TREATING MY SHELF: My most recent bookmail

I love reading lists like this because I am incredibly nosy and I love living vicariously through others so I thought I would do my own. These past few months I’ve been incredibly lucky with books from publishers and glutted myself on shiny, new books that I literally don’t have any space for. The only way these books will be getting a home is if I finally cave and by myself one of those swanky reading carts I’ve been seeing all over bookstagram..

My haul will be split into book mail from publishers, books I traded for and book mail I spend far too much money on. Also just a heads up a lot of the arcs I got I’ve put the cover of the final version. This is just because there’s never pictures of ARCs unless you take them yourself (which I haven’t) up first…

Book mail my bank did not thank me for:

The Caraval Series by Stephanie Garber

I’ve never read this series. In fact I was once gifted an ARC of Legendary after a job interview at Hachette that I gave away to a friend. A year later here I am dropping about £80 on the entire series because I really wanted the Waterstones sprayed edges version of Finale and I saw a girl selling the first two books.

The Empire of Dust Series by Anna Smith Spark

This series has been on my radar for a while but when I saw the final book in the trilogy was coming out I knew I just had to pick these up. I’ve been wanting to read more Adult Fantasy as it’s definitely my preferred genre and since Anna Smith Spark is known as the “Queen of Grimdark” I just couldn’t say no. I debated getting them in paperback to make it cheaper but I went for hardback in the end which I am so glad about as they are STUNNING. In my defence I did use a £10 book voucher towards the purchase AND by lucky coincidence I am attending VoyagerCon in August and will be able to get them signed too.

Ashen Torment Series by Den Patrick

These were honestly just complete cover buys and I wanted to get the beautiful hardbacks before they weren’t available anymore.

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Illustrated Edition by J.K Rowling. Illustrated by Jim Kay

This purchase was for YALC as Jim Kay will be there and I really want to get as many signed as possible. It will be a bit of a pain getting them down to London but having looked at the authors attending YALC I don’t have many books I want to get signed anyway.

My book trades:

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Courting Darkness by Robin Lafevers

I traded this for the Storm Crow arc that was in the Fairyloot box (Can’t remember which month). I’ve still got the Grave Mercy series to read first but I kept seeing this book everywhere and I really wanted to get a copy so I’m very happy with this trade.

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The City of Brass by S.A Chakraborty 

I traded my copy of Damsel for the Illumicrate ARC of The City of Brass. This is another adult fantasy series I’ve been wanted to check out and the author will be at VoyagerCon so fingers crossed I can read it before then. I know I will probably be hugely regretting not investing in the beautiful hardbacks as they released though.

Bookmail from lovely publishers:

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass and The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt

Illusion of Thieves is about a ragtag crew with forbidden magic who must pull off an elaborate heist and stop a civil war, in a fantasy world where being a sorcerer is a death sentence. The Nightjar is a contemporary fantasy about another London, a hidden magical world with birds that guard human souls and a dangerous faction intent on the annihilation of magic users.

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The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner

Look out for my full mini review in a few weeks but The Bone Garden is a dark fantasy fable that I am very excited to read.

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Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

There’s been a huge amount of hype for this book so I jumped at the chance to ask for a copy from Harper360ya and I was so happy when it turned up. Serpent and Dove is the first book in a duology and is tale of witchcraft and forbidden love. I actually got 40 pages into reading this before I put it aside for to buddy read the ARC below.

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The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve had the paperback of The Poppy War for a while now and I hadn’t actually read it when I saw The Dragon Republic was available to request on Twitter. So I took my shot and actually got told by the publisher I wasn’t getting one but then it turned up anyway?! So to avoid being that girl I quickly read The Poppy War and dived straight into this. Look out for my mini review soon but I LOVE THIS SERIES.

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Kingdom of Souls: The Last Witchdoctor by Rena Barron

I genuinely don’t know what I did to deserve an ARC of Kingdom of Souls. I requested ages ago on Twitter but never heard anything so I was 99% positive I wasn’t getting one. I cannot wait to read this and I’m fully intending to start reading this after The Bone Garden.

and that’s a wrap!

I’ve been extremely lucky and I’m not actually sure how I haven’t got bankrupt yet.

 

 

Spoiler Mini Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Synopsis:

“When Rin aced the Keju – the test to find the most talented students in the Empire – it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who had hoped to get rich by marrying her off; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free from a life of servitude. That she got into Sinegard – the most elite military school in Nikan – was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Fighting the prejudice of rival classmates, Rin discovers that she possesses a lethal, unearthly power – an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of psychoactive substances and a seemingly insane teacher, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive – and that mastering these powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most people calmly go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away…”

Mini Review:

I love the history and lore in The Poppy War. I was given just enough information to feel like I knew the world without it being too encyclopaedic.

I was fascinated with all the mythology and I wasn’t expecting the dark humour which definitely made me rate this book higher.

The only issue I have is I don’t think this book did enough to get to its ending for me.

I could understand Venka, Altan and even Kitay wanting burning revenge. All Rin had to do was hear about the atrocities other people witnessed and experienced first hand.

It very much felt like a Daenerys Targaryen situation where plot took precedence over character development. The author wanted Rin to become this destructive force of nature so she did. That and the pacing made me drop a star.

Rating: 4/5 stars

What nobody could tell me about book blogging: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

This post has probably been done loads before but I wanted to offer my perspective.

When I started my bookstagram I was a student and had plenty of free time. My account grew pretty quickly in a year as I had loads of time to take photos and I was posting twice a day. Now my time is EXTREMELY limited I am really feeling the pressure and I have become much more aware of negative behaviours that I adopted and how using social media everyday can have a big impact on your life.

Don’t worry this post isn’t going to just focus on the negative, I want to highlight the good parts about book blogging too and please remember this post is filled with my honest and frank opinions that you may or may not agree with.

Here’s what nobody told me about book blogging both good and bad:

Social media stats are important

Social media by design is very competitive because everything is quantified. You are literally told in numerous different ways how many people like you, how many peopled like your posts even how many people said Happy Birthday to you. In social media world this literally all ads up to how many care about your existence and how many don’t or at least it can feel that way.

Everyone says book blogging isn’t about the likes BUT everyone gets down about lack of engagement and losing followers just as much as they get excited and celebrate hitting X amount of followers. Your social media stats can make you feel great or like crap and this can be hard to deal with everyday.

Social media stats matter in book blogging, the bigger your account the more likely you will receive arcs from publishers, be chosen as a rep for book boxes and get all the fun perks of a huge following that you see other accounts get on a DAILY basis.

I’m not going to tell you what to do with this information but it’s just a harsh truth of book blogging that you will care about how big your accounts are and you will feel pressured and sad when you don’t grow as fast as your friends or you start losing engagement because you couldn’t post for a while.

The FOMO is real

You will see people get amazing proof copies and special edition books and book boxes everyday and eventually you will want to be part of that. My bank account has taken a SERIOUS hit since I started book blogging and my advice is this:

Try not to get sucked in.

I am saying this as both a past rep for book boxes and someone who sells book merch. Merchandise and beautiful covers are GREAT but your bank account won’t think so try and limit yourself. Don’t think you need loads of book merchandise to be a book blogger because you don’t and DON’T think it will increase your following/engagement.

I’ve drastically cut down on the book boxes I buy this year because I find myself with drawers of stuff I’ve bought and no where to put it and honestly most of it is random stuff I don’t need. I have lip balms and hot chocolates and face masks and iron-on patches and tea towels that I am never going to use.

Don’t try and keep up with the accounts who are getting it for free. Try to be really discerning and focus on merchandise for books YOU LOVE.

ARCS are great but..

Don’t convince yourself you’re going to read them all and keep requesting more. You won’t. I don’t now. This relates to the FOMO because when I see a beautiful exciting new release available I want it too. But then it arrives and it sits on my shelf and I start feeling pressured because I KNOW I don’t have time to read them all but it doesn’t stop me from requesting more?

It’s vicious cycle and can be addictive to be recognised and rewarded for all your hard work with an ARC but if you feel like you have too many it’s time to re-evaluate.

I feel very lucky I made the friends I did

For a long time I felt very lonely book blogging. It felt like nobody really wanted to have a real conversation, comments were made just so I would return the favour. People only followed me so I would follow them. This changed last year when I was invited to a group chat and ended up meeting a few of the girls on there at YALC later that year. At YALC me and two of the girls really hit off and have spoken and met up in London since.

I think you do eventually manage to make friends but in the beginning it feels like you are sliding into people’s DMs and being like “Hey wanna be friends?”.

Location is everything

I am a book blogger in the UK and I know I am extremely PRIVILEGED to have access to the publishers, arcs, and amazing bookshops like Waterstones and Goldsboro that we have here. But even in the UK there is an extremely limited amount of ARCs to go around compared to the USA and when the majority of bloggers are American you start to notice.

Also I may live in the UK but most of the fantastic blogger events and signings happen in London during the week. I am a 4 hour train ride away from London and can’t exactly hop down that after getting home from work at 18:30. They friends I made on bookstagram can see each other once a month while I can manage about every 3-4 months. It’s hard not to feel left out.

You will definitely feel limited and frustrated by your geographical location.

The algorithm is god

I would love to be one of those accounts who can post once a week and get thousands of people liking and commenting but I’m just not that popular. So I have to post once a day  or run the risk of disappearing altogether and that is a tremendous amount of pressure when like I said I’m out of the house for at least 12 hours everyday.

I often resort to re-posting old pictures. It sucks but it’s far better than the alternative and I can’t always make myself come home and spend half an hour taking one photo.

The only thing you can do is stop caring and focus more on your mental and physical health instead.

Meeting and speaking to authors you love is the best

I have tweeted at Jay Kristoff quite a few times now and when he’s responded or laughed at my bad jokes and I think this is unique to the publishing world. Writers take the time to speak to us, like our posts, share our artwork, appreciate our designs and laugh at our bad jokes.

Book blogging gives you the opportunity to speak to the people you admire most and crack banter with them. That makes it totally worth it.

The struggle is real: Finding a job after graduating

I don’t think I will ever be able to describe properly how completely soul destroying it is trying to get a job. Not even a graduate job. Not even a well-paying job. Just A job. When I left University after 4 years and 2 degrees I couldn’t get any job at all. I’m not sure if I will be able to describe what I went through properly but I’m going try.

This post is a message to try and comfort those who are still looking, to warn those who still have it to come and share what I learnt from my experiences.

My first ever job was at University and I remember being absolutely crippled with anxiety I nearly didn’t go to the interview at all. It was just a summer position that looking back I ABSOLUTELY needed as I never intended to live at home again, but at the time it didn’t feel that urgent. The job interestingly turned out to be my worst nightmare. An upbeat sales pitching role where you had to be great at small talk and good at convincing people to part with their money. Weirdly I was rather good at it. I spent two summers there before I graduated and moved away to do my masters.

My masters degree was kind of my way of hiding from the world. I wasn’t ready for a real job and I was scared to try and get one. But in doing my degree, the sheer workload actually completely flipped my way of thinking and by the end I was DYING to find a job and never wanted to go back to University again.

University did make one thing very clear to me. Without work experience I was screwed unless I got lucky. So after applying for many graduate positions and internships I did manage to find a small unpaid internship at a great community interest company back home in my local area. I guess it worked out that the company focused on mental health conditions which I was very familiar with. They were looking for a Marketing Internship and I happily took it up knowing this was the vital experience I needed. Right? Wrong.

By the end of my internship I had graduated from my Masters and I was broke. I hadn’t been able to get ANY part time sales assistant or other roles to do alongside my internship and I had exactly zero money left. This is where the privilege of staying with family really showed, without them I would have been living in a box. Even living with my family and not paying anything I still was forced to apply for Job Seekers.

I won’t ever forget the day I rolled up the Job Centre and joined the queue of people waiting to go inside. I was embarrassed but also weirdly full of pride. I had a degree and I was here? I didn’t think I belonged there but life has a way of humbling you like that.

One of the worst days in my whole claiming Job Seekers experience was when I got offered an interview down in London. I didn’t have any nice interview clothes for a marketing role in London though and so the Job Centre gave me some vouchers that could be used in certain stores. One of them was Matalan. So off I popped to my local Matalan to start trying on outfits and…nothing fit. I’m quite short and big and all the skirts were too tight and too long. I ended up completely breaking down in the dressing room to my sister on the phone and sacked off the interview completely.

It was this time I wasn’t just angry with the world but also specific family members. These family members had the means to support me rather than me having to degrade myself at the Job Centre but they chose not to. I knew with an absolute certainty I would rather send money to my siblings than them ever having to go experience signing on at the Job Centre.

The second worst day of my JSA experience was when I had to go sign on..on Valentine’s Day. This made me acutely aware I didn’t have anything in life and I cried all the way home. I finally managed to stop claiming JSA when I got a part-time position at Poundland. I thought I would be their temporarily while I applied for my dream job. I thought wrong.

By the time I started working at Poundland I was in deep with book blogging, I’d started my Etsy shop and was growing my bookstagram and posting on my blog. I was determined to show that I used my own initiative and had continued to do stuff relevant to my degree and interests even while unemployed. I was also volunteering one day a week at the same company I interned for doing their social media. After 4 years of University I had some idea of what I wanted to do but book blogging showed me what my dream job would be – publishing so I started to apply.

At first I didn’t hear anything but then one day I got an interview as a Marketing Executive at Hodder & Stoughton. It was then I thought dreams really did come true. I swapped shifts at work and went all the way down to London and guys I was DYING inside. I was so nervous I just sat in the huge glass lobby praying I didn’t look as anxious as I felt. Despite this I thought my interview had gone really well and I remember telling my friend I would cry if I got the job as it was my dream.

I didn’t get it. Not enough experience they said.

I had two more interviews in publishing and didn’t get those either. I went down to the London Book Fair for their seminars on how to get into publishing, I showed my CV to recruiters, I spoke to some people already employed in publishing to try and improve my cover letter. Nothing worked.

I continued to work at Poundland and apply for jobs every week. I had a few more interviews but never for publishing again. I worked at Poundland so long I got promoted to Store Supervisor. This made me feel a bit better, I hadn’t been stuck in a dead-end retail job. I had been promoted and given more responsibility. Surely this would help me to get a job? No.

At this point my life had started to change. I met someone and the idea of moving away to London became more and more distant. I developed new dreams of working for myself and creating my own business focused on book merch. I just needed to get a job. A good job that would enable me to save. I thought being Store Supervisor would be okay for a while.

But then things at Poundland started to go downhill. My manager basically hated me, she didn’t think I worked fast enough and at this point I was still on probation. I was terrified I’d be forced to take a demotion or be fired and I was scared how this would look to employers. One week I got the flu really bad and I was completely bed bound, I knew my manager would be pissed but I couldn’t move. I phoned in sick and she was not happy as she was “on her own” and was now going to have to do a longer shift. I got off the phone and cried. I was so stressed I just started applying for jobs even though I was ill.

I ended up getting an interview at a company that I didn’t really understand. That weird pride humiliation hit when I realised I’d be interviewed by a girl I knew at college. You see she had left university before graduating and yet here I was still looking for a job whilst she had been in marketing for 2 years. I went to the interview, at this point I was used to never getting the job so I didn’t really plan ahead on what would happen if I did get offered the role. I was given some tasks to do at home which I spent hours on every night for a week before submitting and the next week I got a phone call offering me the role. My now manager was concerned about the commute but I was so grateful for the position I told her a bus ride wasn’t going to stop me.

Nearly a year after I started what I thought would be a temporary job at Poundland I got to finally hand in my notice. I was so excited to be able to show to her that she was wrong and guys Karma is definitely real because less than a month later the entire store closed down. She had treated me so badly I was pretty happy she would be out of a job. She was a terrible manager.

So now I’m working as a Marketing Executive. I get up everyday at 5:30am to get my bus at 6:30am. I arrive at work for 8:30am and finish at 5:00pm to get home by 6:30pm. I am at work essentially 12 hours a day. This was the job I had waited for, I had worked so hard for but guys I am tired. All the time. When I’m not working I’m trying to design stuff for my shop, take pictures for bookstagram, write blog posts, read, see my boyfriend, see my friends, see my family and I am exhausted. You can’t have everything in life but it was bitter sweet finding out the job I had wanted for so long is affecting my physical and mental health.

I just want this to be clear. I was MISERABLE claiming job seekers, my soul was completely destroyed working in Poundland, my Manager hating me was just another kick while I was down and now I am tired all the time and this is actually the best place I’ve been since leaving University.

This job challenges me everyday but at least I know that I’m growing as a person and an employee. I get to use my mind and my creativity and that’s better than mindlessly shifting stock around a shop floor. But I also know I can’t continue doing 12 hour days indefinitely, something will have to give eventually.

I don’t think I did anything special to finally get the graduate job I was looking for. I was in the right place at the right time and really I just got lucky. Lucky my manager made me so upset I applied for just about any job I found, lucky that my workplace needed someone quickly and lucky that pretty much everyone else in the running didn’t want the role.

It’s just luck guys and some people are luckier than others.

 

 

Book Review: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I’m in love with these sarcastic sociopaths and arseholes ♥️

I just finished Aurora Rising and I HATE to say it (but I will anyway) I enjoyed this a lot more than Illuminae. If (like me) you committed the most heinous of crimes and found Illuminae a bit slow…(SORRY SORRY OKAY). Maybe you thought it only really livened up when A.I.D.A.N was introduced (Everyone loves a bad boy). I PROMISE you will have no such issues with this book.

The mystery surrounding Auri will keep you reading till the very end and if somehow you find yourself losing focus the group dynamics are sure to keep you entertained.

My thoughts on each of the characters:

Tyler: Good guy, good looking likes to do the right thing. Supposed to be all about the rules but I think he only learned them all so he could break them.

Scarlett: Sassy bad bitch twin sister of Tyler. Not so good with the killing in cold blood but can offer you a sarcastic comment and empathy when you need it.

Cat: Another bad bitch whose hopelessly in love with Tyler. The voice of reason in the group for the most part.

Finian: Poor broken boy who is just wants to be loved but makes it really hard by being a massive d**k. He’s probably my fave.

Zila: The “sociopath” of the group. Likes to calculate the odds of dying whilst being shot at. She definitely has more to her than meets the eye and I can’t wait to find out more about her back story.

Kal: The space elf. Real good at the killing, needs to work on the romance.

Auri: Pulled out of cyro with a nasty habit of killing people and not remembering it. The entire story centres around her and where she comes from.

Aurora Rising is GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY X LOTR X MISTBORN and I HIGHLY recommend reading.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Book series I started but haven’t finished

I’d like to start this post by saying that I’m a notorious procrastinator and my free time is very limited. This is a very bad combo when it comes to loving and reading books. I have a tendency to start a series and then for some reason completely abandon it for a year and I can never remember how or why I didn’t finish. Hopefully this post will actually help me as I can see what I need to finish and make a start on. First off…

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Illuminae Files by Aime Kauffman and Jay Kristoff

This is the one I feel most guilty about. I loved A.I.D.A.N and apparently Gemina is the best one in the series but for some reason I just never finished reading the rest. I have pre-ordered two copies of Aurora Rising and have the arc so I’ll probably try and binge this series and that book all in one go.

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Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

I picked this up in January and I was meaning to read the rest but then life happened and I decided to work on reading Muse of Nightmares instead. Like Illuminae I’ve been told the second book is better and after what goes down in the first book I am really curious to see where this series will go. SPOILER: The first book reads like an entire trilogy and I was GOBSMACKED with how it ended.

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Firebird Series by Claudia Gray

I read the first two books last year when I borrowed them from the library. I didn’t LOVE the books but I’ve been thinking a lot recently I really should find out how it ended. There was a really good twist in the second book that made me want to get the third but I just never did.

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The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

This is another one I didn’t give a very good rating to, but I kind of liked the romance if not the dumb love triangle that was brewing. So I was interested to see how it ended but apparently not enough to pick it up a year and half later.

Comment below a book series you started but haven’t finished!

Controversial opinion: My thoughts on ARCs.

So Harper Voyager dropped a UK Arc of DarkDawn recently and it got me thinking about ARC’s. I wanted to come at this purely from a Book Blogger perspective as obviously I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes in publishing. I can only see what publishers, authors, booksellers etc openly tweet about so this is definitely more an opinion piece than a factual look at the situation.

Arcs are pretty coveted commodity within the book community and I think we all know this. ARC’s in theory have two purposes – marketing for the book through giveaways, photos, unboxings etc and increasing awareness through reviews and word of mouth recommendation.

ARC’s also act as payment. Bookbloggers get literally nothing for their time but the book they are being asked to market/review. Sometimes this is a finished copy and sometimes this is an ARC. An entire community of free marketers, publicists and consumers that exists around books and the only thing we get for the hours of reading, writing and photography is the book itself. It’s nice to get something tangible to keep for all those hours.

I think the black market that has sprung up around ARC’s changed the game. People didn’t just want ARC’s to read, but also to collect or trade and even sell. I don’t think it’s wrong for people to trade ARC’s (I’ve done it myself) but something that was already pretty sought after has become a hugely valuable commodity and now even more difficult to get.

I think now there is bad feeling and in-fighting within the book community over who gets ARC’s, why and what they end up doing with them. People hate people who request ARC’s to trade them later. People don’t like it when others use their status to get access to ARC’s to trade whilst people with less followers who would love the book are getting ignored. No one likes seeing bigger accounts getting thrown ARC’s everyday and when you know they can’t read them all.

I think something needs to change.

With the amount of ARC’s that end up for sale on ebay, it is pretty clear that more care needs to be taken when choosing who gets a copy. Huge bookstagram accounts and bloggers with massive followings shouldn’t be just getting thrown ARC’s of books they didn’t even know existed.

I can definitely understand some book bloggers frustration with the situation.

For example with the DarkDawn UK ARC, that is a hugely anticipated release and you know people will be dying to get their hands on it for whatever reason. TO BE CLEAR I love Harper Voyager. I’ve been dying to get on their blogger list for years, they pretty much publish all my favourite books. However I didn’t think it was fair to post a photo of a hugely sought after ARC and follow up immediately with “Proofs are rarer than Hen’s teeth. So don’t even try it”. If they aren’t publicly available then don’t publicly announce it? It also didn’t help seeing someone who works for Harper Voyager ask for one and immediately get told it’s on it’s way. I’m not saying this person shouldn’t get one but maybe do it in a less public way?

Situations like this can be a bit of a slap in the face. From a blogger’s perspective the ONE thing we get as some sort of payment/reward whatever for our work is the very book we talk about. No one likes to feel under valued and it feels like book bloggers are at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to getting ARC’s.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

P.S I obviously can’t speak for all bloggers and I don’t think I’m trying to, so if you’re opinion is different that’s totally cool. Arcs aren’t hugely important to me, I’ve requested a fair few and received a few and I don’t really collect them unless the cover is gorgeous. I read what I can when I can and I always make sure to take a photo for the gram.