Spoiler Mini Review: The Sisters Grimm by Menna Van Praag

Disclaimer: As the title suggests this review is full of spoilers. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is a dark and vague sort of read with lots of whimsical descriptions and flowery prose. In the beginning it took me a while to get the four POVs straight but after a while you get to know each character’s own voice.

This book follows four “sisters” who were all born on the exact same day and have the ability to enter a magical place called Everwhere.

Each sister has forgotten about Everwhere and the power they have, believing Everwhere to be a childish dream they had. It’s explained in the book why but the whole plot is a countdown to the day all four sisters will be allowed back into Everwhere – the night of their 18th birthday.

I really struggled to get through this book after a while particularly because the ending was obvious. I liked reading about each characters lives and struggles but I felt the ending kind of aborted their individual storylines in the real world.

For those that like it, there is a romance in the book but it’s the sort of romance that excuses the murdering of a parent by said lover. If that’s your thing you will love it until the ending.

I dropped a few stars for the predictable ending. I guessed which sister would die and that each sister had a soldier in their life that would try to kill them at the end of the book.

This book is perfect for fans of Dark Fairytales, The Hazel Wood, Alice in Wonderland, female heroines and forbidden romance.

Rating 3/5 stars

Top ten favourite book covers in 2019

You aren’t supposed to judge a book by it’s cover but I can’t help it when books looks this good. I can honestly say I’ve bought four of the books in this list for the cover alone without having an idea what the book was about. I blame it on my designer background but I just really appreciate beautiful artwork and I can’t resist a gorgeous cover.

Here are my Top Ten Favourite books covers in 2019. Note: I haven’t put these in any order as it’s impossible to rank them!

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Deep light by Frances Hardinge

Synopsis: On the streets of the Island of Lady’s Crave live 14-year-old street urchins Hark and his best friend Jelt. They are scavengers: diving for relics of the gods, desperate for anything they can sell. But there is something dangerous in the deep waters of the undersea, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.

When the waves try to claim Jelt, Hark will do anything to save him. Even if it means compromising not just who Jelt is, but what he is . . .

I genuinely had no idea what this book was about until I copied and pasted the synopsis for this blog post. I got this beauty for Christmas with the gorgeous orange sprayed edges.

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Stormtide by Den Patrick

Synopsis: Book Two in stunning Scandinavia-inspired fantasy trilogy The Ashen Torment.

I’m deliberately NOT posting the synopsis for this book as it’s book two and we all know the synopsis for sequels spoils the crap out of the book before. I bought this book as I was attending VoyagerCon and was investing more in adult fantasy.

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The Binding by Bridget Collins

Synopsis: For a Bookbinder’s trade is like no other. In the house set deep in the marshes, Emmett learns the skills to make exquisitely beautiful volumes, every one as unique as the last and each holding a dark and peculiar secret: a person’s most unconscionable memories. And to Emmett, they whisper in the darkness. Then one day he discovers a book with his own name on it and is forced to choose between forgetting and the dreadful, tantalising promise of remembrance.

Conjuring a magic all of its own, The Binding is a richly imagined story of boundary-defying desire and prejudice wrapped in layers of enchantment, enigma and stunningly evoked detail. Peopled by fully-fledged characters that live and breathe from the book’s pages, it is a novel to fall in love with.

This book wasn’t on my radar at all until I started seeing other people’s copies arrive. I looked for the purple sprayed edged edition after the release and I couldn’t find it anywhere Later on I saw some on someone’s story so ending up reserving it from one Waterstones and getting it sent to my local Waterstones. If I had bothered to check my local Waterstones first I would have seen they had some in stock so I didn’t need to go through so much effort!

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Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

Synopsis: The third book in the Nevernight Chronicles

Again I am not posting the synopsis as it will totally ruin the Nevernight series for you. This book was without a doubt my most eagerly anticipated and brutally disappointing read of 2019. You can check out my full review on my blog. Still love the cover though.

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Descendent of the Crane by Joan He

Synopsis: Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own. Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

I got this beauty in an illumicrate box and I am so glad I did because I am weak for sprayed edges.

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The True Queen by Zen Cho

Synopsis:
The enchanted island of Janda Baik, in the Malay Archipelago, has long been home to witches. And Muna and her sister Sakti wake on its shores under a curse, which has quite stolen away their memories. Their only hope of salvation lies in distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal runs a controversial academy for female magicians. But the pair travel via the formidable Fairy Queen’s realm, where Sakti simply disappears.

To save her sister, Muna must learn to navigate Regency London’s high society and trick the English into believing she’s a magical prodigy. But when the Sorceress Royal’s friends become accidentally embroiled in a plot – involving the Fairy Queen’s contentious succession – Muna is drawn right in. She must also find Sakti, break their curse and somehow stay out of trouble. But if fairyland’s true queen does finally return, trouble may find her first . . .

I picked this book because the author was at YALC. Originally I thought this book was the sequel to The Sorcerer to the Crown so I convinced myself I didn’t need The True Queen because I didn’t have the first one. However my friend Emily and I decided to look on ebay for the Hardback of Sorcerer to the Crown and found it. So we took it as a sign to both buy The True Queen and Sorcerer to the Crown and get The True Queen signed.

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House of sacrifice by Anna Smith Spark

Synopsis: The third Empires of Dust novel

This book is a sequel so you know the drill by now. I bought this one for the same reasons as Stormtide. I was attending VoyagerCon and decided to buy the entire series after seeing this cover for the final book on Twitter. I was deliberating between paperback and hardback before my friend Sammy decided on hardback for me. I got them all signed at VoyagerCon and I can’t wait to read them.

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The Cerulean by Amy Ewing

Synopsis: Sera Lighthaven has always felt as if she didn’t quite belong among her people, the Cerulean, who live in the City Above the Sky. She is curious about everything–especially the planet that her City is magically tethered to–and can’t stop questioning things. Sera has always longed for the day when the tether will finally break and the Cerulean can move to a new planet.

But when Sera is chosen as the sacrifice to break the tether, she feels betrayed by everything in which she’d been taught to trust. In order to save her City, Sera must end her own life.

But something goes wrong, and Sera survives, ending up on the planet below in a country called Kaolin. Sera has heard tales about the dangerous humans who live here, and she quickly learns that these dangers were not just stories.

Meanwhile, back in the City, all is not what it seems, and the life of every Cerulean may be in danger if Sera is not able to find a way home.

I absolutely love everything about this cover and I didn’t know anything about the plot until now. Unfortunately it’s not a book I own..yet.

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Spin the dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Synopsis: Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

This book was very popular on bookstagram this year and yet somehow I still don’t own it.

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The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

Synopsis: The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more–until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

I really don’t know anything about this book I just stumbled across it when I researching this blog post. However it has witches in and I’ve always loved stories with witches.

Comment your favourite covers below ♥️

Spoiler Mini Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

SPOILER WARNING: As the title of this blog post suggests this is a mini review and it’s full of spoilers.

Full disclosure I was gifted this arc many moons ago in exchange for an honest review.

This book is packed full of your favourite ya fantasy romance tropes. Enemies to lovers, “slow-burn” romance, insta love, fast paced action, Oh no there’s just one bed, the chosen one, and characters that look suspiciously like other major characters in the book.

This book was far too many tropes with too much forced drama for my tastes. It’s by no means a bad book it’s just got lots of things I personally don’t like reading and I especially don’t like reading them all at once.

Enemies to lovers romance has always been my thing but when Lou (street rat and secret witch) is forced to marry Reid (god fearing soldier who loves burning heathens) because he chased her beaten ass through a theatre and they fell onto the stage in front of everybody I should have known this book wasn’t for me.

The romance develops from there really quickly with the obvious issue she’s a witch and married to someone who hunts witches for his job.

There’s a lot of blood magic witchy goodness in this book and I loved the idea of paying a price for magic. For example to break a lock you have to break a bone but unfortunately this stuff was lost in the melodrama of will he love me regardless like my mother couldn’t and this old man looks suspiciously like me and loves the same food I do.

Rating: 3/5 stars

YALC 2019 Day two: Looked like the Slytherins had a party last night

Saturday at YALC

I got to YALC at 8:30am laden down with my two illustrated editions of Harry Potter and Vicious by V.E Schwab. They weren’t making people queue in the rain this time so we all waited in the lobby. A girl came up to me I didn’t know who it turned out I knew from Instagram which was nice. Honestly everyone should be forced to wear a name badge with their usernames because I don’t know who anyone is.

The stampede up to the YALC floor wasn’t too bad but people were queuing for the Infinity Son drop and running and blocking the lifts. It was so bad the publisher was banned from doing it again and instead had to raffle the last 100 on the Sunday. There was also a huge queue to buy books from Hodder to get an ARC. I thought stupidly that people were only being given one ARC for buying two books. But no you could actually buy 4 books and get 2 or 6 and get given 3. Which I think is a bit greedy and doesn’t really give everyone an opportunity to get one.

I ended up seeing Tube Girl again and told her what happened on the tube. We had a good laugh and she said she probably looked like a stalker. I didn’t get her name which is annoying but I did see her around a lot that day.

Early in the morning I went to go get a virtual queue ticket cos I figured the Schwab queue would be crazy. The queue for the VQ tickets was super long and ironic. My friends and I ended up waiting an hour and going back when nobody was there. I got tickets for Jim Kay, V.E Schwab and Zen Cho.

It was funny as before I went to YALC I really wanted to buy Zen Cho’s book but I didn’t have the first one in hardback and I like my editions to match. I was telling Emily who found some on eBay so we both ended up buying Sorcerer to the Crown and The True Queen and getting The True Queen signed together.

Me and Emily are definitely a bad influence on each other as we also ended up spending £20 on prints with Steph later on from Diana Dworak’s stand. I got myself an amazing Manon Blackbeak print and Mia from Nevernight print which I couldn’t resist tweeting to Jay Kristoff in case he was missing from his wall (he wasn’t). After that I went off to get my book signed by V.E Schwab. This is when I witnessed some pretty poor behaviour by an event organiser/volunteer.

A girl in front of me was trying to get in the queue but she didn’t have a virtual queue ticket. The guy told her you can’t queue without one and she should’ve got it in the morning. But Schwab started signing at 11am so it’s not unreasonable this girl hasn’t arrived at YALC before then. She was kicked out of the queue and didn’t get her book signed as far as I’m aware. It was never clear that a virtual queue ticket was mandatory and I only went and got one that morning because I knew she was a hugely popular author.

It wouldn’t be YALC if you didn’t spot some famous people (besides the authors of course). Throughout the weekend I saw Jason Momoa walk by alot and Alfie Allen with his dog who definitely chuckled when Emily yelled and pointed “Look it’s Alfie Allen’s dog”. Later one in the day I went down to Comic Con with Sammy to get her book signed by Tom Felton and we met Vicky from whatvickyread while we were down there.  Sammy’s friend Abby and I weren’t meant to stay in the queue right up to the signing desk but nobody stopped us so we kind of met Tom Felton too and I tried to sneak a picture which is DEFINITELY not allowed. I have to say Tom Felton didn’t look his best (hungover for sure) and at one point awkwardly stopped to pick a new song before signing Sammy’s book.

Back at YALC Sammy and I were trying to get her friend Abby a copy of Into the Crooked Place but by this time people had clocked onto the fact bats were being hidden and it was mayhem. As soon as one of the staff left to hide them they were followed and the bat was grabbed as they put it down. Luckily Abby did manage to grab one later when more were hidden again

My final signing of the day was Jim Kay who was LOVELY and very tired as apparently he was moving house. His table was right on the end of the green room where the door was so a fair few famous actors kept walking behind him and he joked he was missing it and I laughed because Zachary Quinto was talking to someone about 2 metres away.

I popped down to Comic Con again after that to have a look around and visited the Cake in a Jar stand where I bought Peel the Force their banoffee flavoured one.

Sammy, Emily, Abby and I decided to go to WestFields for dinner and afterwards I decided I wasn’t going to attend YALC for the Sunday as I’d done and seen everything I wanted to. I was so exhausted that night I fell asleep and woke up at 2am with no idea what happened.

Compared to last year YALC has definitely improved. Publishers and book boxes have definitely upped their game on what they have to offer and I felt like everyone had a fair shot. I think having virtual queues for everything was a great idea IF everyone had known about it and I preferred the way the signing area was set up compared to last year when queues were cut in half by stands.

I am actually thinking of exhibiting myself so maybe you will see my stand full of my metalmarks next year!

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.

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.