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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