My Top 5 Books of 2016

Happy New Year everybody! I hope everyone is enjoying the festive period. I have to admit, I have been so lazy and indulgent over the past few weeks so I’m looking forward to getting back to routine. Anyway, it’s time for a round-up of my favourite books out of the 30 I read this year. If you’re interested in seeing what else I read in 2016, check my page out on GoodReads.

1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I joined the Outlander fan club this year when I read Outlander in July. It was a perfect treat after four years of studying books I wasn’t always interested in and I completely fell in love with Gabaldon’s world and characters. I wrote a full review over here but I’ll give you a summary: it’s a love story set in 18th century Inverness, it involves time travelling and features a badass heroine at its centre. I loved reading about Scottish history and I especially loved our favourite Highlander, Jamie Fraser. Being a fan of Outlander has brought me lots of friends on Twitter and Instagram. I also wrote about the book-to-screen adaptation for Scottish Book Trust. A blog which even caught Diana Gabaldon’s attention!

2. Room by Emma Donoghue

Yet another book-to-screen adaptation, I wanted to read Room before I went to see it in the cinema. I read it back in January and I fell in love. Again, you can read my full review on my blog (it was one of my first ever book reviews) but here’s what I thought of it in short. It has one of the most wonderful first-person narrators I’ve come across: five-year-old Jack. It follows Jack and his mother as they live life as prisoners and are eventually freed. It’s a poignant and emotional story that’ll make you laugh and cry, as cheesy as that is. Mostly, I loved the portrayal of motherhood and the strength that Jack’s Ma finds through her son. It is wonderful – if you haven’t read it yet, do it now!

3. The Muse by Jessie Burton

It is no secret that I adore Jessie Burton’s writing. The Miniaturist is probably one of my favourite books of all time and I wasn’t disappointed with the release of The Muse this year. I wrote a full review which Jessie Burton was delighted with. I believe she said she wanted to laminate it and wear it around her neck, just sayin’. It tells the tales of two struggling female artists set across different time periods: 1967, London and 1936, southern Spain. It is one of those magical books that make you feel cosy and nostalgic but you don’t quite know why. If you haven’t discovered the beauty that is Burton’s writing then put that on your resolution list for 2017.

4. Expecting by Chitra Ramaswamy

I read this surprising book in November because I was on the shadow panel for the Saltire Society Awards. Chitra won the First Book award jointly and it was well deserved. When I first saw it, I thought: ‘No way am I reading a book about pregnancy!‘ However, despite avoiding reading this on public transport or in front of my parents, I was so surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Before you dismiss it as just another book about pregnancy, please give it a chance. It is one of the richest texts I’ve encountered in the past few years; it’s filled with metaphors and allusions to a wide range of literature and it is far from a fluffy read about giving birth. I’d recommend this to any literature lovers and not just expecting parents.

5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

I was in two minds about including this book on my list because, well, pretty much everyone except me had read it but I finally gave into my pride and decided to read Harry Potter in 2016. I read the first book in January and I have to confess it is magical. I only wish I had read it when I was younger so I could’ve marvelled at its wonders from a child’s perspective. Nonetheless, I can understand why people are so besotted with this series. I’ve read the first three now and the books are far better than the films which never excited me much. Hopefully, I’ll finish the series in 2017.


Other books I really enjoyed in 2016 include: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Girl on the Train, Ceremony, The Raven Boys, and A Court of Thorns and Roses. 

What books did you guys love in 2016 and what are you looking forward to reading in 2017? Let me know on Twitter and Instagram. I have so many books in my TBR pile for next year so I’ll hopefully get a post up about that in the near future. Happy reading and a very Happy New Year!

 

Trials: On Death Row In Pakistan by Isabel Buchanan

So I’m posting this on a bit of a delay and, for once, it’s not because I forgot or ran out of time but because I wanted to wait until after the Saltire Literary Awards took place before I posted this review. Thanks to the Society of Young Publishers, I was lucky enough to join the Shadow Panel for the First Book Award at the annual Saltire Society Literary Awards. Trials: On Death Row In Pakistan by Isabel Buchanan was the first book I picked up on the list and while it was a slow starter, I enjoyed it in the end.  I wrote this before the awards took place so the winner (a joint victory for Trials and Chitra Ramaswamy’s Expecting) has no bearing on my thoughts.

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Trials: On Death Row In Pakistan is a non-fiction book written by Scottish lawyer, Isabel Buchanan. It chronicles her time working in a new legal chamber in Lahore, Pakistan under the watchful eye of a young and forceful Pakistani lawyer, Sarah Belal, who has made it her life’s mission to defend those condemned to death row in Pakistan. It follows the stories of several condemned inmates, short biographies of the other employees at Sarah’s chambers and tales of controversial blasphemy and unjust laws.

I studied Postcolonial Literature in my undergrad so this isn’t a text that I felt completely unfamiliar entering into. However, because of my studies, I’m hyper aware of the Western desire to portray Pakistan and the “mysterious East” as uncivilized, unfair and  inferior to Anglo-American society. So I approached Trials with enthusiasm to read something different after a summer of Young Adult fiction but also with caution after a year of studying Gayatri Spivak and Edward Said.

Buchanan treads a fine line between hard-hitting evidence and enchanting storytelling in this book. The opening page is a perfect example of this as she begins with the story of Mr Hussein who makes “the best chips and curry sauce in East Lothian.” For someone with an aversion to all things legal, except maybe binge-watching Suits on  Netflix, I was put at ease by the gentleness of this opening but make no mistakes: Trials is not a light or easy read and it quickly takes a turn towards a factual hurricane. Case after case, law after law, I was thrust into a world of blasphemy, bad handwriting, and badass women. All of which were, at times, intimidating.

The strong women are my favourite thing about Trials. Gayatri Spivak once said: ‘If, in the contest of colonial production, the subaltern has no history and cannot speak, the subaltern as female is, even more deeply in shadow.’ (Spivak, Cambridge: 1999) So it was refreshing to read a book set in Pakistan that features two women at the centre fighting for a cause they believe in as opposed to being portrayed as victims. Sarah Belal is one of the coolest women I’ve read in contemporary literature. I’ve since researched Belal a little and she is just as brilliant in real life as Buchanan portrays her in Trials. She’s the founder of Justice Project Pakistan which aims to serve the poorest prisoners facing the harshest punishments in the courts of law. She is incredibly intelligent and relentless in her pursuit of justice. If you don’t read this book then at least google her!

At times I struggled to understand what this book was supposed to be doing. Is it simply a chronicle of Buchanan’s time in Pakistan? Was it supposed to be provocative? Subjective or objective? I appreciated that Trials takes a step away from “court-drama Hollywood portrayal” of advocates and law firms but, at times, I felt like this book lost its path.

At times I got lost in the legal facts and for this reason, I wouldn’t recommend Trials to everyone. However, I do think the stories Buchanan is telling in this book are insurmountably important. Women like Sarah Belal are role models for the next generation of lawyers and activists so I’m glad that I had the opportunity to read it. Mostly I’d recommend this book to budding lawyers and maybe to anyone considering applying to study Law or Sociology at University but unless you have an avid interest in the world of law or postcolonial studies, I’m not too sure this is one for the Christmas list.


Spivak, Gayatri ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ from Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999) p32

Work In Publishing Week

You may, or may not, know that it is #workinpublishing week this week. It’s basically a week where everyone in the publishing industry exchanges wise words and pass on their knowledge to newbie publishers. If you don’t already, go follow Publishing ScotlandBook CareersPublishing Interns, SYP Scotland, Hachette Careers, Atwood Tate, The Bookseller and, of course, The Publishers Association. There are loads more brilliant Twitter feeds with inspiring career advice but these are some good places to start. I guarantee you there will be loads of brilliant tips for working in the publishing industry. One thing’s for sure, publishers love to tweet.

You may, or may not, also know that I am an MSc Publishing student at Napier University. Being a publishing student isn’t just about assessments and deadlines, it also marks the start of my publishing career. With only one month left of my first trimester and #workinpublishing week in full swing, I can’t think of a better time to reflect on my time as a wannabe publisher and share what little knowledge I’ve gained with you all. A few people have already asked me about applying for publishing courses so I hope this is helpful!

Here are the things I’ve learned so far:

Get Online

Like I said, publishers love to tweet and Twitter is just one of the many tools you can use to get your name out there. There are hundreds of publishers on Twitter just waiting to hire you so instead of tweeting about your hangover, use it as a versatile CV. Showcase your talents and skills in a fun and personable way and use your social networking sites as a portfolio for your work.

But remember that while Twitter can be your best friend in publishing, it can also be your worst enemy. Be careful what and when you tweet. The same goes for Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Don’t lose your personality but maybe filter through some of those embarrassing photos of you during freshers week.

Instead, connect with future colleagues and employers. Engage in conversations about books and magazines. Make new friends. Live tweet any events you attend. Update your feed with projects you’re involved in. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of room for the odd cat meme too.

Network, network, network!

The word that instils fear into every graduate in history: networking. This runs along the same vein as my first point but making connections with future coworkers and bosses seems to be the key to a healthy career in publishing. Even before you’re ready to get a real job, it is never too early to get yourself known in the right circles.

I’ve joined the Society of Young Publishers, which is an amazing organisation for anyone with fewer than ten years experience in publishing, to keep updated with publishing events in my area. As a class, we attended #MagFest16 and are going to London Book Fair in March: all fantastic opportunities to meet new people in the industry, ask questions and impress them with our dazzling personalities and experience.

Know Who You’re Working For

This has been a big thing whenever my classmates and I have asked about CVs and job applications. One size does not fit all when it comes to applying for jobs in publishing. You can’t write a cookie-cutter cover letter and expect your dream employer to come knocking at your door.

Read the job postings – carefully! Explore the company you’re considering working for. What are they good at? What kind of books do they publish? What can you bring to the table? Do you even want to work for them?

If you can answer all these questions then it’s time to tailor your CV to fit that individual role. Make every bit of experience you have sound like it was made for this specific job and company. Cut out the irrelevant crap and focus on what makes you an irresistible candidate.

There’s More to Life Than Editorial

I’ll admit it: when I first considered publishing as a career, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into or what it was that I wanted to do. A lot of people don’t actually understand what publishers do and most of us think of publishing books as glamorously editing at a candle-lit desk reading manuscripts through the night.

In reality, there are so many other exciting job opportunities beyond editorial. So far I’ve discovered that I really like marketing but there’s also sales, rights, design, production, distribution… The list is endless and it’s important to be honest with your own skills and nature before choosing your career path. Find out what each role in the publishing process requires and ask yourself if you’re cut out for it. Then curate your experience to suit that career path.

There’s Also More to Life Than The Big 4

Contrary to popular belief, the Big Four (Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and Hachette) do not publish all the books in the world. There are hundreds of independent, small and awesome publishers to consider working for.

Likewise, there’s more to publishing than fiction. As much as it is my dream to market pretty novels, I am becoming increasingly aware of the opportunities in academic publishing and am even writing a case study on scientific and medical publishing. Learning to be open-minded about my future in publishing is one of the most important things I’ve picked up since starting my course in September. There is no prescribed route to success!

Volunteering

Anyone in a creative industry will read this with a heavy-hearted sigh. We all know what it’s like to work for ‘exposure’ instead of dolla dolla bills. But volunteering and working as an intern is incredibly valuable. The people you will meet and the experience you will gain is too indispensable to pass up. After all, the more you do, the more you can do.

I’ve been so lucky to have briefly worked as a PR intern for the Scottish Writer’s Centre, volunteered as a panellist for the Saltire Society shadow panel and travelled across Edinburgh for the Creative City Challenge. I’m currently undertaking a PR internship at Scottish Book Trust. I’ve been scheduling tweets for the Book Week Scotland Twitter page and editing Author Confession videos for writers like Sarah J Maas and Simon Mayo. All of this has felt more like fun than work, to be honest. The people at SBT are so helpful and welcoming and it has really cemented my desire to work in marketing.

Having said all this, it is also important during #workinpublishing week to remember your value as an employee. Take every experience that you can get and be eternally grateful that busy and important people are willing to show you the ropes. However, set goals and know your worth. Don’t take on free labour if you don’t think you can add value to the project or extract experience and skills from it.


So these are just some of the tips I have picked up about working in publishing over the past two months at Napier. There’s probably loads more and if I remember them I will tweet them over at @aprilsmyth.

For more updates follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

img_4361This blog is long overdue. I started reading Voyager in August but so much has happened since then (I moved to a new city and started my Masters degree) so it has taken me a bit longer to finish it and write a review. If you read my post on Dragonfly in Amber, you’ll know Gabaldon broke my heart with that ending so I was really eager to find out what would happen next. Without further ado, here’s what I thought about the third book in the Outlander series.

This review contains some *SPOILERS* so I won’t be held accountable for ruining anyone’s experience of the book or the third season of the TV show. If you’ve not read it and still want to, avert your eyes to another review!

All Outlander themed candles are from Meraki Candles.

 


1. It’s long.

This might be stating the obvious but I wanted to get it out of the way. I love Outlander, I adore Jamie Fraser but, gosh, these books are too long. On one hand, it means more time to enjoy the characters and Diana Gabaldon’s fascinating world but it also means I am deprived of the sense of achievement I should get when I finish a 400-page long book – three times over. It’s around 1500 pages long and for the first time in the series, I really felt some parts of the story were over-indulgent.

2. Everyone’s old!

Voyager takes place 20 years after Dragonfly in Amber and after the Battle of Culloden. For me, this wasn’t easy to adjust to. No longer is Jamie Fraser a youthful and rampant Highlander completely besotted with Claire. Well, he’s still rampant and besotted just without the youth. So much happens in the time that Jamie and Claire are separated, I felt like they were meeting again as completely different people. Like Claire, I felt like I had to decide whether or not I was willing to love Jamie despite not knowing what kind of man he had become in the twenty years we were apart.

Will ye take me and risk the man that I am, for the sake of the man ye knew...

3. Or dead!

If they’re not old and cynical, they’re not there at all. I was pretty upset about the way Voyager sweeps over some of my favourite characters in the jump through time. There is a very brief mention of Murtagh about 3/4 of the way through the book (I think?) but that’s all. For a character who was so important in the first two books and who meant a lot to me, I would’ve liked for him to feature in Claire and Jamie’s memories more. Every book in the series has a totally different mood and setting but with this means there is a whole host of characters that I grew to love but are left dead and buried in the previous book with no mention in the next. Having said that, I really loved the moment when Claire meets Mother Hildegarde in Paris again and they have a poignant moment for Claire’s first baby, Faith.

4. Trust nobody.

And we quickly realise that Jamie really isn’t the same anymore. He lies to Claire about having a kid and being married… TO LAOGHAIRE!? This was pretty unsettling and I’m not sure if I can bear to watch it unfold when Season 3 airs. Marrying Laoghaire was one thing but the constant secrecy and lies really stuck in my throat. And Claire’s ability to gloss over his life after throwing a small temper tantrum? I’m not sure I would forgive my Jamie quite as easily.

4. That Reunion Though.

 

Now that I got my least favourite bits out of the way, I can tell you all about the best bits and the moment I was desperately waiting for was the scene where Claire and Jamie see each other again after 20 years apart. It didn’t disappoint. Gabaldon kept me waiting and the tension that builds from the moment Claire returns to 18th century Scotland is unbearable. Will she find him? What will he say? It turns out nothing: when they do meet again, Jamie faints. And it is perfectly adorable in every way:

“You’re real,” he whispered. I had thought him pale already. Now all vestiges of color drained from his face. His eyes rolled up and he slumped to the floor in a shower of papers and oddments that had been sitting on the press – he fell rather gracefully for such a large man, I thought abstractedly.

He quickly wakes up and from this point on I’m just a big ball of messy emotions.

The tears spilled down my cheeks, only to soak into the rough cloth of his shirt as he pulled me hard against him.

Oh and…

I don’t know how long we sat there on the dusty floor, crying in each other’s arms with the longing of twenty years spilling down our faces.

For every time I complain about the length of these books or some of the absurd decisions made by the characters, Gabaldon wins me over again with her ability to break my heart and mend it over and over again. I know Gabaldon doesn’t want Outlander to be known as a love story. It is so much more than that but, for me, and I’m sure most fans of this book, it is the way Gabaldon writes Claire and Jamie’s epic love story that captures my heart every time.

5. Jamie’s a Publisher!

Many of you will know I’m studying a Masters degree in Publishing in Edinburgh so I was over the moon to discover Jamie’s new career in Voyager is running a printing press in Edinburgh under the guise of ‘Alexander Malcolm.’ It was fascinating to read about printing presses in the same city that I am studying the art of making books myself. Now when I wander around the cobbled streets of the old city, I can envision wild Highland Jamie up to no good with Fergus by his side. Jamie and I really are soulmates after all.

6. Lord John Grey

While some of my favourite characters are left behind in Dragonfly in Amber (Murtagh and Master Raymond), there are lots of characters introduced (or re-introduced in this case) in Voyager. Lord John Grey did, in fact, appear in Dragonfly in Amber as the young boy who tries to “save” Claire from Jamie and the brutish Highlanders on the eve of the Battle of Prestonpans. We see a lot more of him, all grown up, in this book and he is a really intriguing character. He’s homosexual at a time when it was very much illegal and, like everyone in the Outlander world, he’s got the hots for Jamie. What intrigues me is the feeling that Jamie has a deep affection for LJG in return. There is a bromance going on there in the end that I want to read more of and I know that Lord John plays a big role throughout the series so I’m excited to see how he develops as a character!

7. Geillis Returns (Again)

Oh My God. This was the big shocker that redeemed Voyager for me when I thought I was going to give up. Why didn’t I see this coming? I really enjoyed reading about future Geillis (a.k.a Gillian Edgar). Partly because it was fun hearing that she was a righteous SNP activist. One of the best scenes in the novel is when Roger, Claire and Brianna watch Geillis travel through the stones after sacrificing her husband. Gellis is one of the most badass characters in the whole series and her crazy return at the end as Mrs Abernathy was chilling.


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Overall, I really enjoyed Voyager – I just wish it was 400 pages shorter! I guess I just keep looking for that magic spark I had with Outlander but every book brings something completely different: different settings, characters and moods. I am (trying to be) on a book buying ban for the next few weeks/months until I work my way through my ever-expanding TBR pile so this time I mean it when I say I’m not buying Drums of Autumn for a long time or at least until I can no longer withstand not knowing what happens next.

If you’re an Outlander fan too, follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

How To Turn Student Accommodation Into Your Dream Home

Starting University is daunting but moving into student accommodation doesn’t need to be scary. Once you’re done packing the bare essentials (pyjamas and loo roll), fill your suitcase with adorable bits and bobs to give your new flat that cosy feel.  Here’s some of my favourites:

Inspirational Quotes & Prints

One of the things I did to jazz up my new room was frame some gorgeous illustrations. Get on Etsy and search for prints that reflect your personality. It could be something witty that’ll make you laugh when you see it or something more motivational to get you in the studying mindset. If you’re into a Live, Laugh, Love quote then who am I to judge? Be careful sticking them on walls because some letting agents will kick up a fuss – avoid blu-tac and sticking pins straight on to a wall. If you have a corkboard that’s a great way to showcase your favourite designs and throw up some family photos too. I like framing my prints and resting them on bookshelves and desks. My favourite illustrators right now are The Fuzzy Bee Paper CompanyClaire Barclay Draws and Lemmon Studios.

Candles

You’ll know by now that I’m addicted to candles. I guess it comes down to that Danish lifestyle concept: Hygge. Candles will turn any empty room into a warm and fuzzy place to snuggle up and read a good book. I’ve written a lot about my favourite independent Scottish candle companies but here’s some to get you started. If you’re a book lover like me, invest in a couple of Meraki Candles. For something a bit more luxurious, try MoBros Candles and use my 10% off code: APRIL10. Other candles I love are Love Scottish Candles and McKelvie Candles. Please be careful because not all landlords allow you to burn candles. Find out if it’s okay and if not they still make for gorgeous decorations and smell gorgeous even when they’re unlit.

Books

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Books, glorious books! Nothing makes a room feel more homely than a shelf stacked with your favourite books. I like books that are worn and weathered from a loving reader who has pawed the pages so many times and a cracked spine from an overly zealous reading session. There’s a reason this John Waters’ quote is so famous…

If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!

Books are the life source of any room and you can completely personalise your space by choosing which books you put on display. At the moment, I don’t have many books in my new room but I’m getting there. They’re mostly to-be-read like A Court of Thorns and RoseHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Improbability of Love but I will be fetching a fresh copy of Jane Eyre because no bedroom of mine is complete until Jane and Mr Rochester are adorning the shelves!

Soaps, Lotions & Potions

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You don’t need to spend a fortune to have some luxury beauty products in your new home. Having some sweet-smelling, pretty soaps and lotions adds a special something to your room. Between the chaos of starting your course and moving out, it’s important to take time out to practice self-care. That means burning a candle and pampering yourself with your favourite beauty products. Like I said in the Top 10 Tips For Acne-Prone Skin, I love Liz Earle and I’ve recently been enjoying the amazing Wee Tree Soaps too. They are cruelty-free, perfect for sensitive skin and only £4. Investing in nice soaps and lotions makes your room feel more expensive and gives you the chance to unwind too.


For more home inspiration, follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

This book was recommended to me by an old friend from school and I’d seen the series floating around the Bookstagram world for a while so in the midst of my Dragonfly in Amber book hangover, I picked it up because I knew it would be a quick and fun read and what a ride it was. I can’t wait to read the next in the series and would definitely recommend this to any Young Adult/Fantasy lovers.

The Raven Boys is the first novel in The Raven Cycle series and it tells the tale of a girl called Blue who lives in an all psychic household with her clairvoyant mother. The only thing is Blue doesn’t have any psychic abilities of her own – except that she makes other people’s power stronger like a walking battery charger. Blue crosses paths with a group of boys from the local private school, Aglionby, otherwise known as Raven Boys. However, Blue has met the leader of the pack, a rich student called Gansey, before… on a soon-to-be-dead-people-march. Also, add in the fact that Blue has been warned that she cannot kiss her true love because he will die! Yeah, it gets weirder. The novel follows Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah as they hunt for Glendower: an ancient Welsh king who is said to be laying dormant awaiting a true hero to awake him from his permanent slumber. Whoever wakes him up is granted one very special wish.

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This book is crazy. It is filled with awesome and very quirky characters and I get the impression Maggie Stiefvater is not in the least bit interested in making her YA novels seem realistic. I actually detected a hint of magical realism in the way that all of her characters just seem to shrug and accept the magical and fantastical events that take place. Oh, my friend that I’ve been hanging out with has actually been dead this whole time, whoops oh well let’s go for ice-cream. At times it was difficult for me to invest in these eighteen-year-olds who were chasing down ancient Welsh kings and speaking Latin to trees but once I looked past that, I really got hooked on this story.

Like I said, the characters are really what make this series great. The protagonist, Blue, is unashamedly weird and embraces both her quirkiness and feistiness. Also, it was really refreshing that Blue didn’t have to slam the popular girls just to prove she’s ~different~; that’s a YA cliché that I despise. As for the Raven Boys, I love Gansey. I know a lot of people online seem to favour Ronan but his moping just annoyed me, to be honest. Although that last line really startled me, I think I’m going to like him a lot more in the next book if we learn more about his past and why he is such a phenomenal a**hole. Adam as the romantic interest of Blue didn’t really work for me. Again, I just felt he spent too much time moping. Gansey is the most dynamic character in the book and I felt frustrated on his behalf that everyone kept seeing him for his money and not his soul. Maybe I just like boys who are really passionate about stuff but he was my favourite out of the boys. If you’ve read the series, let me know who your favourite Raven Boy is.

“Crushed and broken,” Gansey said. “Just the way women like ’em…”

One of my favourite things about this book is Maggie Stiefvater’s talent for description. Sometimes she would describe something in the background, something unimportant, but it would stick out to me because her language is so vivid. For example, I actually felt like I was standing amidst this scene where Blue first sees Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah in the diner:

Close to the beginning of her shift, four boys came through the front door, letting a cold hiss of fresh air into the room that smelled of oregano and beer. In the window beside the boys, a neon light that said Since 1976 lit their faces a Limesicle green.

I swear I must have read those lines about twenty times because I just loved the description. That Limesicle green, the oregano and beer, it’s so tangible. Stiefvater’s world building ability is something I noticed throughout. I’m not sure if it’s the pretentious literature graduate coming out in me but for what I thought was going to be a “fluffy” read, the writing was stunning.

In addition to all the magic and the chaos, The Raven Boys also deals with more serious issues like domestic abuse and, oh yeah, murder. The way Stiefvater intertwines magic, fantasy, comedy and fun with dark issues like Adam’s poverty and the abuse of his father is carefully done. She shows family life as complex and sometimes painful and that’s not just Adam’s. At times she suggests that you make your own family by surrounding yourself with the people you love (your friends) The little circle of Aglionby boys was really heartwarming to read. They protect each other and look out for one another no matter what.

Basically, The Raven Boys is worth the hype. I thought I had fallen out of love with the Young Adult genre after reading a few that fell flat but this has restored my faith in all things hyped up. I look forward to diving back into this tumultuous adventure soon with The Dream Thieves.

Have you read The Raven Boys yet? What did you think? Let me know on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Classic Bibliophile Literary Designs

Ever get so super excited about a product you just wanna squeal every time you look at it? That’s how I feel whenever I catch a glimpse of my beautiful literature inspired jewellery by Classic Bibliophile.

Who’s Behind The Brooch?

ClassicBibliophile is ran by the lovely Lauren from Devon. In an attempt to make a little extra cash, Lauren first started making Steampunk inspired jewellery several years ago. However, it didn’t capture her interest enough so her ideas developed into literary designs. With encouragement from her dad, Lauren turned her passion for books and reading into her creative outlet.

Lauren has many plans and prototypes for business expansion so keep updated by following her on Instagram. You don’t want to miss out. She is looking to add home decor items as well as jewellery to her shop and can’t wait to reveal them to us all!

Outlander Giveaway

I first came across ClassicBibliophile on my epic hunt for all things Outlander for my Instagram giveaway (which you can find on my Instagram account or check out over here) I thought the Outlander inspired brooch was just stunning so I reached out in the hope that Lauren would like to get involved with my Highlander giveaway.

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Fortunately, Lauren was more than happy to share her designs with all my readers and followers and sent me her Sassenach necklace especially for all you lovely Outlander fans! The lucky winner of my giveaway will get to keep it forever alongside an AlohomoraDesign tote and Mulderie Wood candle! It is the perfect way to finish off your OOTD and subtly show off your love of all things Outlander.

I Am No Bird

As for me, Lauren discovered my love of all things Charlotte Brontë and I now own a stunning Jane Eyre set (necklace and pendant earrings) to cherish forever. I have been wearing my ‘Thornfield’ necklace every day so I’m carrying a little bit of Jane Eyre with me everywhere I go.

Something For Everyone

ClassicBibliophile jewellery come in a wide variety of quotes, colours, shapes and sizes from brooches to rings to earrings. Sherlock Holmes fan? Try this ‘Watson’ ring? Are you a Shakespeare lover? There’s loads to choose from! What about Alice in Wonderland, Charles Dickens, Narnia, Breakfast at Tiffany’s? ClassicBibliophile is literally a book-lover’s dream.

Lauren focuses on classics for her inspiration because its her favourite genre to read (hence the name ClassicBibliophile) but if you don’t see what you’re looking for you can place a special request for your favourite piece of literature. Lauren is more than happy to create some modern or YA pieces for custom requests too. Just contact her on Etsy.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/ClassicBibliophile?ref=l2-shopheader-name

What Are You Waiting For?

If you’re stuck for a gift idea for the literature lover in your life then you should definitely consider a piece of vintage-styled ClassicBibliophile jewellery. Not only are they unique, and a memento to keep forever, but they come beautifully packaged in little boxes. But don’t wait for someone to buy you one… Treat yo’ self! Why not wear your favourite book around your neck or on your fingers? I can’t think of a prettier way to show off your passion for books.  

You can find Lauren’s wonderful literary designs on Etsy or by following her on Instagram and Twitter.

For more literature inspired gift ideas, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

The Liebster Award

I was very kindly nominated for the Liebster Award by Imogen @ Wandered Souls and, like Imogen, I’m a bit of a novice blogger so it was a completely new concept to me.  The idea is that bloggers nominate other bloggers to win this award. Like a chain letter, it is passed from blogger to blogger with the aim that new bloggers around the globe can get their slice of recognition. It is such a lovely idea and I’m so glad to be a part of it!

I received my questions from Wandered Souls (thank you Imogen) which I’ll now attempt to answer before sharing my own questions with a few fellow bloggers and keep sharin’ that love.

  • If you could be best friends with an author, who would you choose and why?

It would be my beloved Jessie Burton (author of The Muse and The Miniaturist) Not only do I adore her writing style but I think she seems like a genuinely lovely person too. I was so pleased that she took the time to read my review of The Muse and give me her super enthusiastic feedback. It meant a lot to me and I think it says a lot about her as a person that she spends time talking and listening to her fans.

  • Is there a quote from a book that has inspired you/changed the way you view things? If so, what is that quote?

My favourite literary quote of all time is:

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me. I am a free human being with an independent will – Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre came into my life in my first year of University; I was eighteen and discovering who I was as a young woman instead of a child for the first time. I suddenly became aware of gender inequality and I think this quote really ~spoke to me~ as a result. Whenever I feel disheartened or like I can’t do something, I look up at my Bookishly print and ask myself WWJED (what would Jane Eyre do)

  • What is your favourite classic novel?

No prices for guessing that it’s also Jane Eyre. I know it’s a cliché but there is something so simultaneously heart-wrenching and uplifting about Jane’s story that I just can’t see past it. Jane Eyre was the first truly empowered female character I had read and to think that Charlotte Brontë was writing this novel in a time when women had no power or liberty. It’s just miraculous that she could create such a fiery and wonderful woman out of that time period. Above all, it’s a tale of self-discovery and I read it at a time that I too was figuring myself out and that’s very special to me.

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  • What made you start blogging?

Truthfully, one of my friends (also a blogger and a graduate in the MSc Publishing degree I start in September) advised me to start blogging to build up a portfolio of my writing. Essentially, my blog was meant to be a CV showcase for any future employers but it has turned out to be something very different. I never realised what an opportunity blogging is to meet some amazing people. I’m still new to the blogging scene but the great laughs I’ve had with people I would never have met otherwise has been such a blessing to me. The last two/three months have been awesome and I don’t think I could’ve survived that month of boredom in a full leg cast without my blog!

  • If you could jump in a time machine and go to any period, what period would you choose?

Well, since I’m currently drowning in a stupor of Outlander loving I guess I have to say 1740s Inverness just in the hope that I could meet Jamie Fraser (you were expecting that one, Imogen, weren’t you?) Realistically, I doubt the Jacobite uprising would have been a particularly wonderful so I’m going to say the 1980s because it’s my favourite era of music.

  • When you choose to have a takeaway what do you order?

Ugh, I’m a takeaway fiend! I love everything. I am vegetarian though so I’m somewhat limited. I like bean curd in a black bean sauce with salt ‘n’ chilli chips from the Chinese. I also love the Veg-a-Roma pizza from Dominos and a chana korma from the Indian. If I’m being good though I’ll do a Chinese “fakeaway” which you can recreate here (sorry for the shameless plug)

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  • What’s your favourite book turned into a movie?

This is a tough one. I thought the adaption of Room by Emma Donoghue was great. Brie Larsen’s performance was wonderful. I liked Gone Girl too. Again, it is Rosamund Pyke’s performance that really makes it for me. I’ve got a thing for strong independent females, okay? If I’m being truly honest: I’m a sucker for The Notebook because Ryan Gosling.

  • Do you believe in the supernatural?

Not really. I’m a child of the post-Enlightenment era I guess. However, I can’t deny there are some moments in life which are so uncanny that you have to stop and wonder if there is something more. My colleague would often say there’s a white witch in all of us; I’m sure Claire Randall would agree.

  • Do you like new book smell? Old book smell? All book smell|?

New book smell. The smell of a bookshop. Ugh. Old books just make me sneeze I’m afraid.

  • Where do you keep all your books?

In my bookcase. When I run out of room, I have to relegate some books to the confines of a plastic box in the loft (sorry, Twilight and True Blood series) I can’t wait to have my own personal library one day so all my books can be proudly showcased.

I am nominating the following blogs to answer my questions and join in on the Liebster Award. Some of you guys might have already been nominated so sorry if you have! I’ve decided to share with a few new people I’ve met over the last few weeks who all have amazing blogs (not including Wandered Souls since she nominated me but I do love her blog so check it out) My questions are a chaotic mixture of all the things I love and blog about:

Tash @ The Bookie Monsters

Luna @ ABitBookishBlog

Anna @ ALiteraryPotion

1WeekMary @ 1WeekMary

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My Questions
  1. What is your ultimate book reading companion? Special candle? A pet? Favourite CD?
  2. Where is your peaceful place? Is there somewhere you go to get away from the world?
  3. If you could only take 3 books to a desert island, what would they be?
  4. What’s the most sacred possession in your room?
  5. Who is your literary role model and why? (Mine’s is Jane Eyre if you haven’t guessed by now)
  6. What meal do you cook if you’re wanting to show off your culinary skills? Feel free to share the recipe!
  7. Would you rather give up good books or good food? Why?
  8. Where is your dream travel destination? Why and what would you do once you were there?
  9. What’s your favourite smell in the world? If mine isn’t the smell of pad thai cooking then it’s got to be a Meraki or MoBros candle.
  10. Finally, what is the most motivational or inspirational book you’ve ever read?

Get answering and sharing guys, I can’t wait to read your answers! As always, you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for blog updates!