Fairyloot October 2019 Unboxing

This is my first unboxing post as I finally decided to order a subscription box, having been eyeing them up for ages! There are various book subscription boxes you can get, which usually include a book and a selection of goodies. Plus, it’s a surprise, as you don’t know what the book or items will be.

Fairyloot is a UK-based YA fantasy subscription box. If you subscribe, you get a box a month which includes a hardback book and 5-6 exclusive goodies around a theme. You can subscribe monthly, or there are 3 month and 6 month pre-paid options. The monthly cost is £26. Or you can get a single purchase and just buy a one-off box, which is what I decided to do. It’s pretty expensive to get monthly, so I just decided I would by a box occasionally as a single purchase when a theme catches my eye.

Be warned there will be spoilers for the contents of the October box in this post!

The October theme is ‘Love at First Bite’. I’m sure for a lot of people this must be their dream box, as there are a lot of vampire fans out there. I’m not super into vampires, but I really wanted the book in this box so decided to go for it. I got an eARC of The Beautiful and loved it, so wanted to get my hands on a physical copy and couldn’t resist a signed exclusive copy.

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Book Review: The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh (eARC)

The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: October 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton  

Pages: 448

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book.

I’m a tad late with this review. I did start reading it before it was released, but didn’t end up having much time to read on my holiday to Amsterdam. But better late than never!

The premise for this book instantly got my attention. Vampires. Murder mystery. In New Orleans. In the 1800s. Count me in. I’m quite hard to please when it comes to vampire novels. I think because I have been disappointed by so many. The historical New Orleans setting was certainly a great attraction, as it made a change from all the modern day vampire novels. In fact, it didn’t feel necessarily like a vampire novel, which is a good thing, as it felt like its own rather than trying too hard to fit a mould.

There is a mysterious, sumptuous atmosphere in much of the book, which Reneé Ahdieh does an excellent job at capturing. Alluring is a good word to describe this book. I also can’t help but love a good murder mystery! However I did feel by the end still quite in the dark about all the mysterious people, and whether they are all vampires or something else. That air of mystery is very effective for most of the book, but it would have been more satisfying to get more answers and a clearer picture of this shadowy paranormal world by the end.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Recent Additions to My TBR List

I had trouble deciding what to write about for this week’s freebie, and as I have added so many awesome looking books to my TBR (to be read) list on Goodreads lately, I decided to do a top 5 of my most recent additions. I do have a bad habit of happily clicking away at books I think look great, so have a rather large ‘Want to Read’ list on Goodreads that I probably need to sort out so it actually has books on it I have some chance of reading.

T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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Book Review: Frostbite by Richelle Mead

19258492Frostbite by Richelle Mead   

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2008 by e-Penguin (first published 2008)

Pages: 336

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose…

It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians—including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks… This year, St. Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price…

Frostbite is the second book in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series. Although I rated this 3.5, the same as I rated the first book, I did think it was a little stronger. Just not quite edging to a 4 for me compared to other books I have given a 4 star rating.

The friendship between Rose and Lissa was a little sidelined in this book, which I think was a shame as it was one of the strongest aspects of Vampire Academy. I hope their friendship will continue to evolve through the rest of the series. Other relationships were explored more, such as Rose and her mother. As we didn’t see much of Janine in book one, it was interesting to see how Rose interacted with her mother and how their relationship shifted over the course of the book.

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Book Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

9781595141743Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2013 books 1-3 set, Penguin (first published 2007)

Pages: 336

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Only a true best friend can protect you from your immortal enemies . . .

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger . . . and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever . . .

I watched the film adaptation of this before reading the book. Having seen the film a couple of times, I could remember most of it, so there weren’t really any surprises when it came to reading it. Especially as the film is pretty faithful to the book compared to a lot of adaptations. Even so, I enjoyed reading the book and am glad I picked it up. There weren’t any points where I felt bored; Mead kept my interest all the way through even though I knew the story.

I like the world Mead has created, with the two different kind of vampires – Moroi, who are alive, and the Strigoi, who are dead and more like the kind of vampires readers will be familiar with – and their half-vampire guardians, the dhampir.

Rose’s voice came through in the first person narration strongly right from the start. I had a clear picture of her character early on which showed great characterisation. Lissa was also a good character, along with Dimitri and Christian. Other characters ended up falling into stereotypes and clichés a bit too much, unfortunately.

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Book Review: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

twilight-meyer

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Publishing Info: 2009 by Atom (first published 2006)

Pages: 434

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret. What Bella doesn’t realize is that the closer she gets to him, the more she is putting herself and those around her at risk. And it might be too late to turn back …

It’s probably clear from the 2 star rating that I didn’t particularly like this book. As I said in my previous blog post, I’m reading Twilight for the first time, as it’s on the reading list for my degree. I’ve seen and disliked the films, and I’ve heard so many mixed opinions about this book that in many ways I didn’t actually know what to expect. Would I hate it as much as I was anticipating? Or would it be not as bad as expected? I tried to go in with an open mind.

The book actually starts out reasonably well (much to my surprise). Unfortunately it set up an expectation that I might not hate the rest of the book as much as I expected to, but that hope didn’t last all too long. It starts off fairly typically – a girl moves to another town, which she dislikes greatly, and is the new girl in school. Something that’s been done plenty of times before, but although Bella didn’t want to move, it was her choice to, not her parents’ choice. That piqued my curiosity because it seemed to be a contradictory situation and I was interested to know why Bella had made that decision even though she seemed to hate Forks so much. So my initial impression of the book was a reasonably good one. Bella seemed to be an ordinary girl, and not quite as bland as in the films (I think the acting contributed there).

Even when Edward was first introduced I still didn’t mind the book. If I hadn’t seen the films and knew nothing about the story, I probably would have been intrigued to find out more about the mysterious Cullen family. At first, I could understand why Bella was interested in Edward, his peculiar behaviour towards her meant that it made sense for her to be thinking about him and wondering if and why he seemed to hate her and have a physical aversion towards her. Then they get talking and spend a lot of time staring at each other and Bella spends a lot of time thinking about Edward, and I mean yeah she’s a teenage girl with a crush, but she’s constantly thinking about it and it just started to get on my nerves. I still didn’t mind the book too much though. At this point, I didn’t even dislike it yet.

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I’m Finally Reading Twilight

twilight-meyer

From reading Dracula last week, I’m going the complete reversal on vampire books by reading Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. It’s not something I would choose to read, but I have been curious to read it for a long time to see what it’s really like. Since it’s on the reading list for the Children’s Literature module I’m taking for my degree, I now get the pleasure of finally finding out.

My knowledge of this book is based solely on the various claims from both sides of the argument – Twilight fans and Twilight haters – and the films. Having heard that the books are better than the films, I’ve tried not to let my dislike of the films cloud my judgement over the first book in the series. This is easier said than done though, as I’ve found it difficult to separate myself from all the things I’ve heard about it and form my own opinion through reading it. It seems to be impossible to be unbiased because it’s just such a famous book and people have said a lot of negative things about it. I can’t help but wonder whether I would like or dislike it if there wasn’t all that surrounding it, if it were just a book I’d picked up off the shelf that I hadn’t really heard of and didn’t have any preconceptions about. That’s something we’ll never know so I’ll just have to attempt to be as objective as possible and take it at face value as well as I can.

I’m about halfway through currently, and although it started out fine, things have gone dramatically downhill in the last few chapters. Full review to come when I’ve finished reading it!

Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

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Dracula by Bram Stoker

Genre: Gothic, Classics

Publishing Info: 2011 by Penguin Classics, Hardback Clothbound (first published 1897)

Pages: 454

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

The vampire novel that started it all, Bram Stoker’s Dracula probes deeply into human identity, sanity, and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire. When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client. Soon afterward, disturbing incidents unfold in England—an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby, strange puncture marks appear on a young woman’s neck, and a lunatic asylum inmate raves about the imminent arrival of his “Master”—culminating in a battle of wits between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries.

Dracula is a long book, and although my interest in it waned and revived at various points, my overall feeling after finishing it was that I had on the whole enjoyed it. Many a classic has told a lacklustre tale of Victorian families, but throw vampires into the mix and you get an altogether more captivating read. I have the Penguin Classics hardback clothbound edition, which is of lovely quality, with thick and smooth pages.

The novel is written in an epistolary form, using a mixture of diary entries, letters, telegrams and newspaper articles, told from a variety of viewpoints. This is something which not every reader will like. The book is constantly switching between narrators and between the different written pieces (letters, diaries etc.), something which I had expected to dislike. However, because it moved around a lot between different characters, and so different stories (until the various threads become intertwined later in the book), I think that prevented me from becoming bored with it. Often when narrators switch too often it feels disjointed, but this format works for this book, as the patchwork of letters and journal entries is itself an element of the plot.

All was going well, until the latter half of the book when the male characters began to emphasise ridiculously one of the female characters ‘femaleness’ and how they didn’t want her to witness the terrible, vampire-y things going on. This went on quite persistently in ridiculous volume for a couple of chapters. Now, obviously women were viewed by society in a particular way in the Victorian period, so this isn’t exactly surprising. It was how much it was emphasised through the repetitiveness with which the male characters discussed her sensitive disposition as a woman and other such phrases. It became very irritating and made me frustrated at the book, which up to that point I had been mildly enjoying. At least she proved herself to be intelligent and resourceful, despite their attitudes towards her.

The concluding section of the book when the chase of Dracula commences was exciting and kept my attention, making me want to read to the end to discover the fates of the characters. So despite some moments that dragged and my attention wavered, and the section where the woman was treated as weak, the rest of it was actually pretty good. My conclusion upon closing the cover was that I was glad to have read it. Vampires are such a prolific part of our culture, and there have been so many varied adaptations and interpretations of Dracula, that it was interesting to read the original story.