Book Box Club May 2020 Unboxing

Last week I received my first Book Box Club box! I decided to subscribe because their May theme was just right up my street. Dragons are my favourite magical creatures so I just couldn’t resist a box themed around them.

Book Box Club is a UK-based subscription box. If you subscribe you get a book along with 4-6 bookish items. They offer monthly, 3 month or 6 month pre-paid options and they also do a book-only option. Also included is an invite to their exclusive online book group where you get a chance to ask the author questions which sounds pretty cool.

The theme for May was Dangers and Dragons! Without further ado, here’s what was inside.

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May 2020 Wrap Up

This month has been really warm here in the UK. It’s felt like summer not spring! I’m still working from home full time which provides some structure to my days. I’m happy with the amount of reading and writing I have managed to do this month during my down time.

Reading

My first read of the month was The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This book was okay but I didn’t love it. I don’t think it was for me. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas was such a good conclusion to the original ACOTAR trilogy and I’m excited to read more books in this series. I took part in the readalong for Fairyloot’s delayed March box which was for Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie. It’s a really imaginative YA fantasy but I didn’t love it as much as some other YA fantasy I have read. 

I’m currently reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins which I had pre-ordered! The Hunger Games is one of my favourite series so I couldn’t wait to return to that world. I won’t say more until I’ve finished reading it, expect a review in the next few days!

Book Haul

My copy of Illumicrate’s special edition of Aurora Burning arrived and it’s gorgeous. The original cover is orange but their edition has a blue cover and edges and it looks amazing. The other exclusive edition I received was Bone Crier’s Moon in Fairyloot’s March box. Burn is one of my anticipated books of the year. I’m really curious to see what Patrick Ness does with dragons! I also got A Darker Shade of Magic on my Kindle because I’ve been meaning to try a V. E. Schwab book for ages so now I’ll hopefully actually get round to reading it.

Writing

I’ve been doing more research and planning for my King Arthur retelling. It’s going well so I will be continuing planning in June with the idea of hopefully taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo in July, but more on that nearer the time.

What books did you enjoy reading this month? What have you been getting up to? Let me know in the comments!  

Let’s Talk Bookish: Subscription Boxes

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic is ‘Subscription Boxes’.

I only discovered bookish subscription boxes last year but they’ve been around for a little while now. The basic idea is that once a month you get a box in the post that includes a new release book and a few bookish items. Some companies also offer book only or item only options. Sounds appealing right? That’s exactly what I thought when I discovered book boxes existed. It’s super exciting waiting for the box to arrive and then the surprise of opening it since you don’t know what’s going to be inside! Plus, they often do special edition boxes for big new releases in which all the items are themed around that book/series e.g. Chain of Gold, Queen of Nothing.

So far, I have tried Fairyloot, Illumicrate and Book Box Club which are all UK based. I haven’t tried any US based ones yet as shipping is really expensive. I’ve only had one box from Illumicrate so far and while I liked it, I didn’t feel there was as much included as the Fairyloot boxes I’ve had. Literally just this week I had my first Book Box Club box. The May theme was around dragons which I absolutely adore so this theme was just perfect for me. However, it didn’t feel like there was much in the box, there were only a few small items. Unlike Illumicrate and Fairyloot who offer exclusive editions (usually with sprayed edges, exclusive cover design etc), the books included in Book Box Club appear to be just the standard editions. What Book Box Club does offer though is a member-exclusive book group with the author of the featured book which sounds really cool, though I haven’t tried it out yet since I only just got my first box from them.

In comparison, the three monthly Fairyloot boxes I’ve had so far (October, February and March) seem to offer better value for money than the Illumicrate and Book Box Club ones I’ve had. They were full to the brim with a mixture of great small and larger items. So out of the three, Fairyloot stands out to me as the best in terms of their monthly boxes.

I recently received the special edition boxes for Chain of Gold from Illumicrate and Fairyloot. In this case, I think it was the Illumicrate box that was the best. All the items worked really well together and were unique and interesting. I was blown away by how amazing their box was. From looking at their past special edition boxes, Illumicrate seem to be really good at these.

I don’t think I will become a regular subscriber to a book subscription box as much as I would love to.  They are quite expensive. By the time VAT and shipping is added the monthly boxes come to roughly £32. The other problem is that the kinds of items included do seem to be a bit repetitive, so I can imagine ending up with lots of similar items that I don’t know what to do with. I would be more likely to subscribe if there was less repetition and more unique items in each box. Also, as the contents are a surprise (which to be fair is part of what makes receiving them exciting) there is the potential to be disappointed so it can be a bit hit and miss.

As I have a lot more time for reading at the moment due to not being able to go anywhere, I will probably get a few more boxes this year. Plus, I need something to look forward to right now. I’m in the at risk group so I can’t go anywhere, not even to the supermarket! Receiving book boxes will provide some much-needed bright spots in what is quite a difficult time right now. When things get back to normal though I will probably go back to just getting the occasional box as a treat.  

How do you feel about subscription boxes? Are you subscribed to any? Which would you recommend? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!   

Top 5 Tuesday: Summer Reads

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bionic Book Worm! Today’s theme is Summer Reads. I’m not generally a seasonal reader i.e. I don’t read summery books in summer, spooky books in October etc. So my Top 5 will be 5 books I really want to read this summer.

Burn by Patrick Ness – The only Patrick Ness book I have read is More Than This which I really enjoyed, so I’ve been wanting to read more of his work. When I saw the synopsis for Burn I was instantly intrigued. Plus it has dragons, so…

A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer – I was surprised by how much I enjoyed A Curse So Dark and Lonely so the sequel is high on my TBR list. I’m excited to return to the world of Emberfall and see what Grey is up to!

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim – I’ve had this book on my shelf for a year now but just haven’t got round to reading it. With the sequel coming out this summer, I really want to read Spin the Dawn soon.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein – I haven’t read this book since I was a kid and I’ve been wanting to re-read it for ages. So I’m hoping to finally get round to it this summer.

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra ClareLady Midnight was just so good and I’m super excited to return to the world of the Shadowhunters for the sequel. 

Are you a seasonal reader? Are there any summery books you’re looking forward to? What books are you excited to read this summer? Let me know in the comments! Feel free to drop a link to your Top 5 Tuesday post!  

Book Review: Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie

Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: March 2020 by Katherine Tegan Books (Fairyloot edition)  

Pages: 453

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Bone ​Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.

Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.

Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.

Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die.

Bone Crier’s Moon is an imaginative, fast-paced young adult fantasy. I was expecting romance to play a bigger part, but this book has a wider focus. The novel is told from three first person perspectives – Ailesse, Bastien and Sabine.

The magic system and world building in this book are creative and enchanting. The Leuress ferry the dead once a month, guiding them on to Tyrus’s underworld or to Elara’s paradise. They draw their magic from the grace bones of animals. A Leuress has to kill an animal and take one of its bones (warning: there are a few animal deaths in this book). When they wear this bone, they take on the graces of that animal, for example enhanced hearing or strength. In order to become a ferrier, the Leuress have to complete a rite of passage in which they kill their soul mate. The mythology of the bone crier’s is so vivid and it’s such an interesting idea. I loved discovering more about them and I hope we’ll gain even more insight into their magic and their role as ferriers of the dead in the next book.

Sabine was definitely my favourite character. She finds having to kill animals in order to get grace bones very conflicting. She isn’t even sure she wants to be a ferrier. I liked seeing her character grow over the course of the novel. I didn’t connect with Ailesse as much at the start, but she definitely grew on me. I also loved the strength of their friendship and how it drives them. Unfortunately, I felt we didn’t get to know Bastien well enough. I didn’t like or dislike his character; I just didn’t feel like I knew him as well as the two other POV characters. Odiva, Ailesse’s mother, was an interesting character. I knew there was something fishy about her from the start, but I couldn’t have guessed what the truth actually was!

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Top 10 Tuesday: Reasons Why I Love Fantasy

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is ‘Reason Why I Love…’. Fantasy has been my favourite genre for so long. I think it’s what really got me into reading. So I decided to write about 10 reasons why I love fantasy!

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Escape – Fantasy provides an escape from the real world. When I’m reading fantasy, I can really envelope myself in this other place, this other world, and forget about everything going on in my life.

New worlds – One of my favourite things about fantasy is the world building. I love discovering a new world in each book I read and immersing myself in that place.

Magic – Of course, magic is a big part of the fantasy genre. There’s something about magic that just sparks my imagination. I also love seeing all the different magic systems that authors come up with!

Magical creatures – As someone who loves animals, I love it when fantasy worlds are populated by magical creatures as well as people.  

Dragons – Yes you could count dragons as magical creatures but I felt they deserved their own point on this list. They are my favourite magical creature! I have a collection of dragons and always enjoy seeing my favourite creatures in books.

Imagination – There are so many possibilities with fantasy! Endless things authors can do with worlds and magic and everything else that comes with a fantasy story.

Adventures/quests – What drew me to fantasy as a child was the idea of going on an adventure! Setting off on a quest and overcoming obstacles to reach the goal!

Characters – I love the mix of heroes and villains in fantasy and seeing characters grow over the course of a book and a series!

Political intrigue/court intrigue – I do really like when there is a good dose of political intrigue in fantasy. Seeing how different kingdoms and peoples interact with each other, political rivalries, alliances, characters out for their own gain or with their own agendas, all makes for such suspense!

Reflecting on the real world – Fantasy (and science fiction) can be used as a lens through which to explore issues from our own world. I like it when fantasy is used as a way to highlight things that are important in our own societies.

What do you love about fantasy? Or your favourite genre? Chat with me in the comments!

Writing Corner: Planning

In my last Writing Corner post I discussed Planners vs Pantsers so today I’m going to focus on planning. There are so many ways to approach planning a novel. You need to find a process that works for you, but in this post I’ll give you some ideas and tips on what and how to plan.  

I’m a planner and do quite a bit of preparation before I’m ready to start writing. How you organise your ideas and plans is up to you. I use Microsoft Office OneNote, but there is other writing and planning software you can use such as Scrivener and Dabble. Do research to find out what’s best for you. You can usually get a free trial too so you can try before you buy. I found Scrivener to be quite daunting, so for now I’m sticking with using OneNote to organise all my notes.

There are five main areas I look at when I approach planning a novel – ideas, research, world building, characters and plot. My ‘Ideas’ tab allows room for splurging ideas and brainstorming my thoughts. I’ll come back to those later and filter them through to my ‘Plot’ tab when I’m ready.

Whatever genre you’re writing, you will inevitably need to do research. Whether that’s into a historical setting, types of weapons or how security cameras work. If you’re writing historical fiction, you’ll need to do a lot of research. But even if you’re writing fantasy, research can help you build your world. I recently wrote a fantasy novel inspired by Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. I did quite a bit of research into the ancient world, and then drew inspiration from that research to build my own world. There’s research you can do in the planning stage and some things you will only need to research as you go.

On the subject of world building, you need to understand your world because setting interacts with plot and character. Your setting (whether that be an invented setting or a historical period) will affect how your characters behave and interact with each other. But there is always room to develop and discover more about your world as you write. If you’re writing fantasy, world building will probably be a big part of your planning. Keep your notes organised into sections (e.g. magic, customs, clothing, religion) so it’s easy to refer back to and find those details when you’re writing.

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Book Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: May 2017 by Bloomsbury Childrens Books

Pages: 699

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

A Court of Wings and Ruin is the third book in this series and concludes the main original trilogy. And wow was it a good conclusion. While I didn’t enjoy A Court of Mist and Fury as much as the first book, I absolutely loved A Court of Wings and Ruin. People seem to rave over ACOMAF, but it was too slow in places for me and I felt that book was dragged out a bit too much (although I still liked it, just not as much as the others!). ACOWAR on the other hand kept the pace and suspense up all the way through. The stakes were high, I was invested in the characters and I was hooked from start to finish.  

This book has a huge cast and I loved most of them. I loved seeing Feyre as High Lady and adjusting to her new role (also it was really satisfying seeing other characters, especially High Lords, react to realising she’s High Lady). Then there’s the inner circle, Mor, Amren, Cassian and Azriel, and the addition of Nesta and Elain. I liked seeing Feyre’s sisters have a bigger role in this book as we got to see her interact with them more.

The amount of twists and turns in this book was unbelievable. It’s building up to the final climactic battle between Prythian and Hybern, but along the way there is plenty of suspense and twists. I devoured the last 100 or so pages, with my moods shifting from elation to tears and back again over and over. When I closed the book, I felt satisfied with the conclusion. ACOWAR is a great ending to this trilogy.

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Let’s Talk Bookish: Should We Read More Serious Books?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic is ‘Should We Read More Serious Books’.

My general feeling is that people should read whatever they enjoy. But does that mean we should never stray from our comfort zone? No, I think it can be good to read a variety of genres and types of books. However I very rarely read nonfiction or biographies. I don’t generally enjoy reading this kind of book. I find they don’t hold my attention. I just can’t get in to them. Fiction is definitely what I enjoy.

One of the questions posed in the prompt is ‘Should we read more serious books as a result of COVID-19?’ Right now, I feel like we’re all just trying to get through this difficult time. Right now, I want to read books I know I’ll enjoy because I need to find an escape from all the stress and anxiety of the situation we find ourselves in. For me, this doesn’t feel like the right time to start looking for ‘serious’ reads. But for people who find themselves with more time on their hands, taking the opportunity to discover something different, whether that be serious books or something else, might be a great thing.

Sometimes I do feel like I should try and read more nonfiction. The problem is I don’t really know what to choose! I’ve yet to read a nonfiction book I have actually liked. So I’m not sure exactly what kind of thing I might enjoy. The only time I read nonfiction is for research for my writing. At the moment I’m reading a book on Arthurian Literature and Legend but it’s for research for a retelling I’m planning more than enjoyment, I’m doing a lot of highlighting and note taking! I’m also reading The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Guide to Getting Published for when I’m ready to start submitting my book. But I wouldn’t choose to pick up a nonfiction book to read for fun. Maybe I just haven’t found my nonfiction jam yet!

Do you read nonfiction? Do you have any recommendations for me? I’d love to know what you think about this topic so chat with me in the comments!  

Let’s Talk Bookish: What Makes A Good Villain

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic is ‘What Makes A Good Villain’!

Villains are an important part of any story. Our heroes have to face obstacles to achieving their goal and there is almost always a villain standing in their way. But what makes a good villain? I like to see villains that are just as fleshed out and developed as our protagonists. Cardboard cut-out villains just fall flat. I want an antagonist who has motivations, wants, desires, a back story (be it tragic or not so tragic).

Good villains can fall into different categories. There are the evil for the sake of evil villains, who I find very rarely work effectively. A baddie with an evil cackle is just cliché and boring. I like to see complexity in villains. Yes they might well be evil, but why? Is there something in their history that made them that way? Even the pure evil kind of villains can have layers and complexity to them. For evil villains, I want them to genuinely scare me. I want to be scared for my favourite characters. An example that springs to mind is Amarantha from A Court of Thorns and Roses. She’s evil, twisted and sinister and I found Maas’s depiction of her character utterly chilling.

Alternatively, the villain could believe their actions are justified, genuinely believe that what they’re doing is right or for the greater good in some way, but their choices to achieve their goal are morally wrong or result in the deaths of innocents for example. Or the antagonist could be conflicted, fighting between the dark and the light inside them, and maybe they have a redemption arc. Maybe the antagonist isn’t evil at all, they’ve just fallen in with the wrong crowd in an attempt to fit in or have been blackmailed. Can they be redeemed? Or do they succumb to the darkness growing inside them? An interesting angle is having morally grey antagonists (and even grey protagonists too). When the lines between good and evil are more blurred, that can make for a really captivating story.   

I also enjoy books where we have more than one antagonist. There might be a main villain, the evil person who the hero has to defeat at the end of the book/series, and then other antagonists whom the protagonist comes into contact with more frequently and provides a more direct and personal conflict. For an easy example, I’d categorise Voldemort as the main villain in Harry Potter, but Draco is an antagonist who Harry comes into direct conflict with more often as they have an ongoing rivalry.

But how does the story end for the villain? Many books end with the downfall or death of the villain. In order for the heroes to succeed, they have to vanquish the antagonist. However, sometimes an antagonist gets a redemption arc. I do like a good redemption arc but it has to be done well in order to be a satisfying conclusion to that character’s story.

What do you think about villains? Who are your favourite villains from book or screen? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!