Tuesday, 17 December 2019

REVIEW: Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

Pages: 368
Format: ARC Paperback
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: October 3rd 2019
Buy the Book: Book Depository

Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see ...

16-year-old Ava Gardener is heading back to school one year after a house fire left her severely disfigured. She’s used to the names, the stares, the discomfort, but there’s one name she hates most of all: Survivor. What do you call someone who didn’t mean to survive? Who sometimes wishes she hadn’t?

When she meets a fellow survivor named Piper at therapy, Ava begins to feel like she’s not facing the nightmare alone. Piper helps Ava reclaim the pieces of Ava Before the Fire, a normal girl who kissed boys and sang on stage. But Piper is fighting her own battle for survival, and when Ava almost loses her best friend, she must decide if the new normal she’s chasing has more to do with the girl in the glass—or the people by her side. 
*WARNING* There are some mild spoilers in this review since I don't think I'd be able to explain what I did and didn't enjoy about the story without delving into the plot a little!

I wish I’d enjoyed this one more than I did. I’m always looking out for YA stories that shed light on something we don’t often read about. Ava’s journey as a survivor is exactly the type of story I actively seek out. This book sounded so empowering, but it didn’t have the impact that I thought it would have on me. Though I admired Ava greatly, I felt like this story could have done more. 

Ava was the main character of this story, but I found myself more drawn towards Piper. Maybe because the story wasn’t told from her perspective, so we couldn’t get a clear picture of what she was thinking, but I wanted to know more about her thoughts and feelings. Though I did enjoy Ava’s journey to accepting her life after the fire that changed everything for her. The building of her relationship with her aunt and uncle was a beautiful part of the story.

My main problem with this story came down to Asad. It was nothing about his character (I actually ADORED him and he added so much personality to every scene he was in), it was more to do with him being the Designated Love Interest. That aspect of the story didn’t appeal to me in the slightest, and the revelation of him actually being in love with Piper only made it worse. It’s just my personal opinion, but I think I would have preferred this book simply focusing on the friendship between Ava and Piper. There was a level of toxicity to their friendship that I wish they could have addressed and grown from, but it never happened, and I ended the book feeling like their story wasn’t as complete as it could have been. 

My other problem lay in the fact that these characters just didn’t make me feel things the way I expected them to. I felt like there should have been more emotional growth shown within the story. The plot was just like any other YA story set in a high school, but these characters had been through so much and had a lot more to offer that what the plot gave them. 

  • Strong Start. The first fifty or so pages to this story are brutal and raw. The introduction to Ava and what she’s been through is told perfectly. 
  • Addressing Character Problems. This is a book that explores the flaws of the characters and tries to work through them, leaving us with a better version of the characters we met at the start. 
  • Well Researched. The thought and care put in to the telling of Ava’s story shines through on the page. 

Whilst this is a story that stands out from the YA crowd, I expected more than what it gave me. There are some wonderful moments that made me proud of Ava and her growth as a character, but it wasn’t as empowering and strong as I hoped it would be. 

Royal Rating:

Friday, 18 October 2019

6 Fictional Pets I Wish I Owned

A year ago today, I had to say goodbye to my best friend of twelve years, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life. I tend not to do many personal posts on my blog, but I can’t write this list without telling you about my gorgeous dog, Dilly.

Growing up, I’d always wanted a dog, but our house was too small and our backyard was basically non-existent. When I turned fourteen, we ended up losing our home to the council, who bought out our street in order to demolish the houses and build even smaller new ones. My parents were devastated because they couldn’t afford to buy another place of their own and had no choice but to rent. The only upside to not owning our own home was that the rented place was bigger, had a garden, and the landlord allowed pets. Given the incredibly difficult year we’d faced, my parents finally decided that adding a dog to the family would bring us some much needed happiness. 

she was by my side through high school, college, and university!
We always knew we were going to rescue a dog. Both my parents had grown up around rescue dogs and all of us agreed that we’d rather give a dog a second chance than go to a breeder. After a few potential adoptions fell through, our local rescue centre ended up with a young mixed-breed who had been abandoned by her previous owner, was underweight and scared of new people. But we completely fell in love with her. After a few visits, we brought her home and named her Dilly! 

my favourite partner in crime
When rehoming a rescue dog, it’s always going to be a bumpy journey, but we got her weight back up and she settled in perfectly. Despite being scared of strangers, she was affectionate with us from the very start, and was running to introduce herself to new people within just a few weeks! It was amazing to see how much she developed in those first months. It completely baffles me that someone would give up on a dog so young. The selfish part of me wishes her former owners could have seen the incredible pet she became as part of our family, but the rational part of me knows that they don’t deserve to. 

Dilly gave us twelve years of the happiest memories we could have wished for. She was lucky enough to go through life without any health problems and she barely even slowed down in her old age. At the end of her life, she developed a quick-growing tumour that caused her no pain to the point that we didn’t know anything was wrong until just a few days before she passed away. We were lucky enough to say goodbye to her at home. She carried so much love for everyone around her that she even though she couldn’t stand properly in her final hours, she still smothered our wonderful vet in kisses. That was the kind of dog she was. 

I’m so glad I had the chance to welcome her into my life. Pets can bring us so much joy, and they love us unconditionally. They really do become an extra family member. In honour of her, I wanted to share my favourite fictional pets whose stories wouldn’t be the same without them. 

(Half of these are cats because apparently YA books love cats)

Bieber from Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
Golden Retriever, need I say more? He’s the thing that Leah loves most about Simon, and I don’t blame her. I was only a little disappointed that Movie Bieber was different to Book Bieber because Movie Bieber was adorable in his own way.

Church from any of Cassie’s Shadowhunter books
No Shadowhunter series would be complete without an appearance from Church. He’s always lurking around somewhere, helping out in his own way. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up with a series purely about his adventures. 

Chainsaw from The Raven Cycle
The bond between Ronan and his raven is one of the most adorable aspects of The Raven Cycle for me. She shows us the softer side of a character who, at first, comes across as cold and intimidating. But Ronan would do anything for her.  

Spike from The Mediator Series
One of the first fictional pets I fell in love with. Spike is a ginger fluffball with slight anger issues, but he’s wonderful all the same. He becomes Suze’s accidental pet, but I can’t imagine him not being part of the story. 

Hedwig from Harry Potter
Could you ask for a more loyal pet than Hedwig? She’s by Harry’s side from the start of his Hogwarts journey as a vital part of his life in the wizarding world. Ultimately, she gives up her life for him in what is quite possibly one of the most devastating deaths in the entire series. WAS THERE ANY NEED, MS ROWLING? 

Angus from the Confessions of Georgia Nicholson

I very nearly had Hedwig as my favourite, but I’d be lying to myself. Angus is by far my favourite fictional pet. These books literally define my teen years, and for the longest time they made me pester my parents for a cat. This series really wouldn’t be the same without Angus. I remember my heart actually skipping a beat when he ended up in danger. I think we all need an Angus in our lives.

Not a book, but still fictional, Makkachin from Yuri On Ice

Makkachin is THE BEST BOY. No question about it.

These are just some of my favourite fictional pets. I know there are plenty more out there, but these are just the ones that have stuck with me the most. Pets can be just as important as any other character!

Before I go, I want to give a quick shoutout to my local rescue centre for all of their amazing work. Rehoming a dog can be an incredibly difficult job, especially taking into account what some of the dogs in centres have been through. But every dog requires work, so if you are thinking about getting a dog, please consider rescuing. There are so many dogs out there who need families to love them and give them a little bit of patience to find their paws in life. It’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

A couple of months ago, my family was able to rescue another dog. He’s a three-year-old Jack Russell who’s had an incredibly difficult life so far, and he needs a lot of work to help lessen his anxiety, but we’re slowly making progress. Here’s to the next set of happy memories!

Friday, 4 October 2019

Ten Halloween Reads That Aren't Actually That Scary

IT'S SPOOPY SEASON. My favourite time of year is finally upon us, and I can't wait to settle down with some good books. Not sure what to read in the run up to Halloween? Want an autumnal book but not a massive Horror fan? I've got you covered! Since I don't actually read too much Horror myself (it's one of those genres that I do appreciate but don't naturally gravitate towards), I thought I'd compile a list of books that I find perfect for the Halloween season without being too scary.

10. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This book is a twisted fairytale that's perfect for this time of year, especially given the fact that the majority of the plot revolves around, well, trees. And don't we all love thinking about trees with their pretty orange leaves in October? It's also the right amount of dark to leave you just a lil creeped out.

9. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

The first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy is one of the best reads to inject some adventure into the cold nights of autumn. I'm planning to reread it this month if I get the chance, in preparation for the BBC adaptation later this year. I'm so ready to see a decent version of this onscreen.

8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Hands up if this story ruined you emotionally! 🙋 If you haven't read it yet, then you better prepare your heart for an emotional ruining. Though it revolves around a monster showing up, the scariest part of this story is the real horrors we have to face in life, like dealing with the suffering of those we love most in the world.

7. The Mediator by Meg Cabot

You might have heard me mention a few times that this series was my absolute favourite when I was a teenager, and it still has a special place in my heart to this very day. Suze sending spirits to the afterlife makes for a perfect plot as we approach Halloween. Who doesn't love a good ghost story?

6. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo 

This is my gentle reminder that if you haven't picked up this book yet, PLEASE DO. The aesthetics of this book alone scream Halloween. With the cast just being announced for the Netflix adaptation, there's never been a better time to jump into the Grishaverse.

5. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

To be fair, any of Cassie's books are fitting for this time of year, but The Infernal Devices remains superior. This trilogy is packed with everything. It also has Magnus Bane, so what more could you want? I'm always here for anything steampunk, and the clockwork army is creepy as hell.

4. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater 

Hello to one of my favourite series' of all time. I'm hoping to reread them before Call Down the Hawk is upon us! If you've never read The Raven Cycle before, this series is full of spoopy things to enjoy and an amazing group of characters to fall in love with. These books never fail to be magical and exciting.

3. Howl's Moving Castle

I couldn't complete this list without including one of my magical favourites that I recently reread to get myself in the Halloween mood. This book is wild in the best possible way, and despite everything going on in the plot, it's also hilarious. Like many people, I discovered it through the Studio Ghibli movie of the same name, but now I adore the book just as much. (Probably more, at this point. Book Howl is everything).

2. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Arguably my favourite book of all time? I'm terrible at choosing favourites but this one is waaaaay up there. I never even have the words to fully describe to someone how much I love Carry On. I usually just revert to screaming at them to read it. In Caps Lock for dramatic effect. I've lived and breathed this story since it was released, and I reread it every October. The best part about rereading it this year was that I got to start the sequel immediately after. (I still can't believe we're being blessed with more content after all these years, what a time to be alive). If you haven't been dragged in already, then now would be the perfect time to give it a try.

1. Harry Potter by J.K.Rowling 

I'm very predictable, I know, but if you can't use Halloween as an excuse to get cosy and reread Harry Potter then WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE. It's like a warm blanket and a nice cup of tea with a side order of dark magic. Not to mention, there's Halloween at Hogwarts, which is enough to make anyone jealous and cursing the fact that they never got their Hogwarts letter. If you're stuck for what to read in October, you can always count on the Golden Trio.


Any Manga fans in the house? I'm currently reading Seraph of the End and it's a PERFECT Halloween read. There's vampires and apocolyptic viruses, and someone, somewhere, is probably losing an arm. But it's WONDERFUL and the characters are great.

These are just some of my personal favourites to read at this time of year, but there's so many books out there that give off strong Spoopy Season vibes without actually being all-out terrifying. I love anything with ghosts or supernatural creatures in it to give it that creepy edge.

What are some of your favourite books to read at Halloween? Let me know in the comments?

Monday, 30 September 2019

Bookish Looks #3: Lara Jean from To All The Boys I've Loved Before

It's the last post in my Bookish Looks series for Second Hand September! This time around I'm attempting to recreate looks inspired by actual style icon, Lara Jean Covey from To All The Boys I've Loved Before. This idea was given to me by my lovely friend Jasmine, and I'm so grateful she suggested it because both on the page and on the screen, Lara Jean has some of the CUTEST outfits ever.

This is a trilogy that I absolutely adore, so I was happy to see it take on a new life in the film adaptation that dropped on Netflix. THE AESTHETICS IN THIS MOVIE 😍 I was excited to attempt some Lara Jean outfits because my own wardrobe is filled with similar pieces. As always, they're all bought from charity shops!

I'm a huge fan of cute blouses, especially patterned ones. Half of my wardrobe is Stripes or Polka Dots. This £1 one from Age UK is a particular favourite of mine that I think suits the Lara Jean Aesthetic. I didn't have an orange blouse to match the cover, but I'm so in love with this sky blue colour. The skirt is my trusty £2 Cancer Research skirt which you may or may not have seen in my previous post. 

My next look attempted to recreate an iconic outfit from the film adaptation. This is something I'd wear on a regular basis anyway, so it wasn't too much of a challenge!

  • Top - £1 from a local community charity shop. This place sells all of their clothes for £1 so it's one of my absolute favourite places to find gems like this one. It's a jumper but it's still thin enough to where if it's warm, and can be layered to keep cosy in the winter. 
  • Skirt - £1 from Age UK. I love a good maroon skirt, especially corduroy ones like this.  

  • Necklace - 50p from a car boot sale. I don't wear necklaces very often but this one owns my heart. 
  • Converse - £5 from Preloved Kilo
  • Backpack - Abandoned by my sister, taken in and given a new life by me. It's thriving under my care. 
My next outfit is another movie-inspired look. Again, this is something I'd be likely to wear myself, so it was easy enough to put together. Stripes and skirts are my Go-To looks.

  • Shirt - £1 from Age UK. It's quite hilarious how many variations of striped shirts I have in my wardrobe. I'm constantly being reminded by family members that I don't need any more stripes 🙄
  • Skirt - £2 from Age UK. Nothing beats a basic denim skirt.

To wrap things up, here are my boots! Similar to the ones that make Jen give Lara Jean a military salute, they're my favourite chunky boots that I wear EVERYWHERE. They're falling apart at this point but I love them. I picked them up for £3 at Cancer Research and they've been with me for about four years now. They're my trusty Concert-Going boots because the heels give me a much needed boost when it comes to actually seeing things in a standing pit with how short I am. I know a lot of people tend to shy away from buying shoes in charity shops but some of my longest-lasting shoes are secondhand.

the shorts that i'm wearing here were £1 from Salvation Army
So, that's it! I had a lot of fun piling clothes together in honour of Lara Jean. She remains one of the best dressed contemporary characters ever.

I've loved putting together these outfits for Second Hand September, and I hope you've enjoyed reading them. Rooting through charity shops can find you some great pieces. If you'd like to see me do more of these posts in the future, potentially as a monthly feature, then please let me know in the comments!

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Bookish Looks #2: Cammie from Gallagher Girls

It's time for the second post in my Bookish Looks series for Second Hand September! This time around, I'm going back to school with my Gallagher Girls favourite, Cammie Morgan.

The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter ruled the later half of my teen years. A school for SPIES? Sign me right up. I loved it because it was so different to everything I was reading at that time, considering I was in the middle of my Dystopia-binge. It had a contemporary feel to it, but was still action packed and had an amazing friendship group at it's core. Main character, Cammie, was always my fave. So it's her look I've tried to recreate!

Given the fact that this series is set in a school, the majority of the clothing is, well, school uniform. I had fun digging through my wardrobe for things that could potentially be worn to class. Though I did shake with fear at the sight of my old school tie. High school would have been a lot more fun if I'd have been training to be a spy, that's for sure.

I don't have a blue tartan skirt anywhere so I couldn't recreate the iconic Gallagher Academy uniform perfectly, but I did my own twist on things with some of the uniform-style secondhand pieces I own. Let's break down the look!

  • Blouse - £2 from my local Age UK. It's a vintage Laura Ashley from the 80s. I'm a sucker for any old Laura Ashley pieces so I was excited to find this one for such a small price! It could easily fit into a professional outfit but can be teamed with anything for all occasions. 

a closer look at the collar detail on my fave blouse

  • Skirt - £2 from Cancer Research. My trusty black skirt. I've had it for a few years but I usually wear it with coloured tights. 
  • Shoes - £1 from Age UK. These shoes! Are wonderful! And they were only £1!!!! 😍 They have a little heel so they give me some much needed height (I'm barely 5ft) but they don't hurt my feet like other heels.

My next outfit had me digging out my old school tie for an authentic uniform look. This tie has been hidden at the back of the wardrobe since I left high school behind. I don't even know why I still have it, but at least it came in handy for this!

  • Pinafore - this was bought from a charity shop literal years ago so I don't remember how much it cost! It's covered in bobbly bits now but it still works as an extra layer over a cute blouse. 
  • Shirt - £1 from Age UK. It's St Michael's so it's another vintage piece, but it's plain enough to pass as a school blouse! 
  • Hat - this was from my local YMCA store but I can't remember how much it was! They don't usually charge over £5 for any of their clothes or accessories though. I was just happy to find a hat that actually fits my head because the usual One Size Fits All definitely does not fit all.

For my final look, I wanted to try Cammie outside of her uniform. Being a spy in training, she has to blend into the background to avoid suspicion, so I went for a typical autumn outfit of jumper and jeans.

  • Jeans - £3.99 from Claire House. Since Cammie ruins her favourite pair of jeans whilst out on a mission, I thought I'd use my favourite jeans for this outfit! They're originally Pull & Bear, and with them being high-waist, I love how they look when teamed with shirts and jumpers. 
  • Jumper - £1 from Salvation Army. There's nothing I love more than a good jumper, and the colours on this one are perfect for the season.
  • Belt - £1 from my local animal charity shop. Helping animals whilst getting cute accessories. What's not to love? 🐶

I had lots of fun trying to channel my inner spy school student! Even if I did have to face my old school accessories. The memories that tie brings up need to stay at the back of the wardrobe. Before you go, here's a picture of my when I was in my extremely boring, non-spy high school.

Have a character you'd like to see me create some outfits for? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, 16 September 2019

REVIEW: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

36544848. sy475 Pages: 513
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Historical
Release Date: September 4th 2018
TW: Abuse
Buy the Book: Book Depository

A young bisexual British lord embarks on an unforgettable Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend/secret crush. An 18th-century romantic adventure for the modern age written by This Monstrous Thing author Mackenzi LeeSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets the 1700s.

Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

So Monty vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, dazzling, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue is an irresistible romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

*WARNING* Considering this book has been out for a while now, I’m going to be including spoilers in this review! 

Monty and his best friend Percy are on a tour, taking some time to experience the world. For Monty, it’s his last-ditch attempt to prove that he’s more than simply a troublemaker, and for Percy, it’s his final bit of freedom before going to school in Holland. At least, as far as Monty believes.

I will admit that despite loving the characters, I found things a tiny bit slow to start with. But then everything changes after the journey to Marseille. The book just takes a sharp turn into something completely exciting and fast-paced. Despite wanting to read this because of the praise I’d seen online, I managed to hide myself away from knowing too much about the plot, so I was surprised by everything. I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but a chase to reach the heart of a half-dead-half-alive woman was not it. There was a bit of everything in here, and I completely loved it. 

*banging pots and pans* I LOVE HENRY MONTAGUE!!!! He’s exactly the type of character who draws me in without fail. Someone who’s morals are a little questionable sometimes, and who is actually way more complex beyond the surface. There’s so much more to him than what he allows those around him to see.

Then there’s Percy, the complete opposite of Monty, a pure cinnamon roll whom I would die for in an instant. I loved everything about his personal journey in this book, especially his attitude towards his epilepsy. He reminds us of how many times people try to make someone else’s illness about themselves. His family didn’t necessarily want him cured for him to be better, they wanted him cured to make it easier to live ‘normally’ in society, considering how people who suffered with epilepsy were treated.

Don’t get me started on how much I love Felicity. An icon, truly. I know there is a sequel that follows her journey and, oh boy, do I plan on getting my hands on it soon. She is my DAUGHTER. 

  • MUTUAL PINING? DO YOU GUYS UNDERTSAND HOW MUCH I LOVE MUTUAL PINING????? IT GETS ME EVERY SINGLE TIME. Monty and Percy had me wanting to bash their heads together throughout this WHOLE GODDAMNED BOOK. And I loved every second of it. 
  • COOL TWISTS. One minute you’re touring Europe and the next, you’re being hunted because you’ve accidentally stolen the key to curing all illness. 
  • PIRATES. No explanation necessary. 
  • Felicity hiding her medical science books inside the covers of romance stories in order to learn because it’s the 18th century and we ladies aren’t allowed the Knowledge
This book offers a bit of everything you could ask for and these characters are some of the best I’ve read in a while. The three of them work so well together, and Monty’s relationship with Percy is developed beautifully. I’m glad I was finally able to pick this one up after wanting to read it for so long! 

Royal Rating:
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