Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 In Books

As you may remember (I'm trying to forget), I failed my Goodreads challenge last year of 100 books and so for 2015 I decided to go back to basics and try again from 50. As you can see from my list, I read a fair few graphic novels and as I'm a firm believer that anything goes, they deserve to be on this list. I'm quite impressed with how I've done actually. I work ridiculous hours, I've had two surgeries, I've moved house and just in general it's been one of the busiest years of my life.
  1. Bleach Vol.3
  2. Bleach Vol.4
  3. Undone by Cat Clarke
  4. Death Note Vol.11
  5. Onepiece Vol.2
  6. Mind Games by Teri Terry
  7. Girl Online by Zoe Sugg
  8. The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond
  9. I Was Here by Gayle Foreman
  10. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  11. The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Russell Brand
  12. The Flash Vol 1
  13. All That Glitters (Geek Girl 4) by Holly Smale
  14. The Son of Neptune by Rick RIordan
  15. Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus
  16. Monster by C.J.Skuse
  17. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  18. Conquering Chaos by Catelynn Lowell & Tyler Baltierra
  19. Talon by Julie Kagawa
  20. Rogue by Julie Kagawa
  21. Butter by Erin Jade Lange
  22. Harley Quinn Vol.1
  23. Death Note Vol.12
  24. Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall
  25. Eggs by Jerry Spinelli
  26. Bleach Vol.5
  27. Grave Matters by Jana Oliver
  28. Frozen by Melissa De La Cruz
  29. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
  30. Storm Front by Jim Butcher
  31. Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
  32. Teen Angst?...Nah by Ned Vizzini 
  33. Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr Spencer Johnson
  34. Juvie by Steve Watkins
  35. Withering Tights by Louise Rennison
  36. When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman
  37. Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell
  38. The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth
  39. Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
  40. The Manifesto on How To Be Interesting by Holly Bourne
  41. What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
  42. Simon Vs The Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  43. Concentr8 by William Sutcliffe
  44. Harley Quinn Vol.2
  45. Letting You Go by Anouska Knight
  46. Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer
  47. Civil War by Mark Millar
  48. Punisher War Zone 1
  49. Punisher War Zone 2
  50. Punisher War Zone 3 
  51. Punisher War Zone 4
  52. Punisher War Zone 5
  53. The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  54. Believarexic by J.J.Johnson
  55. Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner
  56. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
  57. Night Owls by Jenn Bennett
  58. This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
  59. Pride Over Pity by Kailyn Lowry
  60. All Wrapped Up by Holly Smale
  61. Cloud 9 by Alex Campbell
  62. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
  63. Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
  64. A Pug's Guide to Dating by Gemma Correll
  65. Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
  66. Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner 
  67. Dangerous Games by Teri Terry
Books Read: 67/50
Of Which Were Graphic Novels/Manga:  15
Of Which Were Digital: 44
Of Which Were Festive:2

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Cover Reveal // Time to Say Goodbye by S.D.Robertson

I'm so excited to be able to be part of this wonderful cover reveal, thanks to Helena and the team at HarperCollins. Though I'm yet to read it, what I've heard is incredible! Of course, as you'll see below, it has been recommended for fans of John Green - which I have been for the last 7 years. The buzz and descriptions for Time to Say Goodbye are so intriguing and well, beautiful.

The cover itself is just so gorgeous! I love the silhouette and the colour contrasts. The single red balloon feels both playful and significant, too.

Time to Say Goodbye by S.D.Roberton is due to be published on 
11th February 2016


A heart-rending story about the unique bond between a father and his daughter, for fans of JOJO MOYES and JOHN GREEN.

HOW DO YOU LEAVE THE PERSON YOU LOVE THE MOST?

Will Curtis's six-year-old daughter, Ella, knows her father will never leave her. After all, he promised her so when her mother died. And he's going to do everything he can to keep his word.

What Will doesn't know is that the promise he made to his little girl might be harder to keep than he imagined. When he's faced with an impossible decision, Will finds that the most obvious choice might not be the right one.

But the future is full of unexpected surprises. And father and daughter are about to embark on an unforgettable journey together . . .

Monday, 28 December 2015

Caragh Reviews // Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff

Published - 14th January 2016 (Expected)
Publisher - Pushkin Children's Books
Format - Hardback
Synopsis - Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen, in the Hunger Winter. Before then, she had only heard rumours of its existence in secret folk tales. In a world where girls aren't allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. But now Maresi is here, and she knows it is real. She is safe. Then one day Jai tangled fair hair, clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back arrives on a ship. She has fled to the island to escape terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty. And the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her. Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. And Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears. A story of friendship and survival, magic and wonder, beauty and terror, Maresi will grip you and hold you spellbound.

Thanks to Riot Communications & Liz Hyder for my copy of this gorgeous book! I'd seen a bunch of people receiving this book and so after I read, what must be one of the best blurbs i've ever read, I couldn't stop myself tweeting about it!  I received the book from Liz a couple of weeks ago but since it's been crazy busy with work and Christmas, i'm only just getting chance to review it. This book is due to be published mid-January.

The first thing I noticed that I really enjoyed was getting a first hand tour of the Red Abbey from Maresi. Though of course Jai eventually has a bigger part to play in the story, when she first arrives it's a perfect set up to give the reader some insight to what is happening as Maresi leads Jai around and we see everything as Jai does. It really made me feel like I was part of the story.

I felt connected to Maresi and her insatiable need for reading - as i'm sure we all would. Those of us who love books know that there's something magical and compelling about books. It's not just the story contained within the pages, it's the texture of the page, the way it feels in your hands and of course, the smell. Even in a world that is so wonderfully different from our own, these bookish values still exist in Maresi. The very basis for the Abbey's existence is to protect knowledge. Reading Maresi felt like I was part of something bigger; something important.

The characters were wonderful too. Each one so different from the last but all of them come together as a family. You can get from the synopsis that Maresi is a female heavy book and with so many female characters you would expect characteristics to repeat themselves but honestly, each girl was so unique with her own personality. The magic of this book really kicks in when the Abbey receives some unexpected and unwelcome visitors. The strength and honour of these young girls really shines through when their way of life is threatened. As I said before, they stand together as one to protect knowledge, and more importantly, each other. It's beautiful.

This is going to be confusing to find the right words but as much as I loved Maresi, and was fully immersed in the pages, I also felt like something was missing. I can't even explain what it is, I just wanted...more. More action, more feminism...I don't really know. However on that same note, I had no idea that Maresi was just the first book. When I'd finished reading and saw that there was going to be a second book my excitement started to build and I have a feeling that Naondel will give me everything that I'm looking for!

Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas!


I hope you have a wonderful day no matter if and how you choose to celebrate. Christmas truly is one of the most wonderful times of the year and i'm so fortunate to be spending it with those I love the most (yep - gotta love scheduling posts!). I hope that amongst your piles of books this Christmas, you find a wealth of love, health and happiness.

And as we say here in Wales, Nadolig Llawen :)

Cazz xxx

Thursday, 17 December 2015

My Essential Winter Reading Items


It's almost here! Christmaaaaas! I am getting so incredibly excited for The Big Day that I can barely hold it in. Trying to concentrate on reading with all of the twinkles and distractions of Christmas is really difficult for me sometimes. Although I don't have any tips on how to stay productive over the festive period, I have compiled a small list of things that are essential to my winter reading time!

1. Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolates

...Or pretty much any hot beverage. I have to admit that when it comes to hot beverages - i'm not all that fussy. I love tea and coffee an equal amount and can drink both all day long, especially in winter! But my personal favourite drink when curling up with a book over the festive period is a steaming mug of hot chocolate (Maltesers if I get to choose!) topped with a HUGE amount of whipped cream and sprinkled cinnamon on top. It's festive, warming and really sets the tone of an evening.
 
2. Index notes, sticky notes and the most festive bookmark you can find

Going back to getting distracted over Christmas, these things are a LIFESAVER. Of course, being a stationary-obsessed crazy person, I've always got these to hand anyway to highlight passages or make notes/save a quote etc but over Christmas they are absolutely essential. If you're easily distracted like me, these can keep you on track for reviews, remind you of what's going on and...well...the bookmark is mostly for fun. I have a growing bookmark collection and never turn down a reason to use a new one ;)

3. Snacks 

Snacks. ALL OF THE SNACKS! I think it's safe to say that one of the best things about Christmas is all of the calorific food that seems to be everywhere. I love to bake and the different smells throughout the house is exciting. It's just so cosy relaxing with a book and snacking on homemade cinnamon & sugar cookies. Perhaps a slice or two of cake. Maybe a mince pie. You know what i'm talking about....
 
4. Blankets

Pretty self explanatory really. Winter is COLD! I also happen to live on the coast of the very wet, very rainy north of Wales. It's great for us readers, as from October onwards all activities must be indoor ones! In Winter, blankets become my best friends. I have SO many now and it's never enough. Soft, fluffy blankets are always great for snuggling with, rolling up as impromptu pillows etc. It also means I can embrace my inner child as they're Spider-Man, Doctor Who and maybe more embarassingly, Dora The Explorer. It's a long story.

5. Twitter

Okay you'll have to forgive me for this one but I absolutely believe it belongs on this list. We all love reading, we all love sharing our joy about books and i've found no better place for doing that than Twitter. It's so wonderful to connect directly with other readers, authors and publishers and share the love. We live in a wonderful age where we truly have the pleasure of taking advantage of being able to speak to the people who create these wonderful worlds that transport us. You can also connect with me if you wish!  
@cazzimon

Let me know what you can't live without over the Winter/Christmas/Holiday period!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Books I Want To Read This Christmas!



Christmas is full of so many wonderful moments. Spending quality time with family is one of my absolute favourite things to do. And...well....reading. Lots of reading.

Here are the top 5 Christmas themed books that i'd love to read this festive season.

1. A Winter's Tale by Trisha Ashley

A charming romantic comedy about a hard-up single mum inheriting a stately home – and a host of headaches – The perfect novel for curling up with during the long winter nights.Sophy Winter is not your typical Lady of the Manor….When she unexpectedly inherits Winter's End - a crumbling mansion in the beautiful Lancashire countryside - it seems like all Sophy's prayers have been answered. She eagerly swaps life as an impoverished housekeeper in favour of her own team of staff.But Sophy quickly realises the challenge on her hands - the house is decrepit and its eccentric inhabitants are a nightmare. And once it is discovered that Winter's End played host to a young Shakespeare, the entire village of Sticklepond becomes curious about Sophy's plans, especially charming Jack Lewis. But is he really smitten by Sophy…or her newly-acquired cash?Meanwhile, Sophy’s gorgeous head gardener Seth is the strong and silent type. But does his passion bloom for anything beyond the horticultural?As Sophy gets to grips with squabbling relatives, collapsing buildings and the ghostly presence of one of her ancestors, she wonders if Winter's End is not so much a gift from the gods as a mixed blessing…A charming romantic comedy for fans of Katie Fforde and Jill Mansell - guaranteed to thaw the coldest of hearts!

2. The Parisian Christmas Bake Off by Jenny Oliver

 Welcome to the most celebrated patisserie competition in Paris – ready, steady, bake!
Watching snowflakes settle on the Eiffel Tower, Rachel Smithson’s cosy English village feels very far way – as, thankfully, does her commitment-phobic ex, probably already kissing someone else under the mistletoe. But Rachel hasn’t come to Paris to mope she’s come to bake. Hard.
Because the search for Paris’s next patisserie apprentice is about to begin! And super-chef judge Henri Salernes is an infamously tough cookie. But Rachel isn’t about to let her confidence (or pastry) crumble. She’s got one week, mounds of melt-in-the-mouth macaroons and towers of perfect profiteroles to prove that she really is a star baker.
As well as clouds of flour, and wafts of chocolate and cinnamon, there’s definitely a touch of Christmas magic in the air… Rachel hasn’t come to Paris looking for a fairy-tale romance, but the city of love might gift-wrap her one anyway…
Not even a dusting of icing sugar could make The Parisian Christmas Bake-Off a more perfect Christmas treat!

3. Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner

Whether your favorite holiday story is "A Christmas Carol", "The Story of Hanukkah", or "'Twas the Night Before Christmas", you'll find it transformed to reflect current sensibilities in Politically Correct Holiday Stories. Injecting our popular holiday fables with a modern perspective is no easy task, but someone had to do it -- and who better than the proven master of cultural sensitivity? James Finn Garner joyfully frees these holiday tales from sexism, ageism, religious imperialism, and every other sorry vestige of our flawed, low-consciousness past.So gather the family (whether traditional, dysfunctional, co-dependent, or otherwise) around the hearth, and read aloud these tales as they should have been told the first time.

4. What Happens at Christmas by T.A.Williams

When career-girl Holly Brice learns that her estranged father has died, she decides to take a trip down memory lane and find out about the man she never knew.
Arriving in the sleepy little Dartmoor village, she’s shocked to discover that she’s inherited the cosy little cottage she remembers so fondly, a whole load of money – and her father’s adorable dog, too!
Head to snow-covered Devon!
And as the first snowflakes begin to fall and Holly bumps into her gorgeous neighbour, Jack Nelson, life gets even more complicated! Men have always been off the cards for high-flying Holly, but there’s something about mysterious writer Jack that has her re-thinking her three-date rule… 

5. Calling Mrs Christmas by Carole Matthews

Cassie Smith has been out of work for a while but she has an idea. Drawing on her love of Christmas, she begins charging for small things: wrapping presents; writing cards; tree-decorating. She's soon in huge demand and Cassie's business, Calling Mrs Christmas, is born.
Carter Randall wants to make Christmas special for his children so he enlists Cassie's help, and his lavish requests start taking up all her time. Thank goodness she can rely on her partner Jim to handle the rest of her clients.
When Carter asks Cassie to join them on a trip to Lapland, she knows she shouldn't go. As much as tries, Cassie can't deny how drawn she is to Carter and everything he has to offer, but she still loves her warm-hearted Jim. Suddenly Cassie finds herself facing a heart-breaking choice that could change her entire life. 

What's on your Christmas reading list this year?

Monday, 14 December 2015

Caragh Reviews // This Raging Light by Estelle Laure

Published - Expected release date: 22nd December 2015
Publisher - HMH
Format - Kindle
Synopsis - Can the best thing happen at the worst time? Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she's about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend's brother. With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure's soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.

I was auto approved for this one and the arrival of the first illumicrate box (details to come!) inspired me to delve into it sooner rather than later. This almost never happens - i'm reviewing a book way before it actually needs to be done!

So let's get to it. There are quite a few reviews up on GR already and they seem to be from people who either loved it or hated it...which is always a sign for success in my opinion. I'm kind of in agreement too. It took me just a few hours to read because I was so drawn in but honestly? I'm not sure why.

The biggest thing that stood out for me was how strong Lucille is. The way that she takes charge and does whatever is necessary to take care of Wren was really emotional and inspiring to me. There are so many strong female characters in YA now but i'm honestly still happy whenever I come across one! It was also beautiful to see how many people came to her side to support and help Lucille and Wren. On the opposite end of the scale, there were a few things that stood out to me for the wrong reasons too.

Firstly, Eden. She is Lucille's best friend, ballerina and all time pain in my ass! Not at any point does Eden actually present herself as a friend to Lucille. Her quirks and personality honestly just grated on me and I felt actual relief whenever she wasn't around. Of course, I still felt bad towards the end but to me, Eden was toxic to Lucille and they were better off apart.

Secondly, Digby. Eden's twin brother and Lucille's love interest. I'm not going to lie, Digby has so much potential to be a massive book crush but I just don't understand him. It's made very clear at the beginning of the book that Digby is in a serious, long-term relationship. He's beautiful, charming and one of the only people to stand by Lucille in her serious hour of need and I can totally sense the tension and feelings between them. However it really pisses me off that no matter how many times Elaine is mentioned, it doesn't stop the two of them from acting on their feelings without her knowledge. I really hate that. Anyway...

It was an emotional book full of courage, bravery, strength and community and I think it's going to be a massive hit so make sure you keep an eye out for it over Christmas!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Top 5 Books I'd Gift This Christmas

It's the most wonderful time of the year

December is well and truly upon us now and many of us are still panicking over Christmas shopping. If you're here then you probably love books, or at least know somebody who does. I'm going to help you out a little bit. I've read a lot of great books this year, but i've picked 5 that I think would make great presents this Christmas.

1. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Who for? Anyone who loves Fantasy!
Why? Snow Like Ashes is full of mystery, intrigue and more importantly - magic! Its pages are full of wonderful characters who you can't help but connect with. The story itself can be quite complex and there is so much going on that the whole book is quite a page turner. The atmosphere is chilling and is perfect for sitting by the tree and getting lost in a whole new world.

2. Geek Girl: All Wrapped Up by Holly Smale
Who for? Fans of geeky facts, embarrassing tales and anyone who enjoyed the Geek Girl Series
Why? One of the best things about Christmas is of course - Christmas books! All Wrapped Up is a super short story that follows the trials of Harriet and Nick's first date. It's full of laughs and lovely moments that will put a smile on your face.

3. Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
Who for? Anyone with a passion for books, knowledge and kick-ass characters!
Why? This is one of my favourite books of the year. Heretics, heroes, ancient secrets and mysteries surrounding books and scholars! This book literally has everything. Step out of the Festive Chaos and be transported to Caine's beautiful world!

4. The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare
Who for? Though aimed at a younger audience, this is perfect for any reader who loves to be completely shocked and mindblown.
Why?  The Iron Trial is the first book in a long time that has really surprised me in the best way possible. It's unlike anything you've read so far. Fast paced and full of action, this will not disappoint.

5. Civil War by Mark Millar & Steve McNiven
Who for? Superhero/Marvel fans who are looking to get ahead
Why?  Civil War is about to be one of the biggest movie hits of 2016 and is based on this graphic novel. It has wonderful art and a badass storyline that is going to blow peoples minds. Get ahead this Christmas and read up!
 

Monday, 7 December 2015

Caragh Reviews // Cloud 9 by Alex Campbell

Published - 3rd September 2015
Publisher - Hot Key Books
Format - Paperback
Synopsis - If there was a wonder-drug to make you feel happier, would you take it?  With no side effects, Leata is the perfectly safe pick-me-up! What if everyone you knew had been taking it for years - your teachers, your friends, your family? Leata - helping the country feel more positive! What if your dad was dead-set against the drug and the corporation behind it? Not all questions bring the answers we need!  What if he died? What if you begin to suspect he was killed? What if you've lived your whole life believing in something - only to find out it's a lie?

I'm not sure how this review is going to go, as I still haven't really figured out how I feel about it. When I read what this book was about, I was SO excited to start it. Also, thanks to Holly @ The Arts Shelf for letting me read your copy.

I know there are a few books out there now that boast the same kind of plot and expectations and i'm almost always disappointed - I can't let this idea go and one day i'm truly expecting to be blown away.

Anyway, onwards we go!

I loved that the chapters went back and forth between Hope and Tom. Strangely, I really preferred Tom's chapters than Hope's. I think Hope is really where my problem lies with the book. She's a GREAT character and I really enjoyed her character growth throughout the book. I just really couldn't get behind the whole vlogging, blogging, branding thing that Leata requires. Don't get me wrong, I can totally see how relevant and contemporary it is, I just didn't enjoy it and I really can't put my finger on why that is. YouTube and blogging is so important today (Hello! Blogger here!) but to have that be a very focal point in a book? I just don't think i'm ready for that.

However, there's more to Cloud 9 than Hope's constant internet presence. The mystery surrounding Leata was great. Once I got into it, it honestly kept me turning the pages to find out what Leata is and more importantly, what the big secret was! I was genuinely surprised by the answer too. I enjoyed the relationships between characters and how you never really knew who could be trusted. It was also such a great insight into mental illness.

Personally, I have suffered with depression and anxiety for the past 10 years on and off and Cloud 9 kind of opened my eyes to a bigger picture. Obviously, a lot is being done to combat mental illnesses and take out the stigma that is so often attached. I can see the progress we have made just from a personal perspective but Cloud 9 shows that there is still so much work to be done. The idea of Leata is that it eradicates 'misery' and replaces it with pure 'happiness'. With the use of pills, anyone can be happy! But of course once you've read to the end you know that actually this isn't entirely true. I think the same can be said for things like antidepressants. More effort should be put in to determine the causes of such conditions. In the long run, therapy treatments are way more effective than medication which just masks the real issues to provide a brief feeling of...something else. It's not real happiness.

Overall, it was quite an informative book if you get past the 'fluff' parts. I'd like more of an insight to what happens after the book ends - what the results and consequences were long term but alas, that's what happens when you crave standalone books!

#ReadRedRising Part I



I came to the Read Red Rising party a little late, having only finished Part I late last night! Hence why this post is only happening now.

From what I can gather, the readalong is happening in support of the third book in the series being released early next year. I've always wanted to join in something like this and it's kind of perfect! The aim is to read one 'Part' per week which is completely manageable for those who have work, families, other commitments and insanely big TBR. Part I was around 44 pages, which is attainable for even the slowest of readers. Just click here for all the information on Hodderscape.

So here's my quick weekly update on how i'm finding it so far:

I found it very slow to start with and it honestly took me 2 days to read about 20 pages. In part, it's probably my own fault. I knew absolutely nothing about this book going in; had never read the synopsis. Because of that, it was a little tricky to really understand what I was reading and I couldn't retain anything. Once I backtracked a little, read the synopsis etc it all started to click into place and I finished the rest of Part I within about 20 minutes.

I absolutely ADORE where this book is heading. Part I ended on a MASSIVE cliffhanger. Honestly it was really strange to be feeling so emotional over characters that I barely knew and had only been around for 40 pages. It usually takes a while to connect with the characters like that. There hasn't been a great deal of backstory yet but I get the feeling that it will come in large quantities as the series progresses.

I don't really have much to say yet as the book is just starting to build up tension etc but i'm very excited to see what happens in Part II.

Let me know if you're reading too!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Illumicrate Unboxing #1

A few weeks ago I told you guys about a new awesome subscription box just for us book lovers - illumicrate! Well my box arrived and enough time has passed that I really wanted to share it with you. So here's what Illumicrate had to offer in their first box.


So bright & cheerful! It was so lovely even just opening the box. I was immediately filled with excitement at what could possibly be inside. I'll also take this moment to talk about the one SINGULAR thing that I wasn't too keen on - all of the yellow paper. Admittedly, it was so cute and made the box come to life but honestly, I thought it was a bit of a waste. I'm not a huge eco-nut but it did seem like a shame to waste so much paper as it was no good to me. As an avid reader, I think I use up my allotted 'paper allowance' with books! I understand that on the yet to be seen lower level it helped preserve packaging but the layer on the top felt unnecessary to me. Still cute though 


First up was the 'scroll' you can see in the top picture. It turned out to be this gorgeous HP poster that I really liked. Subtle but perfect addition to my home library. I believe it was designed by ImagineAbbie.


The book for this box was Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin which I have yet to read but have heard wonderful things about. It also came with a signed bookplate which was awesome! 

Also pictured is my absolute favourite thing in the box - the hand painted wolf bookmark by Skinny Hues (etsy). It got loads of squeals and star jumps from me! I've since ordered a bunch of them from etsy too! Here's a closer look.


Next up was a super cute little company mirror from Raspberry Finch. The packaging was adorable and the caption on the flips side of the mirror is perfect



Apologies as I can't remember the name of the designer off hand but there was also a Mockingjay necklace with an engraved quote. 



I don't think there's anything in this first box that i didn't love! They were all useful things too which is a big thumbs up for me. Sometimes with sub-boxes you end up with a bunch of cool things that you just don't have any uses for but I've used all of these items so far! If you count the book waiting for me to read on my bedside table anyway ;)


Over all I was very impressed! My only issue now is having to wait until February to get my hands on the next box! 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Caragh Reviews // Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

Publisher - 13th August 2015
Published - Simon and Schuster
Format - Paperback
Synopsis - Meeting Jack on the Owl—San Francisco's night bus—turns Beatrix's world upside down. Jack is charming, wildly attractive...and possibly one of San Francisco's most notorious graffiti artists. But Jack is hiding a piece of himself. On midnight rides and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who this enigmatic boy really is.

I spotted Night Owls whilst on a shopping trip with Holly. I'd honestly never even heard of it before but Holly insisted that it was brilliant and I vaguely remembered that I had read her review on it a while ago. After a little bit of research, it turns out that I actually have had my eye on this one for a long time but it has another title! So for those wondering, this book is also known as The Anatomical Shape of a Heart.

There's something about the cover that is just so aesthetically pleasing. The gold text is raised slightly and the whole cover has a soft feel to it. The gold is sparkly but not in your face either and really... I just enjoyed having it in my hands regardless of the content of the pages!

I think any big reader will admit that after a while, it's kind of difficult to find a YA romance book that doesn't follow the same basic plot. When I first started reading Night Owls I did actually think that it would be the same and that I could see where it was going a mile off... but I was surprised at literally every corner. The relationship between Bex and Jack was quite simple but strangely felt very real. The circumstances around their meeting and the events that take place in the book feel a little forced sometimes but their connection seemed to come naturally and that was really refreshing to read. In fact it's more than that. It would be unfair to write a review and not bring up the fact that ALL of the relationships in Night Owls were so beautifully done. 

Bex's familial relationships were perfect. They very accurately summed up both the closeness and frustration that comes with a 'broken' family. I love the trust and conversation between Bex and her brother and between Jack and Gillian. It very much reminded me of my own family relationships. I think Holly mentioned this in her review too but I got so excited over how uninteresting it was that Heath and Noah are gay. It was just matter-of-fact and not a big deal at all - exactly how it should be. I would LOVE if more novels had this interpretation of LGBT characters. 

I didn't really 'get' anything from this book other than a wonderfully lovely read. It was GREAT to be shocked and proved wrong when I thought i'd figured out what was happening and at times it was super emotional. I would definitely recommend it. If you're looking for something life-changing then this probably isn't it, but I think no matter what your gender, age and preferences are this book does offer something to think about regarding how we spend our lives and how to fight for success!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Caragh Reviews // Believarexic by J.J.Johnson

Published - 6th October 2015
Publisher - Peachtree
Format - Kindle
Synopsis - Jennifer can’t go on like this—binging, purging, starving, all while trying to appear like she’s got it all together. But when she finally confesses her secret to her parents and is hospitalized at the Samuel Tuke Center, her journey is only beginning. As Jennifer progresses through her treatment, she learns to recognize her relationships with food, friends, and family—and how each relationship is healthy or unhealthy. She has to learn to trust herself and her own instincts, but that’s easier than it sounds. She has to believe—after many years of being a believarexic. Using her trademark dark humor and powerful emotion, J. J. Johnson tells an inspiring story that is based on her own experience of being hospitalized for an eating disorder as a teenager. The innovative format—which tells Jennifer’s story through blank verse and prose, with changes in tense and voice, and uses forms, workbooks, and journal entries—mirrors the protagonist’s progress toward a healthy body and mind.

My review for this one is going to be pretty short. Partly because i'm swamped right now but mostly because I don't think it's really fair and i'm not sure how ethical it is to review someones semi-biographical book. Particularly on a subject like this.

The writing style for Believarexic took a little while for me to get used to. Sometimes Jennifer is talking about Jennifer and sometimes she's talking about 'me' if that makes sense. There seemed to be a lot of switching of views. It makes perfect sense when you think a lot of this book was taken from J.J.Johnson's real life personal diary that she wrote when she was an in-patient for Bulimia and Anorexia.

I don't suffer from an eating disorder but I still felt inspired by the patients within the book. The strength and courage that I can only imagine about was exhausting to read, never mind live through. Each voice on the pages was an individual and it really felt like that. You know how sometimes you read a book and without names, you wouldn't be able to tell one character from another? In Believarexic I think you'd be able to tell. It's a wonderful journey to read about, and an insanely good success story. It's definitely not a quick light read but if this is something that you enjoy reading about or feel like something new, i'd definitely recommend.


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Brianna Reviews // Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

Published: 2014
Publisher: Allison and Busby
Format: Paperback
Synopsis: In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and—if they survive—marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born. Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona—and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona…
…And will rewrite all their fates, forever

I have to admit Prince of Shadows was not the top of my to read list. I’d started reading a different book and I have a rather short attention span, which doesn’t help with reading;  if a book or plot doesn’t have be hooked if find it very difficult to make my way through a book, so I realised a while ago that it is better for me and the book in question to abandon it if I’m only at the start. The problem was that I knew I didn’t want to read what I was reading but I didn’t know what I did want to read, I copied Caragh’s post-it in a jar technique, and Prince of Shadows is what came out. And honestly I didn’t have high hopes, I love Morganville and the way it’s written. But as my colleague said when she saw Prince of Shadows “It doesn’t look like the sort of book you would read”. I have (despite never actually reading or seeing the play) always hated Romeo and Juliet. I read the first page and I was hooked, I couldn’t put it down!
I’m not sure if my lack of knowledge of Romeo and Juliet was a good thing or a bad thing – it led to at least one embarrassing incident (I had no idea that Romeo was in love with Rosaline first).But it does also mean that I have nothing really to compare it to, not that it matters much because Prince of Shadows is the story of Benvolio Montague, and also I feel of Mercutio, less so of Romeo although obviously he is there.
Rachel Caine managed to take a time period, culture, language and partly subject matter, that I have no real desire to read and made me unable to put it down, I’d read another 10 if she wrote them.  The dialogue is not Shakespearean but I’d say it was of the period, which normally I just don’t have the patience riddles and people not straight forwardly saying what they mean, it frustrates and confuses me and back to the attention span I lose interest and understanding by the of the sentence; but not with Prince of Shadows. It helps that this book has plenty of action, and keeps moving there is always something happening or about to happen.

I fell a little bit in love with both Mercutio and Benvolio within the prologue.  It felt like I had been friends with Mercutio for years… and I think I hate Rachel Caine a little for that, this is a book based on one of Shakespeare’s tragedies being emotionally attached to one of the characters is not really advisable and I spent a fair bit of the book in tears for Mercutio (If I’m being brutally honest I’m crying just reviewing it – although I did just finish it). I also really liked Balthasar, Rosaline and Benvolio’s mother. Rosaline mainly because she doesn’t think being a woman should stop her from using a sword or climbing a wall, and also because she sees the feud and the bloodshed for what it is – unnecessary and pointless, and she never really considers that the fact Benvolio is a Montague should be a reason for her to hate him, she judges him on who he is not who his family is.

I don’t want to say too much more and risk spoiling the bits which are not already widely known to everyone but me. But I loved everything about Prince of Shadows, even if it broke my heart.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Caragh Reviews // Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Published - 3rd September 2015
Publisher - Corgi
Format - Paperback
Synopsis - Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddie, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. But does Maddie dare to step outside her comfort zone? Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.


If you've heard about this book then you've heard about...that thing that happens at the end. Or at least you've heard that something happens. For the purpose of this review, I think i'm probably going to ignore that completely. Like a lot of other reviews i've seen, I wasn't impressed by it. However, I completely and unconditionally loved this book regardless of that thing. So on we go...!

Oh my goodness. From page 1 I was unashamedly hooked. I'm not too coy to admit that I was staying at the in-laws when I bought this book last Saturday and that by Sunday afternoon i'd not only completely ignored the entire family but yes! I had finished it in just 2 sittings (damn sleeping needs...).



Madeline was a fantastic character and I resonated with her in a lot of ways. Although I certainly can't compare my life to hers, I too was a very sickly kid. I missed a lot of school, events and friendships and it wasn't until I got older that I was diagnosed and had to navigate my life in a new light. Maddie was such a strong character to make me truly believe what was happening. Although I knew it was 'just' a book of course, it didn't stop me needing a few moments to have a little cry about what she must be going through and feeling. Which I did need. Many, MANY times. Not embarrassing at all! This is of course due to Yoon's incredible writing. I think I could believe anything that was written down by her.

Nicola Yoon herself has said that part of the reason for writing the book is that we need more diversity and that is something that is not only absolutely true, but is something that is very close to my heart. Maddie is mixed race, something that isn't talked about a whole lot within the book and my heart BURSTS at this. In the most respectful way, it just wasn't a big deal. Maddie's race made no different to the love I felt for her and her story. It made no difference to the love that Ollie had. It literally wouldn't have made the story any different if Maddie were white.....which begs the question of why isn't there more bi-racial/black protagonists? I realise that my opinion means very little in the grand scheme of things but the real world is made up of many colours - so let's show that in our literature too. It's especially important to show this in literature for children and young adults.

Nicola Yoon's writing and Maddie's story had my heart pounding and tears rolling throughout the book. It was also intelligent, funny and romantic (in a multitude of ways). I really dislike "instalove" in books, particularly YA where it features a LOT and I know that some people felt that way about Everything Everything but honestly, I didn't get that. I felt the struggle between Maddie and Ollie. Maddie is fiercely independent (which sounds ironic considering the premise of the book) and I understood the difficulties she faced opening up and letting Ollie into her confined space.

For me, this book really stood apart from anything else i've read in a long time and I think it will be hitting the top spot for a long time to come.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Caragh Reviews // The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Published - 2nd July 2015
Publisher - Corgi
Format - Paperback
Synopsis - Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst – and fails at failing. Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

I honestly do not even know where to begin with this book.
If anybody remembers my review of Jim Butcher's Storm Front, you'll also remember how I was not really interested in reading it but Boyfriend forced me into it and it actually ended up being a pretty incredible read? Well guess what? I never did learn my lesson....!

We bought the Iron Trial a few weeks back because it was in Waterstones' 'Buy 1 get 1 half price' deals and I was buying Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. I've had mixed reviews for both Black and Clare in the past and so I was going to skip over it and just let Boyfriend read it. He loved it so much that he immediately ordered the second book for next day delivery. After much protesting, I gave him and started it. And read it. I read it with every spare minute I had until it was done.

Finishing this book was like being punched repeatedly in the stomach and realising that everything you've ever read just....wasn't this book. In the best way possible.

Let's just get this out of the way okay?
Yes, there are similarities to HP - in the same way that every single book post-HP that references smart kids going to magic school and facing challenges and bad guys will *always* remind us of HP. It's time to get over it and move on. Besides which, it reminded me of Percy Jackson WAY more and that's totally okay with me.

The characters in The Iron Trial are young and therefore there wasn't any romance which was kind of strange really but I absolutely adored it. The book jumped in straight away with intrigue and character development and I honestly just couldn't get enough. I love how the world outside the Magisterium is aware of magic and there's this whole initiation process. It was pretty cool.
The Iron Trial is one of those books that totally frustrates you but in the way that actually, you kind of love. There are so many secrets and mysteries and quite honestly, nothing really gets resolved either. I'm lead to believe that this is a 5 book series, so it's a good job that I love the excitement of waiting and wondering.

Speaking of the characters again, there are rather a lot of them. Luckily, each are separately recognisable and I get the impression that character development and backstory for minor characters will become more prominant as the series progresses. My personal favourite character is Rufus - purely because I know next to nothing about him despite him featuring in pretty much every chapter. I think big things are in store for him! The biggest and best thing about The Iron Trial?

WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT ENDING?!

Every book i've read (or at least in current memory) tells me that the Good Guy is the Good Guy. But no. Oh no! It turns out that the Good Guy can also be the Bad Guy and there's not a chance in hell that you're going to be able to understand your own feelings about it.
I just.... I can't.... What even....

I literally have no freaking idea what is going to happen, or even how. Black and Clare are the first people in a VERY long time to have left me feeling like this after a book. It's been a week now since I finished it and i'm still bringing it up in conversations whenever I can. I'm still finding myself wondering how that can even happen and what that means for the future of multiple characters. I'm trying very hard not to just call in sick, give up on my current reads and read The Copper Gauntlet just so that I can have a little bit more insight as to where this is all heading.

I can honestly end this review and say that my mind is blown away by this book.

Pressure


A little advanced warning - this may get deep! I'll start off slow though. Yesterday afternoon was so lovely. Holly @ The Arts Shelf and I, coupled with our very accommodating and mostly understanding Boyfriends met up in Leigh for lots of gorgeous food and then a bit of impromptu bargain book shopping! We were quite well behaved I think - absolutely nothing to do with our more reserved partners - and didn't go too mad with the buying.

My first two buys were Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon and Night Owls by Jenn Bennett. These were in Tescos 2 for £7 deal. Everything, Everything has been on my wish list since I'd first heard of it and Holly highly recommended Night Owls. Darren Shan's The Thin Executioner and Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl were fab charity shop finds, bring all 4 books to under £10! Though obviously i'm quite pleased - especially as i've already devoured Everything, Everything and LOVED it - i've got that familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach.

As the title suggests, I'm feeling a LOT of pressure. As a Not-Quite-But-Almost-Grown-Up 27 year old with an above mentioned boyfriend, a full time job and our gorgeous new house, I just don't have the same time allowances that I had 2 years ago. It's not even a bad thing in a lot of ways. We spend a lot of weekends out and about, visiting with friends and family, watching tv and playing video games... But there's no solitary time for me, which means there's not an awful lot of reading time.

Though I have drastically reduced the amount of books I buy, i've still not really started reading them. People see that i've read above and beyond my 50 Book Challenge on goodreads and praise me. I mean, even i'm pretty impressed by it but there's a bigger issue, and it's how *I* feel about my reading time. Just take a look at the below picture for a minute.


Since taking this picture a few weeks i've probably added at least another 5 or 6 books. These are all unread. ALL OF THEM. Some of those books were bought more than 5 years ago and I still haven't read them. Books have always been my passion, ever since I was an infant and wasn't even able to read for myself. As I get older though, i'm more anxious and panicky about, well, everything.  I feel guilty for owning so many books that I haven't read even though I get pleasure from having them and knowing that at any moment, i'll always have something to read of any genre. The weird thing though? I feel so much pressure to read ALL THE BOOKS that actually, i'm kind of intimidated to read anything at all. The idea of having to choose a book is ridiculously overwhelming. So much so that i'd rather just pick up my Kindle and read the first thing that shows up. NOT COOL, CAZZ.

Sorry for the intensity of the word dump up there but before I even get round to catching up with reviews, I needed to clear my chest a bit! Does anyone else feel like this? I know we all experience book guilt but how bad is it for you? I would absolutely love some suggestions! I'm actually back in the swing of things right now with regards to reading so i'm hoping that means I can tackle some of that insane pile this side of the year.

Goodreads Challenge: 56/50
Christmas Challenge: ZERO!
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