Saturday, 20 August 2016

Illumicrate Unboxing! (Box 4)

Wow, is it really time for the fourth Illumicrate box already? The last few months have been so hectic that time has really flown for me, but Daphne has dropped so many wonderful hints about this box that I was really excited to open it! The Unboxing post itself is coming very late. I actually received this box on the 9th August but I've been so busy thanks to the fact that I've moved to a new flat, and my stuff has been boxed away for a long time. The time has come to finally do this month's, even if it is late.

Once again the Illumicrate box design remained the same so I won't worry about putting a picture up. It's a great design, and I'm glad Daphne stuck with it. One of the things that really added to the anticipation with this book was Daphne's big reveal that there would be two books this month! I couldn't believe my luck, and hoped with all my might that I hadn't already got hold of one of them. Luckily, I needn't have worried!

Without further ado, I'll start with the part that everyone wants to hear about first: the books! This is by far my favourite box of the four I've had so far, and the two books played a huge part towards this!

BOOK ONE: 'Nevernight' by Jay Kristoff (Hardcover). Wowee! I requested this book on Netgalley a while back and was approved, but couldn't help but feel a small pang as I desperately wanted to own a copy. Well now I do! I so wasn't expecting this pick and I was so happy to find it waiting for me inside. It's now sitting pride of place in my brand new bookshelves, and boy am I pleased! I hope to get round to this read soon enough as it's high on my TBR. This book also came with a signed Book Plate, Art Card, bookmark and a hilarious exclusive video recorded by the author himself, Jay Kristoff! 'Nevernight' is a fairly recent release actually and that tends to be the pattern I'm finding with Daphne's picks when opening these boxes, which is good because it means I'm much less likely to own a copy myself. All in all an awesome start to the unpacking that had me really excited for what Book Two could be...

BOOK TWO: 'The Graces'; Laure Eve (Paperback). Honestly, there are no words to describe the noise that I made when I saw the second book. You all know that I recently attended YALC, and Laure Eve's 'The Graces' was probably one of the books that I came out of it feeling most excited about! Mystery and intrigue are definitely going to play a big part of it and I have seen so many great reviews from other readers that loved this book! What really made me go crazy when I saw this though? Probably the fact that I now own a gorgeous copy about a month before release date. As if that's not the greatest thing ever! I hope I can get round to reading this soon, I'm so excited! There were some wonderful extras with this book too: a signed bookplate, temporary tattoos for each of the elements and a lovely letter from the author that proved a very entertaining and enlightening read.

Trio Coasters: How weird that mere days before I received this box, my lovely boyfriend and I were talking about things we'd need for the new flat (coasters being one of the things we mentioned). Then, as if by magic, these two wonderful coasters appeared and now they have pride of place on my coffee table. I love the 'then and now' style they have, showing Harry, Ron & Hermione when they were younger (Books 1-7) and also much later in honour of the new play which I'm going to see very soon, 'Harry Potter & The Cursed Child'. Taratjah Art is responsible for the wonderful designs found on these coasters, so check out her page!

'Drink Me' Strawberry Tea: Inspiring visions of the much beloved 'Alice In Wonderland', 'Drink Me' tea looks nothing short of delicious. It combines one of my favourite tales with tea and strawberries. What could possibly be better? I'm looking forward to trying this loose leaf blend out, and I'm particularly excited because it can be made into Iced Tea too, which will be delicious as the weather here gets hotter. Check out Post Tea here, their website is so enticing and the have an Etsy page too!

In Omnia Paratus Tote Bag: I've not read or watched, or even deeply researched into the Gilmore Girls, but those that are a fan would love this Tote Bag! It came in handy when we were moving homes that's for sure and I really like it's colour and message. 'Prepared For All Things'. Colourful Geekiness are responsible for this lovely design and they do a huge variety of items that relate to a lot of different Fandoms.

There were a few extra additions for this box:

Colouring Quotes, designed by Ashley Poston that are being used for a separate, Illumicrate inspired competition. They are really nice quotes and I look forward to having the time to get my pens and pencils out! Thee was also a code for 40% off of her brand new book, 'We Own The Night'.

Some beautiful 'Red Rising' posters that really blew me away with how pretty they were. For those that are fans of Pierce Brown's space-set series, this is a gorgeous addition to any bookshelf or library. I'm totally desperate to frame them!

A sampler for the book 'A Torch Against The Night' which dutifully reminded me how much I wanted to read book one of Sabaa Tahir's series, 'An Ember In The Ashes'. Also, a code for Non Pratt's new book that's being released, 'Unboxed', which I'm very excited for!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Book Review: The Book Of Lost Things; John Connolly.

Ever since I started blogging, I've had this book recommended to me multiple times. I've wanted to read it for ages and I finally got round to it (this year has been a really good year for backlist titles). I thoroughly enjoyed this book too! I'm also entering it into the Key Words challenge!

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Book Of Lost Things
AUTHOR: John Connolly
PUBLISHER: Atria Books
PAGES: 310
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Horror

RATING: 4/5 Stars

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

What I Liked:

  • The best aspect of this book by far is the way that it re-imagines age old Fairy Tales, Myths & Legends and makes them a little darker, more twisted and less innocent. You won't find much in the way of happy endings here and I think that's refreshing in it's own right. Sometimes, the different endings, genders, etc. were funny, as was the case with Snow White & the seven dwarves. Others were very dark and horrifying (the Huntress was not a character I recognised but if you're not a fan of gore then her chapter won't be for you) but I appreciated each and every one of them. I love symbolism and hidden, deeper meanings in stories so this was perfect!
  • There were some great characters in this book, both good and bad. My favourite was actually the Crooked Man because of his unquenchable evil. I'm normally more of a fan of villains with back-story or moral ambiguity but in this case, I liked that the Crooked Man had neither of those things. It totally worked! He gave the story a 'Labyrinth' like feel (one of my favourite films) and the fact that he could not be persuaded made him all the more interesting. He was pretty funny too at times.
What I Disliked:
  • Connolly's actual writing was a little, minor disappointment in that I was expecting to be totally blown away and simply wasn't. There were of course some lovely moments, and wonderful quotes, but for the most part I felt let down by the pacing. It was as if Connolly had written the perfect beginning and ending but struggled to fill the middle.
  • David, the hero, posed mixed feelings within me too. I felt genuinely sorry for his situation and sympathised with his loneliness in his new situation, but I often found him incredibly naive, a little frustrating and too spoilt as well. When a villain like the Crooked Man comes along, I feel it's important that the hero should be the polar opposite and I didn't always get that sense with David. I appreciate that this was a Coming Of Age story too however, and found this only a minor quibble.
Overall Conclusion:
This book was a lot of fun from beginning to end and being a big fan of a lot of the things that this book represented, I loved it! Some outstanding character work that could be extended to most, the inclusion of diversity (homosexuality being one of the key twists in one well-known tale), some interesting takes on well-known stories and a few new tales that I hadn't read before, and a well-thought up Fantasy land. Fantastic! Minor issues such as obvious 'filler' stories and frustrating heroes were nothing when it came to focusing on the bigger picture for this book.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Books Set In Europe'.

While I didn't go on many holidays abroad while growing up, I've managed to go to a fair few places in my later years. All of them have been in Europe! It's seriously such a wonderfully diverse continent with so many cultural experiences to offer. I have picked a few books from the UK for this list, but I've tried very hard to be as diverse as possible and include other countries! I've chosen those picks that best show off the cultural aspects of that country (varying dependant on time period) too.

1) 'The Tale Of Raw Head & Bloody Bones' by Jack Wolf.

Setting: England

Set during the Eighteenth Century, this book sets itself at some points in the countryside of Berkshire, and at others in the centre of London. Wolf is amazing with his descriptive work and while the plot itself is very dark and twisted, I thought this was a fantastic choice because I really got a feel for the setting while reading. In fact it's one of the best books for painting a gorgeous picture of Georgian England and the comparison between country and city living.

2) 'Rivers Of London' by Ben Aaronovitch.

Setting: England

I mention this book a lot I know, but it truly is the most detailed and well-researched description of modern-day London that I've ever read. While some of the paranormal aspects might be hard to find in real-life, there are some amazing references to various tourist hot-spots in the city that I live in and love, as well as some lesser known cafes, bars and places to visit. If London in particular interests a reader, I would recommend this book for sure!

3) 'Dot' by Araminta Hall.

Setting: Wales

I've only ever been to Wales twice, and some of my favourite things were found in the villages rather than the huge city of Cardiff. I haven't actually been to Druith, where 'Dot' is set, but I imagine it very clearly being like my own holiday destination of Llangollen. A village cut off, with rolling hills, unpredictable weather and very little in the way of signal. 'Dot' is a great book due to it's story too, though I feel that some people would find this book a little slow. London does also feature in this story, though only briefly.

4) 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak.

Setting: Germany

I had a little trouble picking a book for Germany, as I've read a few that are set there. In the end though, I went for an old favourite that is, of course, set during Hitler's regime in the mid 1900s. Set from Death's narrative, I adored every page of this book. The descriptions, pictures, and events perfectly portray the way that life was during that terrifying time. Hands down, this is my favourite book. Ever.

5) 'Child 44' by Tom Rob-Smith.

Setting: Russia

This book was recommended to me by my flat-mate a year or so ago and I adored it. I was a little clueless about Russian history, in particular the era of the Soviet Union and I found this a very distinct approach to explaining the views of Stalin's Government and why it was so difficult for the people living there. A book full of non-stop thrills, action and suspense, it gives a great view of both Moscow and rural Russia too.

6) 'The Miniaturist' by Jessie Burton.

Setting: Netherlands

I've been to Amsterdam once (this year in fact) and really liked it there! With so many interesting places to explore and visit, it's hard not to. This book gives a different perspective, as it's set in the late 1600s, but I thought it did a great job at giving a glimpse of the history of the country, as well as including an interesting story. 

7) 'Let The Right One In' by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Setting: Sweden

Set in the poorer parts of Stockholm, I really do commend this book for being the one that really made vampires scary again. The Swedish film interpretation was very good, as was the play. It's set in the 1980s, so very recent, and it's clear when reading that life was very hard for the people living in that area. The descriptions are brutal at times, but necessary in giving a clear picture of a less beautiful and perfect Sweden than I'm used to seeing on TV.

8) 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker.

Setting: England, Romania & Budapest

As you can see, this book travels around a bit but it's fantastic at doing so! Stoker is exceptionally skilled at description and I could clearly envisage everything, from the mountainous routes to Dracula's abode, to the savagely chilling moors of Yorkshire. It's clear why this book is a classic, and it's certainly another book that will be enjoyed by fans of Vampires.

9) 'Bitter Greens' by Kate Forsyth.

Setting: France & Italy

This book is an absolutely gorgeous retelling of 'Rapunzel', and rather than presenting it in a Fantasy land, Forsyth chose real-world historical periods as her setting: the French court of Sun-King Louis XIV in Versailles and Venice in the early 1500s being the two main ones. I seriously recommend this story for an interesting adaptation of a tale that's been retold hundreds of times. Forsyth really knows her stuff world-building wise!

10) 'Daughter Of Smoke & Bone' by Laini Taylor.

Setting: Czech Republic

I've heard that Prague is an absolutely beautiful city, but Laini Taylor's urban fantasy is the only time I've read about it! No one can fault her apt, detailed descriptions of the place, and reading about it really made me want to go and see the beauty for myself. Not only that, but Taylor introduces a darker, more Gothic side to the place which I really liked. Definitely a place for the bucket list!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (8th August - 14th August)...

While this week wasn't as hectic a week as some of the others in August have and will be, it still felt pretty stressful. My work shifts moved around a little and thanks to my new promotion it meant that I was opening and closing shop alone for a couple of them. It all seemed to go pretty well and thank goodness I had a great team to support me! I still didn't have much time for reading either (it's taking a bit of a back-burner at the moment) but once I'm settled into the new flat properly time should be much more on my side.

At the weekend, I'd used some holiday in order to attend the wedding of two of my friends from university, which was a lot of fun also! I'd missed having them around and it was fun to catch-up with everyone! The wedding was beautiful and I must confess, I had a little cry during the actual ceremony. That took up basically all of Saturday as we arrived around 10.30am, the ceremony started at 4pm and then the reception took us till almost midnight much later! Luckily we'd booked a lovely, comfy stay at the Premier Inn nearby. Phew! The next day we had to travel back home fairly early (around mid-morning) due to the fat that it began our week of moving in to the new flat properly! A lot of unpacking and planning ensued, though the majority of the stuff was not due to come until the next day. Our friend, George, also came up to stay (complete with dislocated wrist) and so when he arrived we chilled out during the evening with some Pokemon episodes and food.

I Read...

I Received...

- 'Nevernight' by Jay Kristoff: Received From Illumicrate (09/08/16)
- 'The Graces' by Laure Eve: Received From Illumicrate (09/08/16)

Note: I received my Illumicrate Box on Tuesday also, but will have to postpone the Illumicrate Unboxing post until further notice, as all of my possessions are packed away while we move in. Once I have everything I need unpacked again, I will post about my unboxing!

- 'Harry Potter & The Cursed Child' by J.K. Rowling & Jack Thorne: Bought from Foyles (14/08/16)


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Immediately Buy If Someone Gave Me The Money
Six Degrees Of Separation: 'Unboxed' by Non Pratt

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Six Degrees Of Separation: YA Edition! (Unboxed; Non Pratt)

I'm getting worse and worse at doing these on time, but to be fair on myself, this month has been very hectic and stressful for me because I'm in the process of moving to a new Flat! I'm glad I've finally got round to doing this #6Degrees post though!

This month's chosen book is 'Unboxed', Non Pratt's brand new release for this year! I saw this book a lot at YALC and I have to say I'm pretty excited about it. I've heard great things! I still have 'Remix' sitting on my shelf and waiting to be read, which is exciting too.

My limited knowledge of 'Unboxed' tells me that it's a book that focuses on death, grieving, friendship and secrets. What better book could I have picked to match it with than 'The Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It has all of those things, and when I was much younger I was obsessed with it. 'Unboxed' is also a book that has made many ARC readers weep and I know that 'The Secret Garden' has made me do that many a time too.

'The Secret Garden' is a classic. A book from my childhood. And it involves a trio of friends! There's only one series that I can think of that would immediately spring to mind so readily. I chose 'Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets' by J.K. Rowling in particular because I really feel that that's the book where we see Ron, Hermione and Harry at their closest. Book one sees Hermione out of the picture for most of it, and book three is the next closest before squabbles start to arise from book four onward. Mary, Dickon and Colin are a really great friendship trio too and one that I also really loved to read as a child.

I chose Holly Black & Cassandra Clare's 'The Iron Trial' next because if ever there was a book that reminded me of an attempt at a Harry Potter-esque style story. Three friends, a school of magic, a mysterious villain with a connection to the hero, a baby that 'survived', Horcrux style revelations etc. I was disappointed that it was so similar but nowhere near in the same league as the original series, but Holly Black is a favourite author of mine and I have read far worse books.

Speaking of Holly Black, how about her Curse Workers series? 'White Cat' also involves magicians and a male POV, though there is little else to connect these stories other than the boarding school (though the one in 'White Cat' is not a magic one). Holly Black has such a great imagination and this book puts a great twist on some obvious tropes.

'Coraline' is a really wonderful book with another author with a wonderful imagination. This one however I chose because of the cats! In 'White Cat' it's kind of the point of the book, and in 'Coraline', the cat is Coraline's snarky companion who helps her out in times of need. Animal companions are the best in books and I really liked these two.

My connections took me in a lot of different directions this month. From Secrets & Friendships > Classic Reads From My Childhoods > Magical Schools > Same Authors > Cat Companions. I love my picks this month!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Book Review: City Of Bones; Cassandra Clare.

I've been putting off Cassandra Clare's books for a while because while I'm a fan of her close friend's, Holly Black, I've heard a lot of horror stories surrounding her books. I'm trying hard to move past other people's thoughts in these kinds of matters however, and Walker Books sent me such a lovely copy that I couldn't refuse!

TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: City Of Bones
AUTHOR: Cassandra Clare
SERIES: The Mortal Instruments (#1)
PUBLISHER: Walker Books
PAGES: 506
GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

RATING: 4/5 Stars

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...

What I Liked:
  • While most of the characters were okay, I'm bringing it up in this section because of one particular character. Magnus Bane. Up until his introduction, I really didn't think the characterisation was so great. But he was just the right mix of aloof, mystery and glimmers of vulnerability. I loved that he indicated that he was LGBTQ+ and I really loved that he was Asian too. Diversity is always welcome in my Fantasy YA reads! I really hope to read more of this character in future books, he's really interesting!
  • Clare did a pretty great job with the world-building! The mix of 'mundane' NY City and paranormal was very well done. Everything seemed pretty well thought out too: Bars, parties, hideouts, everything. The vampires even get to own super cool bikes! I am really excited about the potential to see more of Idris in the future, the Fantasy land that the Shadow Hunters originally come from.
  • The plot and pacing, to me, were pretty good. From beginning to end, this was a lengthy book but I never found myself getting bored or uninterested in what was going on. That's a pretty amazing feat for a book that's 500+ pages! There were definitely a few distractions from the main plot but I think they furthered the development of the world-building and characters more than anything.
What I Disliked:
  • While Clare's character development wasn't bad, it wasn't great either. I found most of the characters a little so-so. The MCs especially, weren't very impressive. Clary was an average heroine who didn't make any real sort of impression, Jace is a character that would usually tick the boxes but he was a little too arrogant for my liking. Also, love triangle tropes don't really interest me unless they do something a little different. This one did not. I really wasn't impressed in any way with Simon, and the way he treated Clary. I hate the word 'friend-zoned' because it dangerously implies that any man who has behaved in a friendly way to a woman is somehow owed her love and affection. Simon's 'I've loved you for however many years so now you have to love me too.' attitude made me feel pretty sick. Eww.
Overall Conclusion:
I was a little sceptical when I picked this up because I've seen so many bad reviews, accusations of plagiarism and general dislike for Clare's writing methods. I felt that, since Walker Books sent me such a lovely copy, I ought to read it myself before making any judgements and I'm glad I did. This was a promising start to the series though I can understand the plagiarism accusations completely. I'm interested to see how it will progress and I hope that there's a bit more development for villainous characters such as Valentine (who is a little boring I'm afraid) as well as the heroes who have potential but need some work.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday REWIND: My picks for 'Books I'd Buy Immediately If Someone Gave Me The Money'.

So this week's topic is a REWIND topic, meaning I can pick any topic from the past that I want to. The thing is, I missed last week's topic, which seemed like a really good one! Therefore, I'm not delving too deeply into the past for this one...

1) 'Cruel Beauty' by Rosamund Hodge.

The first of what will probably be many Fairy Tale related books, Rosamund Hodge has been on the list for a while. I also really want to read 'Crimson Bound' and her newest release 'Bright Smoke, Cold Fire', both of which look amazing. Just look at those covers. If I had the money and the space, this would be the first in the shopping cart.

2) 'A Study In Charlotte' by Brittany Cavallaro.

This was a 2016 release that I got really excited about and then never got round to buying or reading. I'm severely disappointed in myself, especially after I've read the first three volumes of the original Sherlock Holmes series and loved it! I want to start reading more adaptations focusing on the famous detective duo! 

3) 'Boy, Snow, Bird' by Helen Oyeyemi.

I've enjoyed books like 'To Kill A Mockingbird' or 'The Invention Of Wings' in the past, both of which focus heavily on Racism as a theme. I also really enjoy Fairy Tales. The two combined just sounds perfect! This is supposed to be a very loose retelling of 'Snow White' with a lot of twists on the original tale and it's message. I for one think it sounds fantastic!

4) 'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell' by Susanna Clarke.

I love books about magicians. My flat mate actually bought this and while the book itself is absolutely huge, I loved it instantly. It's been a while since I've read a Historical Fiction with such fantastical roots and I'm desperate to start reading larger books. Also if the Gift Card was loaded, I would like to squeeze as much of my money's-worth page-wise!

5) 'Dorothy Must Die' by Danielle Paige.

This is a series I've been eyeing up for a long time. It's received mixed reviews but as I'm a fan of shows such as 'Once Upon A Time' as well as the 'Wicked' musical, I think I should have no problem loving this book series too. Also the covers look so cool.

6) 'This Savage Song' by Victoria Schwab.

Another 2016 release that I fell head over heels for, I haven't actually read any of Victoria Schwab's stuff yet though I indulged in a copy of 'A Darker Shade Of Magic' recently. I've heard great things, and this one takes a slightly different path, choosing to retell Shakespeare's famous 'Romeo & Juliet'. I saw that play recently live, so reading a re-imagining of it would be ideal!

7) 'Hidden Huntress' by Danielle L. Jensen.

This is probably the book that makes me feel most guilty out of all of them. I read 'Stolen Songbird' years ago and absolutely adored it. Yet, I never got round to even purchasing it's sequel, let alone reading it. I want to though, I need to find out what happens!

8) 'Slasher Girls & Monster Boys' by April Genevieve Tucholke et al.

Who doesn't love a good set of short stories? This one includes a lot of them by various, famous authors. Also, it sounds totally badass. I love to be creeped out, especially while reading and the fact that a lot of these stories draw from well-known inspirations makes it even more exciting. A must-read on my list for sure!

9) 'The Star Touched Queen' by Roshani Chokshi.

I love the idea behind this book, the potential for references to Indian Mythology (I love Mythology) and this was probably the book I was most excited about for 2016. The problem is that it is hard to procure in Britain (as in, extremely expensive) so I'm having to hold off...for now...

10) 'The Loney' by Andrew Michael Hurley.

I saw this book quite a while back and while it isn't my usual read I was actually quite drawn in by it. It has an intriguing cover and an even more intriguing synopsis so I'm looking forward to the moment I finally get hold of it!