Bookish Ramblings: November Wrap Up

November is at an end and it’s been a tough month for me outside of reading, I took on new job role temporarily and it ended up being so much more work than I was led to believe. I’ve not been able to post to Bookstagram, I’m so glad I didn’t have a huge list of books to review and I’ve been too tired to write any meaningful blog posts (thank you Rachel Chucher for guest posting for me!)

That being said I have read some and I’ve also made some great bookish purchases and discovered a great new small business. But on to the books!

My 5 Star Reads

My 4 Star Reads
My 3 Star Reads

 

Bookish Purchases

As I said I’ve made some great bookish purchases this month, I’ve gone a little crazy and I purchased the Illumicrate Nevernight and Godsgrave UK hardback reprints. As I currently subscribe to their book only option I managed to get in on the pre-sale and even though the set was £55 I actually think that’s pretty good value considering how much those books are sought after and they’re only a little more than their Strange the Dreamer set, which no one battered an eye about.

As you know I’m a huge fan of Funko’s and I found an amazing custom funko shop that is actually based in the UK for once! They are called Fandom Fealty and as a birthday treat for myself I got a custom Kaz Brekker and a Jesper Fahey! They are amazing and I love them so much, they have just released an Inej as well but I have to hold back on that for the most expensive time of the year to be over first. As another present (I’m not going mad, it’s my birthday this week) I got the Christmas in Terrasan candle box from Elvenwick Candles – I’ve managed to avoid spoilers and I’m so excited to see what’s inside!

Review News

I’ve decided to take a break from signing up for new reviews and tours for at least the next six weeks, I have made this clear on my review criteria, as I want to read for me for a bit. I only read one book that was not specifically for review this month and whilst I love reviewing I have so many amazing books on my shelf that need some love and I’m determined to finish Priory of the Orange Tree before the end of the year. I’ll likely be open again in February 🙂

Looking Ahead

Later this week Mr Paperbacks and I will be heading to Edinburgh for my birthday celebrations, It’s a big number I’ve reached and we are having our first weekend away without the little paperbacks for nearly 10 years! We’ve got lots of Harry Potter themed things planned so keep an eye on my IG stories for all the updates!

Battles and Beats: The Battle Ground Series Playlist – Guest post by Rachel Churcher

Today I welcome back Rachel Churcher, Author of the Battle Ground Series! To celebrate the release of Book 4 today, Rachel has completed another fantastic guest post about her musical inspiration behind the stories and the playlists she imagines for her characters. A great follow up to her earlier Pacifists Guide to Guns and Armour post, you should definitely check that one out too if you haven’t already!

Over to Rachel!

Battles and Beats

I’m going to say something surprising to kick off this post. 

I’m writing about music, and how closely I associate certain songs with my Battle Ground series of books – but I don’t normally listen to music while I write, and I don’t surround myself with music most of the time. I have playlists, but they are mostly for special events and parties. I’m not someone who puts on their headphones to walk around town, or to help me concentrate. I prefer silence when I’m writing.

So what am I doing, writing about the songs connected with my story and characters?

It all has to do with music, emotion, and sharing the thoughts in my head with my readers.

Words and music

As I write, I can see each scene like a movie in my mind – and movies need soundtracks. Soundtracks enhance the emotional experience of watching stories on a screen. They suggest and guide the emotional responses of the audience. They reinforce the connection to the characters. They help to immerse the audience in the world of the story. 

But these soundtracks, for me, come later. I’m not thinking about them as I put the story together. Everything I write leaves an emotional print in my mind, and if I hear music that triggers that emotion again, my brain will jump me back into that scene. I’ll be feeling the same things all over again – inside the head of my character.

One of my proofreaders describes what I do as ‘Method Writing’. Like Method Acting, this involves becoming each character as I write their scenes. It’s intense, and exhausting, and it gives me a very strong emotional connection to all the events in my story.

Retrospective soundtracks

So what happens when I hear music that connects me to those events? I find myself back inside my character’s head, living the scene again. It’s intense and exciting, and it helps me to understand what motivates and inspires me as a writer.

In Battle Ground, the first morning my characters spend at their training camp is chaotic and noisy. I love the idea of playing ‘I Predict a Riot’ by the Kaiser Chiefs to illustrate their first experiences of following strict rules in a new setting. 

Later in the book, Bex, the Point Of View character, is returning to camp through the woods at the end of the morning run. She takes a moment to appreciate the sunshine, the beautiful surroundings, and the birdsong. Poor Bex. Having a happy moment generally means that I’m about to put her through hell, again. The contrast is intentional (sorry, Bex!), and needs contrasting, lighthearted music to make the happiness happier, and the dark stuff darker. ‘You Bet Your Life’ by the Lightning Seeds is perfect for this sequence, contrasting a carefree, happy moment against what happens next.

Ketty’s ‘iron fists and steel toe caps’ scenes in Battle Ground and False Flag need something heavy and euphoric. ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ by Muse, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ by Metallica, and ‘Here Comes the War’ by New Model Army all evoke the feelings of power, fear and brutality in these scenes.

The music and lyrics of ‘Manhattan Skyline’ by A-ha turn out to be spookily relevant to a scene in False Flag, where one character sees another in a hospital bed. The verses convey quiet sadness and shock, while the loud choruses suggest anger and determination, fitting the scene precisely.

In Darkest Hour, there’s a sequence of chapters that removes the characters from their routine lives step by step, until they find themselves waiting silently in an unfamiliar place in the dark. The scene feels almost dreamlike, with an other-worldly quality. ‘Hey Now’ by London Grammar fits perfectly here, capturing the emotional displacement as well as the physical isolation and the feeling of transition and uncertainty. The scene feels important – pivotal to the plot and to the characters – and the music reinforces that feeling. 

I’d argue that the same track works at the end of Fighting Back, as the characters react to a dramatic event. The feelings of displacement and uncertainty are appropriate, and the track reinforces the significance of the events. 

Walk-on music

Ask yourself which song you would want playing every time you entered a room. It needs to sum up your personality, and your attitude to whatever life throws at you.

Walk-on music for me? ‘Unwritten’ by Natasha Bedingfield if I’m in a positive mood, or ‘One and One’ by Robert Miles if I’m feeling a bit more introspective. 

And my characters? Bex and Ketty both have walk-on music. For Bex, it’s ‘Stand By Me’, by Ben E. King. Loyalty, friendship, and bravery, in one neat package. For Ketty, the choice is equally obvious: ‘Tubthumping’, by Chumbawumba. Discipline, determination, backbone, and not letting the world get you down.

The books have walk-on music, too. Battle Ground shares ‘Stand By Me’ with Bex, and False Flag shares ‘Tubthumping’ with Ketty. Darkest Hour’s theme tune is ‘The Swing of Things’ by A-ha (I know I’m showing my age here, but check out the lyrics!), and Fighting Back walks in to ‘The Old Boys’ by Runrig. Victory Day’s song sums up the entire series. John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’ is the perfect end-titles music for the final book. Political, confident, and empowering – everything I want the series to be.

Music in my ears

I should give a special mention to the music that helped me through writing the Battle Ground series. Singing along to the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman is a fantastic way to wake up in the morning. Lady Antebellum’s album Need You Now works wonders at calming my thoughts if they’re racing when I sit down to write. And Faerie Stories, the album by the Peatbog Fairies, is amazingly effective at breaking through writers’ block, allowing me to put my first draft into words. 

I may not spend most of my time surrounded by music, but when I do, it’s an emotional experience. My job as a writer is to communicate events, plot, and character to my readers, but more importantly than that I need to make you feel what they feel – and what I feel while I’m writing. Film-makers use music to enhance those feelings, and to bring viewers closer to the action, and I believe the same trick can work for readers and writers.

If there’s a song playing in the background, and you see me stumble, or brush away tears, you know there’s a character in my head, going through something. I can’t avoid that musical trigger (my characters will have revenge for everything I put them through!) but I can notice it, live through the moment, and come out with a better understanding of my story. 

And a new song for my Battle Ground playlist. 

Fighting Back, Book Four of the Battle Ground Series, is published today on Amazon. To celebrate the launch, catch up with Battle Ground, False Flag, and Darkest Hour in the Kindle Box Set of Books 1-3 free to download today!

Find the Battle Ground Book Series playlist on Spotify.

Thank you so much Rachel for another amazing guest post, these really bring the reading experience to life even more! You can find my 5 star review of Fighting Back here and more about the author and the series at Taller Books!

 

Review of Fighting Back by Rachel Churcher

Bex Ellman and her friends are in hiding, sheltered by the resistance. With her family threatened and her friendships challenged, she’s looking for a way to fight back. Ketty Smith is in London, supporting a government she no longer trusts. With her support network crumbling, Ketty must decide who she is fighting for – and what she is willing risk to uncover the truth.

**Whilst I have tried to keep this review spoiler free there will be many spoilers for earlier books in the series**

I’m going to start by saying that Fighting Back is the stand out novel of the series so far for me. It has a different feel to the first three, almost a calm before the storm or a chance to take a breath assess the gravity of everything that is happening. I have to admit I felt the lines blurring between the government and resistance and may actually be finding something to like in Ketty.

To the story though, having settled in Edinburgh, Bex and her friends are still dealing with the fall out of Jake’s decision, but despite her treatment by him, Bex continues to be the parent figure of the group trying to problem solve as best she can. Her problem solving on this occasion however, leads to an unexpected opportunity which creates a real shift in her.  In short, Bex has to grow up, fast. I found myself very much liking this more measured Bex, her time spent not running for her life allows her to settle more in herself and her monologues are thoughtful rather than the rash decisions of circumstance.

Ketty shone for me this time, it’s a big ask for me to change my tune about her and I went into this book expecting the loss of Jackson to have been her driving force for ill, but in fact her ability to maintain business as usual showed a real fortitude. In many ways Ketty is an incredibly complex character, yet actually when you bring it down to the baseline there is a simplicity in what makes her tick, she has a strong moral compass and she is all or nothing in her feelings of right and wrong. I love how she is 100% unshakeable until she is presented with fact but then, to her credit, is able to step back and think about that fact in a rational way, which is a skill lacking in many who are so firmly entrenched in their beliefs.

What is clear from both women is that the manipulations being woven around them are so beautifully subtle it’s hard to know where it does indeed begin. Both are being used in different ways and the correlation of deceit and realisation between them made me feel that they weren’t so far apart after all. The way their actions and reactions feed into one another is really quite masterful and demonstrates great thought and skill from the author. The locations are fairly static but the book benefits from this as it is the most character driven book of the series, but the London location leads to the availability of iconic landmarks. These really brings home the ability to fully visualise the closing stages as even those who have never visited the city will know exactly what to imagine. What a closing stage as well, just wow, I was totally on the edge of my seat as things played out, a trigger for the resistance was needed and that is a trigger and then some.

I started by saying that this was a stand out book in the series and I have to give it 5 very well deserved stars!

Six for Sunday: Books I’d Throw in the Fire

This week’s #sixforsunday is going to be hard as I try and keep an air of positivity on here, reading is escapism after all! However, I can’t pretend that I love every book I read and just because I don’t shout about them, doesn’t mean they’re not out there! Some of these wont come as a surprise to regular readers as I have lamented them for a long while, but it has meant delving into my back catalogue a little with some. Whilst I would never advocate actual book burning lol I mean this in the very figurative sense!

The Cruel Prince

One of my most loathed reads and I’m glad to see more and more people backing down off the hype train now. Toxic relationships, toxic friendships, toxic family dynamics. bullying, humiliation – just a few of the wonderful topics covered and yet seldom do you see trigger warnings for it. I’m glad I stopped at book one.

Shatter Me

Stupidly i bought this trilogy as a kindle boxed set deal, I have so many regrets. I read all 3, because I had paid for them so I was going to read them, but I wish I had just cut my losses. I was so incensed by the relationship portrayals in this books I bashed out a blog post about my feelings on that issue as I didn’t feel I could find any positive spin for a review. I just have nothing good to say about this series sadly, it had a great plot clawing to get out and that ending couldn’t have felt more rushed.

These Rebel Waves

A rare occasion where I took the decision to DNF. Two thirds in and literally nothing had happened, what about the gay pirates we were promised!? I notoriously don’t really get on with Fairyloot picks but I usually stay the distance, however, I found even picking this up a complete chore and it soon went to the B/T/S rather than the fire.

We Hunt the Flame

Probably my biggest disappointment of the year so far. I was so excited for this book but from the opening pages I knew that I was in for a let down. I just couldn’t connect with any of the characters and the story felt dragged out and repetitive. It was far too long and not helped either by the tiny font selection on the UK paperback.

To Best the Boys

Labelled as a feminist read, it was just a lot of standard ” you can’t do that because you’re a girl” rather than anything in depth.  After 2/3 of the book with the main character thinking about whether she can pass as a boy or not we get very limited time in the labyrinth itself, which is really the main reason I was there in the first place.

The Hazel Wood

I was uncertain going into this as I’m not usually a fan of books in a contemporary setting, and again I just found very little to like about the main protagonist, she was really bratty and couldn’t connect with her at all.  As a book it just took far too long getting to the point it needed to get too which left me frustrated by the time I actually got to a good bit.

There you are, I know many will disagree with my picks but please on this occasion just agree to disagree with me. I think it’s pretty telling that 4 out of these 6 were Fairyloot books, whilst I’m not downing on them as a company at all I think it proves that me and them are not on the same reading wavelength at all and reinforces that I am glad I cancelled my subscription with them. I also seem to like a bit of instant gratification with my books as it looks like slow starts sound the death knell for most of them too!

Top Ten Tuesday – Books that have been on my TBR the longest

I’m going back to an old TTT prompt for today, I just couldn’t for the life of me think of ten things for todays prompt, but thankfully @thatartsyreadergirl has all the previous prompts available to choose from! I think it’s fair to say that I’ve fallen out of love with my kindle in the last year, in fact I don’t even know where it is at the moment, I think after reading it continuously for a couple of years I forgot how much I loved physical books and now I have gone the opposite way! So the majority of this list will be books from my kindle as I’m terrible for picking up ebooks when they’re 99p!

Paper Princess by Erin Watt

This has shamefully been on my kindle since August 2017. I got this when it was 99p and was being absolutely raved about by some good bookish chums – with comparisons to Cruel Intentions, I should have been jumping on this, but I haven’t made it past the first few pages. I just can’t find any enthusiasm for contemporary at the moment and enemies to lovers isn’t really a trope which grabs me at the best of times. I honestly have no idea if I will ever read this.

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

Shadowhunters are everywhere and everyone loves them so I just had to jump on that bandwagon, right? I badgered Mr Paperbacks into getting me the box set of The Mortal Instruments for my birthday in December 17, but my word have I struggled through them. Apart from the obvious is it/isn’t it incest question, I just don’t care about any of the characters, I mean other than Magnus, I can’t connect with any of them, and yes that may be because i’m too old for them but I do read and love a lot of YA. Anyway, I managed to get through the first books in the series but have now come to a standstill, I think it’s because this one is significantly longer than the others and I don’t know if I want to commit the time to it – someone tell me the ending is worth it?

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams

This one has been on my kindle since February 2018 and was amazingly free for a few days. I have the authors first trilogy as a physical book but for some reason I just simply forget that I have this. I admit I have a terrible capacity for skimming when I read an ebook, I just don’t get drawn into the worlds as much as I would like and this is one world that I want get completely consumed by. I desperately want to read this but think I really must get it in paperback to do so.

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

This and the next two have been on my kindle since December 18, I got a kindle gift card for my birthday and have so far only managed to read 2 out of the 5 books I got with it.  Scythe was one of my favourite books last year, I just loved everything about it so Thunderhead was the first book I got with my card. I think this one is more down to time, I’ve added it to my monthly tbr a couple of times but my paperbacks and review ebooks always end up pushing it aside. I read Scythe on kindle so I know it’s not that. With The Toll just out though I really must get to this!

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

This was a total buy on the basis that the film was coming out and early teaser trailers looked phenomenal. However, when the full trailer released it looked kind of angsty so I decided to get the book instead. I think because I got it with a gift card and it wasn’t a book that was immediately on my radar in any event it’s ended up forgotten

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A book and an author that have come highly recommended to me on a number of occasions, I am still genuinely excited to read this book and every time I do pick up my kindle it’s one I’m always drawn to, it’s just again down to time and I find that I reach for a physical book now instead of an ebook so I again forget it’s there.

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

This came in an Illumicrate box in December 18 I think and it came at a time where I had read probably 3 or 4 Asian inspired fantasies back to back so I shelved it to wait until I got back in the frame of mind. I’m hoping that when I read Girls of Storm and Shadow soon that will get me back into the genre!

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

I got this as part of a 3 book set for £8 in the works in December 18, I read Red Queen and loved it, then didn’t read any more. I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps like with so many on this list I just got caught up with reviews and never really got the chance to add this to my monthly tbr. I was kindly gifted War Storm too so at least I can hopefully have a full run through when I get the time!

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

I picked this up in January this year when it was released and given that it was on my most anticipated reads for 2019 I can’t believe I still haven’t read it. I missed out on the Goldsboro edition too which was a shame. I have just seen that book 2 is out in January so I may try and make this part of my January TBR so I can be up to speed for book 2!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

This one has been on my kindle since February this year when I managed to pick it up for 99p. The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favourite all time series, so it would make sense that I would love to read more by this author. I know of so many people who loved this and said it gave them all kinds of feels that they weren’t expecting, but again I’ve fallen down on the basis that I’ve bought a book on kindle that I wanted a physical copy of, specifically the US hardback which is just stunning, I think I still live in hope that I can justify that cost one day soon!

Let me know if you read and loved any of these and which I should add to be January tbr!

 

Review of the Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.
Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray—a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.
Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny-to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.
The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities—before the Gray devours them all.
 

Firstly I would like to thank Titan Books for sending me a gorgeous copy of this book for review, sprayed edges are always a winner and I always get a strange satisfaction from the slight pull of the painted pages on the first read through! The Devouring Gray is a book that has been on my radar for a little while now, I know several people who really enjoyed it and I loved listening to the Author speak during YALC this year, it’s no surprise then that I jumped at the chance to be offered a review copy.

The Devouring Gray is a real slow burn of a book, we are drip fed information as life in small town America continues around us with the Gray always looming. The pace does build slowly but by the end it reaches a huge crescendo which leaves a number of questions just begging to be answered. The writing style was evocative and I found that without even realising, I had built up a strong emotional connection with the characters, which meant that each new and ever escalating reveal hit me like a sucker punch. A wonderful, if a little bleak, picture is painted of Four Paths itself, like the Gray has seeped into the very fabric of it’s being, I felt like I was reading in black and white which meant that every splash of colour had real significance. A flash of blue hair, copper leaves, red rimmed eyes, each mention given extra weight and relevance through its scarcity which helped sear the images in my mind.  It’s world building feels almost a little Gothic too with huge turreted houses, long limbed branches, and ominous statues, which for me felt like a perfect balance to the slight “high school by numbers” contemporary edge. pulling it nicely into a fantasy bracket. I’ve never watched Riverdale so I can’t comment on it’s comparison but I totally get the Stranger Things connection, Four Paths could totally be a flash forward Hawkins!

Of the characters, I loved Isaac the most, he has lost probably more than anyone and the emotional and physical scars made my heart go out to him. The Founder Children are diverse and whilst there is no real romance in the story, there is plenty simmering away underneath.  I also really liked that Harper refused to be defined by her disability, it drives her to be better and in fact makes her the most kick ass out of all of them. Also, kids out on patrol gave me serious Buffy feels!

I have to say that whilst I am usually a fan of slow burns I did struggle with the first part of this book, I felt that the story and characters weren’t introduced in a particularly clear way and the characters did feel a little interchangable at first. I would have loved more detail on the background of the founding families and their powers, just to help with cementing the characters more firmly in my mind, but in a town full of secrets and lies, this was perhaps by design. I wish there was more about the Gray and the beast within too, it had the potential to be so much more, but with book 2 on the horizon I may get my wishes granted!

The Devouring Gray has wonderful, lyrical prose and characters that sneak up on you with your feels for them. I loved the imagery and creativity in its ideas and symbolism, and that ending makes me desperate to get my grabby hands on the follow up!

4*

Review of Skein Island by Aliya Whiteley

Skein Island, since 1945 a private refuge for women, lies in turbulent waters twelve miles off the coast of Devon. Visitors are only allowed by invitation from the reclusive Lady Amelia Worthington. Women stay for one week, paying for their stay with a story from their past; a Declaration for the Island’s vast library.
Marianne’s invitation arrives shortly before her quiet life at the library is violently interrupted, the aftermath leaving her husband David feeling helpless. Now, just like her mother did seventeen years ago, she must discover what her story is. Secrets are buried deep on Skein Island. The monsters of Ancient Greece and the atrocities of World War II, heroes and villains with their seers and sidekicks, and the stories of a thousand lifetimes all threaten to break free.
But every story needs an ending, whatever the cost.
 

Firstly, I would like to thank Titan books for providing me with a copy of Skein Island for review.  Skein Island has honestly left me lost for words, in a good way, but I’m struggling with where to start with my review – I think I need to start by understanding that this book is far, far more than the blurb suggests. From the start this reads as edgy womens fiction, but then quickly develops into magical realism with a thriller slant. It’s utterly compelling and I kept finding myself returning to it’s pages any spare moment I got.

We travel to Skein Island with Marianne, the second generation of her family to visit. The catalyst is an unseemly event which has a ripple effect on everyone else around her. I’m still not sure what I make of Marianne, she is very standoffish and hard to garner any emotion from, but she does make for a great unlikely protagonist. I think her disconnect allowed me to focus on what was going on around her more though, almost like she was a bystander in her own story, but lets come back to that in a bit. Her husband David, goes through quite the arc though as he becomes almost over emotional at his wife’s attendance at the Island, his unsaid fears of history repeating giving him quite the insight he wasn’t bargaining for. I found that the balance between the 2 was perfectly played, the story was broken down into parts and each part brought about an new, sometimes unsettling, change in their dynamic.

The island itself felt very bleak and tired, like it was just going through the motions, a shadow of what it had once been. It felt like it has once been a place full of hope and excitement, but had been bogged down by the role that modern women now took. The declarations moving from the overwhelming excitement of how the island came to be founded, down to complaints about errant husbands and a life that could have been. However, it’s the story of how the island came to be founded which brings us out of the bleakness and whips us into a fantastical world of pre-defined roles which has be subjugated by both modern living and gender equality. The roles which were so entrenched in ancient mythology of the hero, the villain, the sage and the sidekick, all male dominated roles and all feed into how we see ourselves in the stories of our lives. I loved how the experiences of both Marianne and David intertwined, leading to fascinating discoveries about the island and just why it is that men are not to go there.

Despite the occasional heaviness of the subject matter the writing never felt so. It was actually for me an incredibly light and easy read, Skein Island was the first book I have read by this author but on the strength and ease of her storytelling they are definitely an author I would like to read more from. There is no fluff or unnecessary filler or purple prose. Skein Island is a book which did get under my skin, it left me thinking about roles in a different way and how we as a society have fallen into a rhythm, it also reinforces the telling of stories to keep dreams alive. The book covered quite a broad spectrum of genres, like each of the parts was it’s own individual tale leading to a climactic fantasy finale that I would have never seen coming from the opening pages, it really is quite something.

The UK paperback also has the addition of the short story “The Cold Smoke Declaration” which follows a new characters journey to the island but for rather different reasons.

I found Skein Island a great thought provoking read, which occasionally got a bit caught up in itself, but which challenged my perceptions and totally captured me in its pages.

4.5 *

Top 10 Tuesday – Unlikely bookmarks

#bookwormproblems If you, like me, spend a huge amount of time reading, you are likely to have quite the bookmark selection. I have woodmarks, bookmarks to match in with certain books and series and all manner of promotional ones that I have gathered over the years, yet the percentage of the time that I actually use a proper bookmark is probably only 20%. Why? Most of my bookmarks are either in a pot or displayed or generally out of reach, so unless I make an effort to track one down, I usually just grab whats nearest! With thanks to @bookslifeotheroddities for the inspiration for todays post!

Receipt

Honestly nothing drives Mr Paperbacks mad like my inability to throw away receipts, my bag is overflowing with them and they spill out in various places. I’m trying to get him to understand its so I can have a bookmark ready anywhere I go, but I don’t think that one will wash.

Train Ticket

I do end up commuting quite a bit by train at the moment and whilst I always take a book, a book mark not so much. I usually have a collection of uncollected ones in my bag which are ready to go!

Envelope

Close by to where I read, is my dining table where out post mainly gets left each day. If I stretch my little hand out just far enough there is usually a handy envelope which probably contained a horrid bill, but now gets to be lovingly placed between some wonderful pages.

Dust jacket

I know that some readers find this a heinous crime, but if i’m in a pinch then I will just use the inside fold of the dust jacket to mark my place, I am strategic with it to to make sure that to prevent damage I swap from the front to the back fold halfway through!

Kindle

Yes, on at least a couple of occasions I have marked my place by using my kindle to make a glorious book sandwich. As a blogger I usually get review copies digitally and I often read in tandem with a physical book so it’s usually close to hand.

Hair tie

My all time favourite random item and it actually happens on a more than regular basis. My hair is quite long and fine so I can, to a degree twist it into place and it will hold itself – leaving me a with a perfectly serviceable hair tie ready to fulfil its bookish destiny.

Pin backing card

As regular readers will know I am also quite the enamel pin collector, these pins arrive nicely packaged on a small square piece of card, which fits perfectly as a bookmark, once the pin is removed of course!

Lego/Disney Cards

So I have two little bookworms and we also shop at Sainbury’s (other supermarkets are available) and once a year they give out collector cards either with lego or disney characters, however, they are blind bags and we end up with a gazillion duplicates that litter our home for ever more, they keep appearing like Tribbles! They are however, also the perfect size to use as bookmarks….

Turning down the corner

SAID NO ONE EVER

Confetti Packet

So what is my current bookmark? Last week it was Little Miss Paperback’s birthday and I got her a card from Sugar and Sloth and ticked the option for confetti to be added, which came in a cute little paper pouch with a giraffe sticker on it. After I filled her card I left it on the arm of the sofa, just next to where I read, it’s done me for 2 books in a row now, I think it might be a keeper!

So that’s my top 10 random items I have used as bookmarks – come and tell me what the most random thing you have ever used as a bookmark is!

Six for Sunday – Books With Blue Covers

Well last weeks prompt was a total wash out for me as I had zero books on my shelf to match, but if there is one thing I have an absolute abundance of it’s is blue books! So now I just have to narrow them down….

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I am fortunate that I managed to snag a UK hardback before the price went crazy, it’s not the first print run and it doesn’t have the blue edges, but it does have all the amazing pages of story inside! I totally fell in love with this book, Laini Taylor’s writing is beautiful and poetic and Lazlo is one of the most brilliantly crafted unlikely hero’s. Muse of Nightmares was equally brilliant, but also Orange, so not for today…

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J Maas

Tower of Dawn gets, in my opinion, quite unfairly derided. You either love or hate Chaol (many the latter) but despite his stroppy behaviour in earlier books, ToD is the making of him. It’s not my favourite of the series and I did find it painfully slow in places, but those who say they skip it because they don’t want to read about Chaol are missing out. There are some absolute doozy’s of reveals and so much ties back to Assassins Blade too. It still wins the prize for the only book to make me shout out in shock at a reveal!

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James

Lauren James is fast becoming one of my go to authors, her style totally resonates with me. I love the way that she writes unconventional prose into her books and that works so well in this book. It allows a tandem story to be told leading to her amazing twists that have become such a huge part of her story telling. There is so much inclusion in the story too which doesn’t feel tacked on to tick a box. I feel the same about The Loneliest Girl in the Universe but that’s a black book so again, not for today…

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Did you see the new series of His Dark Materials yet? It’s the second episode tonight and I’m so excited! I think that sadly many didn’t give this series a chance because of the terrible movie that was made of it using the US title of The Golden Compass. But for those who knew the source material first will know that it is a story far from what we saw on screen. I still struggle with the fact that its a MG book to be honest as it feels far too much like it’s for us grown ups lol. Its a truly amazing story and one which I’m looking forward to sharing with a whole world of new fans when the TV show fully airs!

State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury

One of my favourite books of 2018, its follow up Song of Sorrow (no blue cover to see here) will be on my top reads of 2019 too! Sorrows journey from secret holder upper of everything to where she ends up is amazing, full of political intrigue, turmoil and plots within plots this is an edge of seat story.  Sorrows small grasps at a normal life whilst trying to get to the bottom of just all the different threads of everything going on around her are beautiful and of course for everything else there is always Luvian ❤

Ultraxenopia by M.A Phipps

The covers for this series are just stunning but it’s book one, Ultraxenopia that holds the hallowed blue cover for this prompt. I love the first two books in the trilogy, it’s rare for me to re-read and I had to find the time for these in preparation for the release of the final part next year! Wynter is far from your typical protagonist and Dr Richter is just all manner of evil, a great YA dystopian and its follow up Type-x is even better, although it’s orange, and well… you get my drift by now…

Whats your favourite blue book??

 

Supporting Small businesses this festive season – my favourite sellers!

It’s that time of year where we are starting to think about unique and fun gifts for those closest to us, but we as consumers are more mindful than ever of packaging, plastics, ethical products and air miles leaving a lasting carbon footprint. So rather than going for the big companies, think about checking out some smaller businesses who are committed to bringing amazing products with as little environmental impact as possible. These are all companies that I have had personal experience of using their products and I have not been paid to advertise any of them. The links to each store are in their titles 🙂

Geeky Clean

Full disclosure, I am an affiliate for Geeky Clean, however I wouldn’t have remained for over a year had I not loved their products. They really do have something for everyone and you can find my unboxing of their Christmas Collection here. From Bathbombs to Shower Steamers to soaps to candles they have self care covered. If you’re a fan of gaming, table top gaming, pop culture, books or just general loveliness then you are sure to find something here. Their products are all vegan, cruelty free and plastic free too! You can save 10% on any orders by using my code Paperbacksandpinot10

Whizzpop Candles

Another store that I rep for (last one) Whizzpop’s candles are again perfect for fans of pop culture and books. Each candle has a beautifully designed themed topper which doesn’t need to be removed prior to burning as it will melt along with your candle. The fragrances are strong and well balanced and all candles are vegan friendly as they are made with soy wax. All their products and packaging are plastic free and you can also save 10% using my code Paperbacks10. A real favourite in our house is the Eleven Candle inspired by Stranger Things!

Sugar and Sloth

Be ready for cute but sassy overload with Sugar and Sloth, the kawaii is strong but the message is one of self care. Focusing on anxiety and depression and mental well being, the motto’s are brilliant and full of vibrant illustration. It’s not all about mental health though and there is a ton of general cuteness by way of enamel pins, stickers, stationary, mugs, jewellery and cards. Anita’s vinyl stickers are the perfect laptop accessory – as my laptop will attest to! You can also gift her subscription box, Tiny Party Club which is amazing value and is full of cute (non sweary) and useful items.

Gigi Illustrates

Strongly inspired by Asian pop culture by way of Pokemon and Studio Ghibli, Gigi Illustrates has stunning artwork that makes me want to have more walls in my house! She is a new small business but her range is growing constantly with A4 prints starting from just £10 through to limited edition signed and numbered fine art pieces, delivery is free too! I purchased her Haku print and it’s absolutely stunning.

The Story Gift

Items perfect for book lovers everywhere, you can even buy bookish themed hampers for a ready made package for any bookworm. I personally love their booksleeves, the quality is fantastic with great feeling fabric and a stunning finish on the stitching. You can also get them in 2 sizes for paperback or hardback sized books. They also supply candles, bookmarks and art prints, I can’t comment on these but if they are the same quality as the booksleeves then they will be amazing!

So if you’re wanting to shop small this festive season then please take a look at some of these great small businesses first!