

My collectible tarot cards are kind of lurking around my room in various locations. The art is gorgeous, but the colouring (especially on the backs) is very inconsistent and I don't think I'd be able to use them as an actual deck once complete unless my eyes were closed.

This Defying The Odds box was great, but it did feel a little like the items were all over the place, and not really coherent to the theme. I will get a lot of use out of pretty much everything, but it feels pretty random.

Do you get any subscription boxes?


25 January 2020

Blog Tour: A Weekend at Virgin River *AD Gifted

It has been years since I picked up the first Virgin River book by Robyn Carr. I was in my teens when I picked up the first book and experienced the joy that is Virgin River. Mills & Boon sent me a review copy of the first book to celebrate the release of the Netflix show, and it was all the excuse I needed to jump back in.

To give you an idea of the series, the books can all be read as standalone, but have a common themes of fresh starts, people finding their place in Virgin River, and bringing together found families. It's the best type of story, and although I stopped reading at around the seventh book, it's a series that I think about often. It brings a smile to my face.

I have no idea why I stopped reading this series - I think college had a lot to do with it!

Now that there is a fancy new Netflix series based on the book, I decided to go back to where it all started and read Virgin River by Robyn Carr, then watch the series. In a single weekend. Because why not.

Supplies

Virgin River by Robyn Carr (gifted)
Charged tablet with Netflix
Tea
Ginger Nut biscuits
Chopped melon for snacks
Rosé wine for drinks

Virgin River by Robyn Carr cover

Friday Night

Yes, the weekend for me starts the moment I get in from work on a Friday. And this Friday it starts with a cup of tea and a book.

It's winter and it's freezing, so I'm curled up in a blanket and I'm using a travel mug to keep my tea warm and avoid spills. I'm nibbling on ginger nut biscuits to keep my energy up. I'm going to start the book tonight and see how far I get before my attention wanders (I have a very short attention span). 
Mel squinted into the rain and darkness, creeping along the narrow, twisting, muddle, tree-enshrouded road and for the hundredth time thought, am I out of my mind?
It was all going well until I blinked and it was too hours later and my tea was cold. I had gotten so engrossed in the story that I was almost one third through. I had forgotten how much I absolutely love the writing style and how Melinda's character comes out so much in the narration.

I gulped down my cold tea, grabbed myself some dinner, and started a bath running. Time for stage two of my Friday night!

With lavender bath salts and a large glass of wine, I sank down and continued reading on until my bath was cold and my glass was empty. Now over half way through I got out, dried myself off, put on my comfiest pyjamas and got in to bed.

I only meant to read another few chapters as it was getting late, but I ended up reading until around two o'clock in the morning when I turned the last page.

Saturday

Even though I stayed up way too late reading on Friday night, I'm up with the sun. Because I am excited. Today is the day I start on my Netflix journey.

I had a super weird dream where babies just turned up on my doorstep every morning, and by the time I woke the house in my dream had babies on every surface. It was weird.

After breakfast, I settled down on the couch with a huge cup of tea and started the Netflix series on the big TV.

I paced myself pretty well, I made a cup of tea for every episode, and after the third episode I took my dog out for a walk.

I do have to say that the characters are not quite as I imagined them - but that's something that happens with most adaptations. I'm finding it easy to see the show and the book as separate, but I love how the show still has the same general vibes. Also the scenery? Wow. Take me there please, I am even more in love with the setting.

Sunday

We're on the final stretch. Today is my Lazy Day and I have no plans except for watching Virgin River. I am so glad that past me made time for this, because honestly I love it. It's a weekend of self-care and love and warm fuzzies. And wine.

I have six more episodes to get through, and with each episode almost an hour long I don't have much time as I still have to get everything sorted for work again on Monday. With this in mind, I have breakfast in bed and watch two episodes on my tablet. Or, I intend to watch two episodes. What I end up doing is watching four, taking a nap because I'm so comfortable and content, and then make myself a late lunch and walk the dog.

When I get back in, I run myself a bath, pour in some bubbles, pour myself a glass of wine, and precariously balance my tablet on my bath shelf. I like a bit of danger, but also my tablet is seven years old and I need a proper excuse to get a new one.

Two hours and a cold bath later I am done.

I can't believe it's over, and I kind of want to do it all again.

As much as I am a big rereader of books, I am also a big rewatcher of shows and films that I enjoy. Along with Reign and Empresses in the Palace, I feel like Virgin River could easily be on my R U OK HUN? list of go-to shows.

Have you read or watched Virgin River?


24 January 2020

Book Beginnings: Clique Bait by Ann Vallett *AD - Gifted

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

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

I am currently reading Clique Bait by Ann Vallett (gifted copy).
Clique Bait by Ann Vallett cover
The first time I wore this shade of lipstick, I was eleven.
I was sent a free review copy of Clique Bait by Ann Vallett after I requested it from the publisher. It's not out until the end of April, but I received my review copy yesterday and started it immediately. Oops.

My first line isn't the actual first line. The first lines are a letter to another character and I decided to start with the passage immediately after instead, mostly because I think it gives a better feel of the writing, and because it really packs a punch.

I like this start, it has me excited for the rest of the story. I like the imagery.
Sophie's eyes were the first to flit up to mine. They were ever so slightly creased in the corners, as if she knew a brilliant secret that you'd never catch on to.
This is from page 56 in my review copy, so likely won't match up with ebooks and finished copies!

At this point in the story we're just starting chapter five and Chloe has barely started on her infiltration mission. We're still meeting the characters and working out their motives in the group and trying to work out their secrets.

I am thoroughly enjoying Clique Bait by Ann Vallett.

What are you reading this week?

22 January 2020

Book Review: Jane Eyre: A Retelling by Tanya Landman *AD Gifted

Barrington Stoke sent me a review copy of  Jane Eyre: A Retelling by Tanya Landman

I utterly adore the original story, so what did I think of this super accessible retelling? Spoiler Alert: I utterly adored this too.

Jane Eyre: A Retelling by Tanya Landman coverAdd to Goodreads Button
Orphaned as a child, tormented by her guardian and cast out to a harsh boarding school, Jane Eyre has been raised in the shadow of cruelty and isolation. But when she takes a job as governess in Thornfield Hall, where secrets lurk in the attic and strange laughter echoes through the night, Jane meets the elusive Mr Rochester - and her life is irrevocably transformed.

Poignantly and powerfully retold in this stunning edition, Jane Eyre is the tale of a spirited heroine's search for love, independence and belonging.

Powerfully retold in this stunning new edition by Carnegie Medal-winning author Tanya Landman, Jane Eyre is the timeless story of an iconic heroineʼs search for love, freedom and belonging.

Cover artwork by Helen Crawford-White.

This book has a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paperstock so that even more readers can enjoy it.

Source: Review Copy

5 Word Review: Family, classic, spirit, belonging, retelling.

I only read Jane Eyre for the first time last year. I've always maintained that I didn't like classics, because so many of them just don't do it for me. I find them overly wordy and slow paced and boring. And while, to my surprise, Jane Eyre was none of those things, it is still a very long book. But it was a very long book that I fell in love with.

I love the story of Jane Eyre. It's one of those books that I turn to when I need some self-care. But it is an undertaking to re-read, and even the audiobook is around 20 hours.

In swoops this retelling by Tanya Landman. It is written in Barrington Stoke's typical easy to read and super accessible style. And it loses none of what I love. As pared down as this reworking of the classic story is, it loses none of the impact or atmosphere. It's just as haunting and gorgeous a story. 

I love that I can pick this up and read it in a single sitting. I love that I still get the essence and soul of the story. I love that it's type-set in a font that I can fly through. The slightly larger font size and the different in contrast between ink and page means that even on my worst days I can still read it.

It's the same story. It's just so much more accessible than the original, and I'm excited for people to read it and fall in love with one of my favourites.

20 January 2020

Unboxing Illumicrate - Secrets & Schemes December 2019

One of the longest running UK YA book boxes Illumicrate is ran by the loveliest team. They offer amazing customer services and any small problems I've had have been dealt with quickly and professionally. It's £26.00 per month, and they do a Book Only option for £17.00 so you can get the exclusive editions without the items.

I have been getting this box for years (since it was quarterly!) and I love the variety of creative items you get.

Secrets & Schemes, December 2019

Unboxing Illumicrate - Secrets & Schemes December 2019

In The Box

Ploy & Play Mug from RosieThorns88
Star Wars Pin Set from Fable & Black
Four Paths Candle from Amelia Kitchen Candles
Caraval Patch from Fable & Black
2020 Calendar by Merwild and ChattyNora
Kaz Brekker Collectable Coin Magnet from Monolime
Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao

My Thoughts

My favourite thing was the  Ploy & Play Mug from RosieThorns88. I utterly adore this artist and I love the collection of mugs I've built up from my Illumicrate boxes. They're high quality and stunning. I'm not a huge fan of A Court of Thorns and Roses and I have a complicated relationship with Sarah J Mass, but I love this mug and have already used it plenty of times. It's a great large size and perfect for a hot chocolate.

I'm about half way through Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao at the moment and I am loving it. It's fast paced and addictive reading, and I love the story. The book itself is gorgeous too, the sprayed edges like blood dripping down is very me.

I love the smell of Four Paths Candle from Amelia Kitchen Candles. It's a really nice scent and it makes me think of autumn. The candle itself is pretty too, in a glass jar.

Unboxing Illumicrate - Secrets & Schemes December 2019

I'm not sure about the Caraval Patch from Fable & Black. I've never once used patches I've received in boxes. It's very very pretty, don't get me wrong, but it's just not useful to me.

I think the thing that I was most excited for was the 2020 Calendar. I have had a calendar before from Illumicrate, in the Grishaverse King Of Scars Collectors box. This one is a little different as it's 2020 only, but the artwork is amazing. Both artists have worked excellently together and I love every design, they're honestly stunning. The calendar went straight on my wall and I'm excited to see the different designs at the beginning of each month.

I like Star Wars Pin Set from Fable & Black, even if it's not really my thing. The designs are pretty cute and although they'll likely not make my general rotation, I'll definitely keep them as back ups.

This Secrets & Schemes box was excellent, and even if I won't use everything myself I was definitely not disappointed.

Do you get any subscription boxes?




17 January 2020

Book Beginnings: The Unspoken Name by AK Larkwood

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

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

I am currently reading The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood (gifted copy).
The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood cover
In the deep wilds on the north, there is a Shrine cut into the mountainside. The forest covers these hills like a shroud. This is a quiet country, the the Shrine of the Unspoken One is quieter still. Birds and insects keep away from the place.
First thing first, I was sent a free review copy of The Unspoken Name by AK Larkwood. I requested it from the publisher then did a wee dance when it was accepted. Because I am excited to read this book. The past nine months I have been going through a massive fantasy kick and I love it.

It wasn't until I started writing this post that I actually looked at the finished cover. And isn't it gorgeous? I love all of the little details, yet how simply and striking it is at first glance.

These first lines are something, aren't they? I love that the atmosphere and mystery is already building. There is something so sinister and I am intrigued.
She had begun to feel so clever and knowledgeable lately, getting good at swordplay and conjugations, but she had managed to miss this completely. She buried her face in one of the couch cushions to hide her blush.
This is from page 56 in my review copy, so likely won't match up with ebooks and finished copies!

I like this bit. I like it when characters reveal their embarrassment, and start to look more at their own humility. It's a big bit of development for the character and I like how it's coming through.

I am very much enjoying The Unspoken Name and I'm excited to see where it goes. This is a looooong book so this is not far in at all.

What are you reading this week?

15 January 2020

Book Review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

It took me a long time to finally read The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley, and I was intimidated by the hype. But I loved it.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley coveradd to goodreads button
All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead... and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?


Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Friendship, isolation, secrets, love, obsession.


This book has been on my TBR for the longest time. When it first came out I was super excited, but also skint. I requested a copy on NetGalley but then ebooks started triggering migraines. It was quite popular at the library so the waiting list was huge. I had to wait it out, but then my attention wandered elsewhere. Until. I bought it for my mum. For Christmas. From a supermarket.

I kind of wish that I hadn't waited so long to read this. I think it would have impressed me more if I hadn't read so many excellent yet similar books in the interim.

Nevertheless, The Hunting Party is good. It's excellent in fact. It's full of twists and turns and mysteries. The story is engaging, the characters frustrating, the mystery intriguing.

I did have it figured out, but I think that's because as I said before I have read a lot of similar books. It was comfortable to read because I knew the format, but uncomfortable because of the tensions between the characters. It was great.

I think the thing I enjoyed most about The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley was the setting. It was almost a character itself at times, sweeping and vast with endless skies and chilling cold, yet simultaneously claustrophobic. It was picturesque and threatening all at once, and I thought it was very clever. As creepy as it was, I'd love to visit!

If you enjoyed this then I think you'll love STAGS by MA Bennett and In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware.