I have been saying that After The Fire is my best read of 2017 but I haven’t actually reviewed it here, so I say it is long overdue and here it is!
After the Fire by Will Hill
The things I’ve seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.
Father John controls everything inside The Fence. And Father John likes rules. Especially about never talking to Outsiders. Because Father John knows the truth. He knows what is right, and what is wrong. He knows what is coming.
Moonbeam is starting to doubt, though. She’s starting to see the lies behind Father John’s words. She wants him to be found out.
What if the only way out of the darkness is to light a fire?
This book was recommended (and gifted) to me by the lovely Kate and Libby from Book Box Club who also loved it and thought it was ideal for me. One of the many reasons is that the main character is called Moonbeam, which made them think of me (because I am Moon, just in case). So much they wanted me to read it that it was my birthday gift, and what a gift it was!
The story starts with the last moments that Moonbeam spends inside The Fence while a terrible fire is wreaking even more havoc around her. Then the story starts when she actually wakes up in the hospital and realises she is in the hands of the very people she was warned never to talk to, never to disclose all the secrets from inside The Fence to. Poor Moonbeam, can’t blame her for feeling confused and conflicted inside.
But deciding what she should share with the strangers that are giving her sessions and keeping her “locked” in a room isn’t the only thing that is eating her up inside. She is also trying to puzzle out what happened in those last moments once the raid started and then with the fire.
The narrative is amazing at taking you into Moonbeam’s mind and helping you understand why she is thinking what she is thinking. She has been brought up inside the Fence most of her life and after her mother leaves, she is fending for herself inside, unsure if this is the best or not.
The story progresses in jumps since we are being told what Moonbeam sees fit to share with the psychologist and the detective. Of course, at first she isn’t willing to share much, they are the evil and the voice in her head resonates with Father John’s voice blaming her and giving her free guilt trips. [I know all too well how this feels, because more than two years after leaving an abusive relationship I still battle with that voice at times, every day a little less, but it is a nagging persistent pesky thing]. But slowly she makes the so-called progress she is being told about and starts telling more and more and she talks about it, more comes to the surface.
And without spoilers I just have to say that the last few chapters were the right note to end the story and I did not expect a few of the twists about the ending but it was good to find them happen. Once I closed the book I felt okay, pleased with how it had ended despite all that Moonbeam had had to go through.
You’re seriously in for a ride with this one. It is not a soft and fluffy romantic read, but it is a gripping ‘can’t put the book down’ read and I was utterly blown away by it.
From what I have learned (and after meeting the author, who was amazing and signed my copy and remembered me after I kept coming back to chat to him) this was inspired by the Waco Siege in Texas in 1993. I only learned this afterwards, and have now done some research into that. I admit that it is a good inspiration but love Will’s story on its own and to me they are two different events and cults.
Go read it now. You needs this on the top of your TBR or straight into your hands. But if you’d like interesting gripping reads I can recommend Lies like Love by Louisa Reid, which is about a mother daughter relationship but it is also about manipulation, control, depression and mental illness. Or you can try This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn by Aidan Chambers, which is another gripping read, written in six ‘books’ of Cordelia’s adolescent life, by turns funny, poignant, sad, exciting, fascinating ironic and truthful about topics that parents often do not tell their children.
If you’d like to buy the book, you can find it here or you can check out my GoodReads review.
Disclaimer: There is an Amazon Associates link, but if you choose to use them and buy from them, know that you’re just helping me buy more books and feed my reading needs. Book synopsis is from Good Reads.
Illumicrate is a quarterly book subscription box that despite saying it only includes one book usually includes two. My first box was in August last year and I really like receiving it. (I admit I have had issues with delivery but Daphne has always been quick to reply, and apparently Hermes has stopped being nasty with deliveries since this box made it on the first attempt and there were no issues).
Of course, this box was no exception in being packed full of goodies (and I guessed the book correctly, I felt so proud!)
Starting from the top left corner and going clockwise, contents were:
Cute notebook with a Percy Jackson quote
Wonder Woman Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo with delightful tinted edges that I adored (and this is the book I guessed)
A cute savings glass jar that says “Book Jar” by Blossom Books.
An ARC/proof of Nyxia (it sounds like a mix between Hunger Games, Enders Game and The Maze Runner, and according to the author it’s all about depicting compasion).
Several publisher bookmarks.
Blossom Books cute book note/tags which make me want to use them all on my books as I read (even if I don’t have the having of annotating books)
Warbringer square pin/badge
Pouch with Shakespeare quote.
Quote aout happiness and books that came inside the Book Jar
T-ology The Red Church tea which may or may not contain the blood of your enemies.
Coaster that feed my engineering and artist side with feels for some reason and I love it.
At first I wasn’t sure what to think of the contents but somehow they have all made me squeal a little as I write about them. The pouch is holding some picture props like ribbons and other bits and bobs, and the Book Jar is now a challenge my boyfriend gave me.
We’re trying to fill it with coppers (1p or 2p) and see if once full it is enough to buy a book (at retail price). It was such a fun challenge that we ended up turning the house upside down just to find all the pennies we could and somehow managed to do half full jar. Crazy, right?
So as you can see this Illumicrate was a success once again (it even managed to get my boyfriend involved in the goodies), so check them out if you’d like to buy a subscription.
If you remember my long post about subscription boxes, I mentioned LeaferBox.
This is a UK based box that sells through Etsy rather than Cratejoy or their own site. It is also not Young Adult exclusive, instead you get a choice of genres of books to pick from.
Having had a quick conversation with them, currently the only boxes that have a monthly theme are the Historical and Fantasy ones since they are the ones that sell more, but they are not the only ones they sell.
You can choose between Historical, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Chick-Lit, Comedy, Thriller or Surprise (for when you’re not sure which one you want and any will do, or you just like surprise). In each category you can either buy a single box (it does not renew automatically), 3 months or 6 months. Neither option renews itself so once it is done you can decide which one you want next if you do.
Any way, I was divided between trying the Sci-fi one and the Fantasy one, but decided to go for one I didn’t know the theme (Fantasy this month is Mermaids). The wonderful thing is that you can buy the month’s box any day of that given month (which is great because the cut off date is just the end of the month).
So without more rambling from my part, here are the contents of the box.
Most of the lovely extras were beautifully wrapped in a leafy tissue paper (I thought it was such a sweet little extra thing) and the book was not wrapped (I don’t mind).
The box included some fruit tea called Grandma’s Garden, a cute tea bag shaped infuser (I already have found my most favourite infuser so probably won’t use this one, but that does not take away the cuteness factor and that they thought about how to help you deal with loose leaf tea). There was also a timey whimey Tardis official merchandise Doctor Who bookmarks (isn’t it lovely?). A delicious Ritter Sport (last night I told my boyfriend that I had to take pictures of this box there and then because I couldn’t resist wanting to eat the chocolate and could not wait any longer, so I did -this was the actual day I received the box-). And an absolutely stunning gorgeous galaxy pendant necklace that has made me swoon so much.
Finally, the book included was HellHole which I probably wouldn’t have chosen on my own but it sounds interesting and will definitely be read.
Look at that wonderful galaxy pendant, isn’t it gorgeous?
All in all I was pleasantly surprised with the box. So much so that I ended up having a quick conversation on Instagram with them and bought the Fantasy box because Mermaids, right?
This box reminds me a lot of the simplicity of Novel Tea Club (which closed at the beginning of the year) and I am loving it very much. It is also more affordable at £12.99 + shipping than most book subscription boxes, so that’s a plus.
Have you tried LeaferBox? Would you consider it? Let me know your thoughts.
Let’s talk art again and in this case, also books, because today I’ll cover how the illustration on the pocket mirror for Book Box Club came to be.
It all started with a quick description of what they’d like for me to do. The girls explained it was meant to be a pocket mirror and that they wanted a girl/woman reading in a romantic setting with lots of nature and to fit the theme of the box, Spells and Remedies.
There was no hint as to the actual book included.
The description was easy and quite open so I went and did some research in all my reference books and my own knowledge about what I could consider fitting for the theme. I knew I had to include some chamomile, maybe some dandelion and oak and a few other plants because of their healing and also I knew they were used in hedge witchcraft. This led to a search through tumblr and google (and my own books at home) for more on herbs and their uses, and which plants are used in spells most frequently.
After that, I sat down on the couch (there are two ‘desks’ I can use for drawing but I end up doing most of my sketches sitting on the couch, it means company both from bf and puppy) and sketched several options of poses thinking of how they’d fit the pocket mirror and theme.
Which one do you like best?
The girls got back to me on which one they liked most and what they’d like to change, so I took that into account and did a cleaner drawing (all of this done on paper with a mechanical pencil, my favourite drawing tool).
I had intended to be fancy and lightbox my sketch then scan it, but because I had made the original drawing quite detailed on thick paper, it was very fiddly and the results wasn’t as good as I had hoped for. So smart me scanned both (pencil and ink) and opened both to decide which one would be better. Pencil sketch won and it soon started taking shape in Clip Studio Paint (I use several art programs depending on the effects I want to achieve, CSP is my prefered one for inking a scanned sketch).
Lots of little details, including my signature as the book cover
The original plan was that the girls would then colour it however they saw fit and that was it, but when they returned their version of it, I wanted to try to colour it myself (I hadn’t realised I already had a coloured version inside my head). So I spent my Friday evening well past midnight colouring in extreme detail the drawing, despite knowing that it wouldn’t show well on the pocket mirror. For example, her eyes are light grey/blue with golden specks and the tree trunk has relief on the bark and the grass also has a lovely effect same as most of the individual leaves drawn that have a gradual colouring or shading effect.
Ample non detailed background to account for wrap around and bleed
Still, I completed the colouring and sent it away for the girls to approve, which they did of course. They also kindly informed me that I had done a lot of detail that wouldn’t show on the finished mirror, but I did not care, because I knew that if I had sent anything less I wouldn’t have been happy with myself and would’ve felt as if I had done a bad illustration for a customer.
After that it was just a matter of keeping the secret about the design (which I wanted to share) and waiting for the boxes to start arriving before I could disclose details about it.
If you liked this process of an artwork, there may be more to come, since I am currently working on designing 13 ‘colouring’ bookmarks to celebrate the anniversary of Book Box Club this September. Details on how to get your hands on them are still to come, but if you’re interested let me know.
Every seven years something goes missing in the remote town of Sterling: people’s reflections, the stars in the sky, the ability to dream. Aila realises that her mother may be to blame for the curse. But some mysteries are buried very deep and some secrets want to stay hidden – and one young woman’s desire to uncover the truth may not be enough to save Sterling from the past.
A beautifully told story of love, loss and finding the truth – no matter how difficult that might be.
Warning, this review contains spoilers. Read at your discretion.
This was a slow start kind of book. The story starts in Gardner, where Aila and Miles have been living their whole life, and it starts at the moment they are meant to leave for Sterling (the place where the Disappearances happen).
From the beginning the prose is rich and delightful and as much as the story was moving slowly at first, there were several moments when I just wanted to grab a pencil and underline or copy some of the phrases.
Thankfully, once we arrive to Sterling and get past the introductory days and being introduced to most characters, things pick up.
I have to say that the thing that stuck with me the most was how much Emily (the author) must love Shakespeare’s works. The amount of details, and the use of them through the book was impressive and left me admiring her skills. Retellings of Shakespeare’s works are relatively common, but The Disappearances does a magic act here and instead of retelling them, weaves them into the story so they are in a way the story but never a retelling nor do you feel like you’re just reading Shakespeare with fillers around it.
I loved the Variants, cringed a little on the idea of the Virtues and what Stefen kept thinking in his head (and totally wasn’t expecting the fact that he was atually related to Juliet), as soon as Tempest was introduced I wanted to try it, though I think it’d be too chicken to do it in such a public way as Aila did. I really liked the way the relationships develop and how they have found ways around issues and found hilarious the last “disappearance” (not that it was great or good to have that disappear but rather on what it implied and the consequences of it). There was some fun in it and that was enjoyable despite the direness of it all.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand what made Stefen change his mind and hint them on how to break the curse, but I am glad he did despite the way his own story ended. All in all, it was a good read, despite the slow start, and beautifully written.
Disclaimer: There is an Amazon Associates link, but if you choose to use them and buy from them, know that you’re just helping me buy more books and feed my reading needs. Book synopsis is from Good Reads.
I will move away from books today and talk about art. As you may know now, I am not only crazy about books but I also draw and have even done a design for Book Box Club.
And it has only been recently that I realised how much I actually enjoy doing this and creating artwork for projects I am passionate about.
I am not going to go on a long post about how you should pursue your dreams or how to do art, there are so many guides, posts and tutorials on this topics I would only be repeating what has already been said.
Instead I want to talk about something that marked me deeply and which I am still carrying around with me to a degree.
I have been drawing since I was a child but only started doing it more seriously when I started writing stories. I needed to illustrate what was going on in my head and some things, words didn’t do them justice. They were not the prettiest drawings ever, at all. But they made me happy and thankfully my family knew it was the best I could do at the time so they appreciated them.
From around 2000-2003 when I started writing and illustrating my stories
Then the internet happened and I discovered Deviantart and e-shuushuu. I was mesmerised and realised that maybe, maybe I could be considered an artist because I drew a lot and was conveying ideas on paper and maybe this was for me.
And this way the funny stories, the weird ideas my friends and I exchanged, our own world started to be translated into short stories and drawings. Sketches I would lovingly draw with my mechanical pencil and then ink out with a Sharpie marker (because 10+ years ago I didn’t know any better). And they made my day. I was also very proud of my ability to reproduce at scale scenes from manga and comics and I even challenged myself to colour these scenes without using any black lines and blending colours together.
It was all well, and then I shared them on Deviantart, on the internet, and that is when it all went wrong. You see, I was improving, admiring others (I never copied, traced or stole from others), attempting to understand their styles by trying to replicate it (not because I was trying to be them but rather to understand why they would draw things a particular way, this is called finding your influences), and I was slowly settling into my own style and my own ways, slowly improving (all self-taught, without any guidance).
But the Internet is vicious and people started assuming I had just copied and then scanned and edited to make it appear as if I had drawn it (though errors were blatantly obvious) and calling me out because I didn’t know how to draw and fan art was not allowed and I should not draw fan art of manga and my favourite cartoons.
Then came the critiques on my line work.
I sketch on small/short feathered strokes, partly because I have issues with my wrists (I struggle to open bottles, the twist required is difficult for me, and don’t even talk to me about child proof caps/taps, those are the devil’s inventions and a child would have more success than I do) and partly because I like the soft feathered effect it creates. And in the last 3-5 years it has been admired and I have received compliments on how it looks soft and fragile and delicate.
Perfect example of my feathered sketches. Moire, one of my oldest characters, she’s a Fox Fasquee.
But before the praise came, the critique came. Someone told me the feathered strokes meant I was never going to be a good artist. That the only way to be an artist was to make perfect long lines full of “flow”. I was told I was good for nothing and that my art would never be good. I would never make it and unless I completely changed my style and all I knew about drawing, I had no hope at all.
I can’t even remember who was cruel enough to tell me I was bad at art, but I am sure that they are not artists anymore or that they plateaued and haven’t moved from the same style they had 10 years ago.
Still, the bad critiques, the poisonous comments, the accusations of not being a legitimate artist, all left their mark on me.
Yesterday I was completing some sketches for bookmark designs and showing them to a friend, and I kept saying “oh this doesn’t look as nice but it’ll better when I clean it up” or “It’s missing this but I’ll add it in when I transfer it to my laptop”, apologising for each sketch I sent because it wasn’t perfect, because it was a sketch.
Thankfully, I am blessed with good friends and she told me I shouldn’t apologise about it, that it was amazing artwork and just a sketch, not the finished version. It was then that it dawned on me that I was apologising for things I shouldn’t. These were only rough sketches (and for sketches, looking at them objectively, they are extremely detailed, see below), but here I was thinking I should apologise because it wasn’t perfect.
I even bothered to learn how to make a dream catcher so I could draw it right (talk about going into details)
Let me tell you something, I have a full-time job and several other responsibilities in my life. I didn’t major in arts, instead I have an engineering degree and a lot of experience behind my back and yet I am also an artist and pursue this branch of creativity. And considering the amount of time I can give to this and that I am doing it as a side gig rather than my main job, it’s something I should be proud of. I am able to design pieces for book subscription boxes and other independent businesses while at the same time keeping a full time job and all my other responsibilities and paying my bills.
So to close this post, if you are an artist, a writer, or looking for who you are, don’t be discouraged. It takes time to learn and to become good, and yes there are good things to learn, but we learn by following what others have done (or not at times) so build yourself up. Find artists that can point out your mistakes but gently help you fix them rather than make you feel like you are doomed.
And please, do not doom anyone. We are all learning in this journey. Rather than putting them down, help them build themselves up.
This is the first unboxing I post here, and I am so happy it is for Book Box Club.
In case you are new to this blog or just living in another planet, this is my favourite book subscription box and I haven been subscribed to them for almost a year (I still am and there are no plans to cancel that subscription).
The theme was Spells & Remedies and it was for the month of July 2017. It was also a perfect birthday present in so many ways (more on this further in the post).
But before I start raving about them too much, let’s go directly into the contents of the box!
Starting from the theme card and going in clockwise order, the box was packed full of delightful goodies.
First we have a bookmark from Usborne YA. It is a promotional for After The Fire, by Will Hill. I will just say that you have to read this book because it is currently my 2017 best read book.
Then we have a Hocus Pocus tea pocuh from BlueBird Tea Co. They started out in Brighton and have slowly been introducing themselves into the bookish box world (if I am not mistaken their first book box was Nerdy Bookworm Box).
Then we have a Cabeswater soap which I have yet to try, from Just Fribble. There was another option you could get which was blue. They’re both inspired by The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.
On top of the book of the month is a lovely Shakespeare inspired bookmark (isn’t it so cute and delicate?) by Holly Grace Illustration. It’s so pretty looking I don’t want to take it out of it’s protective cover.
That takes us to the actual book, which was the most gorgeous cover version of The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy. And I have just found out that this paperback cover version of the book is technically way ahead since it won’t be released until next year!
The book has gorgeous prose and at first it is quite strange but it quickly grows on you and now I want to read more and finish it. Can’t wait for the Clubhouse!
Delightful bunting from The Literary Omnistore, it is so pretty and lovely I am tempted to use it but since my bookshelves are on the living room that’s not really a good idea.
Two bookish samplers also were included, one for S.T.A.G.S and one for It Only Happens in the Movies. Haven’t read them yet but surely will at some point and they’ll probably end in my TBR list.
Then we have the scrolled invitation to the clubhouse which is a chat with the author. This are usually packed full of fun, reveals and other tid bits and they’re one of the highlights of my month.
And finally, the Bookish Reflection mirror, designed by yours truly, Moon Kestrel.I didn’t know what the book was but I was given a good idea of what the design should cover and so I did a few sketches, the girls chose the one they liked most, and then I did a final drawing by hand. Once it was approved, I inked it digitally and technically I wasn’t going to colour it, but I couldn’t resist! I over did the details too. Here’s a much bigger version of it.
And last but not least, my lovely box arrived a day after my birthday and inside there was a little extra… A birthday card and a copy of After The Fire. I was so surprised by the kindness of the girls, I was speechless.
If you find Book Box Club interesting, they’re currently selling their Outlaws September box, which is also their anniversary box. If you’d like to get a 5% discount on your subscription, you can use code MOON17 at checkout.
Disclaimer: Those are Amazon Associates links, but if you choose to use them and buy from them, know that you’re just helping me buy more books and feed my reading needs.
None of the other links are sponsored nor do I get anything from promoting them except sharing the love. I am not an official rep for Book Box Club or anything like that either.
As many of you may (or not) know, I tend to try and test as many book subscription boxes as I can, throwing a few non book ones in the mix just for fun.
I will list here all the ones I have tried to this day, plus the ones I’d like to try one day. Some do not exist anymore, which is such a shame…
As a disclaimer, I will post the ones that have a renewing subscription enabled (which means that after testing, they made it to the “this makes me so happy I can throw money at it and not have a panic attack” list). After that I will post (in no specific order amongst each category) the ones I tried that are still available, then the ones I tried that have closed shop, and finally the ones I’d like to try.
I will try to include one picture for each box mentioned (except the ones I haven’t tried yet) and a small general review of what they include, my review/thoughts and why I kept it or not. There are very few boxes that haven’t made me happy so most of them didn’t make it to the renewal list due to money (I do not own a money tree, sadly).
As per usual, rating is 0.5() to 5 ().
Boxes I am currently subscribed to
Book Box Club
Stuffed owl, fairy lights and lankyard not included (wand was).
My first box: Their very first box, launched on September 2016. Theme was ‘The Enchanted Forest’, subscriber since then.
Cost: Starts at £25 (6 months) up to £27.99 (monthly) for the box but if you only want the book (their other modality ‘Purely Books’) then it starts at £40 for a 3 month subscription. Includes shipping? Yes (UK at least)
Type of books: Young Adult, in various genres. We have had fantasy, contemporary, time travel, etc.
Goodies: There are usually 4-6 items included and there is always a Book Box Club exclusive that is usually personalised (I have so many lovely goodies that are Moon exclusive). If you want your personalised item to have a specific name, let them know. You also get publisher goodies and an information postcard. They really listen to your suggestions on items you’d like to have included.
This is currently my favourite book box, and there are loads of reasons for that. For starters, it was the first box to actually have an author chat (now a lot of them do it but none like they do). And the best part is that it is done exclusively in the Clubhouse, for those of us who are subscribers. The feel of community is amazing, we have a forum where we also have fun. Basically, you are not only getting a lovely book, the chance to chat with the author and ask questions (even joke around), and the extra goodies which are lovingly planned (Kate and Libby actually plan content thinking on how it’ll look all put together alongside how it will fit the theme), but you are part of a bookish community. No other box has ever given me that. I have made new friends and I am interacting more with lovely bookish people than ever before.
I am not a rep or anything, but I love it all so much, I pestered them to give me a discount code to share around so others could join in on the fun. So if you want to give them a go, you can use MOON17 for 5% off your subscription.
PS. The girls are so cool that I ended up making a lovely design for them (more about this on the unboxing post that will be my next post).
You can subscribe to the boxes or Purely books on their website.
My first box: The Steampunk box done last October (?). I wasn’t too impressed so I stopped there but renewed my subscription for their anniversary box and I am currently renewing
Cost: £26 per box. It doesn’t matter if you subscribe monthly or in 3 or 6 months, it’s the same price. The only way to get a discount is through a rep code. Includes shipping? No, and be careful because VAT will also be included separately if you are in the UK/EU.
Type of books: Fantasy Young Adult
Goodies: 5-6 goodies. Usually includes a candle or scented item and other goodies. They try to include items no other box has done before (like oven mittens, tea towels, fairy lights, etc).
FairyLoot is a fun box and it also has a community feel but it done mostly through Facebook. It is fantasy only, so you know what you are getting here and it is easier to guess the book. They are currently doing a bookmark collection and try to keep it fresh by including different items. To me it is about 80% hit and 20% miss. I enjoy the boxes but some are quite disappointing. There is usually at least one item I am happy to get rid of and pass on (if not more) and the cost sometimes feels a little steep. It is still good and there is the FairyChat and FairyScoop which add extras.
My first box: August 2016. Have a subscription since then.
Cost: £29.99 Includes shipping? Yes for the UK.
Type of books: Varied Young Adult
Goodies: It says you get a book and 3-5 goodies but I always find two books and lots of goodies in it.
I was shocked by the amount of goodies and content in it and the fact it had not one but two books, one being an ARC. They are a quarterly subscription so it feels less heavy on your pockets when you get it and there is definitely a good value for money in the contents of the box. It has a good effect on me and usually makes me smile when I receive it.
They are currently sold out but you can subscribe on their website.
My first box: June 2017, Birthday Box
Cost: From $27.50 to $29.99 USD. Includes shipping? Yes, worldwide
Type of content: Kawaii (cute) items from Japan
Goodies: Usually around 4-5 goodies with a plushie included. At least one of the goodies is an options one (as in you could get one of many variations of the product, it is random).
I am still umming and erring on this box. The content is super cute and the plushies are good quality, which is delightful. It makes me feel cosy and cute all over. But I don’t collect plushies or use most of what it includes so it is tricky. I want it but I also don’t want to spend on something I don’t use. Thankfully they post most of the items included (not all of them) on the box, so you can decide if you want it or would rather skip (the surprise factor is in the items not mentioned and which version of them you got). I have done this for August’s box since nothing really made me go “I want it” but there are some items from September I want so there we go.
This is a mix of boxes. Some I buy one every now and then when the theme is something I really really want (and can afford an extra box). Some I tried and they just didn’t make me happy so I didn’t renew. A few I have liked but the cost was too steep to keep it up so I had to stop. Here is this collection of boxes.
You can see that my unboxing picture skills needed a lot of improving
My first box: Myths and Legends, November 2015
Cost: Monthly subscription is $29.99 USD. Includes shipping? No, it is added afterwards.
Type of books: Young Adult
Goodies: 3-5 goodies
Owlcrate was my first subscription box, but as you can see, I started doing them almost two years ago. There weren’t as many choices at the time so I kept this going but it came to a point when the goodies felt rehashed, it wasn’t good value for money and I had so many issues getting my box delivered to my home (and it was just this box, other deliveries were fine) that I stopped my subscription in August 2016. Also most of the books included weren’t the wow factor except maybe This Savage Song which was a repeat I got (another book box had sent it a month before Owlcrate did) and I have to say that since then there hasn’t been a box I feel I missed out on.
Type of books: Varied, not exclusively Young Adult though it does have some of those.
Goodies: Bookish goodies to make a magical experience. I can’t remember exact quantities.
I loved the B&B box I received and then that month they had to make a tough decision and stop sending international boxes so there died my subscription. I have only recently found out that they are doing international shipping again, so I looked at the September theme and decided to give this a go again. Depending on results I may consider more of them. The only downside is that it is on the pricier side of the scale and from America (all boxes from America generate customs issues or delays, and it is not the boxes fault at all).
Also sadly I do not have a matching picture of the unboxing but you can check out their website for more info on them. They also make a Stars-Hollow monthly box if that peaks your interest (which I haven’t tried so yeah).
Ninja Book Box
My first box: Summer Box
Cost: £26 per quarter Includes shipping? Yes if you’re in the UK.
Type of books: Indie
Goodies: Bookish goodies
This is an indie books box, and as such is more low key. Still, the one box I’ve tried which is their summer reads (which is totally different to the usual box as in it didn’t have any goodies alongside except bookmarks) and I was pleasantly surprised with it. It even included one book I had been eyeing up for a while so definitely recommend.
I have missed out on the next boxes for one or another reason and they end up being sold out before I make up my mind about getting it.
Cost: They have one time boxes and a regular subscription, Ravenclaw box was on the quite expensive side. Includes shipping? No
Type of content: Bookish goodies
Goodies: 3-5 bookish goodies and usually a wearable (if I am not mistaken). You can add a book for extra cost.
I was a little disappointed with the content for this box. Definitely it wasn’t a good value for money and this one time box made me decide not to keep trying. IT was also delayed a lot to be delivered (I had even forgotten I had paid for it and was supposed to receive it until it arrived, which isn’t very encouraging). The T-shirt is nice and the candle smelled delicious but otherwise I wasn’t wowed by it.
You can check their other boxes and options on their website.
The Accio Box
My first box: I am not sure which month, but I know I emailed them to see if they would open international shipping just for me (I was willing to pay the shipping just to get this box).
Cost: From $34 per month to $39.99 Includes shipping? No
Type of content: Exclusively Harry Potter themed goodies, no book.
Goodies: 3-5 indie goodies, hand curated. High quality.
This is not your usual subscription box. It doesn’t have lots of items, but the ones it does have are quite high quality. They are the kind of things I would favourite on Etsy but never buy because I would think they are too expensive even if they are lovely. There is no book to be included in the box either.
The only reason why I stopped my subscription is that customs was becoming very difficult to navigate. The actual custom was very small but the “handling” charge the post office was adding made it become at least half the price of the box which was most definitely not fun.
I sincerely recommend this box to anyone in the US & Canada, or if you don’t mind paying customs on top of the box price. The content was indeed high quality (highest quality tote bag I have ever received, even better than some I have bought independently) and most of it has been used nicely (for example, soap dish is happily being used in my shower and the bubble bar I am trying to ration to make it last because it is so lovely!).
Type of content: Candles and other goodies related to the theme.
Goodies: I think it is 2 4oz candles and about 3-5 other goodies.
I love Ghibli and also love Meraki Candles. Heather is amazing at making delightful candles that smell oh so good, so this was a no brainer for me. I didn’t regret it at all though I just realised that I never took a picture of the content which is very silly of me.
I didn’t buy the next box mostly because of the theme rather than because I don’t like the content, Yuri on Ice doesn’t do anything for me. But I have bought other of her candles and have loads more in my collection.
You can check her Etsy, but at the moment it is closed temporarily.
Bookish Teas Box
My first box: Magical London
Cost: £22.45 Includes shipping? No
Type of content: Tea and other goodies
Goodies: Three different kinds of bookish themed tea and extra goodies.
This is the best tea I have ever tried. It is amazing! I was blown away by it when I received my box, and now I want to buy more because I need more of these wonderful tea. Zilan includes a Tealicious pamphlet which has recipes you can do to use the tea in fun ways. I am not subscribed mostly because of being picky about the themes of the boxes but I buy her tea separately anyway because it is so good.
You can visit her website to find more lovely tea.
My first box: Sometime around December 2016
Cost: £15 per month Includes shipping? No
Type of content: Art supplies
Goodies: Several art supplies, a bookmark detailing contents, and something to use your supplies on.
This is an art subscription box and for the price it wasn’t too bad, it is good value for money. But as an artist I don’t use every supply, so some of them were more like “oh I don’t do this medium but I guess I can try it” and then I contacted their customer service and had a bad experience and empty promises so that put me off and I didn’t renew after 3 months.
My first box: Can’t remember exactly when I think start of this year, February/March
Cost: Prices start at £16 per box Includes shipping? No
Type of content: Asian snacks
Goodies: Loads of asian snacks, loads.
This is a fun subscription box if you like food and snacks and asian things. I found it to be great for trying new things and then going and buying the ones I liked at the asian supermarket nearby. I found a lot of snacks I wouldn’t have tried otherwise and also some I had wanted to try but hadn’t dared.
I stopped my subscription because I wasn’t eating all of it by the time the next box came so I felt like it was going to waste. This is mostly because it is just so full of nice stuff. And I do consider rejoining at some point.
You can check out their website if you’d like to try some snacks.
My first envelope: Sometime early this year (2017)
Cost: $10 per month Includes shipping? No
Type of content: Stickers
STICKII is a bundle of cute stickers (you can choose from three types and each gets a different theme each month) and sometimes extra stationery. I like it a lot but for financial reasons cut it short and now only buy a theme if I am dying to have it. They usually send spoilers so have an idea of part of the stickers you will receive.
No picture because for some reason I never took one (even though I have received 5+).
Check their website out if you’re interested in stickers.
LootWear (For Her)
My first box: It was Bioshock related
Cost: £14 per month Includes shipping? Yes
Type of content: A wearable specific for females
This was a fiasco. A big one. I tried it twice and both times they sent the wrong item or the wrong size and I had to contact support and get them to send the right item (I got to keep the one that was wrong) and the delivery took ages and it was just not great. Items were also not such great quality so didn’t continue.
LootCrate J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World
My first box: Their launch box
Cost: £39 (it was much higher when they started at over £50)
Includes shipping? Yes
Type of content: Harry Potter/ J. K. Rowling wizarding world themed
Goodies: 5-7 items
This was also a sad affair with Lootcrate. As I mentioned before, the box cost a lot more before, so it was most certainly NOT good value at all. I can’t say how it fares now. But what I can say is that most of the items were cheap quality and most certainly had not much of “exclusive” (I had seen items almost the same at Primark for a fraction of the price, and hey look Primark has even launched an HP themed line). Most of the items I gave away since I didn’t enjoy them at all and they felt so cheap I was not happy with how much I had paid for the box.
You can check both LootCrate boxes on their website alongside more of their options.
Boxes I have tried that have stopped their services
I try a lot of boxes and there are a few that haven’t made it and stopped their services. Most of them were very good and I wish they had had a better chance.
My Bookish Crate
This was a UK based box that first introduced us to TJ Lubrano’s artwork and it used to have good content. I was sad to hear it say they would stop their services and the last box was a slight disappointment. The picture is the first box I bought from them (my unboxing skills still evident). This was last year and I had an ongoing subscription until the last box.
Nerdy Bookworm Box
Anther good UK box that didn’t make it. It had more indie content and was less popular but still good. Sadly I didn’t keep a subscription and just bought boxes here and there…
Novel Tea Club
A box from Canada that was focused on sending pampering goodies, it used to have an indie book, some tea/coffee, pampering goodies and a bookmark and I used to love it very much until they stopped at the beginning of this year. I was sad to see them go since they always made me smile.
Boxes I’d like to try
Most of these I haven’t tried due to them being from America (customs and shipping are killers), some of them because of how expensive they are, and a few I haven’t had a chance to grab one and they are sold out each time I try to get one. They are still on my wish list for now.
I am not reviewed in detail any of them until I have actually tried them so this is more of a “these boxes exist, may be worth trying”
If you have any boxes that you think I might like to try please let me know. I am willing to try to review boxes if they pique my interest.
Disclaimer: These are my opinions and only that. I have tried so many boxes I know what I like in a box and what I don’t. What makes a box is the wow factor and the “this makes me happy and I don’t feel like I wasted money on this” feeling. Please know that for most boxes I subscribe for at least 3 months to give them a good chance, so I form my opinion over several boxes, there are a few exceptions were one box was enough for me to decide not to try them any further. It is up to you to decide what you want on a box and if the content is good value for money to you. I pay for the boxes from my own pocket so I try to choose wisely. None of the boxes mentioned here have sponsored me to review them or given me a free box to review.
In response to Ms. Victorious blog entry about her reading routine, I am writing this post. I am not sure how long it’ll be, but I am sure I may have a lot to say.
My bookshelves now look different
1. How I tend to read books
I’d say the best way to answers this is “any way”. I have a tendency to sit next to the bookcase (on the floor) and just read, there on the floor without any preparation beforehand or any thought about it. I used to do this at my parents house, sneaking behind the dining room table and in front of the bookcase, reading my mother’s YA novels (this is 70’s and 80’s YA books) since she thought I was too young for them (I probably was but it was books and I love reading) or maybe reading the Juvenile Encyclopaedia (I can’t remember the exact name but it had language lessons, encyclopaedia articles, stories, etc. I read Rikki-Tikki-Tavi on it (amongst other things but I just have the memory of it).
But I digress, sorry!
How I tend to read is just by grabbing a book and submerging myself into it. Quite simple I have to say. Of course I have preferred ways of doing this, such as going to bed with a cup of tea and reading for a few hours, or sitting next to my bookcase and reading or just on the couch. But unplanned reading is as welcome as planned.
As for my reading speed, I am a very fast reader. I have yet to meet someone that reads faster than me (doesn’t mean there isn’t someone who does). Which means I don’t like reading out loud, my eyes+brain are about 10 pages ahead of my mouth and hands, so it becomes a chaos of stumbling upon words because yes, my mouth is reading the first line in the first paragraph, but my eyes are already several paragraphs ahead and insisting that I say those words too. It is a struggle for me to slow down when reading (it helps if I’ve read the book before, since I have photographic memory and that means I remember the words so I don’t have to read as much and can concentrate on wording them out). Being fast also made it difficult to keep track of where the group was reading when it was one of those classes at school where we each read a paragraph in order and yeah. I would usually count the people and mark my paragraph so I knew what I should read out loud when my turn came.
My mum has a funny story that when I was in elementary school, something like Y4 or Y5 (8-10 years old) on a parents meeting thing the teacher was adamant that parents should make sure their children read for 15 minutes everyday and my mum asked “very well, but how do I make my child read for just 15 minutes a day? She won’t stop!”. In all fairness, I learnt from her, she would read a lot too, so she was to blame for this.
And as for the environment, I don’t mind music or silence, I admit I prefer a quiet room so I can concentrate better but if ideal conditions aren’t met, I can still read perfectly fine.
2. What kind of books I tend to read
I can say all kinds but to be honest I read an eclectic picky mix. My main reads are fantasy (and it’s many variations, urban, high, etc) and sci-fi, but for example I am not very fond of Asimov and a few other Sci-Fi giants and prefer more obscure ones. Same with fantasy. Of course, I read a lot of YA. And I have a soft spot for Mary Higgins Clark’s mystery/thriller novels or anything from Kathy Reichs.
I can also read contemporary though I am not as keen and I prefer for those kind of reads things like Cecilia Ahern and such, or japanese writers (Murakami is the most known but there are others). And my other favourite thing is historical. It can be historical fiction or non fiction. I have a lot of books on WW2 and aircraft, but then I also have books on colour, costumes, drawing, the art of, etc.
And last but not least, I like graphic novels (but I am not wowed by Marvel/DC). This of course includes manga.
Most of what I have read (until I started buying book boxes) is older books and authors that either are famous now or ar not known anymore except by older people. Authors like M.M Kaye (learned a lot about history and the West Indies), Brian Jacques, Madeleine L’Engle, Robin Cook, Robin McKinley, Ken Follet, Anne McCaffrey, etc. (If you saw my post on my favourites, most of the books are old or they are new editions bought to replace the broken old ones). Some of my favourite books are now out of print or it is hard to get hold of them because people aren’t buying them anymore.
3. Where I tend to read
Short answer: everywhere. Long answer: everywhere, for real. I don’t know exactly when but it was in my teenage years (probable between 10-13 years old) I made the habit of almost never leaving the house without a book. You never know when you can sneak time to read, so I can say I’ve read while waiting (standing or sitting) in a queue, at a bus stop, waiting for the train, sitting outside a classroom, while in class (killing time after having finished the assignment), I’ve read on a plane, in a car, etc. The list goes on. I just read everywhere.
My favourite places are bed, couch, floor and under the stairs (there is a tiny space there and I just sit among the coats and cleaning stuff and all that and read, somehow it is comforting). Another favourite occasion is sneaking some reading on a boring event (I may sin of being rude by taking out my book and reading at a conference during a talk or things like that, but I am multitasking most of the time and whatever the person is talking about I either already know it or it is not interesting me).
4. What kind of snacks keep me company while reading
I don’t prepare snacks for reading time, as you can gather from all I’ve written already, I basically just read. If I am reading before bed I try to take a cup of tea with me, but what usually happens is I forget about it while I read and only drink it once it is cold. If I am reading at a coffee shop then of course I will be drinking something and maybe having some cake (every now and then I go to a Costa or something, buy some coffee/tea and a cake and read and eat and drink in peace there, change of environment sometimes helps and is needed, sometimes I like being alone in a busy place). Snacks may happen at other times of reading but it is very variable so can’t say I do specific something. Tea is the most probable answer to be fair, but I drink tea almost a cup per hour so the odds are stacked in favour of tea.
So now it is your turn, what is your reading routine?
What kind of books do you read? Is there a particular place that inspires you to read for hours? Coffee or tea while reading? What kind of snacks work for you?
Pictures this time include old shelves, a visit to Costa coffee, December’s Book Box Club and a lovely window seat with a view to snow in the valley (I was very lucky to have this as part of my job at the time).
As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.
Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.
I’ll start this review by saying urban fantasy is really up my street, but I am also quite picky with it (so for example, I’ve read Twilight but didn’t like it). I don’t want the urban fantasy to be an excuse to wrap some high school drama or some romance and love triangles and make it ‘cool’.
Written in Red thankfully doesn’t fall into any of those categories. There is little to no romance involved (there is romance in the sense of others have it, it exists, whatever, but it isn’t exactly the main thing in the plot or the important thing about Meg or Simon), no annoying love triangles *chorus of aleluyas* and no romanticising the Others.
The story happens in an alternative Earth where humans and Others (vampires, werewolves, elementals, and many others) coexist with the uper hand being on the Others.
Meg kind of stumbles into the Courtyard and realises she can ask for a job there and be given a place to stay, an income and some sort of anonimity which is exactly what she needs. Being a blood prophet, Meg has little knowledge of how the world actually works or who she is, and she has just escaped her limited life.
This whole “discovering the world and who I am” bit could have gone very wrong, but somehow there is something adoring about Meg doing it, without it being unrealistic or annoying. It seemed legit on how she navigated the world, and the way she interacted with the Others in the Courtyard (the beauty of not really having any prejudices).
There are several subplots going on here, which tie up nicely around Meg and that she inadvertely either stumbles upon or triggers off.
There is the annoying would-be actress with her own agenda to push that keeps trying to befriend Meg and find out more about the Others. I kept wanting to wring her neck but even though you as a reader can see her purposes from miles away, it is also true that mostly no one else would’ve given the circumstances.
There is also the cutest subplot that involves Sam, Simon’s nephew and a “safety line for adventurers” leash which causes mixed reactions and some interesting drama. But all I wanted was to hug Sam and have him over to my house.
Another subplot is the sickness affecting the Others in the North and without adding spoilers, the way it is tied up so that you could just be content with reading this one book and not go to read the next was quite crafty and oh so simple.
Then there is obviously being introduced to several kinds of Others and how they interact with each other and also how they discover humanity and “tolerate it”.
On a subtle way, the book touches on cutting and other mental health issues, friendship, humanity, brutality and violence, how people can be manipulated, kindness, and all wrapped up nicely into a beautiful urban fantasy rich in detail.
I have to admit I had bought this thinking it’d be not so good, but as soon as I finished it I ended up ordering the next books (one is only in hardback so I am waiting to get it in paperback and the next one isn’t out yet).
If you like urban fantasy I’d recommned you look into Jim Butcher’s books and The Dresden Files (warning, there are so many of them but they are fun to read). Or you can try Patricia Briggs, she has several series one including a werecoyote (Mercy Series). Or maybe you want to go further back in time and read The Riddle of the Wren by Charles de Lint (2002-09-16) who is considered the father of urban fantasy.
Props on picture are a red envelope from a generic card, the same puzzle used for the What is your favourite book? post, Beast Funko Pop, Miss Peregrine’s falcon also from Funko Pop (it came with Miss Peregrine) and a swan feather quill made by yours truly during my reenactment times (Enlighs Civil War).
Disclaimer: There is an Amazon Associates link, but if you choose to use them and buy from them, know that you’re just helping me buy more books and feed my reading needs. Book synopsis is from Good Reads.