Friday 29 December 2017

Reviewing the Costa First Novel Shortlist*

Costa Book Awards First Novel Shortlist
This post is a paid collaboration with Costa. All words, images and opinions are entirely my own

This winter I've been working with Costa Coffee to review the First Novel shortlist of the Costa Book Awards. I spent a lovely month reading all four books on the shortlist and today I'm giving you my mini reviews plus a sneaky little prediction of the winner. I've had a wonderful time reading these books so thank you to the lovely Costa PR team for this opportunity!

Stay tuned to the end for an exciting giveaway featuring these books!

The Haunting of Henry Twist

The Haunting of Henry Twist by Rebecca F. John 
Firstly, we have The Haunting of Henry Twist which starts with a death and from there unfurls a quite slow-paced but interesting and intimate look at grief, need and longing against the beautiful backdrop of 1920s London. Henry Twist's wife Ruby is nine months pregnant when she is killed after being knocked down by a bus, leaving Henry a single father in a world that doesn't take too kindly to them. Henry then meets a mysterious man who claims he has no memories except for his name, Jack Turner, and the fact that he wants to befriend Henry Twist. Interwoven amongst this are Henry and Ruby's friends and the relationships between them all. I thought that the examination of the relationships between this group of people was done excellently. The narrative voice switched seamlessly between the different characters without ever being confusing and each of their psyches was laid bare on the page in the most beautiful way. Rebecca F. John's representation of loss felt very raw and real and not tragically glamorous like it's sometimes made out to be. Although I sometimes struggle with slower-paced plots, I actually really enjoyed the pacing in this one - I think because it made room for some beautiful writing. It was a real pleasure to read.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Next up, I picked up Eleanor Oliphant because I had a feeling that I'd whizz through it, and I was right. The combination of the short chapters and the writing made it compulsively readable and I found that I couldn't put it down. It's written from the perspective of Eleanor, who goes to work and comes home, eats a margherita pizza every Friday and drinks two bottles of vodka to get herself through the weekend. She is completely fine, apart from the fact that she is very alone. This novel follows her as an encounter with a work colleague and a good deed lead her into a variety of situations that she isn't used to encountering. Throughout the book there are hints of some childhood trauma and an unhappy past that Eleanor doesn't like to talk about and this is dealt with very gently and cleverly. Eleanor is a quirky character and at first I was a little worried in case the reader was supposed to just laugh at her, but she actually turned out to be very endearing and funny. Eleanor's perspective was so unique and her way of seeing the world was so different to my own in a way that made me feel like I was discovering the most common human experiences for the first time. Eleanor Oliphant is a heartwarming read with a light current of sadness and quite intense emotion running throughout.

Montpelier Parade

Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary
Montpelier Parade is the story of Sonny, a 16-year-old living on the fringes of Dublin society. He works part-time in a butcher's shop, drinks alone in the woods when he can afford to and punches walls to let out the 'howl of feeling' inside him. When he meets Vera, an older woman, his life is turned upside down. Unfortunately, this wasn't my favourite of the list - but it featured some excellent writing nonetheless. Throughout Montpelier Parade, raw emotion bubbles just under the surface, only expressed in short bursts of violence and passion or surreptitious acts. Geary's eye for detail is extraordinary, and these lurid minutiae leave the reader feeling brilliantly uncomfortable. I think the reason why I couldn't truly enjoy this novel was because I wasn't ever quite sure what Geary's message was. For me it was mostly a cyclical refrain on loneliness but I think more could have been done with the themes the novel touched on; class, gender etc. There were certain characters whose motivations I didn't fully understand and on the whole it felt a little lacking.

The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times

The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks
The final First Novel, The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times seems to continue the theme of difference and 'otherness' that runs throughout the shortlist. Lucy Marsh, a young orphan, is whisked away every week to see the 'funny men' in the woods. All ex-servicemen, they are named after the characters in The Wizard of Oz, and each are nicknamed so based on the injuries they suffered in the first world war. Clocks is a dark and twisted fairytale where the horrors of the war are manifested in a ravaged, exhausted landscape full of strange characters with dark histories and an even darker present. It's quite difficult for me to talk about this book without giving too much away because as the novel goes on, the plots and various characters interweave in clever and interesting ways - but you'll just have to read it to find out! Brooks' writing prevents this dark book from becoming too dismal, there is whimsy and humour sprinkled amongst the anguish, and I found Brooks' descriptions of the strange worlds that Lucy moves between to be incredibly captivating. The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times explores the effects of trauma, both on individuals and those around them and the blurred lines between good and evil, a kind of moral greyness that was left in the wake of the first world war.


So there we have it! I've read and reviewed the Costa Book Awards First Novel shortlist and now it's time to pick my own personal winner. It's hard to say with book awards whether it should go to the most enjoyable or the most technically accomplished book, because they're not always the same. But the Costa Book Awards have always been about the books the general public will enjoy the most so for me it's got to be Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. it's the one I'm still thinking about the most, I think it appeals to the widest audience and I think it's in with a shot of not only winning the First Novel category but winning the whole thing. But we'll have to see!

The shortlist winners are announced on the 2nd of January and the overall winner will be announced at the awards on the 30th of January.

*This post is part of a series of posts that are sponsored by Costa. All words and images are entirely my own and 100% honest.

Friday 22 December 2017

My Christmas Day Routine

Christmas Day Routine

Christmas Day, everybody does it differently don't they? You might not give a spiced fig about my Christmas routine but I'm super nosy and always love hearing about other people's traditions and how their big day unfolds so I took inspiration from the awesome Helen Anderson and decided to share with you what my family does at Christmas!

Christmas Eve
I was raised Catholic, so when we were younger the whole family used to go to a big nativity and children's mass at our church on Christmas eve - which we'd often take part in. But in more recent years, even though my siblings and I aren't particularly religious, we've attended a Christingle at the village church. If you've never heard of it, a Christingle is kind of like a carol service where everyone is given a 'christingle' - usually an orange (representing the world) with a lit candle pushed into the centre (representing Jesus as the light of the world), a red ribbon wrapped around (representing the blood of Christ) and dried fruits or sweets stuck in on cocktail sticks (representing the fruits of the earth and the four seasons). This might sound kind of strange but it's actually really lovely, with all the carols and excited children - there's a really nice sense of community. 

After that we head back to my parent's house and eat gammon with jacket potato and red cabbage - we've eaten this Christmas eve meal for as long as I can remember, I don't know where the tradition came from but it's tasty nonetheless!

Despite the fact that my siblings and I are all in our late twenties/early thirties we still leave out a tray for Santa - usually a mince pie and, depending on how kind we're feeling, either a nice glass or port or a deadly cocktail of our own making!

Christmas Day
We definitely don't wake up at 5am like we used to, but I'm still up pretty early on Christmas morning with the excitement of what's to come! I usually go and wake up my reluctant siblings and drag them into my room to open our stocking presents. Far from the luxurious 'stocking fillers' that you find on a lot of gift guides, we're more likely to unwrap some shower gel, a few chocolate coins and of course a satsuma at the bottom! 

With a quick breakfast of chocolate coins keeping us going, we get showered and ready and sometimes go to church, but we haven't been on Christmas morning for a few years now. Last year we all wrapped up and took the dog out for a Christmas walk - it was really lovely walking through the village and wishing Merry Christmas to the few other dog walkers. 

After that it's a breakfast of croissants and bucks fizz - heavy on the fizz. I think we're quite unusual in the fact that we don't start opening our presents until around 11am or sometimes even 12! We gather in the living room with some Christmas music on and pass out the presents, we go a bit nuts on presents and we've been known to still be opening them four hours later. We've started to actually take a break in the middle to have our Christmas lunch - turkey with all the trimmings followed by a variety of desserts, Nigella's brownies are probably my all-time favourite.

When all the presents are opened and the Christmas lunch has been devoured, we usually take some time to look at everyone's presents, play a game or watch a Christmas film. To be honest, the evening is all a bit of a blur of prosecco and pringles but there's always time for late-night Cards Against Humanity.

I hope you found that little peek into my Christmas at least a little bit interesting! Let me know what traditions you have or if my Christmas is completely different to yours! I always find it fascinating to find out other's routines and traditions.

Have a wonderful, safe and happy Christmas - I'll be back post festivities with my Costa Book Awards reviews!

Monday 11 December 2017

My Costa Book Awards 2017 TBR*

Costa Book Awards First Novel Shortlist
This post is a paid collaboration with Costa. All words, images and opinions are entirely my own.

Sheltering from the snow with a hot drink and a good book, is there a better way to spend these winter months? Probably not. Which is why it's the time of year to shout out some excellent books that are perfect for cosy winter evenings. So therefore...*drumroll*...I'm absolutely thrilled to announce that this year I'm working with Costa and the Costa Book Awards to discuss some truly awesome books with you all!

In case you have no idea what I'm on about, the Costa Book Awards have been going since 1971 (!) and are one of the UK's most prestigious book prizes, second only to the Man Booker. They aim to recognise outstanding and enjoyable books that the general public actually *want* to read, rather than feel like they should. These books are all from authors living in the UK and Ireland and recognise the most enjoyable books across five categories - First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children's Books - so there's something for everyone in there.

This year, I'm going to be reading and reviewing the four books in the First Novel category before the category winners are announced on January 2nd. The First Novel category celebrates authors who have published their first novel, now that seems rather obvious, but it might be that they've written other things (non-fiction, poetry, essays etc.) before and this is their first novel! So this is a really exciting category for me to be reading as I absolutely love discovering brand spanking new novels from authors I've never read before!

So that's enough waffling from me, let's have a look at the First Novel shortlist, or in other words, my Costa Book Awards TBR...

Costa Book Awards 2017

The Haunting of Henry Twist by Rebecca F. John
London, 1926. Henry and Ruby Twist are newly married with a baby on the way. But when Ruby is killed in a tragic accident, Henry, consumed by grief, is left to look after his baby daughter alone in a world without single fathers. Soon after Ruby's death, a mysterious man appears in Henry's life. He claims he has no memories except for his name, Jack Turner, and the fact that he wants to befriend Henry Twist. Henry is both terrified of and irresistibly drawn to Jack - why does this man seem so familiar, so magnetic? Why has he come to Henry under such strange circumstances? And could he be offering Henry a life to replace the one he lost when Ruby died?  

This is the first book I've picked up and so far, it's absolutely fantastic. I love reading historical fiction, especially literary historical fiction, and this one seems dark and twisty and I can't wait to find out what happens. I've read very few novels set in 1920s London so I've no doubt it's going to be full of mystery, Bright Young Things and fascinating insights into post-war life.

The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks
Summer 1923. Every Sunday, young orphan Lucy Marsh climbs into the back of an old army truck to go and see 'the funny men’ in the woods. Named after characters from The Wizard of Oz – the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, Toto and the Lion – these men are, in fact, horribly damaged war heroes. But when these mysterious encounters in the woods come to an abrupt end, Lucy leaves her grandparents' house behind for a new adventure. If Lucy can survive the hazardous path ahead of her, she might just survive into a bright new tomorrow.

The synopsis sounds quite strange, in the most brilliant way. I think this is going to be another, quite different, look into the effects of World War One on the people of Britain and the void that was left behind when a huge chunk of the population didn't return home.

Costa Book Awards 2017

Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary
Sonny is a young man growing up in Ireland, living a lonely life of dreams and quiet violence. When he's working on the garden of a house on Montpelier Parade with his father one Saturday, he meets the owner of the house: Vera. There's a spark between Sonny and this sophisticated older woman. But what is it that Vera isn’t telling him?

Montpelier Parade sounds wistful and exhilarating - I love reading about small town lives and the things that can so dramatically disrupt them. I think I'm going to race through this one.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Her life is simple, she is happy and absolutely nothing is missing from her carefully scheduled days. Except, sometimes, everything. One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself.

This is the only book of the shortlist which I'd already heard about as there was quite a bit of buzz around it on booktube this summer, so I'm really excited to be finally reading it. The narrator sounds fascinating and it seems like there's going to be lots of twists and turns along the way. I have a feeling that it's going to be one of those that I can't put down and read all in one go over a glorious, cosy weekend - let's see shall we?


So those are the books that I'm going to be devouring this month! There will be another post up nearer the end of the month where I'll share my thoughts on all of these books along with my prediction for which one is going to be the category winner! There will also be an exciting giveaway in that stay tuned for that!

Which one of these books are you most excited to read? If you've already read them, which one is your personal winner? Let me know in the comments!


*This post is part of a series of posts that are sponsored by Costa. All words and images are entirely my own and 100% honest.

Friday 24 November 2017

Gift Guide For: Your Organised Friend (or your friend who needs organising!)*

It's that time of year again! Even if you haven't quite got the tree up yet, it's time to start thinking about what you're going to be giving your friends and family this festive season. Although it's a controversial one, Black Friday is a great time to snag a bargain and get your shopping done before the festivities truly begin. So I'm here today with the first of my targeted Christmas gift guides!

I've worked with Venom Communications to gather the perfect selection of gifts from their Happy Jackson range for the person in your life who loves to stay organised (or the one who seriously needs to get organised!). Happy Jackson are a brand I already know, love and use myself so I can confirm that these gifts will put a smile on any organisation-lovers face! 

Venom Communications are currently offering 25% off EVERYTHING with code 'GOGOGO', until Monday at 23:59 - so grab a bargain whilst you can!

Power Bank

Where on earth would we be without portable phone chargers? I can't tell you how many times these have saved me, I think they're honestly worth their weight in gold. This one not only has a super cute design but it's lightweight and easy to fit in your pocket. This is perfect for the sibling who's glued to their phone or the friend who's always on the go!

Memory Stick

Even some of the most organised people I know still haven't adhered to golden rule of life: BACK UP YOUR STUFF. I've witnessed more than one meltdown as essays, music libraries and even precious memories have disappeared in an instant due to a technical malfunction. Make sure that never happens to your loved ones with this colourful USB stick

As an extra special gift, why not load it up with some of your photos together, favourite videos or songs before you give it to them? I've done this in the past and it means that not only are you gifting something useful but it's filled with special memories too.

Earphones with Carry Case

What is more frustrating than digging in your bag for half a train journey to find your earphones, only to spend the other half untangling them? These adorable earphones come with a ridiculously convenient pouch and make a great gift for just about anyone.

Spare Cables

Is your friend truly organised if they don't have an array of spare cables neatly filed away for times of need? Brighten up their collection with these cute stripy ones, they also make the perfect stocking stuffer for people who are always losing theirs!

Bluetooth Speaker

Now this ones less organisation-specific and more just for fun, but how cute is this little bluetooth speaker? Perfect for blasting those Christmas tunes, it's portability will see you right through to picnics in the summer.


If you fancy grabbing one of these super cute Happy Jackson items, then don't forget to use code 'GOGOGO' at checkout for 25% off everything until Monday 27th at 23:59!

Happy shopping!


*This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Venom Communications. All words and images are 100% honest and entirely my own. 

Friday 10 November 2017

26 things about turning 26

Today is my birthday! I've turned 26 and lately I've been noticing things that have changed since I've been hurtling unsteadily into my late twenties and I thought I'd share some of them today. Please tell me that you relate to at least some of them...

01. My alcohol tolerance is almost zero.

02. I know people who have bought a house.

03. I'm now wondering if I should be thinking about buying a house (like I could ever afford to).

04. I like white wine, and can pick out a semi-decent bottle, but red wine still eludes me.

05. Getting the weekly shop for less than £30 is an art form.

06. I don't want to have a baby but I sure do watch a lot of baby/pregnancy hauls/diaries on YouTube.

07. I definitely feel the effects of eating too much sugar/not eating enough vegetables.

08. I'm actually starting to find it easier to get up in the morning, and not need a nap later in the day. 

09. I sometimes worry about how I'll survive when I retire (pension? What's one of those?)

10. But then I remember I probably won't ever get to retire and that's slightly terrifying but mostly okay!

11. I have managed to keep several plants alive for more than a few months.

12. I know how to correctly fold a fitted sheet to maximise storage space.

13. I know how to correctly fold socks to maximise storage space.

14. I fold my socks.

15. Exercise isn't the absolute *worst* thing in the world.

16. It's actually pretty great and makes me feel strong and good.

17. I really should stretch more though, things ache more than they used to.

18. I can count the number of proper nights out I've been on this year on one hand, and that's super okay with me.

19. Getting home later than 11pm just sounds like a nightmare.

20. I have a bedtime routine.

21. It involves a microwaveable wheat bag.

22. I finally like  coffee and drink it on a regular basis. Milky and weak with a sweetener please, I'm not *that* grown up.

23. Spots are definitely not just a teenage concern. I'm now officially in my late twenties, why am I still getting spots?!

24. This year I started properly making art again and it's been the most wonderful thing ever. 

25. I've come to terms with the fact that it's pretty normal to not have found what you want to do with your career by your mid-twenties.

26. Heck, I probably won't figure it out until my mid-thirties, and that's okay.

Thursday 2 November 2017

Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
Published by Rock the Boat, Oneworld

Release date: 31st October 2017
Source: Rock the Boat, hardback proof copy.

The company says Otherworld is amazing—like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive—that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.

Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.

And it’s about to change humanity forever.

Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming.

I'm so excited to be today's stop on the blog tour for the brand spanking new YA sci-fi: Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller! I was so happy to receive Otherworld from the lovely folks at Rock the Boat because it looks to be one of the most exciting releases of 2017. I've got an exclusive extract for you today, so get ready to enter Otherworld...


Otherworld extract

There are guys online who swear it was heaven. They still sit around like a
bunch of old geezers, swapping tales of epic storms, monstrous beasts and grisly
battles. Talk to any gamer in their twenties and at some point they’ll say:
“You’re too young to get it. You never saw Otherworld.”

Now keep in mind, most of these idiots never experienced the original
Otherworld either. Even at the height of its popularity, it never had more than a
handful of subscribers. It wasn’t until years after the publisher pulled the plug
that it became known in geek lore as the greatest game of all time.

I always thought that was bullshit. I don’t anymore.

It took a twentysomething tech billionaire named Milo Yolkin to drag the game
back from the dead. Today at noon, his company released an early-access
version of Otherworld 2.0. Two thousand lucky gamers were chosen to test it,
and somehow I’m one of them. The original Otherworld players were all dorks
like me, but as far as I can tell, this new group of players has little in common
aside from deep pockets. The app itself is free—you just have to buy the
exclusive new headset that goes with the game. Only a couple thousand have
been made, and each one costs over two grand.

I have no clue what the old Otherworld looked like on a PC monitor when it
came out over a decade ago. But I gotta admit— when I downloaded the new
app and I put on the headset, I wasn’t expecting graphics this good. I know
everything is CGI, but my eyes are completely convinced that it’s real. I’ve got
a plastic brick strapped to my face, there’s sweat trickling out of my haptic
gloves, and I’d rather die than be seen in the dainty booties I’m wearing. Back
in the real world, my body is blind, deaf and helpless. I’ve been in Otherworld
for over seventeen hours now, and there is no way in hell that I’m leaving.

Of course, this world has been trying to kill me from the very first second I set
out to explore. I’ve encountered some truly insane shit so far—an avalanche,
lighting strikes, quicksand and some kind of mutated polar bear that I managed
to butcher and eat using nothing but a dagger and my two bare hands. Still,
nothing compares to what I’ve just found.


Right? RIGHT?! This book will suck you in and won't let you go until you've turned the last page. Otherworld is out now.

Thank you so much to Rock the Boat and Nina Douglas for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. Don't forget to check out the other stops!

Links to books in this post are affiliate links, which just means that if you want to purchase them, it supports the running of this blog - with no extra cost to you! If you want to buy any other books, please consider using my Wordery link - thanks lovelies!

Thursday 19 October 2017

The Autumn Reading Tag

It's autumn, aka mine and everyone else's favourite season, and there's nothing better this time of year than curling up under a blanket and reading. So I thought I'd get you all in the mood for the cosy season with the autumn reading tag! This tag was originally created by Amy Jane Reads.

01. Are there any books you plan on reading over the autumn season?
I kind of want to do a re-read of some of my favourite books, including: Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo and Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. These books really remind me of colder weather and cosying up with a book and I just don't reread favourites often enough. But I also have such a huge pile of unread books that I'll feel pretty guilty for re-reading. What do you think I should do?

02. September brings back to school memories: what book did you most enjoy studying? And what were your favourite and least favourite school subjects?
I pretty much loved all the books that I studied at A-Level: Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, The Colour Purple *sigh for the good old days*. At university I studied far, far too many books to pick a favourite and to be honest they've all kind of turned into a blur at this point. I did really enjoy the Children's Literature module I did in particular though, particularly writing an essay on Shirley Hughes' Dogger. 

My favourite school subject was obviously English, I just breezed through it and I loved my teachers, but my least favourite was definitely maths, by a long shot. I just didn't enjoy how it was taught, I was made to feel pretty stupid and not good enough (even though I was in the top set) and it just made me pretty unhappy. Now that I'm actually a tutor of maths and english, I try to never make my students feel that way.

03. October means Halloween: do you enjoy scary books and films? If so what are some of your favourites?
I actually find horror books scarier than films, there's something about imagining it all in your head that makes it ten times scarier than seeing it on a screen. I loved Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill and The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe. For a couple more Halloween recommendations, check out my Top Five Wednesday post on the subject.

This year I'm going to try and find some more Halloween reads, I definitely want to pick up My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix, The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and Scarecrow by Danny Weston. Leave any more Halloween recommendations in the comments!

04. With November it's time for bonfire night & firework displays. What's the most exciting book you've read that really kept you gripped?
Recently I read The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James and I just couldn't put it down. It's kind of a sci-fi thriller about a girl who is the only surviving crew member on a spaceship travelling towards a new planet, when she finds out a new ship has launched - with a single crew member, a boy named J. This was one of the most gripping reads I'd picked up in a long time and it's also excellently written. Definitely pick this one up.

05. What book is your favourite cosy comfort read?
I'm going to be Captain Obvious here and say Harry Potter, but not just any copy, the illustrated editions! There's nothing I love more than curling up with the huge illustrated editions of the first two Harry Potter books and spending long moments poring over each and every page. I cannot wait for the third one to come out this autumn.

06. Curled up with a good book, what is your hot drink of choice?
If we're talking evenings then it's going to be a cup of decaf Yorkshire tea, or if I'm feeling fancy, a Cadbury's hot chocolate topped with whipped cream (if I'm feeling super extra). I've never had a Pumpkin Spiced Latte, and although I'm intrigued, I'm not sure I'd really like it because I have pretty basic taste buds.

07. Any plans you're looking forward to over the next few months?
I love autumn because it's both mine and Stu's birthdays, so there's always lots of fun plans. I also go home every year for a bonfire party in the field behind my parents' house with so much delicious food, I'm drooling just thinking about it. Then every year in November, my mum and I go and see Hotbuckle Theatre who are a tiny theatre company (usually of just four actors) who put on adaptations of classic novels and it's always sweet and hilarious and so well done. This year they're putting on Wuthering Heights and we're going to see them in Skipton and I can't freaking wait. Basically, autumn is going to be amazing.

Do you have any plans for autumn? What are you going to be reading?

Monday 16 October 2017

September 2017 Reading Wrap Up

The Boy With One Name by J.R.Wallis | ☆☆☆
Twelve-year old Jones is an apprentice monster hunter in the Badlands, which exists on the edge of ordinary people lives. Ruby is outspoken, fearless and tired of her ordinary life. When the two meet and save each others lives, they have to work together to defeat a monster that not even the fiercest Badlander has yet faced.

I featured The Boy with One Name in my August book haul and I admitted that it was a total cover buy but it actually turned out to be a really fun read. I don't read a lot of middle-grade because I find it can be a bit hit-and-miss in terms of enjoyability because obviously it's not really aimed at me, but that doesn't mean that a middle-grade can't still be well-written and all the other things we praise YA/adult books for. The Boy with One Name was a fun adventure with some lovely, and really quite original, fantasy elements. It was a fast-paced read and connected to the characters quite well. However, being the first book in what I assume is going to be a series, there was quite a lot of exposition-dumping and showing rather than telling. A lot of the characters dialogue was a little: 'well Ruby, this is how this works in the Badland and this is what magic is, and this is what monsters are'. It got a little tedious and I think there are more sophisticated ways of world-building that could still work for a middle-grade audience. Despite that, I still enjoyed it and would recommend for younger readers.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post* by Emily M. Danforth | ☆☆☆☆☆
When Cameron's parents die in an accident her first feeling is relief, relief that they'll never know that just a few hours earlier she was kissing a girl. Cameron is soon forced to live with her conservative aunt in a less-than-progressive town. When she strikes up an intense friendship with the beautiful Coley Taylor things snowball.

I was so excited to receive The Miseducation of Cameron Post from the lovely folks at Penguin because I'd heard so many good things about it, and I was far from disappointed. Cameron Post is the heartwrenching literary YA that I didn't know I was waiting for (the term heartwrenching is oft overused but this literally did make my chest twinge frequently). Set in rural Montana, the novel is full of gorgeous, cinematic descriptions - of long dusty roads, farmland and lakes - and I'm a huge sucker for that kind of thing, especially when it's done really well. Cameron's journey is fraught and intense but ultimately satisfying, something all too rare in this bury-your-gays era. I loved this book SO much so if, like me, you've read an embarrassingly small amount of LGBT YA (or even if you've read lots) then this is definitely one to add to your list.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe* by Lauren James | ☆☆☆☆☆
Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew member on a spaceship headed for a new planet, she is the loneliest girl in the universe. That is until she hears about a new ship that has launched from earth to join her, captained by a boy named J. Despite only communicating via months-delayed emails, Romy soon finds herself falling for J. But what does she really know about him? And what do the mysterious messages from Earth mean?

I've seen this marketed as a romance, but really it's a brilliant look at loneliness and identity with a gripping thriller plot weaved in. I've been struggling to read at any kind of pace for months but I read this book in two incredibly intense sittings because it's just that good. One thing I loved about The Loneliest Girl is that it's not needlessly overwritten: at 290 pages, it's the perfect length for a fast, exciting read. Reading about a young woman in STEM was so refreshing and it made me realise that I need to read much more YA Sci-fi. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe blew me away and you should pick it up immediately.

So that's it for the books I read in September, hopefully October will hold just as impressive reads, but there might not be lots of them as I'm currently in the midst of moving house...more on that soon!

What have you been reading lately?

Links to books in this post are affiliate links, which just means that if you want to purchase them, I get a little something too - with no extra cost to you! If you want to buy any other books, please consider using my Wordery link - thanks lovelies!
Books marked with a * were sent to me by the publisher for review consideration, I have not been paid by the publishers to feature any of these titles.

Thursday 12 October 2017

Three things to consider before moving | Moving Out Guide #1

When I first started thinking about moving out a couple of years ago, I had absolutely no idea where to start. I'd moved out of my parents' house to go to university, but I hadn't really organised any of that (the classic student avoiding responsibility), and then I moved back in when I graduated. I had a 2:1 but no clue about where to even start looking for somewhere to live, let alone all the costs, paperwork and organisation that would come with it. So now that I'm getting ready to move into my second 'adult' flat, I thought it was about time I shared my experience and everything I've learned about moving. So welcome to what I'm provisionally calling 'Moving 101', your good-enough guide to everything to do with moving.

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert, some of what I say might actually be complete bullshit (which is probably a lot of what I say) but I'm just going to say it as I see it. These are my experiences, and there's a world of info out there, so just bear with me!

Let's kick things off with today's topic, before you even begin searching for flat, where do you want to live?

This sounds like the most captain-obvious thing in the world, but before you can begin the flat hunt, you need to have some idea where you want to move to. When I first had thoughts of moving out, I actually had no clue where I was going to be living. Stu had been accepted onto a graduate scheme in Bradford, an area neither of us knew well in as we're originally from Lincolnshire, so it was basically a complete mystery to us. I ended up doing a LOT of googling about what it's like to live in the Leeds/Bradford area, where to avoid and where might be nice. There are a surprising amount of things you need to take into account. So let's take a look at a few!

City centre vs. suburban living

The first thing you need to look at is narrowing down the kind of environment you want to live in. For instance, you might be moving to a new city or county for work, you'll need to decide whether you want to be smack bang in the middle of things or if you want to be a bit further out. City centre living is convenient and can be more exciting, but it also means making some compromises. Depending on the city, to live in the city centre likely means paying a lot more for a lot less space. This isn't a huge issue in Bradford, but definitely can be in other cities. Again, depending on the city, but city centre living can mean higher rates of crime and if you have a car, insurances are generally hiked up. However, city centre living can mean a shorter commute, a more active social life and easier access to amenities and country-wide travel.

We chose to live a bit further out of the centre for several reasons. We wanted a bit of a quieter lifestyle, we're definitely more cup of tea than glass of prosecco, and there's just a calmer pace of life in the suburbs. There are more options for secure (and free) parking outside of the city centre and we also wanted a bit more for our money, including some outdoor space. So I'd start by thinking about what you want to get out of where you live, make a list of preferences (who doesn't love a good list?) and see where you stand.

In terms of finding exactly which areas to start looking, we didn't have a lot of time to be exploring the area so I did a number of things to narrow it down: I asked friends and family who were familiar with the area and did a lot of research on forums. If you literally google 'areas to live near XX', 'where should I live XX' and 'where not to move XX' you can find a lot of information and obviously a lot of conflicting opinions that you have to take with a pinch of salt. At the end of the day, you won't truly know the area until you live there, so sometimes it's worth taking a risk, and you'll get a small feel for the place when you go on viewings (more on that soon!).

Commuting and travel

Obviously, everybody's lifestyle is completely different. Your job might involve travelling across the country, you might just be after a short commute to your 9-5, or you could work from home in which case the flat search is your oyster - but most will have to take into account how easy it is to get about from where you live. Since we knew that driving in Bradford is kind of a nightmare (as it is in a lot of cities), we decided early on that we wanted to live close to a train station to make for a less stressful commute. You'll need to make a decision on how you're going to be getting to work, be that driving, public transport or walking, and take that into account when deciding on a location. There's nothing worse than waking up everyday and absolutely dreading your commute.

Seeing as I knew I wanted to live outside of the city centre, I took a look at google maps and noted down the train stations in the surrounding area and based some of my flat searching off that. If you're going to be driving, make sure the distance isn't going to be too hideous and check for any straightforward routes.

Local amenities

Are there local shops to grab a pint of milk when you're desperate? Do you want to be near green spaces? Is there a good gym in the area? Are you likely to want a variety of clubs and pubs for nights out? These are all things you should consider when looking at what an area is going to offer to you. Take some time to think about what life is going to be like when you've moved, after all, there are so many things outside your home that can affect your quality of life. Think about the things you spend your free time doing now, add in anything that you'd like to start incorporating (eg. fitness classes, daytrips, culture, being outdoors) and consider what different areas can offer you in terms of these things. This is when your research about different areas can really help you. Again, make lists of your preferences and match them up to what different areas have.

Once you know which areas you want to start looking in, it's time to start the search for potential flats/houses. Stay tuned for a new post on this very soon!

I hope this has been at least a little bit helpful for those of you considering a move in the future. Please let me know your thoughts down below and leave your questions/suggestions for what else I should cover in this series. I already have so many ideas but it'd be really helpful to know what you guys want!

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Currently #8

Reading: The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero. This gorgeous proof landed on my doorstep recently and I instantly decided to pick it up because it has all the things I'm looking for in a cosy read: fairytale inspired, historical middle-grade. I'm loving it.

Watching: Love Island season two. I know, I KNOW. I'm so behind and a massive hypocrite. Over the summer I couldn't stop complaining about the deluge of Love Island tweets because I just wasn't interested. Now for some reason, Stu and I have been binge-watching last year's series and it's so addictive, it's terrible and great at the same time.

Planning: so many exciting weekends with family and friends over the next couple of months - I can't wait!

Making: I've been stressing out because I haven't been able to make my prints lately because my printer has been screwing around, but hopefully it's going to be fixed this week so I can get back to stocking up my shop.

Stocking up on: 
cardboard boxes because *drumroll* we're finally moving! After wanting to move for months we've finally found a flat we like and bonus, it's so much cheaper than the one we're in now. Now that we've got quite a bit of our own furniture, I'm really excited to move into an unfurnished flat - it's going to be a great blank canvas, and it'll finally feel like ours. But if anyone has any advice on buying a cheap but good mattress/bed then please let me know!

Wishing for: John Green's Turtles all the Way Down, which comes out next month. Hopefully I'll be getting it for my birthday!

Enjoying: indulging in my basic-ass love of everything autumn. I've got the autumn bedsheets on, the pumpkin candles out, the fluffy blankets, and I couldn't be happier.

Trying: to get to the gym at least three times a week. I feel stronger than ever but my cardiac fitness is pretty low still, I really need to up my cardio but I know I'm not the only one who HATES it and would much rather be weight training. Screw the treadmill.

Eating: beans on toast. I'm not even joking, I've been loving this basic classic for lunch lately - there's just something comforting about it!

Goal Setting: I've been trying to psych myself up to film a youtube video lately. I'm so SO uncomfortable in front of the camera and every time I've tried I've ended up cringing out and deleting it but I've wanted to start a booktube channel since 2015 so I just need to woman up and do it.

Learning: that I really can do anything I set my mind to and that life might take you to unexpected places but everything really does work itself out in the end. *sigh* I'm so freaking DEEP today, just call me Deepak Chopra, haha, at least I make myself laugh!

That's it! What've you been up to lately?

Monday 18 September 2017

August Book Haul

This year I've really been trying not to buy any more books as my TBR shelf is more of a bookcase, and it's kind of ridiculous. But between going on holiday (always a danger for my bank account) and constantly hanging around the book aisle of supermarkets, I ended up buying a few books in August as well as receiving a couple.

There seems to be a bit of a red theme going on, but look at those gorgeous spines won't you? I've been following Emma of Drinking by my Shelf's idea of Balancing the Books, where I total up the books I haul each month and balance them with the books I read by getting rid of some of my other books. I ended up acquiring six books in total and seeing as I only read four books in August that means I have to get rid of two books *cries* but I'm sure there's some on my TBR that I no longer fancy. So anyway, let's have a look at the books.

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
In the sleepy English village of Midwich, a mysterious silver object appears and all the inhabitants fall unconscious. A day later the object is gone and everyone awakens unharmed – except that all the women in the village are discovered to be pregnant.

The embarrassing thing is, I actually already own this! But the copy I already had is a tattered old one from a charity shop, with a less than stunning cover. So when I was visiting the Book Corner in Saltburn by Sea, I couldn't resist this gorgeous edition. I really enjoyed The Day of The Triffids by John Wyndham so I really want to get to this. It might be a great creepy Halloween read.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Dimple has plans to attend a summer camp for web developers, not knowing that her parents have planned her future arranged marriage to Rishi, a hopeless romantic with traditional values, who will also be at the camp.

When Dimple Met Rishi has had perhaps the most hype of any YA in recent years so I thought it was about time I found out why. The lovely Jessica noticed that I mentioned this book in my Mid-Year Book Tag and offered to send me her copy because she was finished with it. Isn't that just the nicest thing? So I'm super excited to get to this one, I'll probably be reading it soon, before every last vestige of summer completely disappears.

The Boy with One Name by J.R. Wallis
Twelve-year old Jones is an apprentice monster hunter in the Badlands, which exists on the edge of ordinary people lives. Ruby is outspoken, fearless and tired of her ordinary life. When the two meet and save each others lives, they have to work together to defeat a monster that not even the fiercest Badlander has yet faced.

I'm not going to lie, this was a total cover buy. I was loitering in the book section of my local supermarket and spotted this beauty and after finding out that it's a middle-grade with fairytale/supernatural elements (my weakness), I just had to have it. I'm pretty conflicted about buying books from supermarkets as I think that the author doesn't benefit well from these sales (I'm not sure on this, someone please educate me!), but I do make the occasional purchase. I've already read this one and will be reviewing it in my September wrap up, but for now I'll say that it's a nice, quick read, but nothing mind-blowing.

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
First published in 1940, Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm is a collection of witty short stories (including the hilariously festive title tale) from Stella Gibbons.

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm was 50p at a village summer fair that we stumbled across over the bank holiday weekend and I just couldn't resist the vintage red spine. I love these classics from vintage, mainly because they look so good on a shelf, but I was also intrigued by Stella Gibbons' writing. I think this one will be great for dipping in and out of on my commute nearer the festive period.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik
Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.

I've heard a lot of good things about Sofia Khan is Not Obliged on various blogs and booktube channels so I was excited when I saw it on the bargain shelf of an independent bookshop in Whitby (I forget the name of the shop, eek!). A lot of people have said that it's a more modern Bridget Jones, and that sounds great to me. So I'm excited to give this one a go, hopefully it'll be an uplifting, easy read.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe* by Lauren James
Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J. But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean? Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

I first heard about The Loneliest Girl in the Universe at the Walker Books Christmas party last year where the proof cover was revealed and we all completely fell in love with it, and it's been one of my most anticipated releases ever since. Well nine months later, it's finally here in all it's beautiful foiled glory! I've already read this one (in two sittings nonetheless) and I FREAKING LOVED IT. Seriously, it was brilliant. You need this one guys, you really do, go and buy it!


So there we have it! The six books that I acquired in August, in all of their beautiful newness! Have you read any of these books? Which one should I read next? Let me know!

Links to books in this post are affiliate links, which just means that if you want to purchase them, I get a little something too - with no extra cost to you! If you want to buy any other books, please consider using my Wordery link - thanks lovelies!
Books marked with a * were sent to me by the publisher for review consideration, I have not been paid by the publishers to feature any of these titles.

Monday 11 September 2017

August 2017 Reading Wrap Up

2017 has been a strange year, I've felt kind of lost and lacking direction and this has even extended to my reading. After a strange few months where I read barely anything, August was a pretty good month for it. I read four books in total and although I'm definitely not going to meet my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal, I'm fine with that and four books is better than none!

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood | ☆☆☆☆.25
Offred is a handmaid in the republic of Gilead, a class of woman kept by Commanders and their wives purely to provide a child. 

Despite having owned this modern classic for about three years, I only picked it up this summer as part of Girl Gang Books (the official Girl Gang book club! *plug plug*) and I'm so glad I finally got to it. I was slightly concerned that all the hype around it, especially after it was recently made into a tv series, would make for a disappointment but I can safely say it lived up to it's reputation. Several times whilst reading, I got a genuine eerie feeling as I could see how the events of this book could happen in our not-too-distant future. I've seen some reviews that criticise The Handmaid's Tale for being slow and plotless but I found it compelling as a snapshot of a potential (terrifying) future. I felt on edge almost the entire time but that's no bad thing as it heightened my emotions and made me feel empathy and fear every time Offred took any small risk. I wouldn't say I enjoyed this book, as that doesn't feel right, but I definitely appreciated it's brilliance. My one tiny criticism, that I know most won't agree with, is that I almost feel like it could've been longer. I felt like I needed slightly more time in Offred's past. But this book is excellent and I can't recommend it enough.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo | ☆☆☆☆☆
Diana, Princess of the Amazons, longs to prove herself to her warrior sisters but risks everything when she breaks Amazon law and saves the life of a mortal, Alia. But Alia is no ordinary teenager, and in saving her, Diana might have doomed the world.

Receiving this proof was like my birthday and Christmas combined. It was definitely one of my most anticipated 2017 releases and I was beyond excited when I got my hands on it. Surprisingly enough, I haven't seen Wonder Woman at the cinema and I didn't really know much about her or her origins until I'd read this. So if you're unsure about reading Warbringer because you don't know much about the DC Universe, don't worry, because I absolutely loved this despite my lack of knowledge. Leigh Bardugo's writing is superb and the characters in this book, like all of Leigh's characters, were incredibly well developed. I'm going to be posting a full review of this soon, but safe to say I LOVED it and you definitely need to pick it up.

Like Other Girls by Claire Hennessey | ☆☆.75
Lauren is going through a lot; her boyfriend thinks she's crazy, her best friend is going through something she can't understand and she's facing every teenage girl's worst nightmare.

I have such mixed feelings about this book. When I received it I thought it was going to be about the problematic nature of the 'not like other girls' trope, and it kind of was? But it also really wasn't. I loved Like Other Girls exploration of some of the really difficult teenage issues, but I felt that others could have been dealt with better. Lauren is a complicated character, and she's not particularly likeable, but she is kind of relatable. I definitely thought some of the things that she did when I was a teenager but I think very differently now, so my lower rating might be to do with the fact that I'm just out of the age range to be able to accept some of Lauren's questionable behaviour. I would say give this one a try if you find the synopsis interesting, it's definitely worth reading but I'm not sure how much I enjoyed it.

The Good People by Hannah Kent | ☆☆☆☆
Ireland, 1825, Nora's husband has died suddenly and Nora is left to care for her grandson, who can neither speak or walk. When unnatural things start happening in the valley, rumours are spread and Nora seeks the help of local healer Nance, who believes that Micheal is a changeling, a fairy child.

I adored Hannah Kent's Burial Rites and was just as excited to pick up her latest historical fiction The Good People, so when I received it as a proof late last year I couldn't believe my luck. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to get to it but I'm glad I did. I read this over the long weekend in a house by the sea and I'm glad I read it in such atmospheric surroundings, because it's definitely an atmospheric book. Kent's descriptions of nature are beautiful and I lingered over each one:
'The valley was beautiful. The slow turning towards winter had left stubble on the fields and the wild grasses bronzes, and the scutter of cloud left shadows brooding across the soil. It was its own world.'

Her writing in general is beautiful and poetic and definitely makes up for the slight slowness of the plot. I found the plot of The Good People less compelling than Burial Rites, but only slightly, Kent writes the hell out of a historical fiction with folk tale elements. I find Irish folklore fascinating and The Good People lends an excellent insight into it and would act as a great springboard before delving into more. The Good People is definitely one to snuggle up with by a crackling fire or to take away with you on a windy autumn weekend away.

So those are the books I read in August, here's to another good month of reading (I've already finished two books!) and the start of my favourite season!

What have you been reading lately? Let me know down below, I appreciate every single comment!

Links to books in this post are affiliate links, which just means that if you want to purchase them, I get a little something too - with no extra cost to you! If you want to buy any other books, please consider using my Wordery link - thanks lovelies!

Monday 21 August 2017

Reacting to My First Book Haul

I've been blogging for over two years now and recently I've been taking a look back at posts from my first year of blogging. Most people are embarassed about their early blog posts but although some things are a teensy bit cringe, I'm actually really proud of my first year of blogging. I feel like it was a simpler time, before I worried about reviewing all the proofs I'm sent and before all the pressure I feel now to have a 'glossy' looking blog (I definitely don't have one of those). I started blogging because I really wanted to just chat about my love for books and just share my rambling thoughts with the world and I feel like I've slipped away from that a bit in the last year. So I thought what better way to get back to my roots than by taking a look at my first ever book haul. This isn't about an embarrassed reaction to an early post, it's more taking a look back at the books I hauled to see what became of them. So let's go, all the way back to April 2015, to an Easter weekend book haul...

Thursday 17 August 2017

Five Podcasts I Love

This year I've only read 21 books, but I've probably listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts, and that's totally fine. Podcasts are such a great way to stay informed and entertained during the most tedious of times, like commuting and cleaning. I've listened to a huge amount of podcasts so I want to start doing these posts every now and then and hopefully you'll find your new favourite. I've discovered most of these this year and I've listened to nearly every single episode of all of them, and you should too. So let's get into it, here's five podcasts that I love.

Latest Instagrams

© Sarah's Chapter. Design by FCD.