Book Reviews

Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1) by Laura Sebastian

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My Rating ~ Four and a half stars

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Release date: 24 April 2018

Publisher: Delacorte Books

Format: Hardcover

Blurb

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

 

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Review

Theodosia witnessed the murder of her mother, the Astrean Fire Queen, when she was 6 years old. A murder ordered by the Kalovaxian Kaiser. The Kaiser kept Theo alive, only to keep her prisoner in the castle, so he could use her as an example to the rebels who tried to take back their land. Punishing and humiliating her everytime any attempt was made.

Theo has spent ten years enduring the Kaiser’s abuse when she meets Prinz Søren, the Kaiser’s son, who seems frown on his father’s treatment of her. While most of her people are enslaved, working in mines, there are a small group of rebels willing to attempt to take Theo away from the castle. Theo needs to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice and who she can trust – the rebels, the Prinz or her only friend at the castle – Cress (the daughter of the man who murdered her mother).

The awful abuse and sheer hopelessness of Theo’s situation made for confronting reading. I struggle to read about physical and emotional torture, especially when directed at children. It’s hard not to think of your own child reading scenes like those. But the writing was powerful and I liked Theo’s determination to fight back (even when that meant pretending to be powerless) and her drive to help her people, no matter the cost, felt empowering.

Although I usually hate love triangles, and halfway through the book was thinking “whyyyyy”, by the end I didn’t mind it. I thought Theo’s relationship with her childhood friend was pointless at first, but in the last few pages I could see why the author wrote it in. I think it will contribute to a major plot point in the next book.

I wanted to stay up all night reading this book. I found it fast paced and I really loved the writing. My only complaint would be some things that seemed important to the story weren’t really explained well, such as the spiritgems. The gems are constantly referred to, we’re told they are what the slaves are mining in the mines and that there are fire, earth, air and water gems but how they work and exactly what they do is glossed over a bit. Theo says on a few occasions that she can’t use the gems because she hasn’t been trained and it’s sacrilege. It seemed a bit silly. I mean, sure, apparently you don’t get into the ‘After’ (meaning the afterlife) if you use them when you shouldn’t, but if you’re going around killing and plotting to kill people, there has to come a point where you just use the gems to save your life, right? Considering the fact that Theo doesn’t actually seem too devoted to the Gods anyway, and mentions on more than one occasion that she’s not even sure they exist…it just made me yell “Oh just use the gems for goodness sake!” a few times.

But overall I really loved this book. The ending was fantastic and I’m devastated the next book isn’t going to be released until next year!

 

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Photo via my Instagram account – Bookbookowl

Book Reviews

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

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My Rating ~ Five stars

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RELEASED: 3 May 2018

Publisher: Scholastic

Format: Hardback

Blurb

Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice? Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale is reimagined through a searing feminist lens, with the stunning, scalpel-sharp writing and world building that has won Louise her legions of devoted fans. A book with the darkest of undercurrents, full of rage and rallying cries: storytelling at its most spellbinding

 

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Hover over the quote above to pin it to Pinterest!

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Review

Gaia is the Sea King’s youngest daughter. His most beautiful and prized daughter. She lives under the sea with her sisters and Grandmother in an oppressive patriarchal kingdom, where her father demands his daughters are beautiful, obedient and quiet.

The mermaid sisters have been told their mother abandoned them on Gaia’s first birthday.  Obsessed with the human world, she made her way to the surface one too many times and was captured, presumed dead.  Gaia is just turning 15, the age the mermaids are allowed to break the surface to take a glimpse at the world above (as long as they return to the sea kingdom and never want to go the surface again.  After all, it’s how their mother lost her life).  When Gaia visits the surface, she happens to witness a stormy ship wreck and saves the life of one of the humans boys.   The Sea King has betrothed Gaia to a cruel warrior mer-man and they are to be bonded on her next birthday.  She would rather die than spend her life with this man, but her father’s word is law.

With her sixteenth birthday looming, in desperation and believing she is in love with the boy she saved, Gaia visits the feared Sea Witch to beg her for human legs and a life above the sea.  The Sea Witch grants her wish, for a price, and she has one month to convince the boy to fall in love with her.  Once on land and in the boys home, she starts to wonder if she’s made a terrible mistake.

I loved this book.  Absolutely loved it.  I have never read the Hans Christian Anderson Little Mermaid story, my only experience of the tale comes from the Disney version (Something I keep meaning to rectify!) but I understand the Hans version is quite a dark story.  This retelling is definitely dark.  There are themes of sexual assault, domestic abuse, violence and sexual harassment.  Comments from the Sea King, insinuating if Gaia wasn’t his daughter he would take her for himself, made my skin crawl.  The way all females are treated in the story is rage inducing, and meant to incite those feelings.   The way the Sea King controls his daughters, by denying them education, a voice to express opinions and even ensuring they are pitted against each other, competing for his love made for powerful feelings about the awful emotional abuse they endured.

Because I’ve only experienced the sappy Disney version of the story, I was almost dismayed by the insta-love I thought was happening when Gaia first saw Oliver, the boy she had rescued.  So I really enjoyed, in a heart-wrenching way, the path the story ended up taking.

I found the whole story fast paced, and I even enjoyed the change of style, from fantasy fairytale under the sea, to the life of brash, spoiled college boys on land.  The messages in the story are not subtle, and that makes for confronting reading in some places.  I love stories that make me have all the feelings – and Louise O’Neill managed to hand me rage, pity, frustration, sympathy and righteousness all in one book!

 

 

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Photo via my Instagram account – Bookbookowl

Bookstagram Tips

Bookstagram Tips – Taking photos, editing photos & creating themes

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~ Bookstagram Tips ~

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Taking photos ~ Editing photos ~ Creating themes

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Welcome to part 2 of my Bookstagram Tips!   Now, before we get started, I just wanted to say, there’s no one way to take great photos.  What appeals to me might be different to what appeals to you, or your friend, or your followers – you get the idea.  So, the first piece of advice I have is:  Post photos YOU love.  Don’t wind yourself in knots trying to figure out what everyone else will like, if you love it, then post it.  Sometimes your favourite photo won’t do as well (when it comes to likes and comments) as another of your photos, but try not to worry about it.  By posting the photos you love, you’ll quickly find your own style!

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Taking Photos

Finding a place to take your photos

There are endless options for choosing a place (or places) to take your photos.  The only real restrictions are having enough light (depending on whether you’re going to use natural or artificial light), being able to easily clear your background (you really don’t want your discarded laundry or overflowing handbag in your pic!) and being able to easily set up any backgrounds you want to use.

Some good options can be:

  • In front of a pretty bookshelf
  • Against a plain wall
  • Against a brick wall
  • A place you can set a background up against a wall
  • Your bed / bedroom (if it’s neat and tidy! Mine isn’t. Whoops!)
  • In your backyard
  • On your front porch
  • On the floor

Before you choose, check below for tips on how to find the best lighting!

 

Lighting

For indoor photos, having a decent window, with good natural light, facing your set up is ideal.  A window to the side can work well too, but it would be best to have some blinds you can swivel to direct the outside light a bit if you don’t want it to shine directly onto the side of your set up, creating a ‘one side in shadow and one side too bright’ situation.  It’s painful to fix in editing.

If the area you want to use for photos doesn’t have good natural light (or if you’re going to have to take your photos after work or school when the light is starting to fade) you might want to invest in some studio lights.  They do not need to be expensive at all.  I purchased 2 big studio lights, with white diffusers and the globes included for $20AUD each on Ebay.  I have a bit of outdoor light from one window on the left hand side of my set ups, so I set one light up on the right hand side, and one facing straight on.  These lights can be quite harsh though and you do need to experiment with how far away you need to place them (and I still often contort my body into weird positions to block the light on one part of the photo to avoid reflections on shiny or metallic books – then reach up like a drowning person to try and carefully press the button on the camera.  Thinking about it, this would probably make a fantastic behind the scenes pic. :D)

If you’re taking outdoor photos, you would think light wouldn’t be an issue, but nope.  Light can be too bright and wash everything out.  A shady spot is best!  BUT, dappled light from a shady tree can be a nightmare.  What will look amazing when you’re looking through your camera’s viewfinder or your smartphone’s screen, will suddenly look all harsh shadows and blotches once you take the photo.  Again, experiment.  Maybe take a few snaps before you attempt any complicated set ups outside, incase you have to move everything!

Try not to use the flash on your camera.  It creates harsh shadows and can make the colours in your photo look odd.

 

What camera should I use?  

I use a DSLR to take my photos.  A pretty old one, but it has wi-fi capability, so transfers the photos direct to my phone which is ALMOST BETTER THAN CAKE.  You don’t have to use a camera, you can absolutely use the camera on your phone, you might find you just need to do some extra editing to get the photo looking the way you want (although my husband has a Samsung phone and the photos are incredible.  Honestly, they rival my DSLR camera).  If you do want to purchase a camera to use, you don’t need to spend a fortune.  Check Ebay or other discount sites in your country to get a good deal.  Don’t get too stressed over how many megapixels the camera has, it’s not going to matter when your photo is going to be viewed on a screen the size of a phone or IPad.

What about a tripod?  

Having a tripod is a really really good idea.  Especially if you intend to take photos other than flat lays.  Again, you can get an inexpensive one from Ebay and similar places.  It doesn’t need to be anything heavy duty.  You can even get ones that will hold your smartphone.

 

Different types of set ups  

There are so many different ways you can set your bookstagram photos up.  You’re really only limited by your imagination (and your fear of of being crushed under a pile of books, when you’ve pushed that book spiral just one book too high).  Looking around bookstagram for a little while will give you a huge range of ideas and inspiration.  Some set ups you might want to try are:

 

Book stacks

Try and stick to similar sized books when creating a book stack.  It is much less likely to topple if you don’t stack bigger books on top of smaller ones!  It also looks much better if the books line up on the sides.  You can try rainbow stacks, ombre colour stacks, same author stacks, even reverse stacks with the pages showing instead of the spines.  You can also make uneven stacks, where the books stick out to the sides and even stacks with built in book ‘shelves’ to put props on.  I haven’t attempted any of those, so you’ll have to search bookstagram for some inspiration (or just to stare at them in awe like I do. Im pretty sure the people who make them are some sort of wizard)

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Book spirals

Again, use similar sized (and similar thickness) books for book spirals.  It’s even more important in a spiral than a stack!  Making a spiral basically involves placing each book slightly skewed on top of the book below and repeating until you make a stacked up spiral shape.  Some bookstagrammers make incredible, towering book spirals (not me, I only get to one swirl and start to panic about it all crashing down)

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Flat lays

There are lots of different types of flat lay styles to try.  Bookstagrammers such as @darkfaerietales @myfriendsarefiction and @xenatine all have incredible skills at setting up amazing flat lays.  You can set up neat and symmetrical styles, with bookmarks, art prints and books lined up perfectly, or more free style set ups, with candles, flowers, bookmarks etc placed around the book or books.  Again, the sky is the limit!

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)   dust

Starry Eyes   Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Books with props

I like to use different props (such as artificial flowers), mini book stacks etc in sets ups like this.  I often look around for what colours will match or complement the book.  Or choose props that tie in with the book in some way (like the wand I’ve used below in the Harry Potter pic and tarot cards in the Bone Witch photo).

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)  Made with Repix (http://repix.it) Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Books in nature

I don’t take many photos outdoors, so I’m probably not the best person to give advice on this style!  However, trees and plants can make amazing backdrops to book photos.  You usually don’t need too many props in an outdoor set up, nature provides it all!  And then there’s those places that get snow! The snow photos make me want to cry, they are so beautiful.  We do NOT get snow here.  Ever.

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Backgrounds  

There are basically three types of backgrounds:  using a part of your house / outdoors as the background, using a backdrop of some sort and photo manipulation.

When using a part of your house / outdoors, just take a good look at the background.  Really look at it to make sure you know everything in it.  There’s nothing worse than taking the photo, packing everything away and realising there’s a half eaten snack in the background (NOT THAT THIS HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME.  AHEM.)

Backdrops come in a few forms:

Vinyl backdrops

These are usually fairly small, thick but flexible pieces of vinyl that can be laid flat on a floor or table for flat lay style photos, or placed part on the floor and the rest up a wall, to create a mini photoshoot area.  They often come in woodgrain patterns, marble look, plain and a whole range of other patterns. (I don’t have any vinyl backdrops yet, so I have to use my wooden dining table!)

 

Fabric backdrops

These are large backdrops that can be hung on a screen, wall or your bookshelf.  Usually they have a pattern or picture that will become your background.  They can look great and you can usually pick them up quite cheaply on Ebay or Wish.com, but, beware, there is IRONING involved.  Even the slightest crease will show up in your photo and drive you crazy (or maybe that’s just me.  I’ve been known to spend an hour editing a photo to blur out the background just to avoid ironing out one crease :D)

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Photo manipulation

Using the Facetune app mentioned below (or Photoshop, but we’re talking cheap, easy to access apps in this post!), you can alter the background of your photo by deleting the part you want to get rid of and replacing it with a different picture.  Within the Facetune app there are quite a few different backgrounds built in that you can use.  Just select “backdrop”, choose the one you’d like to use, then click on “remove” to start replacing the background.  You can also use a picture you have taken yourself, or there are plenty of free to use images on the web.  Again, don’t steal an artist’s work online and use it in your photo.  there are lots of wallpaper type pictures that you are actually allowed to use out there.  Find one of those.

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)   Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

 

What props do I use, and where on earth do I get them?  

There are endless props you can use (and get pretty cheaply).

Bookish merchandise looks fantastic in photos – there are so many incredible bookish companies selling amazing products: candles, bookmarks, art prints, tote bags, jewellery, mugs and more.  Check bookstagram and Etsy.com

Artificial flowers, faux fur rugs, metal crowns (from Ebay or Amazon), hourglasses, daggers, Chinese fans, quills, masquerade masks, wands, maps, wood slices, logs, shells, paper butterflies, rocks, feathers, teacups, compasses, spyglasses, airy lights and fruit are all things I’ve used in my photos.

Look around your house, you’ll likely find lots of things you can use.  Photo frames, holiday decorations, statues, candleholders…  Before long you’ll spend most of your life scanning your house for props every time you walk into a room (and never throwing anything away ever again because what if it could be a bookstagram prop one day.)  Like me.

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Editing Photos

Now, again, editing photos comes down to the type of photo you’re trying to achieve and the look you prefer!  You can of course use Photoshop, but I personally don’t (mainly because I prefer to edit in apps on my phone than sit at my computer).  I know most people probably don’t own Photoshop or any of the big image manipulation software and that’s ok, it is absolutely not needed.  There are SO many apps you can use, but I’m just going to go through the ones I love and use myself.   By the way, beware of some apps that degrade your picture quality too much!  Instagram already compresses your photo when you upload it (pretty horribly too) so avoiding editing apps that degrade the quality before you even get to Instagram is a good idea.  You’ll be able to tell if the app is damaging your quality by zooming in on the photo and comparing it to your original one.

I am super sorry Android users, these are all IPhone apps because that’s what I use and I am not sure if they are all available on Android.

IMG_0152  Enlight

Enlight is one of the best apps I’ve found for the basic editing of photos.  I use it for cropping, straightening, lightening, adjusting colour and saturation etc.  It also has some great effects you can add under “Brushes” – “Effects”, like stars, bubbles, fog and even birds.  Even if you have no idea how to edit photos, just go into the sidebar and choose “Image” – “Adjust” – “Tools” and start pulling the slide bars backwards and forwards.  This is honestly how I figured out what did what and which options gave me the look I wanted.  Once you get used to the different manipulation tools, you’ll find you start to edit your photos faster and faster.

IMG_0153  Facetune2

This is my go to app for editing and replacing backgrounds.  Once you load the photo you want to edit in, you can just select “Backdrop” and choose a backdrop or “Photo” and choose a background photo, then “Remove”.  You then need to swipe your finger over the areas you want to remove.  You can zoom right in on the photo to make sure you only remove the sections you want to replace.  I’m not going to lie, it is annoyingly time consuming if you do a good job!  The other way you can edit the background is by selecting “Defocus” on the main bottom menu.  Again, you will need to swipe your finger carefully over the background you want to blur out by zooming in.  You can then adjust the amount of blur you want, with the bar at the bottom of the photo.

IMG_0154  Snapseed

I use Snapseed when I want to edit the brightness or saturation on just a small part of the photo.  For example, sometimes the light will wash out the black on a book cover.  You don’t want to darken any of the rest of the photo, you just want the book to look the way it did in real life.  By selecting the “brush” option in Snapseed, you can zoom in and swipe over just that part of the picture.  You can step the exposure / saturation etc down in a few different levels to get the effect you’re after.

IMG_0155  Union

Now, there are probably better apps to do this with, but this one is just so easy.  Sometimes, you might want to take a photo of a book, but you only have the e-book.  Or the book hasn’t released yet and you can’t get your hands on a physical copy.  This app will allow you to merge two photos together.  So, say you take a photo of a set up, without the book you don’t have.  You can then add an image of the book (from the web) into that picture.  It’s as easy as selecting “Background” and loading the photo you took, then “Foreground” and loading the image of the book (then resizing it until it fits into the picture correctly)

IMG_0156  Repix

Ahhh my FAVOURITE app!  It’s the SPARKLE APP!  There are quite a few apps out there that allow you to add sparkles (and hey, sparkles might not be your thing, but I thought I’d mention how to get them since I get asked the question at least 5 times a day :D) but Repix is one of the best I’ve found.  It doesn’t degrade the quality of your photo and you can zoom in and the sparkle brush gets smaller, allowing you to add big sparkles, little sparkles and everything in between!  You can also use the Repix app to add other effects, such as rain drops, bokeh, ravens, smoke, vintage tones and more.

 

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Creating Themes

The first thing I want to say about themes is:  You don’t have to have a theme!  Look, feeds with some sort of consistency in the appearance of their photos do work best, but just remember there’s a fine line between some sort of consistency and locking yourself in to a theme so tightly you’re afraid to deviate and try anything new.  If you intend to run your bookstagram account long term, you don’t want to find yourself struggling for motivation because you’ve become bored.

You’ll probably find some sort of ‘theme’ develops in your photos along the way, even if you don’t mean for it to happen.  Your theme will probably find you!  My ‘theme’ came about by using my rainbow bookshelves in my background, and my sparkles I love so much on every pic! But I’ll still post some flat lays, some with manipulated background and even an outdoors pic on the odd occasion (I can never forgo the sparkles though, it just doesn’t feel right! :D).

A theme can be taking photos in the same place, with the same or similar backgrounds, using consistent props, taking photos mostly cropped a certain way, using a particular filter on all your photos or editing them in the same way.  Sometimes it can just be shown in the types of colours you use – bright colours, muted, antique looking filters, desaturated type colours, dark or light styles, pastels, anything!

One thing to think about when deciding on a theme is – will it work all year round?  If all of your photos are going to be taken in your garden, will you want to be out in the heat of summer or when it’s pouring with rain? Or snowing?  I adore outdoor photos where the photographer’s account changes with the seasons, but I personally wouldn’t want to be fighting the elements.  Just decide what’s for you!  If you’re going to use the living room, will you have to kick your family out every time you need to do a photoshoot?  It’s just worth thinking about, before you’ve fallen in love with your theme and then realised it’s a gigantic pain in the backside!

Whether you’re determined to create a strict theme or not, the most important thing you can do is find your own style.  Look around bookstagram for inspiration, but create something recognisibly your own.  Something that when people see your photos come up in their feed, they’ll know it’s one of yours!

 

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Finding Inspiration

 

 

Sometimes I find the hardest part of bookstagram is finding inspiration for what to post.  Whether that’s which books to photograph or different set ups to try.  Especially if you post often (more on figuring out how often to post coming up, in my blog post on managing the algorithm, in a few weeks!)

Bookstagram challenges are an awesome way to get inspiration for what to post each day.  There are so many great challenges out there every month (usually searching “bookstagram challenge” on Instagram will show you a few pages who dedicate their account to collating all the challenges they have found for that month.  Or, you can always ask your followers / other bookstagrammers for some recommendations on challenges they are going to participate in!).  Challenges will list a prompt for each day that you can then use to inspire that days post.  When you post your picture, remember to use the hashtag related to the challenge to join in.  I like to follow the challenge hashtag during the month because it’s a lot of fun seeing what other bookstagrammers come up with!

Another good source of inspiration is bookish dates (no, not the type where you take your favourite book out for the night.  Wait, people do that, right??),   For example, you could post a photo inspired by certain events on the corresponding day:  31st July – Harry Potter’s birthday,  1st April – Fred and George Weasley’s birthday,  1st September – boarding the Hogwart’s Express,  1st November – The Scorpio Races race day, 14th January – Lewis Carroll’s birthday (Alice in Wonderland), 21st September – Stephen King’s birthday, etc etc.

Inspiration for new sets up can come from other bookstagram accounts you love.  Don’t be afraid to give some of their set up’s a try.  It’s best to put your own spin on it and not try to copy someone else’s work completely though. (Remember, you want to create your own style)  If you do try someone’s style, it’s nice to give them a shoutout and tag them in your post – tell them they inspired you!

 

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Phew, that ended up a long blog post!  Congratulations (and thank you!) if you made it all the way to the end!

My next post will focus on figuring out exactly what you want from your bookstagram account and how much time you’re willing / able to spend on it.

I’ve listed my intended other topics below and will link to each one as I post them.  Let me know if there are any others you’d like to see me discuss!

cropped-rachelwhitetoo11.png  What is Bookstagram and how do I get started?

rachelwhitetoo11  What do I want out of my bookstagram account?

rachelwhitetoo11  Managing the pesky ‘algorithm’

rachelwhitetoo11  Interacting with the community

rachelwhitetoo11  Instagram “stories” – how, why and when to use them

rachelwhitetoo11  How to get involved as a rep for bookish companies

rachelwhitetoo11  Hosting giveaways

rachelwhitetoo11  Gaining more followers and managing expectations

rachelwhitetoo11  Bookstagrammer myths

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Book Reviews

Heart of Iron (Heart of Iron #1) by Ashley Poston

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My Rating ~ Three and a half stars

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Release date: 27 February 2018

Publisher: Belzer + Bray

Format: Hardcover – Owlcrate exclusive purple edged edition

Blurb

Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves?

 

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Review

 

I was unaware that this was a retelling of Anastasia until I after I started reading it, but that really made no difference to me, because I have no idea what the story of Anastasia is about!

Heart of Iron is told from 4 points of view – Ana’s, Di’s, Robb (the Ironblood royalty) and Jax (the pilot of the ship Ana has grown up on).  The story begins with Ana’s desperate attempt to obtain some co-ordinates to a ship that might be able to help her robot (metal) best friend D09 (Di) from a glitch in his programming.  Ana and Di have been best friends as far back as she can remember, because they were both found in an escape pod together (Ana with burns to her face) and neither of them have any memories prior to that moment.  Robb is also desperate to obtain the co-ordinates because he believes they will lead him to his father, who is presumed dead.  When Robb buys the co-ordinates and Ana attempts to steal them from him, they, along with Di and the rest of Ana’s crew, end up on the run from Robb’s family and the rest of the kingdom.  The co-ordinates will lead them to a place that gives them more questions than answers, and a need to uncover the truth of where Ana and Di came from, and what happened to her family.

To be honest, I struggled through this book a bit.  It just wasn’t holding my interest and I kept getting distracted while reading it.  I definitely enjoyed the second half more than the first.  I finally started to care about the characters and what was happening to them, so that bumped up my rating at bit.  It wasn’t that I disliked the book, it just wasn’t really anything special for me.  I think I’m just getting tired of the same old trope – down and out poor but tough girl suddenly becomes royalty / the most important girl in the world and has to save the kingdom.  A spoiled boy of royal blood acts like a villain at first, but isn’t.  It’s just been done too. many.  times.

Although I liked Di’s character and enjoyed the sweet innocence he portrayed in the way he spoke (I loved the way he continuously calculated odds for everything they were going to do), I felt really weird about the relationship between him and Ana.  I don’t know, the whole ‘robot who can’t feel, but obviously can because he’s in love with her’ idea was just off-putting to me for some reason.  I would have preferred to just see them remain best friends and explore that relationship.  Watching Di come to grips with human feelings and emotions later in the story was great.  I enjoyed that part of the story so much.

Although there was some fast paced action and suspenseful parts to the story, I felt as though there were too many ideas that weren’t followed up or explained for my liking.  The characters continuously refer to an “unbreakable promise”, but we’re never actually told how this works, where it comes from or what happens if they break it.  And it seems at one point Di does break one of these oaths, and….nothing happens.  The pilot, Jax is from the Solani people, who can read people’s “stars”, which seems to mean he can see their future and how they will die.  This really interested me.  Jax was one of my favourite characters (aside from the cute little bot called EOS, who zoomed about like a sweet, innocent pet and I wanted to TAKE HIM HOME)  I would have loved to know more about Jax’s ability and his people – but again, we just don’t receive much information.

The relationship between Jax and Robb was much more interesting to me than the one between Ana and Di but I just wish it hadn’t been such an insta-love.  I hope their relationship develops in the next book and we have more insight into Jax’s history.

I will read the next book in the series, because I am too nosy to not know what happens next and I do want to see where Jax and Robb’s relationship goes.  I hope some of the plot points touched on in Heart of Iron are fleshed out and explained in the sequel because I think it still has the potential to be an interesting story.  Also, EOS had better be in it, because side-kick or not, he was by far the character that melted my heart the most!

In closing, I do have to mention the book cover though.  It is absolutely beautiful!

 

 

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Photo via my Instagram account – Bookbookowl

Book Reviews

What Blooms from Dust by James Markert – ARC Review

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My Rating ~ Four stars

4-gold-stars copy

DUE FOR RELEASE: 26 June 2018

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Format: E-Arc

Blurb

Just as Jeremiah Goodbye is set to meet his fate in the electric chair, a tornado tears down the prison walls, and he is given a second chance at life. With the flip of a coin, he decides to return to his home town of Nowhere, Oklahoma, to settle the score with his twin brother Josiah. But upon his escape, he enters a world he doesn’t recognize—one that has been overtaken by the Dust Bowl. And the gift he once relied on to guide him is as unrecognizable as the path back to Nowhere.

After one jolt in Old Sparky, Jeremiah sees things more clearly and begins to question the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murders he was accused of. On his journey home, he accidentally rescues a young boy who follows him the rest of the way, and the pair arrive at their destination where they are greeted by fearful townspeople. When the Black Sunday storm hits the very next day, the residents of Nowhere finally begin to let the past few years of hardship bury them under the weight of all that dust.

Unlikely heroes, Jeremiah and his new companion, Peter Cotton, try to protect the townspeople from themselves, but Jeremiah must face his nightmares and free himself from the guilt of flipping the coin on those men who died.

Filled with mystery and magic, What Blooms from Dust is the story of finding hope in the midst of darkness and discovering the beauty of unexpected kindness.

 

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Review

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Jeremiah, known as the coin-flip-killer, went to the electric chair for four murders. But Jeremiah didn’t die. Saved by a storm that destroyed the prison five seconds into his execution, he flees and makes his way back to his home town to confront his twin brother, who handed him to the authorities in the first place.

The town, called Nowhere, is a desolate town. The drought has taken everything from its people and left them with devastating dust storms they struggle to survive on a daily basis.

Along the way, Jeremiah picks up a young boy, Peter, he feels compelled to save when he sees his mother trying to sell him, to a man Jeremiah knows is bad news. Knows, because all his life he’s been able to sense flashes of things people have done, whether those people are good people, or not.

Once Jeremiah is back in his home town, a strange dust storm makes its way through, and it’s people start to act in odd ways. Will Peter, the strange boy who has no words, only repeats what others say, and Jeremiah be able to unravel the mystery of what is happening? Can they bring the townspeople back from the brink and discover unanswered questions about Jeremiah’s guilt or innocence before it’s too late?

I really really enjoyed this book. Parts of it got a little strange, but the story was mesmerizing. The descriptions of the dust storms had me holding my own breath, and the hopelessness the people felt just seeped through the pages. A book where ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ are mingled and not clear cut, it gave me Stephen King vibes, without the long winded descriptions I associate with him as an author. I much preferred James Markert’s style of writing, where we get the same haunting chills and strange happenings, without 12 pages dedicated to describing the contents of a cupboard (no disrespect to Mr King, I love his books, but I do prefer things to move along).

This story was creepy in an almost drifting way. The characters lives were well intertwined and I loved the way the story came together. I had frequent goosebumps and although it did get a little strange toward the end, the mysteries were revealed and didn’t leave us hanging!

I’d classify this book as historical adult magical realism and highly recommend it for fans of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

 

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Photo via my Instagram account – Bookbookowl

Bookstagram Tips

Bookstagram Tips – What is Bookstagram and how do I get started?

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~ Bookstagram Tips ~

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What is Bookstagram and how do I get started

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I often get asked a lot of questions over on my bookstagram account, ranging from how to get started, what to take photos of, how to take photos, how to edit them, how to gain followers and if there’s anything that can be done about the algorithm Instagram insists on running, that makes it almost impossible to gain attention – unless you have a lot of followers (which aren’t easy to get if your account is being pushed to the bottom of the pile by Instagram!).  So, I decided over the next several weeks, I’d create a series of posts where I can share some tips that have worked for me.  Please feel free to chime in with anything you’ve also discovered, or let me know if there are questions you would like answered!

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You may have heard the word “Bookstagram” floating about the internet, or you might already have started a bookstagram account (if so, you might want to skip this post and wait for my next posts over the coming weeks, with more tips and tricks!).  Bookstagram simply means an Instagram account where you share photos of, and discuss, books and bookish merchandise.  You can see my bookstagram account here

So, you love books, you love talking about books, you want in, right?

Setting up an account is super easy.  Even if you already have an Instagram account, you can set up a seperate account as your “Bookstagram” account.  There’s some great instructions here for how to set up a second account.

 

Choosing a user name

First, you’ll need to think about what you’d like your username to be.  If you already have a bookish blog, or a username you use around the internet, go ahead and use that.  Otherwise, just be creative and pick something bookish!  I’d suggest making your name easily identifiable as a bookish account – something with the word ‘book’ in it works well, or something incorporating a short phrase or bookish reference.

 

Choosing a profile picture

From what I have seen, it is best not to change your profile picture too often.  People become familiar with the picture attached to your name and changing constantly can get confusing, so choose something you’ll be happy to stick with for a decent amount of time.  Some people use a photo of themselves, some choose a character type photo and some use a photo of books.  It’s entirely up to you.  Please don’t steal someone’s artwork to use as your profile picture though.

 

What do I write in my bio?

On your profile home screen, you will be able to edit your profile.  The fields available are: Name, Username, Website and Bio.  Your name, website and bio will appear underneath your username on your profile once you have completed them.

You do not need to publish your full name in the name section if you don’t want to.  Many people will publish their first name and where they are from.  Putting at least your country in this section can be quite helpful.  There are often giveaways run on Instagram that are country specific.  If there is a giveaway in your country and someone in the community wants to tag people they know are eligible to enter, they’ll be able to see at a glance where you’re from.

The website section can also be left blank.  Otherwise, go ahead and enter the web address of your book blog or Goodreads account if you have one.  Your Goodreads account will just be http://www.goodreads.com/   then your username.  For example my user name on Goodreads is bookbookowl so mine is http://www.goodreads.com/bookbookowl

The other website you might want to consider having here instead is a Linktree address.  If you’d like to display several different web addresses, this is the option for you.  Simply go to the Linktree site here and sign up.  The free account is absolutely sufficient.  I use my linktree to display links to my Goodreads account, this blog and all the bookish companies I rep for (more on this in a later post!).

Lastly, you’ll need to pop something in your bio section.  Painfully, it’s limited to only a short amount of characters AND it’s not easy to enter information on seperate lines.  The way I get around this is to type my bio in my notes app on my phone, then copy and paste it into the bio section on Instagram.  I like to display what I’m currently reading and the audio book I’m currently listening to in mine.  Here is what my account looks like in the edit profile section:

 

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And on my profile home screen:

 

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You are now ready to start Bookstagramming!  In my experience, the bookstagrammer community is a lot of fun and a very welcoming place!

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My next post will focus on tips for taking photos and creating themes.

I’ve listed my intended future topics below and will link to each one as I post them.  Let me know if there are any others you’d like to see me discuss!

 

cropped-rachelwhitetoo11.png  Tips for taking and editing photos and creating themes

rachelwhitetoo11  What do I want out of my bookstagram account?

rachelwhitetoo11  Managing the pesky ‘algorithm’

rachelwhitetoo11  Interacting with the community

rachelwhitetoo11  Instagram “stories” – how, why and when to use them

rachelwhitetoo11  How to get involved as a rep for bookish companies

rachelwhitetoo11  Hosting giveaways

rachelwhitetoo11  Gaining more followers and managing expectations

rachelwhitetoo11  Bookstagrammer myths

 

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Book Reviews

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi

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My Rating ~ Five stars

5-gold-stars

RELEASED: 6 March 2018

Publisher: Henry Holt

Format: Hardback

Blurb

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

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Hover over the quote above to pin it to Pinterest!

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Review

Once upon a time Orïsha was full of magic. Those born as ‘Divîners’, becoming Magi on their thirteenth birthday, we’re said to be gifted magic from the gods. Tiders, Burners, Connectors, Winders, Welders, Healers, Cancers, Seers, Tamers and, like Zélie’s Mother, Reapers. They all harnessed different forms of magic. Zélie would have been a Reaper like her mother, but before she came of age, the King decided magic was too dangerous to be a part of Orisha and set out to destroy all of the Magi. Zélie’s Mother was killed and her father left as a shell of his former self.

Princess Amari witnesses the brutality of her father within the castle walls, and discovers he possesses an artifact that could revive magic in some of the Divîners She flees the castle and, by chance, is thrown into the path of Zélie.

Together with Zélie’s brother, they set out on a mission to end the tyrannical rule of Amara’s father and bring magic back to Orïsha Tracked by Amari’s brother, Inan, the story weaves together bloodlust, betrayal and friendship.

I honestly could hardly breathe the entire time I was reading this book, right from the very first page. My heart ached for the cruelty Zélie’s family endured and the desperate lives they lead. Zélie is a fierce warrior, but the author somehow manages to preserve some of her innocence, reminding us of the horribly heavy burdens she carries for her age. Told from three different points of view, Zélie, Amari and Inan’s, I loved the slow developing of the friendships in this book. So often we see books where two lifelong enemies are thrown together and almost immediately seem to trust each other. That wasn’t the case here and the difficulty in overcoming feelings you’ve had towards a group of people for your whole life was well explored – on both sides.

The battle scenes were heart stopping, the landscapes and giant creatures described in the book (known as different types of Ryders) were vivid and the anguish of the characters was real. I loved this book from beginning to end, and the last line of the book left me checking the calendar for how far away next March really is, because HOW can I wait another 10 months for the next book?!

 

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Photo via my Instagram account – Bookbookowl